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  1. #1
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    What are the strongest 9 speed chains available?

    I have a history of breaking chains, primarily during out of the saddle climbs. This season I replaced my entire drivetrain with a 1x9 setup and went with a Dura Ace 9 speed chain thinking it would be stronger than my previous two mid level sram chains.

    Today during a tough climb I stood up and broke my chain that has maybe 40 miles on it and I'm really disappointed in it. It shifts better than any chain I've ever had but I don't trust it now.

    Are there any 9 speed chains that have a reputation for being very strong?

  2. #2
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    KMC X9, X.9.93,or X9.99.
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  3. #3
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    Wippermann chains usually seem to be considered to be the strongest. Google them, there are some tests around.
    For wear, the new Shimano 10 speed directional chains seem to be winning the tests I've seen.

  4. #4
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    Asking for the best chain will get you responses that are all over the place, and directly conflicting each other. If you are really hard on chains, I think I would contact a few reps and ask them for advice. For example, XTR may not be stronger than something at the DEORE level. It may shift better/smoother, and/or be lighter to justify the XTR label. not saying it is, just that it may be the case. I was bending cogs and shearing teeth off of XT cassettes some years back, and at the recommendation of a shop owner, switched to an LX level cassette, and the carnage stopped.

    For a SRAM chain, they rate their 991 Cross Step higher than any others. Connex and Wipperman have good reputations. If you're breaking chains regularly, you might want to examine your shifting technique. They may fail on the climbs, but bad shifts are usually a major cause of the damage that precipitates the failure. Unless you're quite heavy, and very strong, mashing hard on the pedals will just propel you up the hill that much faster. There is also the possibility of getting a defective chain or two along the way. They are not all perfect out of the box. A chain breaking on a steep climb is a scary thing, not to mention dangerous. Hope you find something that works for you.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by jeffj View Post
    Asking for the best chain will get you responses that are all over the place, and directly conflicting each other. If you are really hard on chains, I think I would contact a few reps and ask them for advice. For example, XTR may not be stronger than something at the DEORE level. It may shift better/smoother, and/or be lighter to justify the XTR label. not saying it is, just that it may be the case. I was bending cogs and shearing teeth off of XT cassettes some years back, and at the recommendation of a shop owner, switched to an LX level cassette, and the carnage stopped.

    For a SRAM chain, they rate their 991 Cross Step higher than any others. Connex and Wipperman have good reputations. If you're breaking chains regularly, you might want to examine your shifting technique. They may fail on the climbs, but bad shifts are usually a major cause of the damage that precipitates the failure. Unless you're quite heavy, and very strong, mashing hard on the pedals will just propel you up the hill that much faster. There is also the possibility of getting a defective chain or two along the way. They are not all perfect out of the box. A chain breaking on a steep climb is a scary thing, not to mention dangerous. Hope you find something that works for you.
    What an excellent reply.Safety is important above all else.
    Z
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  6. #6
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    I too am a "chain breaker", and I have had the best luck by far with KMC X9 L -ti. Don't use the XL, its just a bit weaker on paper.

    On a single speed bike, I have stretched to bits every chain until I switched to K710 BMX racing chain.

    I like this company, I have had to call them on the phone and order a chain that was not in the US, and they were cool about it.

  7. #7
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    KMC is by far the strongest chain I've had... haven't broken one yet and been using them for yrs now... can't say that about any of the others...

    As Jeffj said thou, technique can play a big part in it though. shifting on a climb you need to learn to relieve pressure and just spin to get the chain up the gears then apply pressure after it's in place.. shifting while putting major pressure on the pedals is a sure fire way to break a chain.
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  8. #8
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    Thanks for the replies everyone. I rode sindglespeed exclusively for over a year until recently so my shifting habits may need some work. I've never broken a chain while shifting but I do understand that bad shifts can weaken links and cause them to fail down the road.

    I guess it's worth noting that I broke chains on my singlespeed setup regularly too, though I used cheaper chains then, and bad luck happens.

    I'm going to give this chain another chance.

  9. #9
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    What was your joining technique like??
    I ask mainly because pros don't break chains that often, even with the power they put out....and a singlespeed takes out the shifting and chain angle from the equation.
    Rimmer - "There's an old human saying - if you talk garbage, expect pain"

  10. #10
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    It sucks to be on the hunt for the best chain! I recently broke my first Sram PC991 after a dozen or so purchased since they hit the market many years ago. It broke on the first easy ride on a new drivetrain. One of the outer plates cracked. The quality of the stamping/machining on the outer plates on the 991 seems to be getting rougher and rougher. I figured I would try the Cross Step 991 that replaced it or the KMC 9.99. I chose the KMC 9.99 because of all of the positive comments on mtbr. Their mushroom process on the pins is very strong. I was surprised at how hard it was to break the KMC 9.99 with my chain tool. This is a good sign of durability. It shifts great also. I will be happy if it I get they same life span out of it

  11. #11
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    It's your installation technique, not the chains. Plenty of pros ride thousands of miles a year without breaking chains every week, and they are stronger than you are.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by AlexRandall View Post
    What was your joining technique like??
    I ask mainly because pros don't break chains that often, even with the power they put out....and a singlespeed takes out the shifting and chain angle from the equation.
    I think we have a winner.

  13. #13
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    most "pro's" don't get off the shelf items...
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  14. #14
    Afric Pepperbird
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    I've never broken a chain

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by thomllama View Post
    most "pro's" don't get off the shelf items...
    Uh, yes, they do. Sure, they test prototypes, but at some point, prototypes become "off the shelf"; XX starts as a prototype, then becomes a standard mass produced product; XX1 goes from prototype to used by everyone, etc.

    Or do you believe that they make special, handcrafted chains for each and every pro?

  16. #16
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    I've broken the odd chain here and there but very infrequent - but my buddy goes through them quite quickly. He just crunches through the gears on the trail under full load and is constantly out of the saddle mashing away uphill- still shifting - I am pretty sure that has something to do with reduced chain life - his cassette and chain rings don't last very long either.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by SimpleJon View Post
    I've broken the odd chain here and there but very infrequent - but my buddy goes through them quite quickly. He just crunches through the gears on the trail under full load and is constantly out of the saddle mashing away uphill- still shifting - I am pretty sure that has something to do with reduced chain life - his cassette and chain rings don't last very long either.
    yup... what he said..


    Quote Originally Posted by Le Duke View Post
    Uh, yes, they do. Sure, they test prototypes, but at some point, prototypes become "off the shelf"; XX starts as a prototype, then becomes a standard mass produced product; XX1 goes from prototype to used by everyone, etc.

    Or do you believe that they make special, handcrafted chains for each and every pro?
    ummm not handcrafted, but anyone "sponsored" is more than likely getting first run, limit quantity, higher quality controlled products. You don't think Sram, Shinano or any other manufacturer isn't taking a few extra moments/steps to make sure high exposure items aren't above average? Race sponsoring is basically advertising, any company is going to make sure they look their best, would be foolish for them not to.

    But yes, many a broken chain is do more to the installation/bad chain line, being attached to a worn/bad drive train/ poor shifting than it is the actual manufacturing.
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  18. #18
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    Tell me, what do you think a factory worker is going to do when visually inspecting a chain, to make sure it is better than another in a lot of thousands?

    It's a mass produced item. Yes, they do perform QA/QC on one of every hundred, or thousand, but they aren't picking chains out of small batches and handing them off to the pro teams.

  19. #19
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    QA/QC is a process that is or should be performed on all manufacturing process. If it's designed wrong QAQC wont make it better - if its the chance in million QAQC wont make it better - if you hammer it outside of its design parameters QAQC wont make it better.
    And then you have marketachtung

  20. #20
    LCW
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    I run a KMC X10 SL on my 2x9 speed setup (X0 rear derailleur, 980 11-34 cassette) - works awesome - silky smooth shifting... have for last 4 yrs... no issues. Never broke a single chain.
    2011 Yeti 575 - Fox Float 36 RC2 160 - 31.5 lbs

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Le Duke View Post
    Tell me, what do you think a factory worker is going to do when visually inspecting a chain, to make sure it is better than another in a lot of thousands?

    It's a mass produced item. Yes, they do perform QA/QC on one of every hundred, or thousand, but they aren't picking chains out of small batches and handing them off to the pro teams.
    you obviously never worked with manufacturing companies.. most companies have what the call "first runs. or short runs" when a new item is getting ready to hit the market they don't just spit out a million... they may make 1000 or maybe 5000,.. they use the highest grade material, in a smaller setup with workers who aren't just run of the mill factory workers hired off the street, but are usually people with interests in the product. the machines and templets are usually lower use, more accurate equipment. producing a higher quality item. It's many times not even in the same building or to be honest, even the same country the mass produced item will be made.

    think about it.. you think during Research and Development that they just send the design off to the factory and slap out a million of something? No, they have a smaller assembly line that works under higher quality control, with better, select, materials producing a more precise product. Honestly many Sub out the mass production to other companies with larger factories. You know Giant's factories produce like 80% of all other bike brands. You're off the shelf C'dale or Trek is highly likely produced in a Giant or other factory. The bikes they hand out to their teams aren't the sub-ed out units but the ones they manufactured in house. Ya know Shimano used to sub out their mass chain production to KMC? Thou I believe they build their own or sub-ed out to other factories now. But the units they handed out to their teams were going to be the ones they produced in house with the short runs not the ones they had KMC make..

    I have worked in a factory situation (thou wood products not bike/metals) we always did short runs with much more select materials that were used as "demo" sales tools or hand out to potential customers.. when we got a large order we'd get truck loads of wood just dumped and slap 1000's of them on the other side of the building as fast as possible. Any templets we used in the design-first run's were saved and copied and only used when we wanted to do another short run and the copied templets were used for the large quantity and often wore out and produced slightly off products which may not be caught till much later...

    If you think Shimano or Sram or KMC is any different you need to re-think... they have First Run or Short Runs of all there products which is what they use for hand outs to teams, demos and potential large customers (like frame manufacturers) It's simple marketing/sales...




    PS really not picking on you, just trying to get you to see the behind the scenes stuff most people don't get...
    Last edited by thomllama; 04-05-2013 at 04:45 AM.
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  22. #22
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    I'll agree with the others who say, "If you shift like $hit you'll kill chains and other drivetrain parts, FAST." I make a point to mention this to any new rider who comes along, I hear them crunching through the gears under full load when they get on a hill and I just cringe. They have issues shifting and don't know how I easily shift, but I explain about 1/2 power strokes before a shift on hill, of the need to unload the drivetrain before shifts, I liken it to needing to use the clutch to shift in a car, try to shift without it and see what happens, or only partially depress it.

    As to chains that last, unlike the OP, I've never broken a CN7701/XTR chain and I've been using them for well over 7 years now. I use SRAM powerlinks and I have managed to break 2 of those, first one when I first started using them and must have somehow not installed it properly and the 2nd a couple years later after some nasty shifts on a blind uphill, but also after hastily assembling my bike so could be bad install again.
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  23. #23
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    what he said...

    Quote Originally Posted by LyNx View Post
    I'll agree with the others who say, "If you shift like $hit you'll kill chains and other drivetrain parts, FAST."
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  24. #24
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    Anybody know if the nickel plating on the X9.99 chain wiil prolong the life of the chain over a X9.93 if regular care is done on both?
    i have more than you.
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  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by LCW View Post
    I run a KMC X10 SL on my 2x9 speed setup (X0 rear derailleur, 980 11-34 cassette) - works awesome - silky smooth shifting... have for last 4 yrs... no issues. Never broke a single chain.
    Just a comment for everyone who may read this thread... I tried this and it did NOT work, or at least, was not nearly as good as the 9 speed chain. (Sram pg990, X0 deraillleur, KMC X10-L)

    This is how you can test if it may work for you:

    Install 10 speed chain. Go crossways (top in front, top in rear or vicey versey), and then pedal backwards. If the chain tries to jump down, then it is not seating well on the cassette, and will not shift as good.

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