Are Bike Chains Directional?

Are Bike Chains Directional?

Bicycle chains are an essential element for them to move correctly, being placed on the teeth of the discs so that the pedals give the proper movement to the tires. Knowing the type of bicycle you have is very important to know which chain can work for you when using it.

This also helps to make the changes and maintenance that are considered necessary, which helps to maintain the good condition of the chain and other elements of the bicycles. If you want to know if the bicycles have directional chains or not, keep reading so that you know all the information.

Are Bike Chains Directional? – Explained

it is necessary to know the chain’s characteristics and the elements that provide the correct operation of the bicycle.

  • Step

This is the name given to the hole in the chain where the sprockets will fit; It is the measurement that goes from the bolt (or pin) to the bolt of each hole. In most chains, it is usually a half-inch measurement.

  • Width

It is the distance from one outer link to another or one inner link to another. You have to pay the most attention to this when buying the chain because, depending on the bicycle’s speed, you have to buy one width measurement after another.

It is unnecessary to measure the chain and its parts to know which one to buy. You only have to count the number of crowns the cassette has to facilitate counting. In any store, you can give this specification and thus obtain the chain you want, also saying the number of speeds the chain has for greater precision.

An important fact is that the gap between the spokes of the wheel and the frame is limited, and the more gears the bike has, the thinner the chain will be.

  • Length

A link is made up of the sum of an outer link and an inner link. A chain usually has more links than it needs and, in those cases, the chain has to be cut to the extent that it touches the bicycle transmission, having the appropriate measurements at the time of purchase when the quantity is explained of crowns that have the plates where the chain will go.

Considering these considerations, it is important to review certain details when placing and installing the chain on the bicycle. Bikes with between one and three speeds use a ⅛-inch wide chain, which indicates that it uses master links, and there is one master link per bike chain.

There are 2 types of master links:

  • The 2-piece master links: open by loosening the chain and gently bending the link outwards. Thus, the outer plate of the link is free for the chain to be lifted.
  • 3-Piece Master Links: Features a clip that slides to the side and then lifts to remove the chain.

So the direction of the chain matters when it is worn; In case you put on and take off the chain in your maintenance, you will not have too many problems, regardless of its orientation. When you remove a chain that has a lot of wear and installs it backward, you will have a big jump in the drive, and you can test it by reversing the chain to see if that is the cause.

So the chains, in a general way, are directional because they have to be placed on the correct side of the discs to rotate correctly, especially the chains that have a closer tracking of their holes.

Which Bike Chains Are Directional?

Although not all chains have these characteristics, the most common ones do, and they are the ones that have greater durability, taking into account that their corresponding maintenance is done to be used. It is necessary to take care of the correct ways of installing the chains so that damage is not generated later because they are turned over, which can break them in several steps.

These types of chains serve to maintain a better balance and give quality to the mobility of the bike. It is best to look for chains that have quality components and materials to avoid further damage.

Also Read: Does Cycling Make Your Bum Flat?

Does it Matter Which Way a Bike Chain Goes On?

Not all chains use the same direction when they are going to be mounted, so it is important to correctly choose the one to use based on the size and direction that is needed. So, it is important to consider the direction of the chain so that it is not damaged in the assembly process or is found to be working incorrectly.

When the directions of a chain are not taken care of, the bicycle cannot go, or the chain can break in the attempt, especially in bicycles that have several speeds and are usually a little more complex.

Are Shimano Chains Directional?

The Shimano chain is the most used in bicycles with medium and high range, regardless of whether road or Mtb. Most people have this system, and rarely a bicycle does not have a chain of this type.

The main characteristic of these chains is that they are directional, have different faces, and present only one mounting position when it is going to be placed in the bicycle gear. Some of its models are HG, a feature stamped into the chain, being the most recommended model because they use hyper glide technology, and this is what makes it possible for two teeth of the crown to engage, not one.

SIL-TEC, the technology for coating the chain with fluorine, is also presented, which guarantees to pedal with less friction, less maintenance, and better duration.

Also Read: How Good are Electric Bikes on Hills?

How Do I Know if My Shimano Chain is Directional?

Shimano directional chains have different faces, which is the way to detect that they meet this specific positioning on the bicycle gear. These types of details have to be checked well before doing so because they allow the correct functioning of the chain when driving the bicycle.

They are easy sides to detect, and they are resistant chains, being more seen in bicycles with several speeds, so it is easier to recognize the true positioning that must give. In addition, recognizing that it is being done wrong is easy because the bicycle would not ride as it corresponds when driving or, in the most common cases, it would not ride at all.

Are KMC Bike Chains Directional?

Unlike Shimano, KMC has chains that are not directional, thus representing greater universality with the number of bikes on the market. Having chains that are not directional is a great opportunity for the necessary adjustments to be made when shortening the chains because the directional ones have a little more complex joints?

KMC chains have a great quality guarantee, having a previous manufacturing treatment that makes it possible and that is found in DLC, XSL, XEL, X101, and e-Bike chains, presenting a durability factor of 4 points and more. With DLC, for example, a diamond coating makes it possible to reduce abrasive wear, presenting surface hardness to present long-term operation and complete stability when using the bicycle.

Many other manufacturing factors ensure the durability of the KMC type of chains, which, despite being very good, are great competition for those with the directional characteristic that Shimano presents.

However, it is not something that happens with products like those from KMC, chains that are not directional, and customers who have bikes that are not as exclusive prefer them because they are universal. A great opportunity offered by chains without direction is that they can be located as best convenient on the discs and gears and, if necessary, cuts can be made so that the chain is not stretched.

They are also positive when you want to give the chain a longer useful life, but it is important to remember that chain maintenance and changes must be done from time to time. Thus, it is safer to have all the elements so that the chains are functional, and Shimano can be adapted to multi-speed bicycles and KMC to simpler ones.


Although many bike chain brands have excellent durability and performance, not all are directional, and this is a characteristic that most of them can have, but not all. Shimano chains, for example, have the particularity of being directional because they have two faces with a specific location on the bicycle discs to work correctly.

They are suitable for bicycles with several speeds, giving a great performance and enough elongation to change speeds properly. It is unlikely that you will find a Shimano chain that is not directional, so it is a limitation of this factory when it comes to giving a wide variety of products to customers in the market.

It is not too complicated to choose the correct one. You only have to mention the number of points the disc has so that you have the correct measurement and that the bicycle works optimally with the chain.


Biking is a great way to get exercise, reduce pollution, and have fun. I believe that everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy these benefits, so I am working hard to make things easy for people to know about E-Bikes.

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