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Do half link chains work on any bike?

What is the purpose of a half link chain?

I've noticed that only BMXers and DJers use them, and that leads me to believe there is a technical reason behind that.

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  • just adding onto what the other two answers said, they usually weigh a lot more than a regular chain. so just consider that. for most people, that difference doesn't matter, bit for some people, weight is the biggest concern – DripKracken Jun 6 at 2:35
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From the internet:

"Half Link BMX chains were designed to help dial in the chain length on frames with short dropouts and small gearing, making sure your rear wheel is exactly where you want it. Dan's Comp offers a wide variety of half-link BMX chains for both race and freestyle."

Basically, you can break your chain at smaller increments to get a more precise chain length. 1/2" instead of 1".

Half link vs. Regular chain

Half link chains should work with most single speed set-ups, but not with any bike with multiple sprockets / chain rings.

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  • so only single speed bikes will work? – Kellen Stuart Jun 12 '18 at 20:28
  • Correct because they are not made for nor intended to work with derailleurs – Nate W Jun 12 '18 at 20:29
  • As I understand it, half link chains are 1/8" wide (inside) & with thicker plates, unlike modern multi-speed chains, which are 3/32" wide. Also, I don't imagine they would mesh well with the ramps on front chain rings. – renesis Jun 12 '18 at 20:32
  • chains are spec'd to the number of gears as well, so (unless you're super weight conscious) buy the cheapest appropriate gear chain (i.e. 8/9 speed, 10-spd, etc). – markd Jun 13 '18 at 15:15
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As mentioned in another answer, the main purpose of half link chains is to have more control over the chain length and hence the wheelbase of your bike (assuming you have rear facing or slideable drop-outs). A centimetre difference in wheelbase will change the feel of the bike quite a bit, especially on a short bike like a BMX.

Half link chains can only be used on single speed bikes* because their side profile won't match/mesh with the ramps that help lift it onto the next gear.

  • Thinking about it they should also work on a bike with internal hub gears.

Half link chains also won't work with thick/thin chainrings as every link is thin on a half link chain.

Half link chains most commonly come in 1/8" width for BMX and general single speed use. You can also get them in 3/32" width for use with a mountain bike drivetrain, a lot of dirt jump mountain bikes run a mountain bike crankset with a 3/32" chainring for example.

Note: Modern mountain bike chains are actually a little bit narrower than 3/32" once you get to 9 speed or more. The difference is enough to stop a 3/32" chain working with 9+ speed gears but a 3/32" chain will still work with a 12 speed compatible chainring.

Using a 1/8" chain on a single speed mountain bike drivetrain might work but there would be a lot more side to side play which can't be good for wear! It also might not fit through a chain device designed for 3/32".

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    Welcome to the site - excellent first answer ! – Criggie Jun 5 at 4:25

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