There can be quite a bit of confusion when it comes to making sure you have the best chain, however. The important thing is to make sure that you match it with your sprocket, of course, and after that you’ll have to figure out what kind of metal you’re looking for.
We’ll talk a little bit more about how to choose one in a moment, but for the time being let’s take a look at four of the best motorcycle chains on the market.
JT Sprockets (JTC420HDR134SL) Steel 134-Link 420 HDR Heavy Duty Drive Chain
This chain from JT Sprockets is heavy duty and makes for a great chain for pretty much any type of dirt or street bike. If you’re running a smaller bike you’re going to have to cut it to fit, but it’ll last quite a while as long as you install it properly. The only real issue is that you’ll have to get a master link somewhere else if you’re not a fan of clip-on master links. For heavier applications, many serious riders will prefer to use a chain breaker and set their own semi-permanent master link. It’s an easy upgrade, though, and a beginner might want to undertake it just to learn how.
This one works best for dirt bikes and other off-road applications, as well as medium to large street bikes.
DID 520ERT2 – 120 link Gold Chain with Connecting Link
If you’re looking for a chain that’s quite likely to outlast a sprocket or three, then this one is exactly what you’re looking for. It’s rated for motors up to 450cc and the distinct gold look doesn’t come with the malleability you’d normally associate with gold. The specially treated pins are the key behind this chain, and if it’s properly lubricated and treated well it’ll outlast the competition by a long shot.
It runs a bit high in price, but if you want an enduring drive chain for your bike that’s going to last for miles and miles, then it’s a worthy investment (see full specs). This should be on anyone’s list of the best motorcycle chains.
Renthal C291 R3-2 O-Ring 520-Pitch 114-Links Chain
This is an excellent O-Ring bearing chain which is fantastic for nearly any street bike as long as the 114 links isn’t too small for you. The high-quality alloy lasts well, and when you add in the O-rings you’re looking at thousands of miles of fun ahead of you. It comes with both types of master lock, the standard clip and one held on with a rivet for those who have truly high power bikes.
If you’re looking to get the maximum longevity for your dollar, then consider this chain (see full specs) since it’ll be certain to last for ages thanks to the the O-rings and high-quality metal used in its construction.
RK Racing Chain GB520XSO-120 120-Links Gold X-Ring Chain with Connecting Link
This RK racing chain is one of the best you’ll be able to find anywhere. X-ring chains last for an amazing amount of time without requiring nearly as much maintenance as plain or O-ring chains and this one comes with two places for lubrication to make sure the rollers keep going for a long time to come even under heavy load.
If you’ve got a performance bike already, and you’re looking for an upgrade, make the investment here and you won’t be disappointed.
Picking the Best Motorcycle Chains
Your best bet to making sure you get the right size of chain is to measure the existing one. Links in chains are fairly standardized, and if you loosen the master ring, break off the chain, and count the links you’re on the right track.
Remember that you can always shorten a longer chain with a chain breaking tool, but you can’t always add more since you only have what you have. Don’t try to mix links from different chains since the differences in tensile strength will leave you with a serious “weak link” problem.
After you’ve got the length determined, you need to decide on which type of chain to go with. This is actually a relatively easy affair, since all you’ll need to do is a cost-benefit analysis in order to get the most out of what you have.
Standard chains are the ones you’ll see most of the time on cruisers and inexpensive bikes. They require quite a bit of maintenance, but they’re definitely the cheapest of the three types that you’re likely to encounter. These roller chains lack any kind of spacer, so the metal rubs directly on metal.
While this makes for an inexpensive final product, it also means that it’s vital you keep everything lubricated as part of regular maintenance. That’s not to say they’re bad, but they’re definitely not the best out there and you might want something a bit more expensive if you’re less regular with your maintenance.
O-Ring chains have O-rings in between the links. This makes them more expensive, as naturally there’s more to it than producing a standard roller chain, but they also tend to last longer as the metal doesn’t wear directly on the metal for the most part.
They still require quite a bit of maintenance, however, and they increase the friction on the chain which can burn off lubricant and make things run a bit slower. You’ll still need to make sure you keep the chain lubed, if the O-rings dry out they’ll become brittle and can start breaking off.
X-rings are mostly used for performance bikes due to their high cost. The ring applies less friction to the chain than standard O-rings and they’re often sealed in a way to keep the lubricant within. They’re highly recommended for performance bikes but might be a bit too costly for the average around-town biker.
Choosing the best motorcycle chain doesn’t have to be a hassle. If you take some time to think about exactly what you want and what you’re doing with your bike then you’ll be able to come to a natural conclusion. Even changing the chain yourself isn’t that big of a deal, so why not give it a shot and you’ll soon be back on the road and doing better than ever.