Finding the right chain for your bicycle, like most bicycle components can be tricky. With so many available on the market, it is easy to fall into the trap of buying the most expensive chain, hoping that price will equal quality.
However, when comparing two popular chain brands, KMC and Shimano, you will realize that this may not be the case.
KMC Chains are made by KMC Chain Industrial Co Ltd, a roller chain manufacturer in Taiwan with outlets in the US and Europe. They make and manufacture bicycle chains, as well as other components under the name of KMC, and distribute them to other companies, including Shimano.
They are a popular chain and are recognized as being of professional quality, often being used by cyclists during the Tour de France.
What are the KMC Chain Properties?
The KMCX10SL DLC Bicycle Chain (Amazon link) has diamond-like coating technology, a hollow pin, and plates, resulting in a super lightweight chain of only 236 grams. This is looked upon with favor by cyclists who are aiming for speed and need to be weight conscious. They offer a Double X Bridge design for shift performance and are compatible with other brands 10 speed systems as outlined above.
The good news is they now have an 11-speed model available on the market. The KMC chain is X11SL DLC is the newest model available and the look and weight offer the modern cyclists a lightweight chain that does not compromise on quality or aesthetics.
The diamond-like coating (a deposit of an ultra-thin, carbon-based protective layer on the chain’s surfaces) is also an appealing bonus as it allows for the smooth rapid gear shifting- something every cyclist is looking for. It is hard-wearing and durable, making it a financially viable purchase and it also comes in a variety of color choices to match your bicycle attire.
The KMC system initiative system has a missing link system and therefore saves the need for a special tool to adjust chain length. You can change the length of your chain using a simple open-close mechanism, allowing you to add or remove any additional links with ease. This is great for emergencies and for quick fixes of the chain.
It is also great for those who may not have much experience using chains, saving you both money and time for the not so mechanically minded, and meaning you can avoid a trip to your local bicycle store. It is a quite system and, after I test rode the product for 100 or so miles, it did not stretch.
What are the Pros of KMC Chains?
One of the benefits of the KMC chain is that they are compatible with Shimano, Sram and Campagnolo Drivetrains.
There is a variety of roller widths to choose from, for example, 3/16, 1/8, 3/32, 11/128 inches and with external widths compatible with single-speed 6,7,8,9,10 and 11-speed drivetrains. The chains are made of high alloy materials and stainless steel with a mushroom pin; they also have a titanium nitride coating and offer a variety of colors.
The chain is stretch-proof, allowing it to withstand a little more wear and tear and, therefore, allowing more mileage. The KMC Chains’ have a reputation for their durability and compatibility with 8 speeds and measure around ½” x 3/32″ with 116 links. They are also known renowned for their inaudibility and smooth gear shifting response.
What are the Cons of the KMC Chains?
KMC Chains are more expensive than the Shimano counterpart. KMC Chains are compatible with other speeds – the most popular choice being the 10 speed. Their latest chain, the KMC X11SL DLC, is expensive and raises some questions if this cost is justifiable for any of the advantages gained.
Shimano is a Japanese multinational manufacturer of cycling components and other sporting goods. Bicycle components are 80% of its production and Shimano products make up 50% of the global bicycle component market. One of its major components is bicycle chains.
What are the properties of Shimano Chains?
Shimano chains are made of zinc-alloy steel which allows for the production of a durable, lightweight chain – qualities which are generally sought after by competitive cyclists.
The chain follows an asymmetric design, with redesigned inner and outer plates; this improves the contact with the rear sprockets for a smooth and quiet shift. The benefit of improving shifting performance means reduced time delays between gear shifts, making for a smooth shift and, thus, optimal power transfer directly to your pedal.
Shimano’s design also has an ‘enhanced press-in construction’ for stable shifting, again, complimenting a smooth and most efficient transition time.
What are the Pros of Shimano Chains?
Shimano is one of the top-rated chains and has had a long and successful history of quality products. They have long been considered to have the best 10-speed chains for road bikes. Furthermore, Shimano offers their products at a much cheaper price than KMC.
They are known for their lightweight, ease of repair and their reliability, which in turn makes them good value for money. As a rider, you can be confident you will get endurance, dependability, power return and longevity when you invest your money in a Shimano Chain.
There is also a newer model that is available, the Shimano 6800 Ultegra 11-Speed Bicycle Chain, that offers a symmetrical design and 116 links and has great reviews on Amazon.
What are the cons of Shimano Chains?
Unfortunately, you will need a tool to make any adjustments on a Shimano chain. However, a Park CT-3 chain tool and Shimano HG pins should be the only tools you need. Obviously, this can be a problem if you do not have this tool and are then forced to take your bike to a mechanic, costing you further outlay.
You also have to have a selection of pins dependant on which Shimano chain you are having to repair or replace. Be sure to invest in the correct tools and pins for your Shimano chain to avoid any issues whilst you’re out on the road. (Check out our article here about how to fix a broken chain when out on a ride)
The difference between the Shimano chain and the KMC is marginal; your choice will always come to personal preference. For a professional rider or a rider looking for reliability and to improve their performance, you cannot go wrong with a Shimano chain. Despite the inconvenience of adjusting the chain, the Shimano runs a lot smoother and will provide you with long-lasting use.