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Chains

Old 09-07-14, 02:08 PM
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carleton
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Chains

We chatter a lot about frames, wheels, etc... but not so much about Chains.

Chains are the bass player in our band: Not out in front or flashy, but a founding component and definitely should not be overlooked.

In the track world, there are 2 chain size standards:
- 1/8 inch wide (AKA: 1/8"; "Wide"). This is the Track bike standard.
- 3/32 inch wide (AKA: 3/32" or "Narrow"). This is the Road bike standard.
- 1/8 = 4/32 = 0.125
- 3/32 = 0.09375

Using the same materials, 1/8" chainrings are stiffer and heavier than 3/32".

This measurement is the width of the gap between the plates of the chain where the chain fits over the teeth of the chainrings and cogs. As you may have guessed, chainrings and cogs come in 1/8" and 3/32" sizes. Ideally, you want your entire chainring, cog, chain system to be of the same width (1/8 or 3/32).

"Can I mix and match??" Yes. But in a mixed system, the chain MUST be 1/8" to fit over 1/8" or 3/32" chainrings and cogs.

Think of it this way: A man's LARGE shirt will fit on his size SMALL wife, but her size SMALL shirt will not fit on him.

When buying equipment, because 3/32 is less popular on the track scene, it may be on sale or may come on some budget bikes.

TL;DR: My suggestion is to make (and keep) everything 1/8".

Also, being on the "track standard" makes loaning and borrowing chainrings/cogs easier.

I read a bike-check article years ago where Sarah Hammer's 1st generation TK1 was outfitted with Dura Ace 3/32". I'm sure she had a great reason, but the article didn't mention it. Maybe to save weight?

Qualities you want from a chain:
- Resistance to fatigue. You don't want it to stretch. A stretched chain grinds down your more expensive chainrings and cogs faster than a non-stretched chain would.
- Strength. You don't want it to break. This sort of goes without saying, but it needs to be on the list.

Qualities you don't want from a chain:
- Lateral movement. Milti-speed chains for road bikes are designed to move laterally to climb and descend cogs and chainrings in order to shift gears. There is none of that on a track bike. So, while a road chain will work on a track bike (assuming you have an all 3/32" setup) it is not advised. Multi-speed chains are generally weaker than a comparable single-speed chain for this reason. Also the same rider will apply much more force through his/her chain on a track bike than on his/her road bike via standing starts. On the road, one gears-down for rapid acceleration. On the track, you lay the hammer down.
- If you have a flexy frame and a flexy chain, a standing start may flex the frame so much that the chain will drop off the chainring. I had this happen when climbing a hill on a street fixed-gear.

What chain should you get?

I'm not familiar with every chain out there. I'd love for you guys to comment on chains that you have experience with.

I group chains into 3 buckets:

- Less than $15
- $15 - $40
- Over $40

Every chain that I've used or encountered in the less than $15 range was prone to stretching and not strong enough for standing start work. These usually come stock on off-the-rack bikes. I always suggest that people replace these soon.

$15-30 seems to be the sweet spot of value/price. These are the KMC-K710, Izumi ECO, DID NJS, etc... chains. I've poured 350NM of force and over 2100W (I can feel my Dura Ace pedal spindles flexing) into these chains and they didn't stretch. BTW, chain-checkers are inexpensive and easy to use.
Park Tool Co. » CC-3.2 : Chain Wear Indicator : Chain
Park Tool Co. » CC-2 : Chain Checker : Chain

Over $40 are past the point of diminishing returns. I've used the Izumi V Supertoughness ($80+) and interchanged it with the Izumi ECO ($30) and didn't notice a difference in feel. And actually the ECO was more quiet. They weighed about the same. But, the V has the cool screw-pin master link whereas the ECO (as with most other chains) has the c-clip master link. The V is more of a bling thing for me, I have to admit.

Some random thoughts:
- The chain is an integral part of your drivetrain (and brakes). It connect the chainring to the cog. Its importance cannot be overstated.
- You should care for your chain as it moves as much as your wheels do. This means learning to remove, clean, lubricate, and reinstall it.
- The master link is your friend. Learn how to use it.
- Most (if not all) modern chains are NOT designed to have pins removed and re-added. USE THE MASTER LINK. Old-school chains were designed for this. Every chain failure that I know of personally was with a chain that had a pin removed and reinstalled. If you cut your chain too short, don't re-add the links.
- There are several tutorials online about chain cleaning and oiling.
- My favorite oil is Dumonde Tech Lite. Easy to find, smells good, very light and not sticky. Track is not like road, CX, or MTB. Less grit and grime out there.
- I have several chains. I keep them in ziplock bags in my tool box to keep the oxygen out.


PLEASE post your thoughts and comments about things that I have missed. Also post about chains that you like and don't like and why.

Last edited by carleton; 09-07-14 at 02:30 PM.
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Old 09-07-14, 02:23 PM
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My favorite chains:
- KMC K-710: This is a BMX freestyle chain that is over-built to withstand harsh BMX street riding. Strong, very quiet, but heavy and hard to remove links. I've broken chain-breakers trying to remove links. Best value.
- KMC K-710 SL: Same as above but lighter than the K710 via the cutouts in the plates. Costs maybe $5 more.
- Izumi ECO: This is my reference chain. My absolute favorite. Solid, strong, not heavy, fair amount of noise.
- D.I.D. NJS: Very similar to the Izumi ECO, but costs $15 more.
- Izumi V Supertoughness: Very similar to the ECO, has a nice screw pin master link, loudest of all of the above....but it's sorta bling. (not a great value at all)...and I'm OK with that Combined with a disc wheel, it actually sort of growls as you approach from behind during match sprints. I've had guys say, "I heard you approaching but I wasn't sure what was happening..."


There are lots of other great chains out there. I just stick to what I know personally.
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Old 09-07-14, 03:18 PM
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I use 3/32nd and 110BCD. The big plus is right away I have plenty of chainrings, and they are pretty cheap anyway.

Im not sure I would ever borrow a chainring/cog off anyone, any more than I would borrow their wheelset. Actually, I used WhiteIND hubs anyway so its not like I COULD borrow a cog off most.


I like the KMC chains, I use them on my road and track bikes (another plus of 3/32nd is I always have a spare). Can't remember the model, but I agree on the ~$30 chain, its not junk and the expensive ones are not much nicer.


Chains are a wear item, they stretch (the pins give) and wear over time, plan on a new one every season, maybe less if you dont ride much.

Also, first thing you do with a chain, is clean the crap off it came with and put fresh lube on. Always.
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Old 09-07-14, 04:46 PM
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With all due respect, 110BCD 3/32" is a street fixie standard. This is made via road bike parts that have been repurposed for inexpensive street fixies.

This is like having SAE bolts on your bike when the cycling world is using metric. It works, but it's off of the standard.
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Old 09-07-14, 08:44 PM
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KMC K-710 SL is my sweet spot. I've come close to ordering an Izumi super-mega-awesome-toughness chain a couple times, but always change my mind. Since my wife rides track now, too... once I started waxing, I ordered a bunch of the KMC to always have a couple ready to go. So might never know the bling warmth of the Izumi.
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Old 09-07-14, 11:22 PM
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Originally Posted by VanceMac View Post
KMC K-710 SL is my sweet spot.

Originally Posted by VanceMac View Post
... once I started waxing, ....
and this too: WAXING!! no dirty paws from changing gears
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Old 09-08-14, 08:46 AM
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Originally Posted by carleton View Post
With all due respect, 110BCD 3/32" is a street fixie standard. This is made via road bike parts that have been repurposed for inexpensive street fixies.

This is like having SAE bolts on your bike when the cycling world is using metric. It works, but it's off of the standard.

With all due respect, explain where this standard is written down. I assume in the UCI rule book somewhere?


Its bike parts...get over it
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Old 09-08-14, 09:47 AM
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Originally Posted by gtrob View Post
With all due respect, explain where this standard is written down. I assume in the UCI rule book somewhere?

Its bike parts...get over it
Just trying to make your life easier, brah.
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Old 09-08-14, 09:56 AM
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SRAM PC-1 all the way!!! You can find them under $15 all day. Easy to use and dependable masterlink. Never had any problems with mine, and I have used them on the track bike, street fixies, my ss mtb, and bmx. No stretch issues either. I'm still well within tolerances after a full season of racing and training on mine. It's a little heavier, but chain weight is negligible anyways.
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Old 09-08-14, 10:16 AM
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If I were building a bike up today from scratch, I wouldn't go 110bcd 3/32

2 years ago I bought the frame, had all the parts to ride it THAT DAY on 3/32, it all lines up nicely, and I never changed it out. I now have a nice collection of cogs, rings, chains, so its hard to make the change this point.

Just saying the bike still works (for me, not sure if it lines up always).
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Old 09-08-14, 10:18 AM
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Originally Posted by VanceMac View Post
KMC K-710 SL is my sweet spot. I've come close to ordering an Izumi super-mega-awesome-toughness chain a couple times, but always change my mind. Since my wife rides track now, too... once I started waxing, I ordered a bunch of the KMC to always have a couple ready to go. So might never know the bling warmth of the Izumi.
I needed a new chain for my Dolan at Velo Sports Center and I asked the "world famous" Johnny W and Chas for a track bike shop. They sent me to Manhattan Beach and told me to drop their names and the guys would take care of me. I came out with Izumi Model 'V' gold track racing chain (NJS) (blessed by some Japanese Keirin racer / priest) paying list price for the chain but they did install it N/C. So add to the list of variables in chain selection the requirement of a referral.

In SoCal, you are what you drive AND what track chain you rock.
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Old 09-08-14, 10:50 AM
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Originally Posted by Hermes View Post
I needed a new chain for my Dolan at Velo Sports Center and I asked the "world famous" Johnny W and Chas for a track bike shop. They sent me to Manhattan Beach and told me to drop their names and the guys would take care of me. I came out with Izumi Model 'V' gold track racing chain (NJS) (blessed by some Japanese Keirin racer / priest) paying list price for the chain but they did install it N/C. So add to the list of variables in chain selection the requirement of a referral.

In SoCal, you are what you drive AND what track chain you rock.
With the gold links when you are done with it on the track you can wear it around your neck with an EAI gold cog as a pendant ala MrT (Track).
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Old 09-08-14, 01:40 PM
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I use the Izumi super greatest chain. Yes, $80. But they last years and I never wonder if it's going to break on me. It's noisy because it is stiff and accurate. There is very little slop in the link bushings.
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Old 09-08-14, 02:39 PM
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Originally Posted by Brian Ratliff View Post
I use the Izumi super greatest chain. Yes, $80. But they last years and I never wonder if it's going to break on me. It's noisy because it is stiff and accurate. There is very little slop in the link bushings.
I like the gold and black look of the chain on the Dolan...worth the cash! I did not notice that it is any noisier than other chains.
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Old 09-08-14, 02:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Hermes View Post
I like the gold and black look of the chain on the Dolan...worth the cash! I did not notice that it is any noisier than other chains.
Mine's quiet. My secret is to realize that I don't care if I need to oil a track chain every week. I use 3 in 1 oil. There's nothing better for oiling bushings as long as you aren't dealing with rain.
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Old 09-09-14, 02:23 PM
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There's the KMC specific track chain too (D101), never tried but it's an option nonetheless

X101 Silver » KMC Chain
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Old 09-09-14, 02:52 PM
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Originally Posted by 8bits View Post
There's the KMC specific track chain too (D101), never tried but it's an option nonetheless

X101 Silver » KMC Chain
It's billed as "track/fixie"...the same as their lesser chains.

X means "long life"
HX means "heavy duty"

Unfortunately, it's tough to sort through their icons and marketing hype to tell the differences in the actual materials and construction.

The "Chain Guide" pdf lists the K710 as the strongest 1/2"x 1/8" chain in the lineup with 1300kg of break load. I'd go for that one.

http://kmcchain.us/wp-content/upload...ChainGuide.pdf
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Old 09-09-14, 04:54 PM
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Originally Posted by carleton View Post
It's billed as "track/fixie"...the same as their lesser chains.

X means "long life"
HX means "heavy duty"

Unfortunately, it's tough to sort through their icons and marketing hype to tell the differences in the actual materials and construction.

The "Chain Guide" pdf lists the K710 as the strongest 1/2"x 1/8" chain in the lineup with 1300kg of break load. I'd go for that one.

http://kmcchain.us/wp-content/upload...ChainGuide.pdf
The specification table in this link gives "Pin Powers" of 200 to 350 kg. Any idea of a definition for "pin power"?
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Old 09-09-14, 05:24 PM
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Way back in prehistoric times while living in the UK I, and just about just about everyone, used Renold chains. I looked to see if they still made bike chains but could find no evidence (probably conceded the business to Asia). http://threespeedhub.com/wp-content/...ng-1955-UK.pdf

Last edited by 700wheel; 09-09-14 at 05:30 PM. Reason: Typo
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Old 09-10-14, 04:28 AM
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I use K710, strong and quiet and ive never had a problem with KMC chains on the road so happy to stick with the brand. It being so inexpensive is a plus too. Although often the cheapest versions are the coloured ones, a pink chain isnt to everyones taste
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Old 09-12-14, 06:11 PM
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chain linkus

Like my Regina Oro.
And my HL710 with cotter pin for the road.
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Old 09-15-14, 07:42 PM
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for some Izumi bling without the sting...Jet Black series, slightly above Eco @ ~$40 msrp. Black/black, Silver/Black, Gold/Black. Smooove.
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Old 09-16-14, 12:32 AM
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Old 09-17-14, 02:02 PM
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Originally Posted by gtrob View Post
I use 3/32nd and 110BCD. The big plus is right away I have plenty of chainrings, and they are pretty cheap anyway.

Im not sure I would ever borrow a chainring/cog off anyone, any more than I would borrow their wheelset. Actually, I used WhiteIND hubs anyway so its not like I COULD borrow a cog off most.

Also, first thing you do with a chain, is clean the crap off it came with and put fresh lube on. Always.
Sometimes borrowing is not something you intended. I flew to some racing earlier this year, and sent some of my 'weight' with buddies driving the distance. They broke down (nearly didnt make the start of the racing, taking 3d instead of 2d to get there), and my entire kit bag with them - chainrings, cogs, pedals, spare chains... I had to borrow. I would have been up the creek if i was running 110BCD.

Hopefully nothing like that every happens to you, though
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Old 09-17-14, 02:28 PM
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I've always loved my KMC S10 chains. Will always use that chain when building a SS or track. Smooth, quiet, strong. I had one last more than a year on my fixed commuter before I prematurely pulled it off and put a new one on.

And it's stainless steel. Ooooh.
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