A vital element on any bike, whether it's a BMX chain or a 27 gear full suspension mountain bike. BMX bikes use roller chains to drive power from the pedals to the drive train (The wheels). Most bicycle chains are made from plain carbon or alloy steel, but some are nickel-plated to prevent rust, or simply for aesthetics. Since the creation of BMX, the chains have only been progressing. Lighter chains have been developed to shed the last few ounces off a racing bike or strengthened up to accommodate the riding style of some BMX'ers.
Our top choices
Fly Bikes Tractor
The Fly Bikes tractor chain features extra thick 1.3mm plates for added strength, hollow CrMo pins with chromium heat treatment and pre installed half link. The hollow pins are far stronger and lighter than regular chain pinsCheck Price
KMC are known to be a competent brand when it comes to making cycling chains. The KMC name is attached to this chain proudly while still keeping the price extremely low. I'd say that gives it a high likelyhood of being a well made chain.Check Price
TSC Interlock Supreme
The Interlock Supreme chain is the king of BMX chains. It's so strong you'll have unlimited confidence when riding hard.Check Price
Shadow Interlock Supreme Bike ChainClick Here to Check Best Price
In many peoples opinion, half link chains have a design flaw. This flaw is said to be that they just aren't as strong the normal chains. As Shadow has started to use a better forging process they have increased the strength of their chains massively. The chain can now support over 1500 KG's, making it one of the strongest bike chains on the market. The downsides of this chain are that it isn't the cheapest out there, priced at around £30. Also, unlike most chains, the Shadow is very wide. Two master pins make the chain very easy to work with and shorten. Although the strength is substantially more than the other chains on this list Shadow have still managed to keep the weight down to under 400 grams, which makes it lighter and stronger than nearly every other chain on the market.
Shadow Interlock Specifications:
- Tensile Strength: 1500kgs
- Mushroomed Pins & Hardened Rollers
- Link Count: 98 links, 2 master pins
- Size: 1/8"
- Weight: 314g
Fly Bikes Tractor Chain
Released back in 2013, the Fly Bikes tractor chain was a big release from Fly. A pre-installed half link chain that helps the wheel fit your dropout much better. The tractor chain from fly is a very strong chain that has unusually thick side plates at 1.3 mm, this just adds to the strength of the chain and the aesthetic appeal with each plate having “FlyBikes” stamped on the sides. A very simple chain that doesn't over complicate things. Another thing that isn't observed in all chains is the hollow pins that make the chain much lighter simply because there is much less material being used but also this makes it even stronger. The process of de-linking the chain is still simple and fast so nothing is being changed there. This is an amazing chain but is at the bottom of the list for the best chains because I feel it is very simple and needs a little more aesthetic appeal.
Fly Bikes Tractor Specifications:
- Plate Material: 4130 Heat Treated CrMo
- Pin Material: Hollow 4130 CrMo
- Links: 101
- Weight: 325g
Salt Plus Warlock BMX ChainClick Here to Check Best Price
A typical half link chain by SaltPlus. Made to be very strong and in a variety of amazing colors. Made from steel, like most of the other chains, the SaltPlus warlock is bound to be strong although unlike a lot of chains this one has some very extravagant color variants and this is definitely the only top of the market chain that has an oil slick option. Just like the Tractor chain, the Warlock is also extremely light whilst still boasting a lot of strength and some cool embossed logos on the links. With a weight of 447g and 100 links, I don't think it's going to be the deciding factor on whether your BMX is too heavy. Also at a price point of only £12.99, the Salt Plus Warlock isn't going to break the bank.
Salt Plus Warlock Specifications:
- Material: Steel, Chromized Treatment
- Size: 1/2", 1/8"
- Colors: Black, C.P, Oil Slick, Gold
- Weight: 447g
KMC Z1 Wide BMX ChainClick Here to Check Best Price
As discussed on many forums, the KMC Z1 Wide Chain is one of the best chains on the market. This chain is original, cheap and smooth. Definitely some of the most important things in a bike chain. Unfortunately for people riding a dirt jump bike, they may not be able to use this chain as it has a max speed of 1 sprocket with 112 links, though this is still more links than a few other chains on this list. The chain is tough and has a very nice noise reduction, which will let your beautiful hub run louder. They have reduced the sprocket rub noise of the Z1 Wide by chamfering the inner plates of the chain. Higher inner plates are also used to prevent chain drop. I admire the price of this product as it is very cheap for the awesome quality it boasts. An amazing tensile strength of 1200 KG and a unique satisfaction warranty, KMC definitely aren't trying to sell a dodgy product.
KMC Z1 Specifications:
- Size: 1/2", 1/8"
- Pin Length: 8.6mm
- Weight: 451g
- Link Count: 112
- Colors: Gold, Silver
Wipperman 1G8 BMX Chain 2023Click Here to Check Best Price
The Wipperman 1G8 is widely respected as the strongest BMX chain you can buy. Wipperman don't just design and build BMX chains, they also develop chains for other vehicles. The fact these other systems need extreme strength seems to have transferred over to their thought process when designing their 1G8 BMX chain. The BMX market definitely caters for tough riding with an abundant amount of strong chains but it's rare for a chain to be designed specifically for grinding like the Wippermann 1G8.
As any park or street BMX rider will know, it's entirely possible and pretty common for your bike chain to be hit or scraped when grinding along a ledge or rail. This isn't a big deal in the short term although after learning new techniques and hitting your chain multiple times there's much more of a possibility of your snapping whilst riding.
Anyone that doesn't know, having a chain snap while riding is rather scary and there's a high chance of being badly injured at the same time as falling off. Now, if you don't have the money, skills or the motivation to change which side your drivetrain is on then the only reliable option is to buy a chain like the Wipperman.
Riders that have used this chain have many great things to report but many feel unless you are a hardcore park rider that's likely to take a lot of big hits on your chain there isn't much point getting a chain this tough. The Wipperman also has a lot of weight behind it. The 12mm wide chain has a weight of 17oz, making it a lot heavier than most other BMX chains on the market. Another problem with this chain is that the tight roll means many people aren't able to ride it on with a 9t sprocket. This may not be a problem for you if you have a chainring of 10 teeth or more but if not then it's worth making sure the chain will work with your gearing ratio before buying it.
Wipperman 1G8 Specifications:
- Material: nickel-plated
- Breaking Load: 1.5t - 1/2" x 1/8"
- Pin Length: 12.4mm
- Weight: 659g
- Link Count: 96
KHE Hollow Pin Half Link ChainClick Here to Check Best Price
Another brilliant half link chain, this time from KHE. Specifically designed for smaller gear ratios such as a 25/9t. The KHE chain is a fairly regular chain, not specifically designed for strength or weight. Many people describe the KHE chain as perfection for single speed and fixie bikes. The half link chain protects the bike from aggressive braking. Half link chains are notoriously strong, whoever they're made by. Since each link is half the normal link, each one protects the next ultimately eliminating all the weak points. The way the half link chain is made makes the chain alignment very precise.
KHW Hollow Pin Specifications:
- Link Count: 100
- Pin Material: CrMo, Hollow, Heat Treated
- Size: 1/2", 3/32"
- Weight: 300g
Parts of a Bike Chain
A generic roller chain is made from a repeating set of the same parts. Short cylindrical rollers are held together by two metal plates. These plates are shaped like the number eight, with the rollers being held at either end.
Each chain roller is approximately half an inch apart, enough space for a chainring tooth to gain traction. When the chain is fitted to the bike many of the chainring teeth mesh with the rollers of the chain, working together to propel the bike along.
Lots of chains now include a master link. This is a single link that acts as a quick release, to break the chain without specific tooling. A master link is built slightly differently from the rest. Both plates are built as normal but the rollers are different.
The rollers on a master link extend slightly further than normal. After passing through the secondary plate a weird looking clip is fitted to the two rollers, keeping both plates in place, while preventing them from falling off unexpectedly.
Types of Bike Chain
All bicycle chains perform the same function, though they are all built very different from one another. Different styles of riding benefit from various improvements and manufacturers push this to the limit.
BMX chains are built for strength, hopefully preventing breakages when bumped on copings and grind rails. Mountain bike chains need to be durable in a different way. Inclement weather throws mud and water at the chain constantly. The best mountain bike chains need to deal with this dirt and water without wearing down.
The majority of bike chains are either single speed or between 6 and 11 speed lengths. It's quite important that you get the correct chain for the amount of gears you have on your bike. As you know, when you change gear the chain moves up and down the chainrings, altering the ratio between the front and rear chainrings.
The more gears you have the thinner the individual links need to be. After all there's much less space on a 11 speed bike than there is on a 6 speed bike. In general a correctly sized chain can work very well on either road bikes or mountain bikes.
6 speed chains are the widest at 7.8mm. Each size up will cause the chain to get thinner, resulting in about a 5.8mm chain on a 10 speed chain.
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