Best Motorcycle Chains 2017 – Reviews & Buying Guide

Motorcycle chains have to endure a lot of abuse. Even the best motorcycle chains will inevitably slowly stretch out and wear down. Depending on the type and quality of the chain, it will generally last between 5000 and 30000 miles.

When replacing a motorcycle chain there are a few things you should pay attention to. I’ve listed those factors below, and I have compiled a list of the best motorcycle chains I could find.

What to look out for

When it comes to buying a motorcycle chain there are three things that matter a lot. The type of the chain (520 vs 530), the type of the rings (O-ring vs X-ring) and the amount of links in the chain.

520 vs 530 motorcycle chains

The 520 or 530 number you see in most chains is a measurement of size. The first number (almost always a 5 nowadays) is about the length of the pitch between the pins. Basically how big the links are. Chains that start with a 4 used to be somewhat popular decades ago, but nowadays almost everything starts with a 5.

The second part is about the width of the pins. A 530 has more width than a 520. The 520 and 530 can usually be used interchangeably (do change the sprockets as well), as the length is generally the only thing that matters when it comes to whether the motorcycle chain fits or not. A bigger width, such as the 530, means the chain will be stronger, last longer, weigh more, and usually be a bit more expensive as well. The 520 is lighter, a bit cheaper, but tends to wear down quicker as well. In the long run, a 530 tends to be cheaper and less hassle due to its increased durability, while the 520 is lighter and thus increases performance very slightly.

You can use a 530 chain on a 520 sprocket, but I would strongly recommend against it, as the wobbling of the chain will cause performance issues at best. If you switch, make sure to get a new sprocket as well (which are in fact included with some of the chains).

In between the 520 and the 530 is the 525, which is right in the middle when it comes to the width. 525 chains are a bit less common, but a good option if you are in doubt about the 520 vs 530 debate.

O-ring vs X-ring motorcycle chains

When it comes to the links itself, there are a few different types of rings. The three most popular types are called non-o rings, O-rings, and X-rings. Non-o rings are the oldest type and used to be the standard up till a few decades ago. After that O-rings got invented, which are a bit more expensive to create, but are a lot tougher and are better sealed against outside dirt. The last popular option is the X-rings, that are even more expensive to make, are as durable as O-rings, but lead to less friction on the motorcycle chain. And less friction means better motorcycle performance.

There are a few more rings, such as Z-rings and T-rings, which are slight adjustments to the most popular types by certain manufacturers. They’re generally a lot more expensive, often without any evidence of actually superior performance.

All the chains in my best motorcycle chain list are either O-rings or X-rings. If you have a strong preference for either, you can see which is which in the table. Generally speaking, it shouldn’t matter that much for most bikes, though.

How many chain links do you need

Lastly, check how large a chain you need for your motorbike. Chains are available in formats from 80 all the way up to 130 links, with most motorcycles using a chain that is about 110 links long. Some motorcycle chain manufacturers offer a wide variety of different lengths, while others offer a 130 link chain from which you will have to remove as many links as necessary. Just keep in mind that while removing links is always possible, adding a few extra links generally won’t be.

Top 5 Best Motorcycle Chains

Motorcycle chainLengthRing Type 
RK Racing Chain 530XSOZ196-124 linksX-ring
RK Racing Chain 520-SO80-124 linksO-ring
D.I.D. DKK-005114 linksX-ring
Unibear O-ring 530130 linksO-ring
JT Sprockets Steel 120120 linksX-ring

 

RK Racing Chain 530XSOZ1 Review

RK Racing Motorcycle Chain 530The RK Racing Chain 530 is the best motorcycle chain available. It’s an X-ring chain which keeps the amount of friction very low. Compared to the competitors it isn’t that much more expensive, yet it delivers better performance and increased durability. The RK Racing Chain 530 is available from 96 links to 124 links, and all even numbers in between. It has a tensile strength of 9500 pounds per feet and weighs about 4.5 pounds depending on the chain length.

A rivet type master link is included as well, so you do need to have a chain riveting tool to install the chain. When it comes to the durability, RK promised 20.000+ miles on this chain, which seems to be very possible. After the first few thousand miles, there is generally no stretching to be seen at all.

RK Racing Chain 530 key specs

  • 5 pounds (100 link variant)
  • Lasts 20.000+ miles
  • X-ring chain
  • Available from 96 up to 124 links
  • 530 chain (heavy and durable)

 

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RK Racing Chain 520-SO Review

RK Racing Motorcycle Chain 520In second place is the RK Racing Chain 520-SO. The RK 520 is the O-link 520 variant of the motorcycle chain above. Due to being both O-ring and 520, the chain is lighter, cheaper, and allows for slightly faster speeds. However, this does come at a cost in durability. 520 motorcycle chains wear down more quickly and will need replacement a lot sooner. The RK 520 comes in a wide range of lengths, all the way from an 80 links chain up to a 124 links chain. It weighs about 3.5 pounds for a 100 link chain and has a tensile strength of 7700 lbs per feet.

Unlike the RK 530, the RK Racing Chain 520 comes with a clip type master link. It’s easy to install the chain, takes some 20 minutes tops. Overall I would say that the RK Racing Chain 520 is the best 520 O-ring chain you can find.

RK Racing Chain 520 key specs

  • 5 pounds (100 link variant)
  • Lasts 10.000+ miles
  • O-ring chain
  • Available from 80 up to 124 links
  • 520 chain (light and fast)

 

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D.I.D (DKK-005) 520VX2 Chain and 15/46T Sprocket Kit

D.I.D. DKK-005 Motorcycle ChainD.I.D. is another well-known brand when it comes to motorcycle chains and sprockets. The DKK-005 sprocket kit includes front and rear gearing as well as an 114 link chain. The chain is made of D.I.D. X-rings, which is a patented slightly different version from normal X-ring chains. The front and rear gearing consist of 15 and 46 tooth sprockets. The rear sprocket is made of high carbon steel, fully heat treated and made to be extremely durable. The front sprocket is made of chrome-moly steel, for increased strength and durability.

Overall the DKK-005 is an excellent kit if you are looking to replace both your motorcycle chain and sprockets. Make sure that the sprockets fit beforehand and that you need no more than 114 links. If you need a few less then that isn’t a problem, as you can always remove a few.

D.I.D. DKK-005 key specs

  • 5 pounds (chain + sprockets)
  • Lasts 10.000+ miles
  • X-ring chain
  • Available only in 114 links version
  • 520 chain (light and fast)

 

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Unibear O-Ring 530 130Links Motorcycle Chain Review

Unibear O-Ring 530 Motorcycle ChainThe Unibear O-rings chain is the budget option among the best motorcycle chains. Also, it’s made of gold. Just kidding on the last part. Although the Unibear 530 is gold colored, there is no actual gold in them. They do state gold in their full name in all caps, but sadly it’s just a marketing trick.

Aside from marketing tricks, the Unibear O-rings chain is actually a surprisingly good product. The chain got a tensile strength of over 9400 lbs per feet and is as durable as you would expect from a 530 motorcycle chain. It comes only in a 130 links version, so unless you got a very uncommon motorcycle, you’re going to need to remove some of those links. It’s also the heaviest chain in the list, at almost 6 pounds. However, this is partially because of the 130 links. If you end up removing 20, the weight will go down as well.

Unibear O-ring 530 key specs

  • 8 pounds chain (130 links)
  • Lasts 15.000+ miles
  • O-ring chain
  • Available only in 130 links version
  • 530 chain (heavy and durable)

 

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JT Sprockets Steel 120-Link 525 X1R Heavy Duty X-Ring Chain

JT Sprockets Motorcycle ChainJT Sprockets offers another high-quality budget chain. This chain is one of the most affordable X-ring chains, yet delivers excellent performance. It only comes in a 120 links version, so you most likely will have to remove a few links. If you need more than 120 links, you’re out of luck. Currently, JT does not offer any larger versions. The JT X-rings are very low friction, resulting in less wear and a very slightly better mileage. The JT chain is made of the highest grade special steel alloys, allowing a tensile strength of up to 8900 lbs per feet. Lastly, it also includes a rivet type master link.

The JT Chain is the only 525 chain in this list, which is right in between the 520 and 530 when it comes to weight and durability. So if you are unsure about whether you want a 520 or a 530, you can always take the middle ground.

JT Sprockets key specs

  • 5-pound chain (120 links)
  • Lasts 12.000+ miles
  • X-ring chain
  • Available only in 120 links version
  • 525 chain

 

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Conclusion

With that, I hope to have helped you pick the best motorcycle chain for your bike. Now if you’re here to give your bike some good maintenance, don’t forget to check out our best motorcycle oil article. Way too many people keep using their old oil, ultimately damaging their engine (and it isn’t good for performance either). Lastly, check your tires regularly. Very few things are as dangerous as too old tires, so if you haven’t checked, check them right now. And if you need to buy a new set, check out our best motorcycle tires buying guide.

3 thoughts on “Best Motorcycle Chains 2017 – Reviews & Buying Guide

  1. Hi, Adam. Very nice site and reviews… I just got a little uncertain if 520 and 530 could be really interchangeable without taking into account the sprockets themselves. Indeed, a 530 chain would be about 50% wider between inner plates (9.53mm, 3/8″ vs 6.35mm, 1/4″); it means a 530 chain on a 520 sprocket would have around 3mm (1/8″ exactly) of free space to slide side to side. The other way round, a 520 chain would not even fit on a 530 sprocket with 0.343″ of thickness (nor a 525 sprocket, thick 0.284″>1/4″). I don’t know how those “performance 520 conversions” work, but they should replace the sprockets as well.
    In my case, I have a small 250cc cruiser (Hyosung Aquila) which normally uses a 520 kit… Both o-ring chains I have used so far however got some spots too loose and other too tight too quickly with regular use and despite an attentive care… Based on your reviews (and some quick searches) I am tempted to use one of the chains on your list, but I feel I must look for adequate sprockets kits as well… I’d love to have your view on this… Regards

    • Hey Micael, my apologies for the late reply. I would pretty strongly recommend switching both chain AND sprockets if you make the switch, and I’ll update the article to make it more clear, thanks for pointing it out!

      The thing is, in most cases it is theoretically (and practically) possible to use a 530 chain on a 520 sprocket. I’ve known of a few people doing so without getting into accidents, but it certainly won’t help the durability of both the chain and sprocket. Personally I would never take the gamble.

      And you’re 100% right about a 520 not fitting on a 530 sprocket, that would be quite silly indeed.

      Somewhat unrelated, the biggest gain is almost always in the tire pressure, so try to check them at least once a week (preferably before every ride). I barely know anyone who actually does this, so I tend to remind people whenever I can.

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