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How to choose the right chain for your bike?

The bicycle chain is responsible for transmitting the traction power produced by the pedals and the rear wheel to the bike. At Santafixie we have different types of bicycle chains and making the right choice will depend on aspects such as their dimensions or compatibility with the sprocket and chainring.

Sizes and dimensions

If you are about to choose a bicycle chain according to its dimensions, you will have to pay special attention to the following aspects:

  • Pitch

The chain pitch of the bicycle is a standard measurement. It is a feature of all modern bicycle chains and refers to the distance between one link and the next.

If you are going to buy a new chain it will have to be 1/2″, taking as reference the center to center distance between bolts. Bear in mind that if the chain wears out, this distance will grow and end up damaging the sides of the teeth on both the chainrings and the sprockets.

  • Width

On modern bicycles fitted with modern chains it is most common to find two types of internal widths: 1/8″ and 3/32″.

If you have a single-speed bike or one with internal gears, the chain type will be 1/8″ in internal width. In this category you will find cruiser bikes, urban bikes, fixies or models with internal gears, among others.

If you have a bike with a derailleur, with 2 to 11 sprockets, you will need chains of 3/32″. This is the case with hybrid bikes, mountain bikes, touring and road bikes.

You should always choose the width of your bike's chain according to the number of sprockets it has because the space between the hub and the chainrings is limited. And this means that the more speeds the cassette or freewheel has, the less space there will be between the sprockets.

  • Length

Nowadays all chains come in a suitable length to fit almost any bike.

It is important that you count the number of links in a chain before buying it to ensure that it will work properly. In the case of multispeed chains, you should note that the minimum length you can reduce or increase in a chain is 1″.

The right chain length for your bike is the one that will allow the rear derailleur to perform its function with an optimal tension range. To accomplish this, the chain must be able to pass through both the chainring and the largest sprocket without putting any tension on the derailleur. And when the chain passes through the smallest chainring and sprocket, it will have to generate some tension to prevent the chain itself from locking.

Compatibility with sprockets and chainrings


If your bike's chain wears out, it will accelerate the deterioration of your sprockets and chainrings. It is therefore essential that the chain is compatible with the sprockets and chainrings to ensure that they mesh perfectly and function correctly.

When you buy a bike chain it is important to look at the number of sprockets it has because this will be key to finding the right outer width of your chain and determining compatibility.

Chain types


As for the different types of bicycle chains you can find in the market, the following ones stand out.

  • Single-speed chains

They are bicycle chains intended for single-speed models and therefore do not have a system that allows gear shifting.

These bikes are characterised by their ease of use. This is where single speed bikes or fixies come in. Companies such as KMC or Izumi stand out.

  • 5-speed chains

Bike chains for 5-speed drive trains are perfect for road and urban models. 

  • 6-speed chains

Chains can also be chosen according to the number of sprockets on the rear freewheel, which ranges from 3 to 11.

In the case of 6-speed models it will correspond to 7.8 millimetres, 5⁄16" on all brands. Options such as KMC or Sunrace are available.

  • 7-speed chains

For all brands of bicycles, the 7-speed options correspond to 7.3 millimeters, 9⁄32".

  • 8-speed chains

8-speed chains are 7.1mm wide.

  • 9-speed chains

9-speed chains are suitable for 9-speed freewheels or cassettes. They usually have 116 links, and  are of variable width – from 6.6mm up to 6.8mm. Amongst manufacturers, KMC stands out. 

  • 10-speed chains

10-speed chains are common on road bikes. They are usually 6.2 mm wide.One of the best manufacturers of this kind of chain is Miche.

  • 12-speed chains

Bike chains for 12-speed transmissions are typically made up of about 126 links and are very strong.

Tools and accessories for chains

At Santafixie you will find chain tools that will allow you to clean, tighten and/or adjust your chain. Depending on what you need, you will have to make a choice.

Chain maintenance

Both the chain area itself and the sprockets and chainrings are parts of the bike that accumulate a lot of dirt. Regular maintenance of these parts will increase the life of your bike and help it perform well.

To do this, you should clean the chain with a brush and a series of products such as a chain cleaner and degreasing spray, or just a spray-on degreaser. You will achieve optimum results quickly and easily.

Tightening and/or adjusting chains

To ensure that the chain works properly, it is important that it is always correctly tensioned. To achieve this, the chain must be adjusted from time to time with the help of a good bicycle chain tensioner.

With continuous use of the bike the chain will progressively loosen. Keeping it adjusted is essential for a safe ride. Otherwise the chain could come off.

Chain repair

If you need to repair your bike's chain links because they have broken or are no longer working properly, you can repair the chain with the help of tools such as the IceToolz chain cutter and Unior master link pliers. However, depending on the type of repair you want to make, directly, it is advisable to replace the chain.