A very good question. The answer is almost any bicycle chain that matches your setup (ie. 9-speed, 10-speed, 11-speed, etc.).
WickWërks rings are not designed for a specific chain or specific derailleur. We have used many and our customers have probably used them all. That being said, Here are the rules of thumb:
- The best choice is often the chain designed for the rear cassette and rear derailleur. If you ride a SRAM rear, a consider a SRAM bicycle chain. Likewise the choice for Shimano.
- Use a chain that matches the number of speeds in the rear — ie. 9-Speed, 10-Speed, 11-Speed; and make sure the chainring specification is compatible with that number of speeds. Chainrings often cover a range of speeds.
- If you are sensitive to shift pressure and instant response (we’re talking tiny differences), the high-end Shimano and KMC are considered better because they are a little more flexible side to side and have a better internal finish (from what we’ve examined).
- Regardless of the brand, we recommend the higher-end chains because they are made, in our experience, to tighter tolerances and with better materials for a better overall performance.
- Proper cleaning and lubrication are more important than the specific brand or design of chain.
- Bicycle chains have inner link plates, and outer link plates. We are not keen on chains with lightening holes through the inner side plates. See the included photo. The holes shown here are OK because they are only through the outer plates. Holes in the chain plates collect debris, which can accelerate wear and other issues. We have traced inner link plate holes with contamination to chain-suck and wear problems, so caution you about it. The small weight advantage is often not worth the potential performance degradation. (That being said, it’s hard to find a good chain these days that does not have link plate holes.)
Chainrings are only one part of the bicycle drivetrain, and to get best performance, the “System” of components must work in harmony. The chainrings, the chain and the front derailleur must work in concert with the chosen rear cassette, derailleur, etc.. This includes proper bicycle chain length, crank and derailleur setup, shifting technique and more. These are not hard to accomplish, and once the bike is setup correct, shifting with WickWerks chainrings is second to none.
More Info On Bicycle Chain
For more info on bicycle chains and how interacting with chainrings, see the article on 11-Speed Rings and Chains.
If you need a chain, these KMC Chains shift well.