Which Motorcycle Chain Is Best?
This isn’t going to get very technical – you can find that stuff from elsewhere – but this will be about my experiences with different types of chain on my bikes over the years.
I’m sure you’ll find it riveting! *groans*
First off – don’t pay someone else to do it!
It can be a bit fiddly to fit some types of chain, but you’ll soon get the hang of it. Get a good quality chain rivet/splitter tool (about £40), and it will save you as much as a hundred pounds each time to replace a chain!
So you’ve got your tool (an angle grinder to cut through the old chain is a massive help, too), and now you need to source your own parts. What’s on offer?
Standard or Heavy Duty chains
These are the most basic chains you can get. They’re lighter than the others, and narrower as they don’t have o/x rings to help lubricate the links. They’re cheap, and can be stupidly cheap if they’re made from crap metal. I wouldn’t even think about using one on anything with more than about 60hp. You’re looking at getting one for under £20, and should see them for half that on Ebay.
O Ring chains
These have rubber rings helping keep each link lubricated. They last well. These are the benchmark chains and a half-decent one will last around 12,000-20,000 miles. Price shopping around will be £40-60.
X Ring Chains
Like an O Ring, but the X rings produce less friction and keep the lubrication in the links even better, so consequently a better chain life (claimed) of 40% plus. You might scrape one for £50 to about £80.
Renthal SRS Chains
With these, they spring-load the rings, so they work even better, and allegedly show longer life than an X-ring.
The bottom line is that in my experience, even the cheapest X ring chain will be better than a good quality O Ring one, and the cheapest O Ring will be a massive improvement over a HD chain.
You’ll notice I didn’t put a mileage down for the standard/HD. This is because most people I know will say they broke or seized up. I recently had one on my GPZ for a few weeks and maybe 200 miles. I barely lubed it, and it was on Winter roads in bad conditions, and I had bearing issues – so it had about the toughest job possible. Even so, a lot of links had stiffened A LOT. It went in the bin when I decided it was false economy, and I splashed out for an O ring chain. Some say a HD chain will see 13,000 miles – I’d say more likely less than half that.
The jury is still out on the Renthal SRS. I have one on my ZX9R and noticed straight away that I have to adjust it far less than other chains, but I haven’t put enough miles on it yet to give a conclusion. It does look very good at this stage, though!