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I currently have a 1x8 setup on my bike, and am considering upgrading the cassette to an 11-speed. I've also been looking at replacement chainrings as I've seen that they also come in 8-speed, 11-speed, etc. varieties. However, looking more deeply into the subject I'm starting to wonder if the speed rating is relevant in a 1x setup.

Am I right in thinking that:

  • all chains, regardless of speed rating, have the same internal width? In which case an 11-speed chain should fit on my 8-speed chainring just fine, right?
  • the speed rating of the chainring generally refers to the shape to make shifting between chainrings easier? i.e the rings are narrower to fit better and the teeth are shaped slightly differently to make shifting smoother.

Assuming I'm right with those two assumptions, is it not then true that any 1x chainring will work with any speed cassette/chain?

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    The 11sp chain will probably be fine. 12sp chains can be a bit tight on the older narrow/wide rings to start off with. A narrow/wide ring is considered pretty much essential for chain retention, less so with an 8sp setup.
    – Noise
    Sep 27, 2022 at 10:03
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    I'm not sure about 12 speed, but generally I've been told +-1 is good enough for front chainrings (9spd ring works with 8 and 10spd chain, 10spd ring works with 9 or 11 spd chain etc.) while 5, 6, 7, 8 speed components are all the same.
    – jayded-bee
    Sep 28, 2022 at 11:57
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    @jayded-bee I'm happily using a 5 speed front triple chainring with a 9 speed chain. Its all in the tolerances and some luck.
    – Criggie
    Sep 29, 2022 at 1:55

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No, actually the internal width of chains are different. More gears => narrower internal chain width. I found a good overview at the Bikeradar site:
https://www.bikeradar.com/advice/buyers-guides/bicycle-chains/#width

Given this information, you should probably get a chainring that matches the cassette/chain combination.

(Also: Sure, if doing a 2x10 to 1x10 conversion one could use a 11 speed narrow/wide chainring as the 10 speed chain is slightly wider than the 11 speed chains.)

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  • I had initially written a comment about all chains supposedly having an internal width of 3/32 inch, but as you pointed out (though it's a little buried in that article), higher speed chains are actually now 11/128 inch wide internally, which could cause problems with a lower speed chainring. Sep 27, 2022 at 14:25

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