If you are new to motorcycles, it is worth knowing that they either use a chain or shaft for operating. Chain driven bikes utilize a sprocket and chain mechanism for transferring power. If you are a motorcycle rider and like to travel for long distances, opting for the best motorcycle drive chain makes sense in terms of safety as well as performance.
A motorcycle drive chain can prove to be handy for a variety of reasons. First off, installing a high quality drive chain in your motorcycle will greatly improve its braking and acceleration, two essential factors for off-road and racing motorcycles. Using a drive chain in your motorcycle will also increase your ride’s efficiency by tenfold.
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5 Top-rated motorcycle chains
High-quality chains are capable of handling more than eight thousand pounds per foot, which is more than ideal for most motorcycles. Motorcycle drive chains also cut down on fuel costs. They do this by minimizing corrosion and dragging while you are riding. A motorcycle chain from a reliable manufacturer can make your bike rides smooth and free from herky-jerky movements, ensuring the fuel consumption is low.
In addition, the bike’s sprocket and chain transmit power by working together. The ever increasing demand for sprockets and chains is a big reason why you will find an endless range of motorcycle drive chains in online and offline stores.
I’ve included the buyer’s guide at the end. This will help you make informed decisions. Furthermore, if you are at a loss with the choice please check out my Motorcycle Chain Size Charts, hope you like them!
As mentioned earlier, there is no shortage of motorcycle drive chains in the market. This can cause a fair bit of confusion for those who are new to this product.
1. RK Racing 520-SO-120 – O-Ring chain
Are you hunting for reputable chain brands? RK Racing O-ring Chain could be your best buy. It has the best value for money for enthusiasts in motorcycle racing.
Chains get loosened or broken, and so that needs a proper replacement with quality chains. Having a mediocre chain could compromise the longevity of your sprockets hence I suggest considering this chain. Rated 4.4 out of 5 stars by customers, it is an impressive 520 motorcycle chain.
The chain is made of durable heat-treated carbon-steel, which can last you for thousands of miles before you need to change. What I like with O-ring chains is less maintenance. That’s better than the old standard models.
If you find it to be long, I recommend getting the ABN Chain Breaker 13-Piece Set. This set could make your life an absolute breeze. It becomes easy to install your new chain while all hardware components are within reach.
Any idea of how to get started to install this chain using the aforementioned set? Simply loosen the sprocket nut then unscrew the bolt at the bottom of the chain press tool and put the spring on the pin located inside the tool. Nonetheless, instructions will be more explicit. You do not really have to be a tech guru. By following the instructions you can excel.
RK Racing was designed for serious motorcyclists. Over the past 25 years, the brand has been a favorite for FIM World Championship teams. This must be due to is quality and reputability. It comes with solid bushings and rollers ꟷall these add to the durability of the chain.
Before I forget, this chain has a tensile strength of 7700 pounds. While this may not be the best on the market, it is, nonetheless, one of the impressive tensile strengths to withstand higher loads. Tensile strength is perhaps the single most important consideration of the bike’s chain. It tells you how much load can your bike bear. Most motorcycles rate above 8000 of the tensile strength.
Due to hi-carbon steel components, this chain can survive unfavorable corrosive environments. I have not seen anything about the warranty for this chain. But that’s not a downside to buying the chain.
I would recommend this chain to any enthusiast looking for the best chain for money. It’s worth the price of money. It comes with the instructions to install. But, the tensile strength of 7700 is not really impressive. Nonetheless, it is a great product in its range.
2. DID 520ERV3-120 Gold Chain – Gold X-Ring chain
The DID Gold Chain has received 4.9 ratings out of 5 stars. This is evident enough of how effective the chain is. You might be wondering why it costs more than the preceding O-ring chain while they have the same links. Well, it goes back to the overall features.
This gold-coated chain is an X-ring model, which is undoubtedly the best when compared to the O-ring and the standard chains hence its price. It has the superior strength with a tensile strength rated at 8660 pounds. That’s how sturdy it is to endure heavy loads put on the bike. If you anticipate holding heavy loads, I suggest considering this chain.
Furthermore, on the features, this gold-chain halves the friction and provides a long-life. Compared with the standard chain under the same conditions, the DID X-ring can last 31 times longer. The X-rings reduce the metal-on-metal friction that is experienced by standard chains. On top of that, the chain gives maximum engine displacement of 750cc.
Riding in humid areas? Do not forget to consider the impact of corrosion on your chains. Both the sprockets and the chains could be susceptible to corrosions. With this X-ring, however, you are safe. Gold is not prone to such damages in corrosive environments. It will surely last long.
Installing this motorcycle chain shouldn’t be cumbersome at all with clear instructions provided. The master link is provided.
Looking for something better than the O-ring? This X-ring is the best product I would recommend to any serious investor. It is expensive, of course, but worth the price of money. From the design, aesthetic appearance to its performance, the chain is worth it. It has high tensile strength and also coated with gold to prevent corrosion.
3. NICHE Gold 525 X-Ring Chain
The Niche Gold Master Link is a long drive chain for bikes, great for bikes, and made to hold up under extreme conditions. While many of its features are similar to what one would find on any driving chain of the same standard, there are a few tricks of this brand’s sleeve. Take the clip and master link for example. With it, you can quickly take off the excess chain to make it properly fit your bike. That’s not to say that some of the products are made at a good size for your bike already.
Modifying the Chain to fit your Bike
You may not even need to do this on some models. But if you do, it’s easy enough for beginners to figure out without relying on others to help them. Minimal adjusting is needed once you’ve got it hooked up. Check it periodically and you’ll find that few chains will need to be taken off over a long time. Be sure to keep it properly lubricated to extend its life to the max. The X-Ring drive chain is built to keep your wheels rotating at fast speeds without wearing down too fast.
Each drive chain sold by the company comes with a small bottle of lubricating oil for you to place on the metal before installing it on your bike. Be careful with it to avoid spilling the oil out; it’s quite easy to damage. If you can do this, then you’ll find that the Niche Gold Drive Chain is stellar in performance and works as advertised.
4. RK Racing Chain GB520MXU-120 – Off-Road Motorcycle Chain
Back to the RK racking Chain again. You probably have come across several of these products before. RK Racing Chain GB520MXU-120 gives you the best value for money.
It is an UW-ring and also comes with the master link meaning there is no need to purchase one separately. What else am I leaving out?
Performance-wise, this chain does its job in enhancing your ride on all types of roads. Coming with gold plates, corrosive environments will not be a match to this motorcycle chain. Many chains when exposed to corrosive environments they wear out quickly. This is mainly due to the poor quality of materials. With this motorcycle chain, you get quality pins, rollers, and bushings.
All the pins are 4-point riveted. This enhances the security of the pins. It also avoids unnecessary stretching of the chain.
If your budget is tight but you’re looking for an excellent motorcycle chain, this could be your best choice. It is affordable yet still offering the best performance and quality.
Also, worth considering about this motorcycle chain is its tensile strength. This feature indicates the overall weight that the chain can bear.
This RK Racing chain is a great investment for your next chain replacement. Easy to install with clear-to-read instructions. I would recommend it to any hobbyist of motorcycles. The chain is an O-ring type, and so it will reduce much of the friction and extend the longevity of your chain. Furthermore, it comes with quality rollers, bushings, and pins. Each pin is 4-point riveted.
5. JT Sprockets Steel 120-Link 525 X1R – Best 525 Chain
Unlike other X-rings, this model is one of the most affordable X-rings. Do not be fooled by its price tag and think it is one of the mediocre products. It isn’t! With my experience in riding motorcycles, I would be able to tell if a certain chain is a hoax.
JT Sprockets Steel Chain was designed for heavy-duty motorcycles using cutting edge technology. The company had durability and maximum strength in mind when making the chain. This makes it best-suited to both road and off-road usage.
To ensure uniform durability, I would suggest you consider the JTR1304.38 38T Steel Rear Sprocket. The chain and the sprockets often wear simultaneously, and so replacing one can leave the other vulnerable.
With a tensile strength of 8930 pounds, this chain is truly a heavy-duty choice. Finding an X-ring chain with such a tensile strength yet still offers the cheapest price seems a bit awkward I know. But, judging by the performance and design, I have no doubts. However, I do not see any gold-plates, which then makes the chain less attractive. Anyway, do you care about the aesthetic appeal or strength? If the latter then you need not worry.
The chain’s X-ring seals will yield less friction, thus improving the power flow of your bike than the O-rings and the standard chains. It also comes with quad riveted pins to enhance the strength of the rivet so that no amount of force could compromise your chain.
The fact that this chain looks somehow unattractive has to do with its steel alloys. But, as I said, strength is the most important consideration. Unless you are concerned about the beauty then you will consider the gold-plated chains which also perform well in corrosion resistance.
If you are looking for an effective and efficient X-ring without breaking your bank account, this product is the best choice. The design and performance are great. The chain was designed for heavy-duty bikes, so rest assured it won’t break unnecessarily. Its tensile strength of almost 9000 pounds is a deal-maker. It’s rare to find such a strong chain at an affordable price.
6. Volar Motorcycle O-Ring Chain
Volar is a widely popular brand among motorcycle enthusiasts, and for good reason. The company has been making high-profile bike chains for a long while, and its range of O-Ring chains are arguably the best. While you will find tons of similar products, this O-ring chain stands out because of its superb master links and bushings, featuring tensile strengths that rival, if not exceed the quality of the original parts.
What’s most impressive about the Volar O-ring chain’s design is that it has several links, making sure riders don’t have to worry about finding the right size for their motorcycles.
The first thing every bike chain buyer wants is excellent durability and the Volar O-ring chain more than delivers on this front. Whether you like to ride for long distances, uneven terrains, or any other condition, you can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that these chains will remain in great condition, allowing you to ride your bike smoothly at all times.
While most O-ring chains do not require much maintenance, this one may require the least. Its durable material and excellent design ensure utilizes the company lube efficiently, ensuring riders don’t have to lube their chains in short intervals. What’s more, you won’t have to worry about too much aftermarket repairs either, a problem that troubles thousands of bike owners.
This O-ring motorcycle chain by Volar is a mid-budget chain, making it a great option for most riders. Sure, it’s a little expensive compared to many similar products, but the quality more than makes up for it. Also, unlike most motorcycle drive chains, users don’t have to worry about replacing this one in short periods.
7. DID 520VX2-120 X-Ring Chain – Best Motocross Chain
The DID brand is one of the most reputable brands on the market. This X-ring model is evident in the best quality the brand offers.
Looking for a quicker response to your motorcycle? The DID X-Ring Chain could be your best buy. It provides a maximum engine displacement of 750cc. But its price does not really correspond with its feature offerings. One would expect it to be too costly since a majority of X-rings are indeed costly. However, you shouldn’t be fooled by this price and think the product is substandard.
Compared with the standard chain in similar conditions, this X-ring chain lasts about 35 times longer. It also outshines the O-ring with strength, durability, and convenience.
From 40 customer reviews, the chain got a 4.1 out of 5 stars rating. This assures you that it is a product of high demand. It is remarkably 35 times longer than the standard chains. On top of that, it is affordable, so you’ll be saving a lot.
The tensile strength is rated at 8210, which is also a great takeaway for those accustomed to putting heavy loads on their motorcycles. A typical tensile strength should be over 8000 pounds.
Want to know what’s my take on this product? Well, after assessing its features I haven’t seen a deal-breaker. It performs well with one of the best tensile strengths on the market. Installing the chain is an absolute breeze. It fits sprockets well with 120 links. Its size is 520, just make sure you buy the right product.
Also noteworthy is the affordability of the product. If you are on a tight budget this could be the best buy without breaking your bank.
8. EK Chain 525 SRX2 Quadra – Best Sport Bike Chain
EK Chain is also a worth-considering motorcycle chain. It is a product of Japan, and we know Japan as the powerhouse of popular machinery. Remember the famous Yamaha, Toyota, and Suzuki brands? One would, therefore, expect the same quality from any product emerging from that country.
The chain is made of quality materials thus it will last for a long time. Its x-rings reduce friction to enhance the natural flow of your wheels. Make sure the sprockets are still up to the best quality as well. Many motorists overlook the need to renew the sprockets as well.
Oftentimes, the chain and the sprockets wear simultaneously. Replacing only the chain may subject it to damages. The teeth of the sprockets might have chipped so they may not hold the chains properly.
This chain is a great buy with a tensile strength of 9000 pounds. How many affordable X-ring chains have you found having a tensile strength of this magnitude? Very few I guess! Installing a chain is easy. As long as you have the SLJ Master Link and the wrench then you’re one step closer to installing the chain.
I couldn’t find deal breakers in this X-ring hence it took the spot in my shortlisted motorcycle chains. It is powerful and efficient, so I would recommend it to enthusiasts. It will last long without jeopardizing your safety. Moreover, its tensile strength of 9000 pounds is one of a few. The overall design with the inclusion of the master link is impressive.
9. CRF450R Pro Taper 520 MX Chain – Non-Sealed Motorcycle Chain
If you are into gold-plated like me then this could be your best buy. But, it is a non-sealed chain, meaning it requires regular maintenance. Well, that is the downside of the chain. It’s not a big deal though if you are accustomed to maintaining your motorcycle on a regular basis. If not, then look for the sealed O-ring and X-ring models.
Pro Taper 520 MX Chain is a heavy-duty chain designed for modern 4-stroke motorcycles and ATVs. It embraces the highest level of Pro Taper quality. Having this chain will enhance your bike’s performance in both road and off-road applications.
Included with your purchase is the clip-style master link which connects the chains seamlessly. In case you notice the chain is longer than your factory chain, you can easily cut it with the chain breaker. It shouldn’t take you the entire day to install this chain.
The chain was designed for 125 to 530cc applications. It has a tensile strength of 8800 pounds, which I find very impressive for heavy loads. Also, the overall design of the chain is of high quality with high-strength steel alloy materials.
If you are more into gold chains then this could be your best buy. The only downside is that it requires regular maintenance, which, personally, will be cumbersome. If you are hands-on then I don’t see any problem. Modern chains are O-rings and X-rings will little maintenance. Considering its superb features, I would still recommend the chain. It has gold plates which are good for corrosion resistance. Moreover, its tensile strength is just one of the best.
Tips and FAQs
Now that we’re done with the reviews, let’s embark on a journey to guide you on how to help you choose the best motorcycle chain. These chains come in a variety of designs and other configurations. Thus, you need awareness when making any purchases.
What’s the right chain size to choose?
It may be confusing to buy the right size especially if it’s the first time. Usually, the sizes of these chains are mentioned per the pitch and the length. You’ve probably seen numbers such as 520, 530, and 120 in the product description and unaware of what it means. The numbers 520, 525, 530, etc. are referred to as the pitch, which is the distance between the pins of the chain. These numbers should help you choose the right size of your chain. Or you can simply use my chain size chart.
What are the best features to look at when buying chains?
Typically, you would look at the kind of the chain if it fits your bike or has the best quality. We often ride bikes in unfavorable conditions. That being said, any compromise of the best quality can invite danger to your riding experience.
The first feature I would like to advise you with is to check the finish, in fact, the build materials. Because the chains are often exposed to inclement climates, you have to get a chain that is weather-resistant and corrosion-resistant. Gold plated chains excel in this area. Even other materials like steel do well in corrosion resistance.
Avoid low-quality metals on your chains as that could compromise your safety. When riding in off-road situations most of the time, you have to consider investing in materials of premium-quality such as specially heat-treated carbon steel alloys and gold plates. They offer the best durability as well as prevention against corrosion.
The other feature to check is the configurations such as the tensile strength. This tells you how much load the chain can endure. The typical tensile strength exceeds 8000 pounds. If you’re accustomed to subjecting the chain to loads, then consider the higher tensile strengths to avoid any damage.
I have a chain that has a tensile strength below 8000 pounds. That does not necessarily mean it is the best choice. It’s only a matter of loads on the chain. The overall features of the chain are impressive.
Ease of installation
If you are new to motorcycle maintenance, you may find it hard to install the chain. This short YouTube video should help you install both the sprocket and the chain. Even your installation manual can help you achieve that. You can also rely on experienced motorcyclists for advice on how to install with ease.
A word of advice is that, avoid purchasing standard chains if you hate the installation part. You might find yourself having to install several times a year.
The price is also an important consideration when buying motorcycle chains. However, you should not be fooled by cheaper prices thinking that it the best quality. Some chains come at lower prices and I used to misinterpret that as mediocre. First, check the features before considering the price.
What type of motorcycle chain should I choose? O-ring, X-ring or standard chains?
There are different types of motorcycle drive chains in the market and each of them offers unique benefits. For instance, the O-ring bike chain consists of O-shaped rings in the middle of the outer link covers and inner roller covers. This feature is quite common in off-roading bikes as it doesn’t accumulate as much dirt. This type of ring also makes sure the factory lube doesn’t wash off.
That said, some people prefer X-ring bike chains. This chain type is more efficient compared to the O-ring variants, making them an ideal option for race bikes. X-ring motorcycle chains offer better lubrication, making sure you don’t have to lubricate after every three to four days. Users who don’t like to maintain their bikes frequently often opt for X-ring chains.
Non-sealed bike chains are another great option for bike owners, but you should only choose them if you own a vintage bike model. This chain type is relatively cheaper compared to the X and O ring variants and it requires regular maintenance. However, it would be best to endure the maintenance costs as non-sealed chains can significantly improve a vintage motorcycle’s performance.
How do I know if it’s time to change my motorcycle chain?
To avoid unexpected breakage of your chain, you need to know signs of change. Unlike vehicles with digital displays that alert you to change a certain part, motorcycle chain change can be confusing. You need to monitor that.
If you see some space created when pulling the chain at the rear sprocket, it is time to change. If you feel it is loose when you adjust it, then it’s time to change. Also, if you see some visible breaks in the sprockets’ teeth, it could be time to change both. Both the sprocket and the chain wear simultaneously, so you have to change them at the same time.
How can I prevent chain breakage?
Like any other part of your motorcycle, it is inevitable that someday it may need replacement. The frequency of replacements, however, depends on the quality and the care you give. Substandard build-materials will, of course, break quickly. You need to be careful when selecting the motorcycle chain. I reassure you that all the products I have chosen are of top-notch quality. They’ve received many ratings from customers.
The other important consideration to avoid breakage is to care for your chain. Please ensure that you use the right motorcycle chain lube. There is an article I wrote specifically about motorcycle chain lubes; you may have a look to properly care about the chain.
Also noteworthy is how you ride. Off-road rides require heavy-duty chains.
I have come to the end of the most comprehensive guide about motorcycle chains. The topic might be seen as trivial, but trust me when I say many people struggle to choose the best chain. I have selected many chains and came with 9 of them which I believe can improve your riding experience. Just to reiterate: always check the tension of the chain to get a sign of replacement.
Also, check the features before buying based on the affordable price. The most prominent chains are the O-rings and the X-rings. They improve durability, retain grease, and require less maintenance. The tensile strength of the chain is perhaps the single most important feature you need to look at. It tells you how much load the chain can bear.
Other features to take into account is the chain size. To avoid counting each link, each chain has some numbers to help see the size. The pitch and the number of links are printed. Consider other accessories such as the chain breaker to help you install these chains. I have included some recommendations in the reviews.