Often overlooked and frequently abused, bike chains and the master links that hold them together are undoubtedly one of the most important parts of your bicycle, helping transform the power you put into the pedals into forward propulsion along the road or trail. When working properly, you forget bike chains and master links are even there. But if something goes wrong (say you bend a link) it is immediately the only you think about.
Bike chains are also a more complex component than you may think, possessing more moving parts than any other component on your bike. Indeed, a standard bike chain may have up to 116 links, though you will likely need to cut your bike chain down depending on whether you are using a 9, 10, 11, or 12-speed drivetrain.
A properly cut chain is one that is long enough that it can comfortably be shifted into the largest rear cog and largest front chainring without jamming, but also not be so long that it develops slack when positioned in the smallest chainring and smallest cog. Otherwise your bike will suffer from dreaded chain slap, which can damage your driveside chainstay and be incredibly annoying to listen to. And in case you are curious, the best way to figure out how long your new chain should be is to measure the old one you are taking off your bike.
When choosing a chain, the number one consideration is the “speed” of your drivetrain, be it 10-speed, 11-speed, or the increasingly popular 12-speed drivetrains found on most modern mountain bikes. (These numbers correspond to the number of cogs on your cassette.) Each one necessitates a specific chain due to spatial constraints between cogs and the shape of the teeth on your cassette and chainring(s).
Master Links, which allow you to break apart and reattach your chain without damaging it, as well as more easily deal with trailside repairs, are also specific to the drivetrain for which they are intended for. If you have any questions about bike chains and master links, please give JensonUSA a call. We have Gear Advisors standing by 888-880-3811 ready to assist you.