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4 Different Types of Bike Chains

Closeup of bicycle chain

When it comes to your bike’s transmission, your chain is the most important part of your bike. It is the vital connection that links the front section of your drivetrain, and it is via the chain that pedal force is translated into forward motion. 

That’s why it’s important to choose the proper chain and also to keep it in good working condition. Keep reading to find out the types of bike chains available.

Bike Chain Size Chart

Generally, there are only a few options to choose from: single-strand, double-strand, and triple-strand. These are the most common bike chains found on the market today. Keep reading to learn more about them and others.

Single-strand Bike Chains

ZONKIE Bike Chain Single-Speed, Bicycle Chain 1 Speed, 1/2 × 1/8 inch,116 Links

This conventional one-speed chain is intended for use on bicycles that have a single sprocket on the crankset while the other sprocket is on the wheel. Although the breadth of the roller is roughly 1/8 inch in width (3.3mm). These types of chains are not intended to be used on derailleur bikes, which have many rear gear sets that make shifting difficult.

Although there are rear wheels with various mechanically geared speeds, the chain is still referred to as a “one-speed” chain in most circles. They are also known as “eighth-inch chains” in certain circles. The 1/8′′ chain will have a rivet that is about 9mm wide.

Some single-strain bicycles are equipped with a fixed-gear hub with no ratcheting mechanism. As a result, the cog is virtually attached to the back hub of the bicycle. The cog is unable to rotate independently of the wheel. It is the cranks that revolve in conjunction with the bicycle wheels. 

When riding a fixed-gear bicycle, you are unable to stop pedaling and just coast down the road. Pedaling backward causes the rear wheel to revolve backward, which causes you to go backward. The pedals move in response to the bike’s movement.

Single-strand chains are common on BMX bikes, commuter bikes, unicycles, beach cruisers, kids bikes, track racing bikes, as well as fixed gear bikes, among other things. 

Bicycles featuring single-strand chains are less expensive to manufacture since they need fewer moving parts. As a consequence, the retail price is less expensive than before. Particularly pricey is the drivetrain, which is one of the most complex and expensive components of a bicycle. 

When cycling a bike with a single-strand chain, you won’t have to bother about changing gears at any point. This eliminates the need to keep track of the chainring and rear gear you are using on your bike. Cross-chaining is something you never even have to worry about. You’ll never have to second guess how to use the shifter to get into the gear you want again.

On the downside, the chainring and rear gear need to be changed more often. With a single-strand chain, the chainring and rear cogs are always in use, which is why they deteriorate a lot quicker. Furthermore, since there is only one chainring and cog, the chain constantly rolls over the same ring and cog, causing the teeth to get worn down due to friction from the chain.

Double-strand Bike Chain

Jeremywell 40-2 Duplex Double Strand Roller Chain 10 Feet with Connecting Link

As the name implies, a double-strand bike chain has two strands instead of one and is perfect for daily bikes. These chains are typically made from carbon steel and are considerably thicker than their single-strand counterparts. Although small, this type of bike chain is known for providing high-impact strength. 

A double-strand chain will only fit on a thick sprocket as opposed to a narrow one and can operate on a temperature range between 14 to 302 degrees F. There are usually four parts to a double-strain chain; namely, a pin, bushing, a roller, and a plate. Together, these components work to amplify your bike’s power capacity. 

Triple-strand Chain

Jeremywell 35-3 Triple Strand Roller Chain 10 Feet with 1 Connecting Link

With a triple-strand chain, you get three high-strength chain strands to work with and a roller that’s between 0.125″ to 1.875″ in width, and 0.130″ to 1.875″ in diameter. 

Triple-strand chains can typically handle more power and are common on off-road bikes as well as other heavy-duty applications. This includes heavy-duty equipment, as well as mining and agricultural vehicles and machinery.

They require a lot of lubrication and adjustment, which is why they’re not recommended for use on a daily rider street bike. For best results, make sure your triple-strand chain is equipped with or paired with the right triple sprocket, triple offset links, and triple roller links. 

Furthermore, triple-strand chains are available in the following configurations: 

  • Rivetted triple roller chain: This type of chain is riveted together to handle even the most prolific shocks. As such, they’re practically unbreakable. 
  • Cottered triple roller chain: This easy to repair chain comes in a J-hook and a standard configuration. It comes with press-fit side plates and they’re typically used on oil field roller chains that are API Certified, and standard ISO and ANSI Certified respectively.

Derailleur Chains

Shimano RDM310DL Altus GS 7/8-speed Rear Der Black,Long Cage

Designed to be transferred from one sprocket to another, derailleur bike chains may be found in a variety of varying styles. When choosing a chain, the first thing to keep in mind is the number of rear sprockets it will have. The distance between gears on the rear hub tends to narrow as the number of cog sets on the back hub rises in number.

The amount of teeth on each cassette gear and chainring varies according to the model. 

Derailleur chains are officially referred to as “3/32-inch chains.” A bicycle equipped with derailleurs has numerous rear gears and, in most cases, multiple chainrings. A standard derailleur bike has two or three chainrings and six to twelve gears on the rear cassette or freewheel, depending on the model.

It is possible to adjust the gear ratio by switching among sprockets with varying numbers of teeth.

Independent gear shifting devices are required for the rear cogs and chainrings, as well as for the chainrings. These are the derailleurs as well as shifters that you’re looking at. The majority of derailleur bike chains are equipped with front and rear derailleurs as well as shifters.

Bikes with just one chainring and numerous cassette gears only have a rear derailleur as well as a single shifter, while bikes with two chainrings and numerous cassette cogs have three.

Pros and Cons of Derailleur Bike Chains

Mountain bike with derailleur chain

Derailleur chains have several advantages and disadvantages. The following are the pros of using derailleur bike chains:

Efficient and Adaptable

The most advantageous aspect of using bicycles with derailleur chains is that they’re more efficient, adaptable, and pleasant to ride. Cycling enthusiasts can transfer gears at their leisure thanks to the added advantages of a hub as well as derailleur gear. On flat roads, it makes it simpler for the bike to travel upward as well as improves speed the uphill.

Easy to Maintain

It is simple to locate replacement parts- Every bike store sells derailleurs, cassettes, chains, shifters, and other related parts and accessories. Get whatever you need and hit the road again. Take into account the sort of derailleur drivetrain that you are using while making this decision. Parts for the 9, 10, and 11-speed transmissions are difficult to come by in certain regions.

Less Effort Required

Using derailleur bike chains, as opposed to one-speed bike chains, enables you to expend less effort as a result of their increased efficiency. And besides, not everybody is physically well enough to bike over treacherous terrain. As a result of improved tire rotation rates due to gear systems, cycling is no longer painfully slow.

Furthermore, if you want to ride your bike as quickly as possible, a derailleur bike chain model is your best bet. As previously said, these bike chains enable you to ride quicker than one-speed bicycles because of their capacity to change between the gears. 

Derailleur Bike Chains Cons

The disadvantages of derailleur bike chains do exist, though. Because of the many gear mechanisms, maintenance, repairs, and sometimes even replacements are much more regular than with a single gear system. As a result, they are more expensive to maintain and operate. These bicycles contain more sophisticated components, and damage to a single gear may have a detrimental effect on the whole bicycle. This website will provide you with further information on these bike parts.

Because they have additional components, they are often bulkier than one-speed bicycles. Having said that, they are more difficult to maneuver and would occupy up more room in a storage facility.

Additionally, if the many gears are not managed, even for a brief period, they might become loud. This is something you will seldom see on a one-speed bike chain. You must do routine maintenance on your bicycle to prevent this slight inconvenience.

Benefits of a one-speed bike

Bike rear chain

One-speed bicycles have fewer moving parts to keep up with. Among the things that are missing are derailleurs, shifters, as well as shifter cables. All it has is a single chainring and a single rear gear, and that’s it.

One-speed bicycles have fewer moving components that may wear out, malfunction, or go out of alignment than other types of bicycles. The advantage of riding a one-speed bike is that you will never have to worry about changing derailleurs.

One-speed bicycles have just one chainring, rather than two or three, and only one rear gear, rather than nine to twelve. The elimination of all of these components saves a significant amount of weight. Essentially, the bike is made of less material.

One-speed bicycles are lacking derailleurs, shifters, or the wires and housings that go with them. This saves money since the manufacturers do not have to purchase or install these components themselves.

In addition, riding a one-speed bike will save you money in the long run on servicing. You don’t even have to worry about getting your derailleurs fixed since it does not have any. After damaging a derailleur or shifter in an accident, one will never have to purchase a new one because components are absent from one-speed bicycles.

Climbing hills on a one-speed bicycle is also difficult. In a one-speed bike, the gear ratio is greater which makes climbing slopes at a single pace hard. Increasing your pedaling effort can help you make it up the hill faster and farther but as your energy wanes, you may find yourself pushing the bike instead of riding it. When climbing steep slopes, you may find that you are unable to generate enough effort to keep the peddles spinning for long either.

As a result, one-speed bicycles are not recommended for cycling in mountainous terrain.

Many freestyle bicycles have a bigger sprocket as well as a wider 3/16′′ one-speed chain, which makes them more maneuverable. The notion is that a broader chain will have higher durability when used for “grinding,” which is the process of sliding down a rail or even other lengthy attachments while the chain is stretched.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Bike Chain Matter?

Absolutely. An overly long chain can result in improper gear changing, which will slide and force the chain to ‘drop off’ its cycle. An excessively short-chain may cause damage to the derailleur and sprocket teeth. You will, at the very least, be unable to engage all of the cogs due to a lack of available capacity.

Which Bicycle Chain Should I Purchase?

Always keep your financial situation and intended usage of the bicycle in mind. The technician at your local bike shop can assist you in making your selection and can also provide you with information on maintenance as well as planned replacement timeframes. If you keep your bike chain well-maintained and greased, you won’t even notice it’s there.

What Characteristics Distinguish A High-Quality Chain?

Efficient and stable movement is what you’ll get from a high-quality bike chain. To aid in gear changes, high-quality chains are constructed with short ramps that enable the chain to travel between gears as it passes through the links of the chain. In addition, excellent chains hold the roller pins (within the chain links) in a manner that keeps them lubricated; this allows the chain to be more flexible and to transmit power more efficiently in the drivetrain configuration.

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