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Chain Compatibility

Time for a new chain? It can be confusing to figure out what your options are for compatibility with your drivetrain. But chain compatibility, though made out to be quite complex, is actually fairly simple. Chain type is determined by the brand of your components (derailleurs and cassette) and the number of rear cogs ("speeds") on your cassette. Based on that information, it's easy enough to find a compatible chain.

Generally speaking:

  • The easiest way to ensure compatibility is to buy manufacturer-recommended components. Have a 10-speed Campagnolo cassette? Buy a 10-speed Campy chain. But this option might be more expensive or harder to come by—and there are usually other choices.
  • Shimano and SRAM 5- to 10-speed cassettes and chains are compatible. Shimano likes to say that for "optimal performance," their components should only be used with other Shimano components, but we've mixed and matched SRAM and Shimano in all kinds of combinations with no drop in performance.
  • Campagnolo is only compatible with Campagnolo and a few aftermarket chains (such as those made by Wipperman) that are clearly labeled "Campagnolo compatible." If a non-Campagnolo chain's packaging doesn't specifically state that it's Campy compatible, it probably isn't.
  • Chains for 6-, 7-, or 8-speed cassettes are pretty much universally compatible across brands and speeds. That means if a chain says "8-speed Shimano" you can use it in your old 6-speed, too.

Here's some more specific guidance to help you find an appropriate chain in our selection.

11-Speed Drivetrains

11-speed drivetrains require 11-speed chains. Shimano and SRAM 11-speed chains are not cross-compatible; if you have a Shimano 11-speed drivetrain, you need a Shimano 11-speed chain. We sell the Shimano CN-HG701 11 Speed Chain Ultegra/XT and the slightly lighter Shimano Dura-Ace/XTR CN-HG901 11-Speed Chain.

For SRAM 11-speed systems, choose the SRAM Force 22 PC-1170 11-Speed Chain or the SRAM PC Red 22 Hollow-Pin 11-Speed Chain. For SRAM's XX1 or X01 1x11 MTB drivetrains, your options increase; try the SRAM PC-X1 11spd Chain, the SRAM PC-1110 11 Speed Chain, or the SRAM XX1 11-Speed Chain.

Finally, the Campagnolo Chorus 11 Speed Chain is an excellent choice for Campagnolo 11-speed systems, as is the Campy-specific KMC X11-SL Silver Chain.

10-Speed Drivetrains

Campagnolo 10-speed systems are compatible only with Campagnolo or aftermarket Campy-specific chains. The Campagnolo Record Ultra Narrow 10 Speed Chain and Campagnolo Veloce 10-speed Chain are excellent Campy-made options, but the KMC X10.93 10-Speed Chain will work fine. The KMC X10.93 is also compatible with SRAM and Shimano drivetrains.

Shimano's Dura-Ace 7900, Ultegra 6700, and 105 5700 groups are a little different. With these 2009/10 groupsets, Shimano introduced an asymmetric chain design (with different links on the inside and outside). According to Shimano, "optimal" performance is only possible with a corresponding asymmetric chain like the Shimano Ultegra CN-6701 10-Speed Chain or the Shimano Ultegra CN-6600 HG 10-Speed Road Chain. In our experience, though, any Shimano- or SRAM-compatible 10-speed chain will work flawlessly with these groups.

Any Shimano- or SRAM-compatible 10-speed chain can be used with any other Shimano 10-speed groupsets, and with any SRAM 10-speed groupset. SRAM says, of course, that their chains will provide optimal performance with their components, though. We carry a wide range of 10-speed chains that will work well with Shimano and SRAM drivetrains.

9-Speed Drivetrains

Shimano drivetrains can use any Shimano- or SRAM-compatible 9-speed chain, and SRAM 9-speed drivetrains can even use 10-speed chains.

6/7/8-Speed Drivetrains

As we mentioned above, 6/7/8-speed chains are pretty much universally compatible, so finding a chain to use with your 6-, 7-, or 8-speed drivetrain should be no problem. The KMC Z-72 6/7/8-Speed Chain is a basic, reliable option, as are the SRAM PC-830 6/7/8-Speed Chain and SRAM PC-870 6/7/8-Speed Chain.

Any lingering questions about the chain that'll work with your set-up? Don't hesitate to contact us at 1-800-682-0570 or [email protected].

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