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When looking at bike chains, I usually see silver, gray/brown, and painted options. Is there generally any difference between these in terms of durability, corrosion resistance, or smoothness?

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    No significant difference. Some chains are bare (shiny) metal, some are chemically treated (as the right-hand picture above) to give them a tint. The chemical treatment may slightly enhance corrosion resistance and slightly reduce wear (or the opposite), but not significantly. Actual paint, on the other hand, will rarely wear as well as bare metal, and enhances nothing other than esthetics (if that). Any bike chain should be coated in an appropriate (for the duty) chain oil to prevent corrosion and maintain lubrication. Commented Aug 17, 2016 at 2:05
  • With tongue firmly in cheek, I also suggest that the following images be included: KMC and Connex
    – andy256
    Commented Aug 17, 2016 at 2:33
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    @andy256: those look like cheap copies of the Rohloff gold plated chain
    – Móż
    Commented Aug 17, 2016 at 2:44
  • @Móż Nice! I must say I had to dredge out old HTML skills to insert the second link; it had embedded spaces and markdown wasn't happy about it :-)
    – andy256
    Commented Aug 17, 2016 at 2:50
  • Yeah, hacking markdown to get the result you want can be fun. Sadly Rohloff have stopped making chain after their machine wore out, and didn't make a new one because they couldn't work out how to make a durable 10/11 speed chain :( I was tempted by the gold chain just so I could put it on the bike and go torment some MAMILs.
    – Móż
    Commented Aug 17, 2016 at 2:53

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Answer Minimal difference to performance or quality.

The coloured chain tends to be for single speed/fixies or BMXs or bikes without derailleur gears. This is because the front derailleur has to push the chain around, so it rubs. The rear derailleur guides the chain but pushes chain into the sprockets until it has to mount the larger cog. So the pretty colours will get oily or chipped or worn.

So you're more likely to find painted coloured chains in 1/8 inch size, not 3/32 inch and whatever 10/11/12 speed bikes use.

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