Chains have changed dramatically from the beginning of the drivetrains. Single-speed Mountain Bikes have quickly been overtaken by multi-speed chains. Here is a selection of the best 12 speed Mountain Bike Chains.
It was while cycling in the Grand Canyon when I came to appreciate the quality of your chain. Any avid cyclists will relate to the numbing shock you experience when your body slams hard against a surface while you are still on your bike.
Thatâ€™s exactly what happened to me and thatâ€™s how I damaged my bike chain. Luckily for me, I have friends who buy extra and are always prepared with a backup plan. It turned out he had a spare 12-speed chain and since my busted chain was an 11-speed, it was an almost instant fit.
I cycled safely back to camp and loved the feel of the ride so much that I was set on getting my own set. So, I did some research and came up with a few suggestions.
Best 12 Speed MTB Chain â€“ A Comparison Table
X01 Eagle Chain
XTR CN-M9100 Chain
XX1 Eagle Red Chain
M7100 SLX Chain
AXS Force Chain
X12 SL Chain
GX Eagle Chain
Super Record 12 Chain
Best 12 Speed MTB Chain – Comparison Overview
X01 Eagle MTB Chain[amazon box=”B01DUSCZ6A” template=”horizontal” ]
This model is a little bit of the downplayed version of the XX1 Eagle chain but it still sports the hardy chrome surface. Performance is also quite close in crispy responses owing to the strong hollow pins.
Syncing your chain with X-Sync2 chainring will give you more confidence and assurance that you are on track. With durable and tough construction, this chain stands the test of time and conditions.
- 1x drivetrain technologies
- Light and Quiet
- Durable and tough
- 126 links Recessed chain
Built for the insatiable adventurer, this chain is recessed to ease the shifting of gears, especially on an uphill climb. This chain pushes you to bring all your hard work in training to the ground with a balanced power transfer as you torque through the cycles.
- Great on the trail
- Easy shifts
- Not gold
The X01 Eagle Chain may not be made of gold but it is a great choice for most avid cyclists. For those who appreciate a little rush in speed, this chain is sure to keep you breathlessly engaged on your outback rides.
XTR CN-M9100 MTB Chain[amazon box=”B07LDR3HMV” template=”horizontal” ]
This Shimano masterpiece features their iconic quick link, their directional properties, and their uniquely strong and resilient build and design makes them iconic among the cycling forums.
This chain is one of its kind and it incorporates the roller tech with Dynamic Chain Engagement, tooth shape evolutions, and the Hyperglide plus link. It is made of nickel-plated steel which gives it its nice silver finish.
- Fluorine coating
- Hollow pins
- Dynamic Chain engagement Roller tech
To give the best gear shifting experience, this chain features low friction Flourine coating and hollow pins. They also use the QuickLink tech which is far better compared to the snap rivet system. Sadly this chain is specifically compatible with Shimano XTR drivetrains.
- Great at performance shifting
- Fairly valued
- Quick link connection
- All Shimano versions rolled into one
- Specific to Shimano drivetrains
The great thing about Shimano products is their carry-down effect on all their models meaning that you are at an advantage of benefiting from all great features of previous chain models.
XX1 Eagle Red MTB Chain[amazon box=”B01DUSCXU8″ template=”horizontal” ]
For those who own an AXS drivetrain, this is for you. This chain features a sensationally unique flat-top design. Though the links are much narrower than usual, they are both asymmetrical and stronger than the standard chains.
Surface treatment on the inner face combined with a Hard Chrome roller coating, gives this chain its indestructible qualities.
- Flat top chain
- Hard Chrome coating
- Hollow pins
- Strong and light build
Pins have been constructed with a hollow which makes them lighter and their bond even stronger. Because this chain has oversized rollers, it limits its compatibility with AXS cassettes. This chain represents the 1x drivetrain technology which is lighter, quieter, tougher, and more durable in quality and functioning.
- Unique flat-top design
- Lightweight chain
- Super strong and durable
- Reliable shifting
- Limited to AXS compatibility
Though the chain is limited in terms of compatibility, it works amazingly with AXS mechanisms. A rider is guaranteed a sweet-shifting motion on a long-lasting and uniquely designed flat-top 12-speeds MTB bike chain.
With Shimanoâ€™s trickle-down technology in effect, this chain features a lot of features and benefits similar to those available on XTR chain models. It offers the same technology in terms of the Dynamic Chain Engagement rollers, Hyperglide Plus for tweaks on shaping, and even the glossy low-friction Flourine coating.
The only major difference between this chain and the XTR models is the missing hollow pins. All in all, the Shimanoâ€™s standards in quality and performance are met.
- XTR tech incorporated
- Low friction shifting
- Solid pins
- Dynamic Chain Engagement rollers
Allowing you to transition from autumn to winter with no kinks in your chain makes this M7100 perfect for all year round cycling on varied terrain.
- Low-friction performance
- Effective shifting
- Solid pins are considered weaker
Remembering to clean and lubricate your chain after and before every ride goes a long way in ensuring the durability of your chain. With this Shimano M7100 model, however, it is so well built that even after skipping a few days of servicing, no rusting was evident.
AXS Force MTB Chain[amazon box=”B07QC3Q5RQ” template=”horizontal” ]
This 12-speed chain by SRAM gives us the same unique flat-top link design that is both narrower and stronger compared to other chains in this league. Though it lacks the hollow pins that are featured in their premium models, this by no means tells of their resilience.
For anyone who is not concerned with the nitty-gritty details over the solid pins, this is a great looking chain to fit into your AXS compatible drivetrain.
- Flat top look
- Hard Chrome Finish
- Solid pin
The Hard Chrome glossy finish is what gives the chain its anti-corrosive properties and keeps it looking premium over many years of use. The PowerLock system makes sure your ride is smooth and quick.
- Unique flat-top design
- Anti-corrosion finishing
- Long lifespan
- Smooth and quiet shifting
- Limited to AXS mechanism
Though the solid pins significantly increase the weight of the chain, this presents no real challenge when pedaling. It is an ideal selection for anyone with an AXS drivetrain who wants to upgrade to quality yet affordable 12-speed MTB chain.
X12 SL MTB ChainÂ[amazon box=”B07BZ6ZPJT” template=”horizontal” ]
This is a long-lasting chain alternative to pick from because it is compatible with several complete bikes and it works seamlessly. If your speed system is a Shimano, Campanology, or Scram, this chain will link and fit perfectly.
This chain calls for extra care in maintenance because any prolonged neglect will lead to corrosion. Rusting, however, is well mitigated by the use of the Titanium-Nitride light coating with a sleek finishing to match Shimanoâ€™s high standards of quality.
- Slotted links
- Lightweight chain
- Medium durability
While the slotted links add to the aesthetic and lightweight aspects of the chain, they also leave it a bit too weak and susceptible to crunches and extreme torque power. This chain is versatile in availability and you can find one in black or gold color.
- Lightweight design
- Chain could snap
- Poor shifting performance
This slotted link chain takes into consideration the weight and aesthetic factors while leaving out the functionality and performance elements. This chain is best suited to riders who like to go fast for fun but not necessarily to race or win a competition.
GX Eagle MTB ChainÂ[amazon box=”B07218K493″ template=”horizontal” ]
Consider this chain as the perfect addition or replacement option for your bike chain. It is designed with solid pins which make it heavier and a little more susceptible to damage. The chain has a narrow profile that can handle sharp angles.
Outer plates are flatter and this promises a consistent chain riveting performance with great strength. It features a PowerLock system that allows for an easy install on specifically Eagle drivetrains. Being treated with a layer of Chrome makes the chain indestructible and averse to corrosion.
- Solid Pin
- Chrome treated
- Eagle PowerLock connection
- Compatible with Eagle X01 & XX1 systems
- Corrosion and rust-resistant
- Great back up for multiple Eagle system drivetrains
- Smooth inner plates
- Heavy chain
Flow link technology has been embedded in the design of this chain which doesnâ€™t have square edges. This encourages friction-less engagement with the cassette and chainring which in turn guarantees a smooth-shifting performance on your Mountain Bike.
The GX Eagle chain has used the X-Sync 2 technology which features teeth designed to better retain the chain and give the rider a more efficient pedal feeling. It also minimizes the accumulation of dirt and grit in the chain.
Super Record 12 MTB ChainÂ[amazon box=”B07CGV2QNQ” template=”horizontal” ]
This chain features minimal teeth jumps in between cogs and thin spacing in the sprockets. To install the chain, the ultra-link pin system makes it effortless. The pins are aligned to the outer linkâ€™s surface.
The minimal spacing between the sprockets minimizes contact with the chainring and this provides a smooth and quiet ride with a quick-shifting mechanism. Contributing to this further is the re-shaped hollow pins and the outer links.
- Outer-Aligned pins
- Harmony with sprocket and chainring
- Lighter and thinner chain
A special lubricant has been administered to the chain to make it more efficient and to secure a top-notch quality performance known by Campagnolo users. With the chain being lighter, it would surprise you to find out that this makes the link stronger.
- The strong and narrow chain
- Hollow pins
- Smooth and quiet shifting
- Needs tool for installation
This hardy bike chain guarantees its rider a powerful performance and a quiet ride with a reliable shifting system. While you need to buy the chain tool for installation, it is a one-time purchase that should serve you many years to come.
Based on your bike type and your riding style, you can select from any of the listed 12-speed chains in this review.
Campagnolo Record 12Â chain is great for racers and they are best advised to buy one for training and another chain specifically for races.
The best 12-speed MTB chains are those that are compatible with your bikeâ€™s drivetrain system. If you use this as the deciding factor, you will hardly ever go wrong.
Things to Consider When Buying the Best 12 Speed MTB Chain
The Pitch & WidthÂ
The pitch on a chain is the distance from one barrel to the next and itâ€™s always been an eight-inch. The most difference between them is the outer and inner width.
Single-speed MTBs were one the craze and they featured the same eight-inch pitch but a different width. That wider width works best on a single-speed chain with the wider chainrings but cannot be compatible with the geared MTBs because the chain wonâ€™t sit on the teeth.
12 speeds MTB widths measure the same eight-inch pitch dimension but their widths keep getting narrower and the linkage gets more specific and detailed. They measure 5.2mm as compared to the 10 speeds width at 6.3mm.
At this level of purchase, your decision should largely be dependent on your bikeâ€™s brand.
Adjusting your bike gears and the responsiveness of your bike chain to these prompts sets a huge difference between fast and slow-performing bike chains. A change in a chainplate shape and tooth profiles on both the chainrings and cassettes influences quick and smooth transfer.
A link chain produces over 30,000 surface-against-surface movements per minute at a normal pedaling rate. This presents a lot of friction on the bearing surfaces and that means that even hot and dusty summer roads could bring in grit and dirt.
Some chains are anti-cold or wet environments and would fail when introduced to snow, rain, mud which would result in chain creaks, rusting, and grinding. While it is responsible to consider riding conditions, it is best to select a chain that can handle multiple situations.
Based on the number of cogs I the rear cassette, different chains will be suitable for varied bikes. Most cogs require a narrow chain to fit in the gaps and the narrower the chain is, the longer it lasts. Because the links on a 12-speed chain are less likely to rub on the adjacent cogs, they are said to last longer.
As a general practice, most brands create their chainrings and cassettes to work in tandem and itâ€™s a great idea to pick the chains that are brand specific to your bike. Some bike equipment may be harder than the type of chain you select for your bike and this leads to quicker wear and poor performance.
However, many chain brands are built to work well with multiple bike brands.
While some enthusiastic riders may want to consider every painstaking aspect of their biking experience, saving watts through minimizing mechanical drag is not quite significant. With a tried, tested, and reported 2% difference in watts saved, itâ€™s best to rather focus on the chainâ€™s durability.
Any passionate cyclist takes pride in their bike and dedicates considerable time, money, and energy towards keeping it in tip-top shape. The chain has the potential of being the most ignored component of a bike.
To save yourself the embarrassment of having to disrupt the whole groupâ€™s activity because your rusty chain got blown up, you must regularly scrub and wax your chainrings and cassettes.
How long do I go before replacing my MTB chain?
When you get close to theÂ 3000 milesÂ mark, it is time to start planning on your next bike chain. Of course, this is determined by your riding style and frequency. Most professional cyclists tend to replace their chains between three weeks to a month.
Are SRAM and Shimano 12-speed cassettes compatible?
The most honest answer isÂ yes, they are compatible. Their spacing is the same and they are cross-compatible. That is not the same case with their shifters and derailleurs which are not cross-compatible.
Is it possible to use a 12-speed chain on an 11-speed cassette?
Yes, it is possible.Â The 1x chainring system will match the internal measurements of the chain and work effectively with a 12-speed chainring. However, the same I not true for the latest Shimano designs which are a perfect match with the internal parts of the 12-speed chains.