We are currently using KMC Z51RB rust resistant chains on our bikes, a competitor has started to use stainless steel chains. Does anyone know the advantages and disadvantages of using stainless steel and should we be thinking of changing to SS too?

Many thanks.

  • 1
    Bragging rights. A well-cared-for chain shouldn't rust, except perhaps when used for riding on the beach. And when one uses stainless steel they right away give up several of the "knobs" that can be adjusted to select the properties of the steel for the job at hand, meaning you can end up with inferior performance. May 21, 2012 at 18:04

2 Answers 2


Your question doesn't clearly state your criteria in choosing a chain except that your competitors are using stainless steel and you use an alternative rust resistant chain, so I'll answer generally on the assumption that corrosion resistance is the main criteria.

As far as I know there are no bicycle chains that are completely stainless steel. You will note on the Connex Wipperman stainless steel chains that only the inner links are stainless steel, so you won't get complete rust or corrosion resistance by using them. You will still need to lubricate and clean the chain to avoid corrosion and increase the chain's life.
The stainless steel in those chains may give you longer wear, with a slight weight penalty as seen in this review.

You will have noticed from the Connex page that I linked to before, that there are a number of other corrosion resistance mechanisms including nickel and brass coatings. Other manufacturers also have a variety of means of corrosion resistance.

The main disadvantage of stainless steel would probably be the expense and possibly a slight weight penalty, although the review I linked to suggests the longer life will offset the expense for their purposes.

Overall though, there is no zero maintenance bicycle chain that I know of that is completely rust proof and maintenance free. Only a belt-drive bicycle transmission will not require lubrication and will not rust and it is claimed they will not stretch. Yet there are other issues with belt-drives, which you can research separately to this question if you are interested.


KMC Stainless Steel (SS) chain claims to be all-SS rather than partial as the Wipperman.

I have been running a KMC Stainless chain for 3.5 years and it is indistinguishable performance-wise from carbon steel chains. However it is clean and shiny, stays that way and, so far, has been all joy and happiness. The cosmetic value of "clean and shiny" is there as it lends an appearance of quality and newness.

My maintenance consists of two-monthly complete cleaning in white-spirit (a slow-evaporating petroleum fraction) which can be re-used as the dirt precipitates, leaving it clear. It is sandy where I live so I have changed from sticky oil - which makes a grinding-paste on the chain - to solvent-carrier lubricants which are far cleaner. I have no idea if this has a comparitive advantage without testing. All in all, stainless = good.

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