Best Motorcycle Chains: Increase Your Bike’s Performance
Take good care of your motorcycle by getting it the best chain
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PUBLISHED ON September 11, 2019
Motorcycles are either shaft-driven or chain-driven. A chain-driven motorcycle uses a chain and sprocket mechanism to transfer power. If you ride a motorcycle, you want to use the best motorcycle chain on the market for both performance and safety. This buying guide will help you to make an informed decision about the best motorcycle chains and sprockets.
- Best OverallDID X-Ring Chain with Connecting LinkSummarySummaryA long-lasting chain with features that make for a smoother, faster ride, such as the x-ring with less friction.ProsProsBecause it has greater rigidity, it reduces power loss. It also has high tensile strength and is
35 times more durable than ordinary chains. The high engine displacement (750cc) offers top performance.ConsConsThe chain needs constant lubrication to function optimally. The connecting link is not rivet-style but clip-style.
- Best ValueRK O-Ring Racing Chain with Connecting LinkSummarySummaryThis is a high-quality chain designed to give you great, long-term performance on road and off.ProsProsIt features heat-treated high-carbon steel elements and will cover thousands of miles before it requires replacement. Its O-ring design gives you more riding time.ConsConsThe plate doesn’t slide over the posts. You may have to drill it out so it can slide enough to get the clip-on.
- Honorable MentionRenthal O-Ring 120-Links ChainSummarySummaryThis is a reliable chain built to withstand wear and tear and corrosion. It is ideal for the rigors of off-road use.ProsProsIt is highly resistant to corrosion—thanks to its gold-colored side plates—and comes with vacuum-injected lubricant for longer life. It is also pre-stretched to enhance performance.ConsConsYou may have to cut it before using it on some bikes, which may require additional equipment.
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Benefits of a Motorcycle Chain
- Speed. A quality motorcycle chain is built for sudden acceleration and braking, two factors that are common among racing bikes and off-road bikes.
- Efficiency. A basic chain has high tensile strength and is designed to handle heavy loads. A bike with a really good chain can handle up to 8,000 pounds per foot. The chain is perfect for use with various types of motorcycles.
- Save on fuel costs. By reducing drag and corrosion, a good motorcycle chain allows for smooth riding, resulting in better fuel consumption. A smooth-running motorcycle utilizes power more efficiently.
- Replacement parts are readily available. The chain and sprocket usually work together to transmit power to the rear wheel. The constant demand for chains and sprockets leads to a steady supply of replacement parts.
Types of Motorcycle Chains
An O-ring motorcycle chain features O-rings between the inner roller covers and outer link covers of every chain link. It is a common feature in off-road motorcycles as it keeps the chain dirt free. O-rings ensure that factory-applied lube stays in the pins and between the plates. The chain remains lubricated, and grit, dirt, and other contaminants do not get into the links.
X-ring motorcycle chains are more efficient than O-ring ones, which is why they are perfect for the charged environment of a racetrack. They provide less drag and give your motorbike more mileage. One of the benefits an X-ring chain has over the O-ring chain is that it is a better utilizer of lubrication. This feature makes it easy to maintain and ideal for newer motorcycles.
You’ll find non-sealed motorcycle chains on most vintage motorcycles. There are not too many on the market even though they are cheaper than O-ring and X-ring chains. Their one major shortcoming is that they are not easy to maintain. You will spend a lot of money on maintenance costs every year.
Motocross enthusiasts are familiar with DID motorcycle chains. DID is a U.S.-based company that has created a niche market for motocross bike chains. It has a very strong presence in the United States and Europe where it supplies gold motorcycle chains meant to withstand high-octane action. One of the company’s top performers is the DID Gold Chain with Connecting Link.
Japan-based RK’s industrial endeavors started back in 1932 when it was known as Takasago Tekko K.K. However, it wasn’t until 1953 that the company went into RK motorcycle chain production. Since then, RK Japan has partnered with racing brands such as Honda and Yamaha. Its U.S. office, RK Excel America, oversees the sale and distribution of one of its best-sellers, the RK Racing Chain Gold X-Ring Chain with Connecting Link.
Renthal Limited was founded in 1969 by engineering and motorcycle enthusiasts. It is headquartered in Bredbury, England. Its motorcycle accessories are used in bikes such as Kawasaki and Suzuki. The Renthal Z-Ring 520-Pitch 120-Links Chain is among the company’s top-selling motorcycle racing chains due to its patented Z-ring design.
Motorcycle Chain Pricing
- $20-$50. At this price range, you can get standard 420-pitch chains for motorcycles with up to 80cc output. However, as you inch up towards $50, you’ll get some of the best 520 chains.
- $50-$100. Many motorcycle enthusiasts buy heavy-duty motorcycle chains in this price range. They come with features such as upgraded ring systems and heavy steel construction that improves their resistance to wear and tear. On the upper end of the scale, you will find features such as high tensile strength, high engine displacement (up to 750cc), and up to 120 links.
- Above $100. Here you’ll get motorcycle chains for high-performance bikes. The X-ring 150 link motorcycle chains are common in this range. The chains can handle heavy loads, and some come with SDH pins that handle high impacts. If you are looking to upgrade to a high-power bike, get a chain in this price range.
One of the most important factors you need to consider is the size of your motorcycle chain. Size is measured in pitches, which is the distance between rollers in the chain. In a sprocket, it's the distance between points. Matching the chain and sprocket pitch size gives your bike optimal speed and efficiency.
The best 520 chains can turn a bike from ordinary to powerful. But the best 530 motorcycle chains can handle engine displacements of 1000cc and are an excellent choice for speedsters. However, due to its versatility, the 520 chain and sprocket kit works for most motorcycles.
The tensile strength of a chain tells you how much weight your bike can carry. The strongest motorcycle chains can carry loads as heavy as 8,000 pounds. Some chains come pre-stretched for better efficiency.
- Construction Material: While standard chains are made of steel, some are made of carbon steel alloys, which make them less susceptible to wear and tear. You can also opt for gold-plated side plates that make the chains more resistant to corrosion.
Best Motorcycle Chain Reviews & Recommendations 2019
Best Overall: DID X-Ring Chain with Connecting Link
If you use the DID X-Ring chain, you can rest assured that you’re getting a highly adaptable chain. With the right sprocket, the X-ring design will reduce your expenditure on lubrication. If all you want is a noise-free ride, this is a great pick. The X-ring also minimizes drag and speed issues and has a tensile strength of 8,210 pounds.
One of the biggest advantages of this chain is that it evenly self-distributes lubrication. This ensures your bike covers more miles, depending on where you ride. Even if you’re an avid off-road rider, it will still offer 35 times more durability than a run-of-the-mill chain. It has high rigidity, tensile strength, and engine displacement (750cc).
However, despite all the benefits it offers, it is not without its faults. It requires frequent lubrication to work well, and its connecting link is not riveted style. And since it comes with a varying number of links, you have to be sure you get the right number for your bike.
Best Value: RK O-Ring Racing Chain with Connecting Link
This chain is for the rider looking for two things: a great price and high value. The O-ring design makes it an excellent choice for off-road bikes. It keeps away those fine bits of dirt and contaminants your bike is likely to pick up as it moves around. It also comes pre-stretched and pre-stressed for more durability and high performance.
The chain can carry up to 7,000 pounds per foot and comes with a clip-type master link that you can easily replace since it’s a 520 chain. Despite its design, it’s one of the best sportbike chains. It is built with a focus on durability and has heat-treated, hi-carbon steel parts.
On the downside, its O-ring design makes it ineffective for high-speed racing compared to its counterparts. With a maximum speed of 400cc, it is more suitable for a motocross bike than an on-road racer. In addition, the plate may have to be drilled so it can slide over the posts.
Honorable Mention: Renthal O-Ring 120-Links Chain
If you ride your bike regularly, it is very important that you have a spare chain in case of any mishaps. This chain is good to have on hand as it comes pre-lubed with vacuum-injected grease. It is a nitrile O-ring motorcycle chain, and it lasts longer if it is well-maintained.
It has three key factors that make it a great choice: carbon alloy steel-bearing pins, gold-colored side plates, and alloy steel side plates. The steel-bearing pins give it excellent resistance to wear, the gold-colored side plates prevent corrosion, and the alloy steel side plates give it high tensile strength and impact load resistance.
The chain is pre-stretched to boost its performance. You can combine it with a compatible sprocket, and it will fit like a glove due to its 120-link compatibility. However, you may have to reduce its size before using it on some bikes. This may call for extra equipment. It is also not the cheapest motorcycle chain.
- Motorcycle chain replacement is inevitable. It is advisable to always have a new chain on hand in case you need it. The good news is it is fairly easy to match a chain to a sprocket for your motorcycle.
- You should perform regular checks to see how well-lubricated your chain is. Consider keeping a tube of lubricant on hand, especially if you like to go for long rides.
- Before changing your motorcycle chain, read and understand chain specifications.
- Be sure to get a quality sprocket, as it will prolong the lifespan of your bike chain. JT sprockets are some of the best in the industry and are ideal for motorcycles and ATVs.
Q: Can you replace a 520 pitch with a 530 pitch chain?
A: 520 pitch and sprocket combinations can only be replaced with other 520 pitch combinations. A 530 pitch used in place of a 520 chain can cause mechanical issues and accidents.
Q: How long do motorcycle chains last?
A: The lifespan of a motorcycle chain depends on the user, weather conditions, and its quality. A high-quality motorcycle chain can give you months of service if you don't subject it to high impacts.
Q: How do I know when I should replace my motorcycle chain?
A: Mechanical mishaps can spell doom if you aren’t attentive to your motorcycle’s needs. Whenever you notice a drop in performance, consider looking at the state of your chain. The sprocket might have eaten away at your chain’s link, so regular maintenance is key.
Q: What is slack?
A: Slack is the degree at which your motorcycle chain hangs. It is normal for slack to increase, especially after substantial mileage. Retightening your chain ensures it is tight enough to transmit full power.
If you are looking for a reliable motorcycle chain designed for high-impact action, we recommend the DID X-Ring Chain with Connecting Link for its durability.
The RK O-Ring Racing Chain with Connecting Link is a high-value pick for motorcycle racing.