Five of the best road bike chains for smoother gears and increased performance

Your chain is the essential part of your bike’s drivetrain so it’s important to buy the right chain for the job. Making sure to keep it clean and lubricated is a must, especially when the weather turns for the worse.

The majority of road bike chains will be made of alloy steel with the more expensive options coated in slick, hard wearing materials to make the chain last and perform better than their cheaper counterparts.

We’re going to focus on 11-speed chains that will run with most Shimano, SRAM and Campagnolo 11 speed systems. As with everything in the bike industry, you get what you pay for. Chains can range from under £10 to £100+ for the top end of the market.

Maintenance is key with any bicycle chain as it will stretch over time. A worn chain can damage your chainrings and cassette, so keep it clean and lubricated to minimise wear and improve efficiency.

Here’s the wevelo guide to some of the best road bike chains around.

Shimano Dura Ace 9000 11 XTR M9000 11 Speed Chain

Shimano Dura Ace Road Bike Chains

What they say

The super narrow lightweight 11-speed HG-EV symmetrical design chain has been designed for smooth shifts, and maximum durability. Whilst the outer plate design has been developed to reduce the chance of chain suck. The Sil-Tec surface treatment technology (PTFE plating) on inner and outer links and rollers that is smooth running and increases durability whilst the Hollow Pin design reduces weight.

Key specifications

  • Zinc-Alloy plated inner and outer links
  • Width: 5.62mm
  • Weight: 243g
  • 116 Links
  • Includes connecting pin

Our verdict

The top of the line offering from Shimano will work perfectly with any of their 11-speed groupsets. At around £30, it’s a bargain! Lightweight, quiet, strong and easy to fit and maintain. The chain usually comes with a couple of connector pins should you get the fit wrong first time round.

Where to buy

Price

£33.99

From

Wiggle

Price correct at time of publishing.

KMC X11-SL Silver 11 Speed Chain

KMC X11-SL Road Bike Chains

What they say

This KMC X11 silver 11 speed chain is superlight (SL) and features their NON-Directional allowing maximum compatibility, no matter MTB or Race: this chain fits all. Also, the X-Bridge system provides quiet, quicker and smoother shifting every time.

Key specifications

  • Compatible with all 11x systems
  • 1/2″ X 11/128″ – 114 Links
  • Titanium nitride coated
  • Double X Durability
  • Superlight, 228g only
  • Comes with 11x missing link

Our verdict

The KMC X11 SL is lighter and easier to maintain than the Shimano offering. Although slightly more expensive, it’s worth the extra cash. The chain is strong and shifting is precise and quiet as you’d expect from a premium chain. The supplied missing link makes fitting the chain super easy. Get it in gold for a bit of extra bling!

Where to buy

Price

£44.00

From

Tredz

Price correct at time of publishing.

KMC X11-SL DLC 11 Speed Chain

KMC X11-SL DLC Road Bike Chains

What they say

The KMC X11SL DLC 11 speed chain features their Triple X Durability and the DLC (Diamond Like Coating) process which ensures long-term function with greater durability. A great choice for the serious cyclist wanting high performing road bike chains.

Key specifications

  • 1/2″ X 11/128″ – 116 Link
  • Pin length: 5.5mm
  • Compatible with Shimano, SRAM and Campagnolo 11 speed systems
  • Diamond Like Coating
  • Black/Red or Black
  • Superlight only 243g

Our verdict

The KMC X11 SL DLC, like the less expensive SL, is super light and shifts precisely and quietly. The Diamond Like Coating is there to improve the durability of the chain whilst adding some colourways to the bike. Top price, but it’s a fantastic chain that looks the part and is easily maintained using the missing link.

Where to buy

Price

£84.00

Price correct at time of publishing.

Muc-Off Shimano Nanotube Chain

Muc-Off Shimano Nanotube Road Bike Chains

What they say

Muc-Off has spent thousands of hours researching drivetrain optimisation using its dynamometer. The result is the NTC Chain, which has already proven a saving off over 10 watts compared to CeramicSpeed’s chain over a 112-mile Ironman stage.

Key specifications

  • Incredibly low friction
  • Class-leading performance
  • For use in ALL weather conditions
  • More durable than wax optimised chains
  • Each chain is hand treated using Muc-Off proprietary process to maximise performance

Our verdict

If you’re looking to improve on the efficiency of your drivetrain then take a look at the Muc-Off Nanotube chain. This one is for the serious cyclists looking for maximum performance when they’ve tried everything else. Can be used in all weather conditions and with existing 11-speed Shimano systems.

Where to buy

Price

£97.99

From

Wiggle

Price correct at time of publishing.

CeramicSpeed UFO chain

CeramicSpeed UFO Road Bike Chains

What they say

Our ultrafast racing chains are carefully selected from high quality suppliers and optimised by hand in Denmark. Included in the UFO Chain packaging you will find the special CeramicSpeed/Squirt lube, which we strongly recommend in the maintenance of the racing chain in order to get the most out of the chain after the UFO treatment is worn off, approx. after 600 km/370 miles.

Key specifications

  • 15% reduction in chain friction
  • 11 speed Compatible
  • Supplied with joining link
  • 600km usage life

Our verdict

Another top end chain from CeramicSpeed. Claimed to reduce friction by 15%, this is for those that want the best for racing and time trialling. If you’re looking at saving watts then give the CeramicsSpeed chain a go. Pair up with their ceramic bottom brackets and jockey wheels for maximum watt savings.

Where to buy

Price

£106.00

From

Wiggle

Price correct at time of publishing.