For cyclists that aren't really into the mechanical side of the hobby some things can be really confusing and surprising.
Knowing whether your SRAM bike chain is directional or not isn't a question a lot of cyclists are asking. I know a lot of people that will just find the best chain that fits their needs and fit it to their bike.
In this post I'm going to quickly answer the question of whether Sram bike chains are directional. I will also give you some more information about other directional mountain bike chains and what can happen if a directional chain is fitted incorrectly.
Are Sram Chains Directional?
As of 2023, none of the current line of Sram cycling chains are directional. You do not need to worry about which way you fit the chain to your bike.
I don't believe that Sram has ever made a directional bike chain so even if your chain is old I wouldn't worry.
How do I Know if a Bike Chain is Directional?
Since there are only a very select few chains that are directional, it's relatively easy to determine which direction you should fit them.
You need to take a close look at the outer plates of the chain. Directional chains will have either a company logo or arrow on the plate facing away from the bike.
Are Mountain Bike Chains Directional?
As I said before, nearly all mountain bike chains can be run in either direction. Only Shimano really makes any popular chains that need to be fitted in a specific direction.
Are BMX Bike Chains Directional?
Regular BMX chains are not directional but half link BMX chains are. Fitting your half link chain in the correct direction is important in order to benefit from the advantages of these types of chains.
As well as looking for the logos or arrows on half link chains, there is another way to determine it's direction. Half link chains are flat on the top with the two curves on the bottom, giving the reason for the name “half link”. This flat side needs to be on top.
What happens if Directional Chains are Fitted Incorrectly?
Fitting a mountain bike chain incorrectly can impact shifting performance due to unsymmetrical outer plates. When the cycling brand manufactures a directional chain they develop the plates much more intentionally and specifically than regular chains. Fitting them incorrectly could cause slipping or jumping while shifting or pedalling.
Half link BMX chains are designed to take the pedalling load in a specific direction. If your chain is the opposite way round the the force being applied through the sprocket teeth. After a lot of riding this could easily reduce the efficiency and strength of your chain.
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