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Chain Selection Guide

bike chain

The most common question that we receive is “What chain should I use?”. What follows is a quick process for determining the chain you require.

Step 1. Determine the number of speeds or gears that your bike has. If you are not sure, simply count the number of cogs or gears on the rear cassette of your bike. Most new systems for road bikes are 11-speed or have 11 gears on the rear cassette. Some older systems are 10-speed and, therefore, have 10 gears. Some newer MTB systems have 12 – speeds.

Step 2. Determine the manufacturer of the rear derailleur or shifting mechanism. The two most common manufacturers are SRAM and Shimano.

Step 3. Combine both pieces of information. If you have a Shimano derailleur and an 11-speed system, you should use a Shimano 11-speed chain (Shimano CN-HG901-11); if you have a SRAM derailleur and an 11-speed system, you should use a SRAM 11-speed chain (SRAM Red 22 – 11-speed). SRAM derailleur and 10-speed system = SRAM PC-1090 – 10-speed chain. Shimano derailleur and 10-speed system = Shimano CN-6701 – 10-speed chain.

The above steps will provide you with the optimum chain for your bike’s system. Shimano and SRAM engineers have done an excellent job of designing a drivetrain system. Both systems work best (i.e., smoother shifting and lower friction) when paired together. When every second counts, we strongly recommend pairing your chain with your component group.

For those running a Campagnolo component group, we do stock and can provide you with a Campagnolo chain to match your system. If you do not see what you need listed, just send us an email at info@icefriction and we will help you.

Some additional comments: In a bind you can use an 11-speed chain on a 10-speed system, but you can’t use a 10-speed chain on an 11-speed system. Yes, you also can mix chain manufacturers and component groups, but the pair has not been engineered to work in an optimum way together. They will work, but not as efficiently.

If you have any questions regarding what chain to use just email us at

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