Chain Width - 1/8" vs. 3/32- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Chain Width - 1/8" vs. 3/32

    Curious what the pros/cons are with either width convention and when building a SS, if you get crank/cog that are compatible with 3/32", I assume 1/8" should fit as well. I read what the Surly website had to say on the topic, but not convinced.

    Looking to get one size and have either convention fit, so am I correct in assuming if the 3/32" fits the 1/8" should as well?

    Thanks.

  2. #2
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    Obviously, you can use a 1/8" chain on 3/32" cogs and chainrings, but not vice-versa. Best bet is to size match the whole driveline, no matter which size you choose.
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  3. #3
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    You cannot use pulley type for the bigger chain in case you use tensioner. Use the roller type instead of pulley type if you want use bigger chain.

  4. #4
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    Use the narrowest chain that fits your sproket & cog. A very strong riding buddy (who almost won the 100 mile Cascade Cream Puff on a SS a few years ago but the challenge remains to be accomplished) split several rollers of a 1/8" chain down the middle with his 3/32" gears. Wider is not better when it comes to chains. Excess chain width only contributes to extra weight and drivetrain slop.

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  5. #5
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    I've been running 3/32" chains on all of my single speeds and fixed gear bikes for years and have never broken a chain. SRAM 8 speed chains are easy to find - you can buy them at almost any bike shop. They also have the Powerlink so they are easy to remove when working on your bike. I would never run 1/8" chain unless I had a bike that already had 1/8" components on it before I got it. There's just no point.

  6. #6
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    I run a 1/8 BMX chain. They're cheap. I can change 'em twice per season. And they have a master link so I can remove my chain and clean it in a Gatorade bottle without having to move the rear wheel. I made the mistake of running a 3/32 chain and I had to pull the wheel in to remove the power link.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dms1818
    I run a 1/8 BMX chain. They're cheap. I can change 'em twice per season. And they have a master link so I can remove my chain and clean it in a Gatorade bottle without having to move the rear wheel. I made the mistake of running a 3/32 chain and I had to pull the wheel in to remove the power link.
    What about the KMC Z610HX, 3/32", with your old fashioned master link?
    Not failed me yet, and easier to remove than an 8 spd power link.

  8. #8
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    I run 8 spd only chains, I noticed less slip vs the bmx chains.
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  9. #9
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    I've run 1/8 chains on my 3/32 rings and cogs with no issues at all and I've also run 3/32 chains on the same rings and cogs and couldn't tell any difference.....I've never broken a chain of either size (knock on wood)

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by cockroach
    What about the KMC Z610HX, 3/32", with your old fashioned master link?
    Not failed me yet, and easier to remove than an 8 spd power link.
    I have one of those on my bike, they rock.

  11. #11
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    The advantage with 1/8 track chains isn't so much that they are 1/8 in my opinion, it's that they are designed around a straight chainline, not around a requirement to bend from side to side as a geared chain must. I run a 1/8 chain with a 3/32 surly cog in the rear and a Middleburn Uno 1/8 ring up front and the system runs far more reliably than if i switch for a 3/32 Uno and any of the 3/32 chains (even up to XTR level).

    A higher end 1/8 KMC (710SL?) has yet to even think about giving me grief.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fullrange Drew
    ... the system runs far more reliably than if i switch for a 3/32 Uno and any of the 3/32 chains (even up to XTR level).

    ...
    How do you know this? (Not asking in a challenging way, just curious if you've tried them all and had bad experiences with all of them.)

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  13. #13
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    Have tried a decent cross section of the SRAM 9 speed chains (can't recall the numbers, but the highest level non hollowpin, the two below that, a mid level SRAM 8 speed, two different medium to high level Shimano and multiple XTR level 9 speed Shimano's).

    None of the geared chains I've run on a singlespeed (with a straight chainline and with a dedicated 3/32 Uno ring) up front and a Surly cog (intended by surly to be used with 9 speed chains) at the rear, have come anywhere near the performance of either of my straight sided KMC chains (when used with the same Surly cog at the rear but with the Uno ring changed for a 1/8 specific version).

    Others may have had a different experience, but that has been mine.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sparticus
    How do you know this? (Not asking in a challenging way, just curious if you've tried them all and had bad experiences with all of them.)
    --sParty
    I can say I have not run a multi-speed chain on a SS for 30+ years. You do not want or need a chain designed for shifting on a SS. I used to run what I could get my hands on, often cut down cast-offs from my Fat Chance. Although I have experienced multi-speed chain failures, I've never had issues with decent BMX 1/8 chains.

    I'm currently running a higher-end KMC straight plate 1/8 chain, a BMX CNC'd 1/8 front ring, and a white ENO 3/32 FW. There is no excessive wear between the 3/32 White ENO teeth and the wider chain. There is no perceived slop from the wider chain on the narrower FW. And the huge teeth on the front ring mesh perfectly with the chain. I think this is the ultimate setup.

    Tom P.
    Last edited by one piece crank; 11-26-2010 at 02:38 PM.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fullrange Drew
    None of the geared chains I've run on a singlespeed (with a straight chainline and with a dedicated 3/32 Uno ring) up front and a Surly cog (intended by surly to be used with 9 speed chains) at the rear, have come anywhere near the performance of either of my straight sided KMC chains (when used with the same Surly cog at the rear but with the Uno ring changed for a 1/8 specific version).
    Following Sparty's line here, not debating your choice, but I am curious as to what you mean by performance. Noise, wear on drive train, longevity?

    I have always used the KMC Z610HX 3/32" SS chain. Looks like a well made and strong chain, they are relatively cheap and uses an actual masterlink. The masterlink is especially nice with horizontal dropouts, since you do not have to loosen and slide the rear wheel forward to remove and replace the chain.

    I would think that all things being equal, a 1/8" chain with matching drivetrain would be stronger than a 3/32" drivetrain, but then I have never felt that my current setup lacked strength. If I could see some significant difference in longevity of chains and chainrings, like double the life for example, I would possibly consider changing to the bigger setup.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fullrange Drew
    ...

    Others may have had a different experience, but that has been mine.
    Isn't cycling great? We have so many options when it comes to piecing our own personal sleds together, can do so relatively cheaply (compared to say, motorsports) and thereby discover what works best for each of us. Personally, I love it.

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  17. #17
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    Could you suggest a good roller type tensioner for the 1/8 chain?

  18. #18
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    Brian, note I was referring to 1/8 dedicated SS chains versus 3/32 chains designed for gears. I nee no reason why your dedicated 610 3/32 SS chain should be any worse than a 1/8 dedicated SS chain. Bit less meat in it somewhere, so possibly a drop in strength, but I doubt there'd be much in it. The big difference (to my mind) is the performance gap between straight plate chains and gear chains. The Surly argument is that because of the massive wad of R&D that goes into 9 speed 3/32 chains they should be bulletproof. My experience doesn't bear this out.

    As for the advantages, I'm yet to break one and they seem to tolerate a lower degree of maintenance (that said, I still clean and pro link my chains pretty regularly, but the KMC 1/8 will certainly tolerate me being slack and missing a clean or two with less drop in performance than I could hope for from the gearie chains). The 1/8 straight chain seems to be more of a reliable part that you can install and no longer worry about, where the 3/32 gearie chains remain a potential weak point in the system.

  19. #19
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    From Surly:

    1/2x1/8" chains vs. 1/2x3/32" chains. 1/2x1/8" chains suck. Run whatever you want, but bigger isn't better here. Yeah, they're wider, but according to manufacturer-supplied data, they're not stronger and they are definitely not of better quality. Multi-speed drivetrains is where the bucks are at, and chains that work on such drivetrains are where the manufacturers of chains showcase their innovations and developments in quality. The rollers are better, the plates are better, the pins are stronger, and the construction method (riveting procedure) is better on all multi-speed 3/32" chains. I guess if you grind your chainring and chain down the handrail every night at the local pub, a bigger 1/2x1/8 " chain will last longer, but most of us don't and it won't.

  20. #20
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    b m: I used to believe the same, but in my experience over the last year or so, what Surly claim has not been borne out.

    Well developed dedicated track chains such as the KMC710SL have given me far better reliability and less wear and stretch than the most highly developed 9 speed chains (here I'm making the sweeping assumption that a Shimano XTR/Dura Ace chain has had a decent amount of R&D behind it).

    I can see their logic, but when put to the test in my world, 1/8 x 1/2 inch is great for SS and 8 speed / 9 speed chains are less ideal.

  21. #21
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    I've had the exact opposite real world experience. You'll always have better and worse chains in both 1/8 and 3/32, but overall, I don't think 1/8 is inherently stronger or works better, and if you absolutely don't want a multispeed chain, there are good quality 3/32 SS chains available.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fullrange Drew
    b m: I used to believe the same, but in my experience over the last year or so, what Surly claim has not been borne out.

    Well developed dedicated track chains such as the KMC710SL have given me far better reliability and less wear and stretch than the most highly developed 9 speed chains (here I'm making the sweeping assumption that a Shimano XTR/Dura Ace chain has had a decent amount of R&D behind it).

    I can see their logic, but when put to the test in my world, 1/8 x 1/2 inch is great for SS and 8 speed / 9 speed chains are less ideal.
    Hey Drew, I hear what you're saying and I'd happily jump ship if I had but one complaint with the SRAM 8-spd chains I've run on my SS for the past ten years. I don't know why the huge disparity between our experiences, but personally I ain't fixin' sumpthin' that ain't broke. Cheap 8-spd works perfectly for me, and this includes training for & contesting epics & 100s with literally miles of veritcal gain. I'm not light (200#) but I do maintain my drivetrains pretty well -- which means I hose the mud off and lube them plus switch chains out whenever the yardstick tells me to.

    Anyway, run what ya brung. Best to ya.

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  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sparticus
    Hey Drew... I don't know why the huge disparity between our experiences...
    --sParty
    Hmm, I should clarify... There's no "huge disparity". The 3/32 chains worked very nicely, I wouldn't say there's heaps in it, I've just had better behaviour with the 1/8 thus far. The 8 and 9 speed were far from being a disaster.

    I don't do massive miles every year, lucky to get out more than once week lately. There's a lot of ultra fine dust here, especially on tracks used for 24 hour racing. Maybe the extra clearance pays dividends for my local conditions?

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