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Full-Link Chain vs. Half-Link Chain

November 13, 2020 4 min read


In the BMX Race world, there are two options. Full-link chains, and half-link chains. While this may not be ground breaking news for some people, the purpose of these linkage systems is not as widely understood.

Let's take a deep dive into both chains to better understand their inner workings. By the end, you'll walk away with a comprehensive understanding of which chain is best for you!

What is a Full-Link Chain?

Full-link chains are traditional bike chains featuring a sequence of outer and inner links. The pairing of an inner and outer link creates a full link in the chain.

(Retrieved from Cyclingtips.com)


With full-link chains, you have to remove two 1/2 links to remove a full link; the same goes for adding a link. When reconnecting the chain, you have to ensure that each end of the chain features opposing links (an outer and an inner link). Since you have to remove two half links, there is a rather drastic change in chain length and rear wheel placement. More on the nitty-gritty measurements in relation to chain length and rear-wheel placement towards the end. 

What is a Half-Link Chain?

Unlike the full-link chain, the half-link chain allows you to remove just a single link; this is made possible through the half-link featuring both an external and internal end. The ability to remove one link allows for fine-tuning of rear wheel placement. 

The precision of half-link chains becomes apparent when you think about what is being added and removed. A half-link chain allows you to add or remove a single link. Remember, that with a full-link chain you are forced to remove a full link, two half links equalling 1 inner, 1 outer link. The ability to remove a single half link is how half-link chains reduce the amount of change in overall chain length and rear-wheel placement. 

The Half Link vs. The Full Link 

On both a full-link and half-link chain, each link is 1/2". However, when adding or removing links from a full-link chain, it moves the rear wheel about 1/4" in either direction within the dropouts. There will be slight deviations in this measurement depending on your chainring's radius as they are not uniform across all models. 

Adding or removing a single half-link on a half-link chain results in a 1/8" change in rear wheel placement. Again the exact measurement will depend on your chainring. Essentially, half-links cut the change of rear-wheel placement in half when compared to full-links. 

As mentioned before, half-links allow you to fine-tune your rear wheel placement; This setting is tied to the overall feeling of the back end. Changing where the rear wheel sits underneath you will call for slight riding style adjustments in order to maintain effective bike control. Having the ability to precisely tailor this setting is vital to any racer who is particular about their bike settings. Half-link chains provide you with the flexibility to achieve your desired setting. 

The added advantage of fine-tune adjusting comes at a cost. Half-link chains are heavier than full-links. There is more material used within half-link chains to support the slight bend in each link's plate. Since metal tends to be the weakest at its bend point, the added weight and thickness is necessary to improve the durability and strength of half-link chains. 

What Chain Should You Use?

The main difference between the two types of chains is the amount of adjustability. The half-link lets you get more precise, whereas the full-link is thinner and lighter. It really comes down to whether you feel you need the added adjustability of a half-link. 

If you currently ride a frame with short dropouts, like our Envy RS7 for example, you'll want to go with a half-link chain. The smaller adjustments of a half-link become crucial when you are working with less rear dropout real estate. The half-link will allow you to achieve a setting where the rear axle sits right in the middle of the dropout.

On a frame with more traditional, longer dropouts, you can get away with the lighter full-link chain. With more room in the dropout for the rear wheel, the larger 1/4" adjustment of a full-link is just enough to provide a suitable level of adjustment.  

The Bottom Line

Realistically, you can use whatever chain you like on whatever frame you want. The choice between the two linkage system is there to help optimize your rider settings. If you don't really notice the effect of rear-wheel placement or don't really care about extra weight on the bike then continue to stick to what you got. It all comes down to a few questions that you have to ask yourself. 

Do you care about the overall weight of your bike?

If so, stay with the full link. Why add extra weight to the bike when you don't have to. 

Do you have small dropouts?

If so, this should trump your response to overall weight. The half-link is designed for these frames. You will save yourself a lot of time setting up a half-link chain on these frames. With full-links you may notice that chain could be too short or too long when installing them on small dropout frames. 

Are you picky about rear-wheel placement?

If this is the case, you got no choice but to go for the half-link. You simply can't get the level of adjustability that a half-link provides with a full-link!

No matter your choice, we got you covered with both half and full link chains. The Speedline chains are heat treated, race specific chains designed to handle the stress of BMX racing. The Speedline chains are some of the lightest and strongest chains you can find on the market. Click on either image below to Check em out! 

Written By, Jonnie Vance

This piece contains the findings and sole opinions of the author (Jonnie Vance). This article is intended for entertainment purposes only and is not reflective of the thoughts or opinions of SUPERCROSS BMX or it’s partners.