Evans Cycles
Evans Cycles

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They may all look alike, but chains have subtle differences, so the priority when choosing a replacement chain is to check its compatibility for your particular bike set-up. The following information is what you’ll need to make the right choice.
  1. What type of bike is it for - i.e. off road or road
  2. If it has gears, how many ‘speeds’, or number of rear sprockets
  3. Which brand of gear components you are using
Also bear in mind that chains vary in quality, so consider the amount of usage and your regular riding conditions to make sure you’re getting one that’s up to the task. When fitting a new chain it is ‘best practice’ to replace the rear sprockets at the same time due to wear and tear causing compatibility issues.


Chainrings must be compatible with the other parts of the drive system and each other, if there are multiple rings, in order to shift and function smoothly. You will need to know how many speeds the bike has and what brand of chainset you are using to decide the correct fitment, especially how many arms the cranks have i.e. how many bolts hold the chainrings on. You will also need to know how many teeth, in order to get one of the same size. If you want to increase or decrease the size of the chainring, then you must check that it will still remain compatible with the other chainrings, and also the front derailleur.

Cassettes & Freewheels

Cassettes and freewheels must be compatible with the rest of the drive system in order to shift and function smoothly. You will need to know how many sprockets or ‘speeds’ are required and also which brand of gear components and chain you are using to ensure the components will work smoothly together. It is useful to know the ratio you require so that you can get a direct replacement or alter the gearing as necessary. Check the size of the smallest and largest sprockets, for example a smallest sprocket of 11 teeth and largest of 32 teeth will be referred to as 11-32t. When buying a new cassette it is almost always worth fitting a new chain at the same time for best shifting performance.

Chainsets & Cranks

Before selecting a new chainset or crank basic information like the type of bike, road or off-road, and the number of chainrings is required; triple or double, is required. Then you will need to know the type of bottom bracket axle that it must fit, such as square tapered axle, ISIS drive, Shimano Octalink Splined, or an external or X-Type bottom bracket system. Check the length of cranks you require. Mountain bike cranks are often 175mm, but road cranks vary in 2.5mm increments, most commonly 170mm or 172.5mm. Check brand compatibility with the rest of the components in your drive system. Always be mindful of the intended use for the bike. Specifically reinforced products are available for more extreme forms of riding such as downhill mountain biking or street riding where the pedals, and subsequently cranks, are subjected to repeated impacts.

This Buying Guide gives our customers general advice on the Drivetrain. It is a guide only and we always recommend visiting one of our stores or contacting one of the experts in our sales team on +44(0)1293 574 900 if in doubt about your needs.


This story was last updated on 17/01/2012