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Compatibility [01] Chains

This post explains bicycle chain compatibility – which chains can be combined with which number of “speeds.” Firstly, basic facts about the chain will be explained. Then compatibility and possible mixing will be given per the number of speeds a chain is designed for. From one to 12 speeds.
Before you start, to avoid any misunderstanding:
please take the 5 minutes needed to read the compatibility articles use instructions.

Table Of Contents (T.O.C.):

  1. Basic bicycle chain facts
  2. Single-speed chains
  3. Five, 6, 7 and 8-speed chains
  4. 9 speeds
  5. 10 speeds
  6. 11 speeds
  7. 12 speeds
  8. Symmetrical vs asymmetrical chains
  9. Chain width standards table


1. Basic bicycle chain facts

All the bicycle chains share the same pitch of half an inch.

One hole link - outer with the inner is exactly one inch long.
One whole link (one pair of outer with one pair of inner plates) is exactly one inch long.

Where chains differ is the width. The more speeds, the narrower chain. Single-speed chains are the widest, both on the outside, and the inner roller width. They have a roller width of 1/8″ (3.175 mm).

The inner roller width of all the multi-speed chains is almost the same, being:

  • Single-speed chains have an inner width of 1/8″ (3.175 mm).
  • Multi-speed chains, from 5 to 8 speeds have an inner width of 3/32″ (2.38 mm).
  • Multi-speed chains from 9 to 12 speeds have an inner width of 11/128″ (2.18 mm).
  • An “exotic” standard for freight bicycles is a chain width of 5/32″ (4 mm).

Where they differ significantly is the outer width.

R - outer chain width C - outer width with at the joining link (for single speed chains)
R – outer chain width
C – outer width at the joining link (for single speed chains)
From left to right: Campagnolo 11 speed, SRAM 10 speed, Shimano 9 sp, SRAM 6/7/8 sp, old 5 speed, 1/8" single speed chain. Note how rollers of all the multispeed chains are of the same width.
From left to right:
Campagnolo 11 speed, SRAM 10 speed, Shimano 9 sp, SRAM 6/7/8 sp, old 5 speed, 1/8″ single speed chain.
Note how rollers of all the multispeed chains are almost of the same width.

A detailed overview of dimension standards is in the post: Bicycle drive chain standard dimensions.
Post giving full view and explanation of bicycle chain construction (parts): Bicycle chain wear (elongation).

How to connect and disconnect chains, with or without using quick links, video demonstration:

Connecting chains using pins or quick-links

– T.O.C. –


2. Single-speed chains

Single-speed chains are the widest of all. Both by the outer and the inner roller width: 1/8″ (3.175 mm) wide, compared to 3/32″ (2.38 mm) multi-speed ones. Since single speed chain is by far the cheapest, there is no need to experiment with multi-speed chains. However, 6 to 8-speed chains can fit some single speed bicycles – depending on the chainring width.

– T.O.C. –


3. Five, 6, 7 and 8-speed chains

A 7.1 mm wide 8-speed chain* will fit all the other systems (5, 6 and 7-speed ones).  Shimano, SRAM and Campagnolo all use the same chain with 8 speeds. The chain for 7 speeds is a bit wider – 7.3 mm, while a 6-speed one is substantially wider – 7.8 mm. That is why the reverse is not the case and a 7-speed chain and especially a 6-speed one will not work very well on an 8-speed system.

* Based on my most recent measurements, 8-speed chain widths vary from 7 mm (SRAM PC-830), to 7.3 mm (KMC X-8). Also, some manufacturers (like KMC) make their 6, 7, and 8-speed chains using the same width of 7.3 mm. This leads me to conclude that 7.3 mm wide chains work fine for 8 speed cassettes. Also, as noted in this article, using a narrower chain works fine in practice (hence, the 7.3 mm wide chain runs fine on a 6-speed cassette). However, don’t let this “fool you” into using any 6-speed chain on an 8-speed cassette, since you might run into a 7.8 mm wide chain (i.e. “a proper 6-speed chain”), which won’t work very nice on an 8-speed cassette (haven’t tried it on a 7-speed one, but generally, extra-wide chains don’t fare very well, while narrower ones usually run without any problems).

Of others, 9-speed chains can work. They’re a bit narrower than optimal, but can be used. The reverse is not wise, since a wider 5 – 8 speed chain can get stuck between narrower 9-speed sprockets.

Going further narrower, like a 10, or 11-speed chain on an 8-speed cassette can and often does work.
I’ve had good results even with running a 10-speed chain on a 7-speed cassette and cranks.
However, especially with older 6-speed cassettes combined with 11, or 12-speed chains, there is a risk of the chain getting stuck between the cassette sprocket teeth and/or poorer shifting.

An exception is SRAM 1x systems, for DH MTB bicycles – they have 7 rear sprockets, but use an 11-speed chain!

– T.O.C. –


4. 9 speeds

The chain width is about 6.7 mm. In a pinch, a 10-speed chain can be used. Still, the narrower chain is more expensive, doesn’t last as long and might cause a bit slower shifting… but it will work. Problems generally occur at the rear – on cassettes. Front chainrings are less sensitive to the thickness of the chain used.

Otherwise, all the 9-speed chains will work well, regardless of the manufacturer: Campagnolo, SRAM and Shimano.

– T.O.C. –


5. 10 speeds

The chain width is 5.88 mm. Same as for 9 speeds: all the manufacturers can be mixed and a chain for one speed more can be used in a pinch – an 11 -speed chain in this case.

– T.O.C. –


6. 11 speeds

The chain width is 5.62 mm. 11-speed chains of all the manufacturers are mutually compatible.

Since 10 and 11-speed chains (as well as cassette teeth) have almost the same widths, a 10-speed chain can be used instead of an 11 speed-one, without it jamming between the sprockets. However, this will still not work perfectly and will cause premature sprocket wear, so better to avoid it.

The exception are Shimano Hyperglide+ chains, which work only with Hyperglide+ cassettes, whether they are 11, or 12-speed (the same chain is used) – according to Shimano, haven’t put that to the test.

– T.O.C. –


7. 12 speeds

Chain width is 5.25 mm. Made by SRAM, and (from mid-2018) by Shimano for their 12-speed MTB groupsets (for now), and Campagnolo (who only make road groupsets).

Not sure how it works with other systems, waiting for user input and a chance to test it.

– T.O.C. –


8. Symmetrical vs asymmetrical chains

Shimano is, as far as I know, the only manufacturer that makes asymmetrical chains (as well as regular, symmetrical ones). The advantage of an asymmetrical chain is easier and quicker shifting from the small to the large front chainring and vice versa.

Assymetric Shimano chain.
Asymmetric Shimano chain.

The picture above shows how the asymmetrical chain doesn’t have the same outer plates for the “outer” and “inner” (towards the bicycle) side.

When Shimano first introduced asymmetrical chains for road double chainrings, it was recommended not to use them on triple chainrings. They still, however, work well on triple chainrings as well.


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– T.O.C. –


9. Chain width standards table

Table of chain outer widths:
(this table is for the readers’ convenience – an up-to-date table is in the article about bicycle chain standards)

Chain
no. of speeds
Outer width
in mm
All 6-speed7.8
All 7-speed7.3
All 8-speed7 ~ 7.3 *
All 9-speed6.5 – 6.7
10-speed old Campagnolo6.2
All other 10-speed5.84 – 6.1
All 11-speed5.46 – 5.74 **
SRAM 12-speed MTB5.25
Shimano 12-speed MTB
and 13-speed chains
See the table in the article about
Bicycle chain standards
(it’s more accurate when updating info in one place only)
* See chapter 3 for details
** Related to 11-speed, see the two comments by Klaus here (thanks for the valuable feedback),
until I double-check and confirm.

Related post – How to shorten a new chain to size when mounting:

Optimal chain length for bicycles with a derailleur (multi-geared bicycles)
Optimal chain length for bicycles with a derailleur (multi-geared bicycles)

Compatibility posts are also available in eBook (printable and Kindle) and paperback editions on Amazon:

Bicycle drivetrain compatibility book
Bicycle drivetrain compatibility book

– T.O.C. –

72 thoughts on “Compatibility [01] Chains”

  1. Recently tried 9spd chain with 10 spd 11-28 cassette and it did not work at all in the single step area of the cassette except for the 11t and 15t cogs. The 12-13-14t area kept chain skipping attributed to
    the chain being picked up by the next larger cog. The 17t and larger cogs were fine with the chain.
    As you note 10 spd chains seem to work fine on 11 spd cassettes. Wear factor to be determined.
    FWIW the cassette and chain were both new.

    Reply
  2. Would you know if possible to run a 12 speed SRAM AXS group while using a Cannondale SISL2 crank with 50/34 chain rings (came with 10 speed group)?

    Reply
    • Living in an impoverished country that Serbia is, I’ll probably get to work with 12 speed stuff in a year, or two, as it comes in second hand from Germany. 🙂

      So haven’t tried it.

      Based on the technical info – AXS is not a standard chain, like 12 speed SRAM Eagle chain is. It is similar to Shimano’s Hyperglide + chain – as in designed to work with the matching chainrings and cassettes (and, I’d bet a beer – to NOT work with the older stuff, so we can all go and buy the new stuff 🙂 ).

      So I would be surprised if it worked decently. But, as I said, haven’t tried it. Any feedback is welcome and appreciated, until I get my hands on those.

  3. Landed here from another site where chains were discussed, it’s a good and useful summary.
    One clarification that needs to be added. Chainrings in 9,8,7 speeds relied on protruding pins in the chain, and spacing between rings is bit wider. So if you use 9s crankset with 10s chain, you risk slightly worse shifting, but also jamming the chain between rings.
    Simple solution – On my 9s Athena cranks, I’ve put small zipties on the chainring arms, to prevent the chain falling between rings. Two zipties on both sides of the crank were enough, I’ll try to find a picture.

    Reply
    • That’s a very useful (good) feedback.

      My current setup, on the “haul everything” bike is the following:
      – Shimano FC-M563 (“8 speed” triple cranks)
      – Shimano Tourney 7 speed cassette
      – Shimano Ultegra CN-6701 (10 speed “road” chain) – using the setup for a chain-durability comparison test.

      It works well – never had it get stuck between the chainrings.
      Also – never had anyone come to my shop with such a problem.
      Now – 99.99% of the people in Serbia ride Shimano, or SRAM. Campagnolo is like a Unicorn: everyone knows it is cool, but no one has seen it. 🙂
      (I’ve fixed and tuned a few Campagnolo bicycles, but it’s literally about 1 in a 1000, if not even more rare)

      Could it be said that those problems are Campagnolo specific?
      Did anyone have similar problems with Shimano, or SRAM?

  4. I’m assuming you can use a 12 speed chain on any gear scenario. Yes? I’m currently operating both 11 speed and 12 speed cassettes on multiple bikes – all using 12 speed chains (SRAM XX1 Rainbow chains) and shifting appears perfect.

    Reply
    • I’m using a 10 speed chain on a 7 speed cassette (and “7-8 speed” cranks) – works fine.
      But I haven’t tested 12 speed chains on fewer gear drivetrains, so can’t confirm. But I would expect them to work OK.

    • Chain “cares” about the sprockets, doesn’t really “care” about the rest of the stuff.
      So 11 speed chains are generally interchangeable, except Shimano XTR M9100 11 speed chains (as noted and linked in this article’s section on 11 speed chains).

  5. I have a Kmc X10 sl dlc 10 speed black/green chain (Was bloody expensive) looking to fit it to my 9 speed bike I’m aware the sizings between 9 and 10 are a tiny bit different but will it work?

    Reply
    • It should work fine.
      The other way round (9 speed chain on a 10 speed cassette) could cause problems – since the chain would be too wide.
      But this, with the chain being slightly narrower than necessary is fine.
      Currently running a 10-speed chain on a 7 speed cassette myself. 🙂

  6. Is a wider 7 spd chain (7.2 -7.3) going to work better than a “one size fits all” 6,7,8 spd chain (7.1), on my Ultegra 7 speed?

    Reply
  7. Would SRAM 10 Ring Chainrings work with the new SHIMANO 105 11-speed groupset? I have some really nice Carbon Cranks and nearly new 10 speed SRAM chainrings on my bike, but want to upgrade to the SHIMANO 105 11-speed shifters/derrailleuer/Cassette. What are your thoughts?

    Reply
    • I’d definitely give the old cranks a test before buying anything new. Would expect them to work fine.

      Although, I’d first consider: what is wrong/lacking with the current setup? What exactly needs to be upgraded?

  8. Thank you for all of your good information!
    I am trying to make an old 5-speed ride-able for my wife, and this information helped quite a bit.
    I thought I had it all figured out- just get a compatible chain for a 6,7, or 8 speed and I’m good to go, but then saw a comment in a 6-speed KMC chain advertisement where the poster said the chain wouldn’t work oh his/her 5-speed. I’m now thinking that comment must have been in error, as no reason was given for why it wouldn’t work.
    Trying to do this cheaply, as if she doesn’t take to riding like I have, no big loss- but also if she does take to it, I may have to get her a newer bike with a triple chain ring setup to climb some of the 5% grades in the area. I could tweak the gearset on this old Murray, but the steel frame would be a hard thing for which to compensate!

    Reply
  9. Hi Relja,

    Thank you for the excellent and informative article! I’m looking for a little help on how I can best add lower gearing to my road bike and wondered if you might be able to provide any advice.

    I have a 1986 Cannondale SR400 that I love and have been riding since it was new. I’m now 59 though and looking for a little lower gearing than the 175mm 42/52 Shimano 105 chainset and 13-24 SunTour six speed threaded 126mm freewheel allow so I can spin up the hilly areas I enjoy riding. The front and rear derailleurs are SunTour Cycone friction. I upgraded the wheels around 1990 to Campy C record hubs with Omega Hardox rims, so I’m reluctant to switch to a modern cassette 130mm freehub, both because of the excellence of the current wheels, and the 126mm to 130mm hub spacing difference with my aluminum frame. I’ve seen a few 7 speed freewheels that have a 28 tooth cog, but they were quite inexpensive and I thought they may be heavy and/or lower quality items. If I switch components, I’d like to reduce weight and improve quality/performance. I also wasn’t sure about the ability of my short cage rear derailleur to handle it.

    I’m wondering about the possibility of using a compact chainset such as a 50-34 but noticed they are often listed as “11 Speed” or “12 Speed” chainsets. Would you know if such chainsets might perform properly with a six speed freewheel using a six speed chain?

    Any suggestions or recommendations would be greatly appreciated!!!

    Thanks very much Relja, and have a Blessed Day!!!

    Mitch
    “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Colossians 3:17, 3:23-24

    Reply
    • Hello Mitch,

      Brief answer:
      Any road cranks, including 10, and 11 speed 50-34 ones (probably even better 46-30 – to offer lower gearing) should work.

      Long… long answer: 🙂
      Your comment struck a cord – some 2 weeks ago I had to resort to this (zig-zag) technique for a significant part of a rather steep and long climb. 🙂 It was a Sunday, and a relatively abandoned road at this part of the year – any odd traffic could be heard coming from kilometres away.

      I also run 42/53 (half-step gearing 🙂 ), but with a Shimano deore rear derailleur, and a custom made cassette that goes from 12 to 34 teeth. Laced the rear wheel with a Joytech freehub (cheap, 2nd hand, but works well), and used good sprockets of 3 different cassettes (and a mix of Uniglide and Hyperglide sprockets, combined – mix of 7 and 8 speed sprockets and spacers). Friction (down tube) shifters allowed for that to work wonderfully. And, I hope as I get back into shape that I won’t have to swap the cranks for a triple, or a more modern compact double (like 30-46, or 34-54). I kinda like the half step gearing up front – for most of the terrain – at least with the custom cassette I’ve made.

      Not 100% sure (would have to check) if the rear spacing on my bike is 126, or 130, but I know that I had to remove some spacers from the hub – replacing them with a bit narrower ones (because I didn’t want to “torture” the frame, even though it’s a steel one – it rides too wonderfully to be touched 🙂 ). And, in order to avoid the rear wheel from getting extremely dished, I narrowed both the left, and the right hand side. Resulting in the chain rubbing on the chainstay when on the smallest rear sprocket – so using the H limit screw, I prevented RD from ever shifting onto the smallest rear sprocket (so it’s used only to lock the others in place, and the cassette is effectively a 7-speed 14-15-17-19-24-28-34 one).

      There are also 7 speed freewheels made by Shimano, with 13-34 gearing. The quality is quite good (durable, reliable), but I don’t suppose they are super light. And going in that direction would probably require swapping your rear derailleur for a new one. Like Shimano Claris SG (mid-sized cage), or Acera / Deore MTB SGS (long cage).

      Other option, you mentioned, is swapping the cranks. Going with a triple (50-39-30, or a MTB one like 44-34-24) would require replacing the front derailleur. Well, probably the rear derailleur as well, to avoid the chain from getting slack if using small-small gearing combos (as discussed here under “4. Rear derailleur chain wrap capacity not big enough“).

      On the other hand, a “smaller” double would allow for everything except the cranks to remain the same. 50-34 is a “tricky” combo with modern cassettes, the ones that start with 11, or 12 teeth. With such cassettes, the 50T large chain is too large to be used on flats with the smallest 3 sprockets, while the 34 T chainring is too small to be used with anything other than the smallest 3 sprockets. So one ends up riding severely cross chained quite often. However, those, more reasonable (in my opinion at least), cassettes that start with 13, or 14 teeth can be used nicely on the flats, from the larger 50 T chainring, without the chain being too crossed. So it might be a good match.

      There are also cranks that have 46-30 T combo. Those provide a bit more “universal” large chainring, while the smaller one can be useful for extremely long steep climbs, when one just gets their “legs full” (exhausted).

      These modern cranks are often sold and marketed as 10, or 11 (or even 12) speed ones. But, especially if using friction shifters, I would be surprised to notice any kind of problem. Sure – when using the smaller chainring, and the outer part of the cassette (smallest 1/3 of the sprockets, riding severely cross chained), depending on your chainstay length, you might have the chain rub against the largest chainring. But that is the situation when you should shift to the larger chainring anyway (further discussed in the 5th chapter of my article about bicycle chainline). For a full disclosure – I haven’t tested this with any 12 speed cranks. But unless we’re talking about the new MTB stuff, designed for a different kind of chain, I’d expect it to work as well (a discussion on Shimano 12 speed MTB cranks for specially designed chain).

      Relja

  10. Hi Relja,

    Thank you so much for your very informative and helpful reply! I probably spend 80% of my time riding in just 4 gears: 42-19, 42-17, 52-19 & 52-17. These cover me on the flats and small rollers depending on wind speed/direction, and the remaining 20% of the time I’m in 42-24 for uphill and 52-13 for down. That said, it sounds like the compact options you suggested might provide just what I need. The 46-30 combo with the more ‘universal large chainring is especially interesting, as it seems I could spend the majority of my time on the large chainring to cover the range I use most and only shift to the smaller ring when it gets hilly, although I guess after all these years I am pretty used to the double shift. 🙂

    BTW, I recently heard a suggestion to consider shortening the crank arms as a way to help keep cadence up hills. I’ve always run 175mm’s, as I’m 6’3″ with a 36″ inseem and weigh 175 lbs. Have you ever heard of doing this? I thought crank arm length was typically tied to leg length.

    Thanks again very much for the super info Relja, and have a Blessed Day!

    Take care!

    Mitch

    “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Colossians 3:17, 3:23-24

    Reply
    • Shorter cranks generally do make higher cadences a bit easier. But that’s not the whole story. There are a few more things to bear in mind:

      1) Taller people, i.e. those with longer legs, might still find longer cranks as a better fit.
      2) On the climbs, cadences rarely go super-high, while longer cranks do provide more leverage.
      3) Differences are relatively subtle, slight, unless one rides over 100 rpm quite often.

      So I wouldn’t sweat the length of the current cranks, while, if buying a new set (all else being equal), I’d probably look for 172.5 mm length (for 6’3″ height, and a road bicycle).

      Regards,
      Relja

  11. Hey Relja,

    Thanks for your additional helpful info! You’ve given me a lot of great tips, and as a result, I feel MUCH better prepared to find the right solution to keep me in the saddle a bit more and improve my “advanced age” hill climbing. 🙂

    It’s certain to be a fun adventure, and I’m really looking forward to upgrading my ride.

    Here’s wishing you and yours a very Blessed Christmas and most Joyous New Year, filled with lots of happy riding adventures.

    Thanks again Relja, and all the best!

    Take care!

    Mitch

    “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Colossians 3:17, 3:23-24

    Reply
    • Hi Mitch,

      Thanks – happy holidays to you to. 🙂
      Let me know what you went for and how it worked out for you.

      Regards,
      Relja

  12. Hi there Relja,

    I am wondering if an MTB 8 speed to 12 speed chains will work on a bmx chainring? Because, I would like to install a BMX crank to my DH bike.

    Thanks,

    Marcea

    Reply
    • Hi Marcea,

      It depends. Some single speed chainrings are designed for single speed chains – so multi speed chains, that are narrower in their mid-section (between the inner plates, call it “roller width”) won’t fit.
      Some can take multi speed chains. Still, even with those – 12 speed chains, like the Shimano MTB 12 speed one, won’t work very well with anything but their chainrings and cassettes.
      Also, I fail to see the point in buying a more expensive multi speed chain for a single speed drivetrain. Single speed chains are noticeably cheaper, and not less durable.

      Relja

  13. Relja,

    Yikes!, I am reading it again your article above. Online store leads me to this – > Chainring for BMX is indeed 1/8″ whereas the multi speed is 3/32″. You’re right, but I am a little bit sad. Somehow converting my DH to BMX, It was a childhooood memory though for a BMX bike.

    Happy Holidays and Gracias!.

    Marcea

    Reply
  14. Hi Relja,

    Great article thanks
    Question.
    Was originally running a 1 x 12 speed, now I am running 1 x 10 speed set up on an mtb. I have kept the original 12 speed 32 teeth front chainring attached to the cranks, does that matter? I ask because i seem to be snapping my shimano chain pretty frequently, which I know is not uncommon as Shimano chain links seem very thin.
    When i changed to 1 x 10 speed I got new shifter, new cassette, new derailler and new chain, all 10 speed.
    thanks

    Reply
    • Hi Oliver,

      Chains snap from lateral motion, when they are stuck against a chainring (happens more commonly on the front, but can also happen on the rear chainrings).
      Chain links are more than strong enough for any power that human beings are capable of producing. Even the modern, high-speed chains with thinner plates.

      Why it gets stuck?
      The most common cause is shifting under load.
      2nd most common cause is not enough lubrication on the chain.
      Also, in case the chainline is not matched, chain plates could be pushed apart, effectively breaking the chain.
      That is: especially if the front chainring is too far out (away from the bicycle), so that the chain is at a really awkward angle when it is on the largest few cassette sprockets (which is usually used when climbing – and when the most load is applied). In that case the chain comes at an angle to the front chainring. 1x narrow-wide chainring tooth profile is designed to get a stronger grip on the chain, buy allowing very little slack, very little room between the inner plates, in order to keep the chain in place and prevent it from derailing off. But it’s a fine balance – 1x drivetrains do work with more “cross chaining” compared to 2x and 3x drivetrains, because the one front chainring, in one position, is used for the entire cassette – and modern cassettes are rather wide (talking about all of the 7+ speed cassettes).
      These two demands (firmer grip, with the chain having more angle in many gearing combinations) are somewhat conflicting. So I suppose that could be one of the reasons for the chain snapping.

      Relatively short chainstays of modern bicycle frames (modern as of the year 2000+) certainly don’t help with chain angles.

      Of course, one problem does not exclude the others. That is what makes troubleshooting interesting and challenging (and frustrating sometimes).

      I suggest using the combined knowledge of the human race, by posting the question on bikeforums.net Bicycle Mechanics section. 🙂
      Many avid cyclists and excellent mechanics contribute there.
      If you note the exact models of your cranks, chainring, cassette, and chain – it is not unlikely that someone had already faced, and solved, that particular problem. I often get pleasantly surprised by the amount of experience and expertise of the bikeforums.net members.
      On this website, if you click on the date and time under a user name in the comment section, you’ll get a link leading exactly to the given comment – so it can be referenced to if needed, to get 2nd opinions.

      Relja

  15. Will a Clarkes chain (5 to 7 speed) work on my 6 speed electric bike. The old chain was KMC. Thanks

    Reply
  16. i use shimano hyperglide 7 speed chains all the time,you must use a rear hyperglide casstte to go with these chains,but you can use them on a non hyperglide front chainring,as long as its a seven speed chainring,i,still use shimano hg40 chains and shimano hyperglide 7 speed cassettes,gear shifting is alot smoother and shifts are faster using a hyperglide chain and cassette these hg40 chains are nice.

    Reply
    • Indexed shifters need all the help they can get.
      Hyperglide cassette with a Hyperglide chain does help.

      Though, my road bike has down-tube friction shifters, a cassette with some Uniglide, and some Hyperglide sprockets (custom assembled mix-matched) – and it works perfectly fine with the currently easily available Hyperglide chains. 🙂

    • just a follow up to my post the shimano hg40 chains are very good for 7 speed shimano hyperglide cassetts and shimano 8 speed cassetts,shimano hg 50 cassette works well,shimano say the hg40 chain is a 6,7,8 speed chain but in my opinion its only good for 7,8 speed,those 6 speed systems have a different chain,usually a kmc z chain and they usually have a thread on freewheel,i actually convert a 8 speed cassette into a 5 speed cassette as i dont need too many gears,you can customise just about any cassette,just grind those rivets down and pull them apart,add any width spacers or any amount of cogs you like,use other spacers to get that perfect chain line

  17. hello there relja,sounds like your road bike setup is very similar to mine,i still ride a cromemoly steel bike from 1992, old school treck racer with indexed downtube shifters,i did once try non indexed shifters but they have a habit of shifting when you dont even touch them,they are now making other types of indexed shifters to go on handle bars or on the headstem,i love the old downtube shifters,shorter cable runs and they hardly ever fail,cheers.

    Reply
  18. There seems to be a shortage of 12-speed SRAM eagle chains on the sales market.
    What is a good alternative?
    Will KMC 12 speed chains adequately work? Will and 11speed chain work (without causing undue wear etc…)
    Just a question… sorry if I am belaboring a topic already covered.
    V/r

    Reply
    • Hi Zan,

      KMC states that their 12-speed chains are compatible, but I haven’t put that to the test.
      I would expect it to work, but can’t confirm it.

      Concerning an 11-speed chain on a 12-speed cassette:
      I’ve had good results with using chains for more speeds than the cassette has (like a 10-speed chain on a 7-speed cassette).
      Doing the vice versa is something I’d generally advise against – since a fewer-speed chain is wider on the outside, compared to a chain for more speeds.
      This could cause the chain to get stuck, or not sit properly on a cassette with more tightly packed sprockets.

      Relja

  19. Nice article, compliments … but one thing I want to add: in the instructions (PDF viewable at Campagnolo) are the 11-speed chains with a width of 5.5mm specified! I belong to these exotics which have been driving Campagnolo for years and demount any Shimano or SRAM to build a Campagnolo on, I know the advantage when driving. I have this chain dimension also already measured on my wheels and can confirm the 5.5mm. a 5.65mm chain from KMC does not jam and is also really good, but you have to readjust the rear derailleur for this to meet the exact center. A Campagnolo chain with 5.5mm is much easier to assemble and adjust on a Campagnolo cassette.

    Reply
    • To better explain the adjustment: with an 11-speed KMC/SRAM/Shimano chain (5.65mm) on a Campagnolo cassette, you have to readjust the adjustment screw in eighths of a turn when fine-tuning on the first kilometers. With a Campagnolo chain with 5.5mm width you can work with half turns.
      I could imagine that it works with a Connec-Wippermann chain (5.6mm) in quarter turns …

  20. I have an 8-speed 232-link chain still new-in-bag from y2006. I can’t see whether it came with a “pop-link”/”snap-link”. I’m hoping to replace the timing chain on our 1992 Santana tandem. I’ll have to use the rivet tool anyway to pare the new chain down. I have a spare 9-speed snap-link. Will it be possible to use that to connect the 8-speed chain’s ends? There’s no derailler action with a timing chain. Alternatively, is there an issue or a caution about using the rivet tool to re-rivet an 8-speed chain?

    Reply
  21. Because I am very stubborn, I have used every trick so to keep my old 9-speed drivetrain running for 20 years in spite of the bike industry trying to force me to “upgrade”. My setup is a “Frankenstein’s Monster” with Microshift Derailleurs, Miche Cassette, Sugino Cranket, and Campy 11 speed Shifters (old version) that somehow work together as a Shimano 9 speed.

    However, they might get me this time if I can’t find a solution… I have a Sugino compact double crank originally fitted with 9 speed rings, but they no longer make 9 speed replacements at Sugino; just the 10/11sp version. I need a little advice about my options: *1) Get TA Zephyr rings that are 9/10 sp, but I heard TA rings don’t work with Sugino _triple_ cranks… I’m not sure if this applies to compact doubles. OR *2) Get the 10 Speed Sugino rings and use 0.4mm spacers (assuming the space difference is 6.7-5.88 = 0.82mm; 0.82/2 = 0.41mm).

    Reply
    • Hi Chan,

      Briefly put:
      If it were my money, I’d give it a go with 9/10 double chainrings – but it’s not my money. 🙂

      A longer explanation:
      There are two things to consider here (stating them just to be on the safe side, so there’s no misunderstanding, I believe you’ve checked the first one already):

      1) Chainring mounting standard
      It should fit the cranks. Whether it’s a 5-bolt, or a 4-bolt mounting system, it should be matched, along with the proper BCD.

      2) Chainring spacing
      Provided a chainring fits, there’s a concern about the teeth profile, ramps, and the chainring width.
      In my experience, going “one size” more, or fewer speeds compared to the chain’s width (“number of speeds”) doesn’t cause any problems. Maybe shifting will be slower for a fraction of a second, or a quarter of a pedal turn, sure. But I’d expect it to work, even without using any spacers.

      My experience has mostly been with mix-matching Shimano cranks and chainrings. I’m not sure about the Sugino. So take this with a grain of salt:

      I would expect a double chainring to work, even if it is for 10 speeds. My order of preference would be like this(considering that a matching 9-speed chainrings aren’t available):

      1. 9/10 speed double chainring.
      2. 10/11 speed double chainring.

      P.S.
      Concerning triple vs double chainrings:

      Middle chainrings for triples have different profile compared to double chainrings, or outer chainrings on a triple crank. For example:
      53a-39a-30a vs 53b-39b.
      You can’t switch the 39 a and b – even if the mounts fit, the teeth profile would be all wrong.
      But you can switch 53 a and b without any real problems (again, if the mount’s number of holes and BCD are matched, of course).

      Relja

  22. Relja,

    Thanks for your quick reply. I have a follow-up questions. I received a reply from another source that the TA rings won’t work, but the person got my crank model wrong, so I had to write back to see if it makes a difference. If I get the same answer, I’ll probably go with the Sugino 10 sp.

    I noticed that there are 0.6mm and 0.4mm spacers available. They’re cheap, so I’ll get both… any thought on which spacers to try first?

    Reply
    • As I like to say: “one good measurement is worth a thousand expert opinions.” 🙂
      I’d measure the spacing on the current setup, then try to get that spacing with the new chainrings. Middle-to-middle distance is what matters most.
      In case the new chainrings are measurably thinner than the old ones, I’d aim for the-same-distance-or-slightly-less, instead of the-same-distance-or-slightly-more.

      Getting two spacer options is probably a good idea – I’m definitely not sure which spacer thickness will get you there.

  23. Relja,

    After doing more “research” (Google), I have come to agree with you. The signal-to-noise ratio out there is pretty bad. I wrote directly to Sugino about using 10sp rings on Sugino 9sp crank and they replied, “…You can install EV110S chainrings to your Mighty Tour crank. However, you have to upgrade your components to 10/11 speed.” Wut? I can’t even get good advice from manufacturer! Next, I found out the 0.4mm spacer listing was on an archived version the old Brandford Bike website; for some reason, a fan ripped the old site and hosted it, catalog and all!

    Anyway, I found a couple of other aftermarket chainrings that are 9sp, so I’ll look into those. The thinnest spacer I could find was 0.5mm… not sure if there is a functional difference between 0.5mm and 0.6mm (the most common size). I might have to swallow my pride and seek aid from a professional bike mechanic.

    Reply
    • As far as manufacturers go, there are two problems:
      1. They need to make a profit.
      2. They must protect themselves from liability (lawsuits, product returns etc.).

      So it makes perfect sense for a manufacturer to give rather “conservative” advice.
      Just as it makes sense for us to try different things and share our experiences. 🙂

      On a more philosophical note: zeitgeist is shifting from owning to renting. I.e. more and more stuff and services are being pushed into pay-by-month/annum area, from being just bought and done with it. That way we have to spend money every month (and work a lot to earn it), hence corporations are slowly ending up owning us. This happens wherever I look. Spare parts for a 3 years old vacuum cleaner? Discontinued, “the guarantee was only for two years, buy a new one.” PHP version this website runs on was 7.4 – introduced in 2019, planned to be obsolete in November this year. It felt as if I had “upgraded” yesterday, yet today I had to test it with version 8.0, that will be obsolete itself in 2023 (not a very distant future). Related to the topic – when one says they are running a 20-year old bicycle (or drivetrain) and need help with it, a widely acceptable response has become “buy a new one.” Without giving it a second thought. Instead of trying to figure it out, get it fixed and rolling.
      OK, rant over. 🙂

  24. Relja,

    I didn’t think about the liability issues; I’ll keep that in mind when I contact companies directly in the future. Looking back on my previous posts, I was being a bit petulant. I guess my frustration with the bike industry is getting to me. What’s the point of offering a crank that lasts decades when you only have spare parts for a few years? This is just the latest frustrating repair issues I have had.

    Ever since I bought this bike, it has been a quixotic fight every time I wanted to fix it or change a component, it’s been a huge headache each time. 1) I wanted to get compact gearing, but Shimano didn’t make one at the time, so when with Stronglight ISIS drive crank. When it broke, ISIS was “old news”, so I went to Sugino JIS square taper. 2) When my 9sp shifters broke, I couldn’t fix them since I don’t have an industrial robot. Even used ones were hard to find and NOS shifters cost more than the latest 10/11sp, so I got Campy 11sp (pre-2015, has the same cable pull as Shimano 9). 3) Needed to get newer Shimano brake calipers because Campy’s leverage was too great for them, hard to modulate the old brakes. 4) Somewhere along the line, I got old and needed lower gearing… needless to say Shimano abandoned 9sp by this time. MicroShift to the rescue with their R10 derailleur… still needed to change out the jockey and tension pulleys to run a 9sp chain.

    I did think of a 3rd option for my current problem: buy a new 10sp crank and run a 10sp chain, throwing way a perfectly good crank. I know considering the money and time I spent, I probably should have given up long ago and upgraded to 10sp, but like I said, I am stubborn and hate throwing out stuff the works just fine for me.

    Anyway, there might be a glimmer of hope. There is a “right to repair” movement in the USA. I think one of the proposals would force companies to make spare parts available to 3rd parties (if they have them). I bet Sugino has a warehouse full of unsold 9sp rings.

    Here ends *my* rant 🙂

    Reply
  25. welcome to the wonderful world of bicycles,yes it can do your head in sometimes,i allways say no two bicycles are the same,no two bike parts are the same,then you also have different makers doing different fitting tools,like i say nothing is standard in the bicycle world allways expect the unexpected when fixing bikes,yes things do change alot,just when you mastered fixing your own bike out pops a new part and tools,it gets that bad sometimes you just have to invent your own tool,its all part of the fun just never give up,if you cant find an option someone on google will have the solution,if its not on google well then its time to to get another bycicle.

    Reply
  26. i spend endless hours just looking for the right fitting tools and the bicycle parts are abit easier to find,getting the right tools for the job makes things easy,not alot of ranting and raving then,super B makes some nice tools but some tools are abit oversized but most are reasonable quality and they still make tools for the older steel bikes,i like the super B cone spanners and bottom bracket tools

    Reply
  27. another great tool i just got is the super B,2 in 1 tyre bead jack tool,this one comes with one tyre lever and the tyre bead jack for very tight fitting tyres,this one is a smaller version of the larger workshop tyre bead jack and it fits in your pocket,very good tool.similar to the one var tools make,love your new website layout Relja

    Reply
  28. i just took out a whole bunch of retro style bottom bracket cups and those 3 notch and 4 notch lockrings,the fixed cups were supposed to be 36mm wrench flats,the only brand that came close to 36mm was the shimano fixed cup,some others were 35.8mm,the lockrings for the other side were even all different sizes,then i measured two different tools to remove those 36mm bottom bracket fixed cups,both tools were 36.5 mm and these tools were sold as being precise fitting 36mm tools,way to big to be any use,then you look at most bicycle cone spanners even those tools are a loose fit,tools only need to be .1 mm bigger then the part but alot of bike tools are way oversized,i have had to make a few tools and look for other trade tools that will do the job as i am fed up with throwing brand new bicycle tools in the recycle bin because they are poorly fitting

    Reply
    • Hi,

      Thanks for the feedback.
      I need to update most of the articles with the latest stuff that came out.

      Relja

  29. Hi Relja
    The chart you have says all 8 speed chains have 7.3mm pin length, But my Allez bike came from factory with a KMC X8 silver/grey chain which is 7.3mm. AFAIK all the X8 are 7.3mm.

    I have several questions.
    1) Can i use a chain like the SRAM 870 which is 7.1mm with my bike or would that cause issues?
    2) In an emergency situation, would a 7.1mm link work with 7.3mm chain?
    3) Its almost time to change the chain and i was thinking on upgrading to the X8 silver (8.99) which is just like 3-4 extra bucks, and I saw KMC has the X8 EPT Eco Proteq which has an extra rust treatment. The EPT would be an extra 12 bucks over the one I have now. Is it really worth it as mine doesnt have any rust?

    thanks!

    Reply
    • Hi Alejandro,

      1) I would expect any 8-speed chain to work on an 8-speed drivetrain.

      2) If the outer plates of links are not the same width, I would expect problems with connecting them.

      3) KMC X series chains have served me well. I go for the cheapest available (no fancy plated stuff if at all possible).

  30. I have a 1x 11 speed shimano cassette with a Raceface 1x narrow/wide cinch chainring. I have just replaced an old worn chain with a new 11 speed shimano chain which has resulted in a lot of noise from the chainring side and jumping gears. There’s no wear on the cassette.

    I have heard that the Raceface chainrings are incompatible with HG chains. Do you know if that is true and if so do you have any recommendations?

    Thanks in advance!

    Reply
    • Hi Kevin,

      I’m not sure if the Race Face Cinch chainring is designed for Hyperglide+ chains (they make such models as well) – in which case it makes some sense for it to work “strangely” with a Hyperglide (i.e. non-Hyperlide+) chain.
      If it isn’t a HG+ chainring, it should work fine with a HG chain.

      If I understood correctly:
      – The bike was running fine with the Raceface n/w chainring + 11-speed Shimano cassette + some 11-speed chain.
      – The chain was replaced with a new 11-speed Shimano Hyperglide chain (not the latest Hyperglide+ ?).
      – Now there’s a lot of noise and “gears are jumping.”

      New chains can skip on a worn cassette. Cassette wear is often not visible (unless it’s really severe, way, way past the new-chain-skipping point).
      However, if by “jumping gears” you mean gear changes without shifting, that’s a different matter, and you can disregard this first suggestion.

      Still, it’s worth using a phone to record in slow motion (120 or, even better, 240 frames per second) what happens when you step on it. Most phones from the last 5+ years are capable of making such recordings in daylight. Sometimes it helps pinpoint where the chain skips and how exactly. This could eliminate a lot of troubleshooting guesswork.

      Another problem cause could be a RD out of tune, or bent RD hanger (sometimes problems can overlap, one thing goes out of whack at/near the time something is replaced on a bike).

  31. Hi Relja,

    total noob question here.

    I have Shimano 8 speed, old C201 front and rear derailleur.
    It takes a 7.1 mm chain apparently e.g. Shimano HG50.

    I see on websites selling 8 speed chains where in the specs the chain is listed as being 7.3 mm.
    Huh?

    e.g. the KMC website. When you look at the specs for their 8 speed and 7 speed chains you see that both are listed as being 7.3 mm. But your article and e.g. Shimano documentation says that that is not the correct width for a 8 speed.

    https://www.kmcchain.eu/chain-bike-derailleur#speed8

    Any idea what is going on?

    cheers!

    Dan

    Reply
    • Hi Dan,

      I’m not sure.

      For what it’s worth, I know that KMC X-8 chains run fine with 6, 7, and 8 speed cassettes, because I’ve used them with such drivetrains (KMC X8 is one of my favourite locally available chain models).

      I also know that chain being narrower is not a problem – my commuter bike currently runs a Shimano Ultegra 10-speed chain with a 7-speed cassette and some old, 8-speed cranks. No problems whatsoever.

      But a chain that is too wide doesn’t work well. Is the X8 really 7.3 mm wide? I’d have to measure one. If it turns out to be correct, then my only conclusion would be that the 0.2 mm is not enough of a difference to cause any problems (edit: at least for up to 8 speed cassettes). Perhaps KMC have figured that out and decided to cut costs by making all their 6 to 8 speed chains with the same width. I can see their 6-speed chains showing also a 7.3 mm width. But that’s not confusing, because I know that a narrower chain is not a problem.

      The only way to confirm is to measure some new chains that are sold as 8-speed.

  32. Hi guys,for what its worth i also did read much stuff on shimano website about 8 speed chain widths,they do say that their 8 speed chain is 7.1 mm wide but my new hg40 8 speed chain measures 7.3 mm wide and the kmc quicklink that fits the chain is also 7.3mm wide,kmc says the quicklink is an exact fit for the shimano hg 40 chain,i think the stated 7.1 mm on shimanos site could be either a mis-print or data for a much older 8 speed chain,my kmc quicklink fits the shimano hg 40 chain perfectly cheers

    Reply
  33. I think that newer shimano hg50 chain is the replacement for the hg40 chains,i had a good look at the newer shimano 8 speed hg50 chain at a local bike shop and its also an ebike rated chain,shimano hg40 chain was sold as a narrow hyperglide chain for 6,7 and 8 speeds, kmc chains have very different specs and they usually sell just one chain for just one speed,x 8 being an 8 speed chain,to get good use out of a shimano hyperglide chain you also need to run hyperglide cassettes for very fast shifting,the shimano hg40 chain is foolproof and i only use those chains on my 8 speed bike.kmc quicklinks are very easy to find for the hg 40 chain,i would not use any shimano chain joiners i found kmc ones very good

    Reply
  34. the shimano hg40 chain is a very nice chain to run,i have been using those for a long time,they are better suited for an a 8 speed cassette and they will run on a hg50 cassette or an 8 speed hg41 hyperglide cassette but they run a little smoother on a newer hg 41 cassette,the chains are very durable and long lasting,i have never had a problem with them,even before i used a kmc quicklink i used to just break the chain with my chain tool and rejoin it using that same link pin,i know everyone says dont do that but its an option that works well if you have no quicklink

    Reply
  35. Thanks for the info Mike. 🙂
    I’ll check to confirm this with some Shimano, SRAM and KMC models and update the table.
    Probably not before September though (taking a bit of a workshop break). 🙂

    Reply
  36. kmc do make two type quicklinks for 7 and 8 speed chains,one quicklink is 7.1mm and i have seen that one,whos chain it is for i dont know and it could even be for an older kmc chain as it has kmc 7/8 written on the link,they also do that 7.3 mm quicklink for shimano 7/8 speed chain and thats a wrap i dont have any other info cheers

    Reply
  37. kmc make 5 different types of 8 speed chains so maybe one of those is 7.1 mm width,i will do some digging and see if i can find who is making 7.1 mm 8 speed chains,,i think shimano does 3 of 8 speed chains,the shimano hg40 chain that i use is definatly a 7.3 mm pin width,that does not mean all 8 speed chains have that same width

    Reply
  38. ok guys,did some more digging,the kmc re-usable quicklink that is 7.3mm pin width fits all these chains,kmc X8,kmc Z8.3,kmc Z7,kmcZ6 and shimano CN-HG40 chain,all these chains are all 7.3 mm pin width,but with any chain you buy its often wise to buy chain first and measure pin width with a digital gauge then go buy your re-usable quicklinks,still doing more homework on other chains and should be able to get you all quicklink models for 8 speed chains

    Reply
  39. CLR73R kmc reusable link fits X8,Z8.3,Z7,Z6 chains,CL57R EPT reusable link fits,X8,Z8.3,Z7,Z6,CL573 EPT not reusable link fits,el,X8,Z8.3,Z7,Z6,CL573 not reusable fits,el,X8,Z8.3,Z7,Z6,CL573RB not reusable fits,X8,Z8.3,Z7,Z6,CL571R reusable link fits,Z8.1,CL571R EPT reusable link fits,Z8.1,CL571RB not reusable fits,Z8.1,now this next link is the one shimano sells with their CN-HG40 chain,sometimes shimano just ships this chain with one single black joiner pin that you put through the chain and break it off and yes this link was on kmc website,its CL373 and they clearly state pin width 7.3 mm it fits these chains,kmc,shimano and all other 6,7,8 speed chains,CL371 fits kmc Z8.1 and Z1 narrow chains.in older shimano listings on shimano website they do list their older IG chains as being 7.1 mm width and their newer CN-HG40 chain as being 7.1mm width,i personal thinks that is a mis-print,but it may be correct for their older IG chains,so far i can only determine some chain pin widths by some quicklinks but on all kmc quicklink packets they allways say what chain it is for and usually the chain pin width,its a bit hard to find the actuall pin width with manufactures specs,readers on this site might like to measure their own chains with a digital guage and send that info to Relja,i cant see any other way,cheers guys

    Reply
    • Mike, thank you very much for the info. 🙂

      I’ll hopefully be able to re-measure my current stock and do a run around the local shops with my callipers in September, to confirm this and try to see if there’s some average value, or the exact 7.3.

      As it seems by this data, manufacturers just went with 7.3 for 6, 7 and 8 speeds, probably to cut costs (making only one chain size practically). 6-speed cassettes don’t mind it for sure, and, apparently, 7.3 is not too wide for the 8-speed cassettes either.

  40. Hi Relja,yes its seems they did just that but just like everything else to do with bicycles they keep changing stuff and keep creating problems that did not exist in the first place they are very clever marketing gurus cheers.

    Reply
  41. Hi Relja hoped you enjoyed my bed spilling i am one of those humans too,only googles dont do bed spilling,mr googles is also very good with mathematic

    Reply

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