KMC X9SL X10SL Review

Pro Reviews

Impressions
I started out testing the chain in the wintertime, so between the snow, the wet trails, the mud and the wet sandy dirt, the drivetrain usually got trashed pretty quickly. The chain just kept shifting with few issues, except for an occasional small ghost shift, which wasn’t bad considering the treatment and conditions it was dealing with.

Danger, Will Robinson

I was very impressed with the chain, and the initial riding impressions were very nice. The chain shifted smoothly and no matter how difficult and tortuous I was during hard technical pedaling, it shifted like a trooper. After a few rides, I pretty much forgot what I was riding, they just blended into my shifting patterns, rolling up and down the cogs and chainrings as they should. Although the chain has a small amount of lateral flex, it did just fine on the severe cross chain gearing angles (between the cogset and chainrings).

The gold chain looks very sweet with the hollow pins and small slots on the links, and you can really see the engineering that went into the SL chains. The gold is a titanium nitride coating. Its surface is supposed to be harder and smoother and less susceptible to dirt for a longer and more functional life than the regular chains. I will take their word on it, since it would be an extremely difficult test to correlate, for me, I liked the bling factor. However, it did seem to shift better than the normal silver (non titanium nitride coating), maybe I had too many Red Bulls?

Trivia: The precursor to Red Bull was the Thai drink called Krating Daeng (translation: “red water buffalo”).

Measured Specs (116 links):
X10Sl 247.7 grams
X9SL 264.6 grams

The package states it weighs 240 grams for the X10SL and 255 grams for the X10SL, so they seem to be a bit off in their specs. There have been lots of complaints on the weight weenie forum for misrepresenting their weight. Fanaticism! UPDATE: supposedly the new package is labeled as 265g

Technical Features
Careful examination of the chain itself shows some of the technical highlights that the SL chain is engineered with. To save weight, they cut small slots into the plates, and use hollow pins. For shifting performance, they use X-Bridge, in which the outer plate has been configured with specific angles for faster, quieter and smoother gear shifting.They also have StretchProof Treatment (misnomer) for the pins and plates to decrease the invasion of contaminants into the bearings, and therefore increasing durability in harsh environments. High alloy steel is used for the pins and plates, which aids in the reduction of chain elongation for increased chain life. And my favorite is the gold colored Ti-N (titanium nitride) coating, which gives rise to less friction, and lower maintenance, and more bling.

KMC SL Series Technical Specs
-Lightweight
-Hollow Pin
-Plate slots
-StretchProof Treatment: exceptional durability
-Outer Plate Chamfering: accurate steering
-Inner Plate Chamfering: expeditious articulating (say what!)
-Mushroomed Riveting: high pin power, inserted with 350 ksi
-Double X Bridge Shape Outer Plate: excellent gear shifting
-Noiseless Function: noise reduction
-Bushingless Construction: smooth transmission
-Ti-N Gold versions: less friction, low maintenance

Next » Bottom Line

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About the author: Brian Mullin

Brian has been part of the Mtbr team since 2007, where he has become an integral member of the review and test staff, specializing in technical articles. He likes to push the limits in all the sports he obsesses in, whether it's mountain biking, whitewater kayaking, extreme skiing, or sport climbing. He takes those same strengths and a good dose of insanity to his reviewing and writing on mountain biking products, creating technical, in-depth and hyperbolic articles. Whenever he's not on the bike, he might be found watching MotoGP racing, otherwise look for him out on extremely technical singletrack.


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  • Carl says:

    ‘Chain stretch’ is a figure of speech; I don’t know why people like to be so pedantic about it.

  • Chain Smoker says:

    I’m curious how the 9-speed version holds up against Shimano’s HG93 (XT) and CN7701 (XTR), durability-wise.

  • Gregg says:

    I used one of these last year, and it was the shortest lived chain I’ve ever owned. I would even go so far as to call it junk. You get what you pay for. I’m running the hollow pin/ punched plate Wippermans now, and they are far superior.

  • Anonymous says:

    They are much improved from last year, but I have not tested a Wipperman, so I can’t compare durability. I will speak with them at Interbike about doing a test.

  • Padre says:

    I am 220lbs and run this chain on 4 mtbs. I have been running them for about 3 years and have never had a failure of any kind.

    Light AND strong.

  • Remy says:

    I can’t say much for KMC’s chains on geared applications, but 7 years down the road my XD series bmx chain has held up through off and on use as college transportation after the bikes glory years. Still can see the gold ti-nitride coating on the pins! (Todays coatings much shinier and blingier)

    -but definitely needs to go now, finally started popping off… very reliable and they have been AROUND

  • Sylvain says:

    I have install the X10SL chain 2010 version, on my MTB 9 spd Shimano XT drivetrain. Look great and shifting was excellent until I pop a chainlink out of its rivet (not the one I install) while shifting 2 gear up without excessive power. This append only after only 400 km (3 month) of use. WIll go back to an HG-93 for now.

  • Ken says:

    In relation to longevity compared to the XTR I will let you know. Like Brian I tend to be a low cadence, more power climber and have snapped the XTR chain 3 times in the last 6 months since new, riding off-road about once a month in steep technical terrain(OK once was trying to salvage a really bad gear choice at the base of a steep pinch). The bike shop recommended the X9SL so we shall see if it lasts better with my low cadence grinding up climbs and at times poor shifting technique

  • shooby says:

    To all the Shimano advocates, who do you think makes Shimano chains. ;-)

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