If you have an older 9-speed bicycle that needs a chain replacement or decides to change your gear ratio for one reason or another, then the question becomes, “will a 10-speed chain work on a 9-speed cassette?”
A 10-speed chain will work on most 9-speed cassettes without an issue. Actually, a 10-speed chain is thinner and lighter than a 9-speed. Therefore, the chain will move up and down the cogs without skipping or rubbing.
However, if your bike has a 9-speed cassette with narrow spacing between the cogs, a 9-speed chain could come off the cog while riding.
All the same, a 10-speed chain can be used on a 9-speed cassette since it is thinner, but there are some caveats you should know.
Will 10-speed Chain Work On 9-speed Cassette?
Generally, a 10-speed chain is slimmer and lighter than a 9-speed. So actually, when you have to stack more cogs on the same hub, you need to condense the cassette.
Therefore a chain meant for more gears are narrower and will work perfectly with a 9speed cassette without rubbing against the cogs or skipping.
Notably, a 10-speed chain has equal inner roller widths with 9-speed chains. This feature ensures that there is no compromise on the sprocket’s width. All the same, the spacer width gradually reduces with an increase in the number of cogs.
Have a look at the tables below.
Table 1: SRAM (MTB)
|Number of Speeds
Table 2: Shimano (MTB)
|Number of Speeds
The data above shows that the spacer widths reduce as you install a higher number of gears. Therefore, a 10-speed chain happens to be thinner than a 9-speed and can work impeccably well with a 9-speed gear.
Are 9 And 10-speed Cassettes The Same Width?
The two cassettes may look almost equal, but they are not of the same width. From the tables that we looked at earlier, you will realize that the cassettes get wider with each additional gear cog.
Therefore, the main difference between these two types of cassettes is found in their cog spacing. It dictates how many gears there will be on each side and the cog sizes that can fit.
Though the spacers get thinner as you increase the number of gears from 9 to 10, the 10th gear and the extra spacer make the 10-speed cassette wider.
All the same, the difference doesn’t affect the cogs’ strength. In fact, the spacers may reduce in size, but the cogs remain more or less the same.
That is why it is hard for a beginner to notice the variance in width between a 9-speed and a 10-speed cassette.
All the same, the teeth on a 10-speed cassette are narrower than those of a 9-speed, as they have an extra cog.
Is There A Difference Between A 9 And 10-speed Chain?
One question that always comes up when a cyclist thinks of using a 10-speed chain with a 9-speed caste is whether the chains have any significant difference.
The answer is no. The chains’ teeth are designed to be the same length and inner roller widths. So there will not be a significant difference in how they work when used on different-sized cassettes and chainsets.
All the same, the ten-speed chains have a narrower outer thickness for them to fit perfectly on cassettes with thinner spacers. If manufacturers leave the outer thickness the same, the chains would be susceptible to skips and rubs.
Therefore, the ten-speed chain is thinner and consequently lighter in weight than a nine-speed chain.
On the other hand, high-quality 10-speed chains have high tensile strength.
Advantages Of Using A 10-Speed Chain With A 9-Speed Cassette?
Every time you think of a bike hack, it is always good to look into what you stand to gain. So, in that case, what are the advantages of using a 10-speed chain on a nine-speed cassette?
Slimmer Chain, Lighter Bike
Earlier in our discussion, we mentioned that a 10-speed chain is relatively thinner than a 9-speed.
Therefore, a 10-speed chain uses less material and therefore weighs lesser. Actually, you will experience improved performance in terms of acceleration as well as climbing hilly terrains.
Also, with a lighter chain, there is less friction between the chain links, which helps to reduce wear and tear.
Consequently, if we compare 10-speed chains from different manufacturers against their 9-speed counterparts, you will find that10-speeds are lighter by 10% on average.
Reduced Chain Rubbing
Thick chains tend to rub against other drive train components. For example, the front derailleur is more likely to get damaged by the chain due to friction caused by the chain rubbing against it.
In addition, the chain drive train would make a lot of noise if the chain kept rubbing against other parts, such as the front derailleur box.
Notably, most cyclists deliberately go for a 10-speed chain because of its slimmer profile. In addition, the reduced outer width of the 10-speed chain also prevents it from damage.
Therefore, if you would like to change your 9-speed chain for a 10-speed, you can go for the KMC X10-116L, NP/BK 10-speed Bicycle Chain, which has a double X bridge shape for super-fast and smooth shifting
Improved Chain Flexibility
A 10-speed chain happens to be more flexible than other chains designed for fewer speeds. Therefore, the chain will not only work with your bike’s gear system but also flex more easily when it comes to pedaling.
For example, a 10-speed chain will comfortably flex when cross-chaining and allow you a quick rear gear shift.
If you are wondering what cross chaining is, it is the result of combining the smallest cog and the smallest chainring.
Also, combining the largest and the largest cog would lead to cross-chaining. These are extreme gear combinations, and therefore, you will need to have a chain that is flexible.
Disadvantages Of Using A 10-Speed Chain With A 9-Speed Cassette?
Chains meant for fewer gears are relatively thicker and have wider external widths. As a result, they can last for quite a long time.
On the other hand, a 10-speed chain is thinner than its 9-speed counterpart, which warrants frequent replacements.
Also, if you are to go for the thinner chain, you need to consider its durability against your needs.
Slower Shifting Speed
As the saying goes, you can’t eat your cake and have it. When it comes to a 10-speed chain, it has a thinner profile, making it harder to shift.
Actually, chains made for fewer gears are thicker than a 10-speed, although their inner roller width remains relatively the same. This means that the cog ramps can pick a 9-speed easily.
For this reason, you might feel the shifting get slower if you use a 10-speed chain on a 9-speed cassette.
They Are Expensive
Another major disadvantage of swapping a 9-speed chain for a 10-speed is that the latter is more pricy.
One of the possible reasons why 10-speed chains are expensive is that they are normally found on intermediate and advanced bikes.
Also, considering that you will have to replace the chain frequently, the cost of running a ten-speed chain gets higher.
Can A 10-Speed Chain Work With A 9-Speed Crankset?
Generally, the majority of chainrings can work with almost any chain. The main difference between them is the size of the spacing applied.
Notably, both 9 and 10-speed chainrings are about 2mm thick. On the other hand, the internal width on nine-speed and ten-speed chains is 2.18mm on average.
So, you can use a 10-speed chain comfortably with a 9-speed crankset.
Tools That You Need To Install A 10-Speed Chain?
So, we found that a 10-speed chain will work on a 9-speed cassette. But, to DIY install the chain, you need some tools.
First, you will need a chain breaker that suitable for a ten-speed chain. Also, you will need a pair of pliers for chain link removal.
On the other hand, you can go for a quality bike tools kit such as the Bikehand 37pcs Bicycle Repair Tool Kit (View on Amazon), which also comes with a torque wrench. In addition, the kit features common bike tools that you need for regular service.
So, will a 10-speed chain work on a 9-speed cassette? The answer is yes. Since the chain’s inner width doesn’t differ from the nine-speed, they are compatible.
In addition, the 10-speed chain has a thinner outer profile which makes it fit on the cogs without any rubbing or skipping.
On the downside, a ten-speed chain is expensive and less durable than chains designed for fewer gears.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I use a 10 speed chain on a 9 speed cassette?
Although a 10 speed chain and a 9 speed cassette may seem like they could be compatible, generally it’s not considered to be the best practice. The width of a 10 speed chain is narrower than a 9 speed cassette and so it might not fit perfectly. However, contrary to this, some cyclists have reported having no issues using a 10-speed chain on a 9-speed cassette, and some even claimed it resulted in better handling and shifting performance. Personally, I would suggest sticking with the chain size intended for your specific cassette to ensure optimal performance and to maintain the lifespan of your bike’s components. But if you’re in a pinch and only have a 10 speed chain available, it could be used as a temporary fix.
Are 9 speed and 10 speed chains interchangeable?
In theory, a 10 speed chain might work on a 9 speed cassette since it’s narrower, but it could compromise the crispness of the gear shifting. I once used a spare 10 speed chain on my 9 speed cassette and it worked for a bit, but I noticed a slight sluggishness in gear change. If you’re considering purchasing a new chain, the consensus among most cycling enthusiasts (myself included) would recommend choosing a chain that matches your cassette specifications. This is usually the safest and best way to ensure that your bike performs at its optimal capacity.
What chain width chain should I get for a 9 speed cassette?
When selecting the right chain for a 9-speed cassette, you have to consider the inner width. For multi-speed chains ranging from 5 to 8 speeds, the inner width is 3/32″ (2.38 mm). However, for 9 to 12 speed bikes, a smaller inner width of 11/128″ (2.18 mm) is used. I remember when I first started repairing my own bike, the concept of chain widths was a bit confusing, but once you understand the correlation between the speed of the bike and the chain’s inner width, it becomes a piece of cake. There are even wider chains like 5/32″ (4 mm) available, but these are specially intended for freight bicycles. Therefore, for a 9 speed cassette, you should look for a chain with an inner width of 11/128″ (2.18 mm).
Can you use a 11 speed chain on a 9 speed cassette?
While a 9-speed and an 11-speed chain may have similar internal widths, their external widths vary; the 11-speed chain is narrower. This means that although both an 11-speed and a 9-speed chain will fit on the chainrings of a 9-speed cassette, you may encounter issues when attempting to switch between those chainrings. The spacing between the chainrings of a 9-speed cassette is optimized specifically for a 9-speed chain. As a long-time cyclist, I’ve experimented with many combinations, and the best advice I can give is that it’s always best to use the chain intended for your specific speed setup.