In comes KMC, a name synonymous to chains not only for bicycles but for motorcycles and other applications as well. KMC is an OEM supplier to a lot of Bicycle and component manufacturers aside from marketing their own product. These guys know their chains.
On hand is their flagship product for 11 speed groupsets, the X11SL. You can throw out unremarkable and humble out the door, as KMC put a lot of thought in designing these chains. Initially developed for Campagnolo 11 speed groupsets, we at RoadieManila found that these work
Aside from looking all pimp, KMC claims that this coating actually serves a purpose. The gold color is an after effect of its proprietary Titanium Nitride coating. This hard coat serves to protect the chain from corrosion as well as reduce friction between the coated material and whatever it comes to contact with e.g. cogs and cranks.
But this is not the only trick up its sleeve....
Looking closer at the links, we can see that it has hollow pins and slotted links, weight saving measures found in most high end chains. The pins are mushroomed (flared), which offers increased strength compared to straight pins found on lesser chains.
Also shown in detail above is the chamfering work and double-x stamps done on the links. These features make the chain snag on to the next gear faster, smoother and quieter.
The chain also goes through what KMC calls a 'stretch-proof' treatment.
A Missing Link 11 Gold for every X11SL kit. This makes the chain a breeze to install. No crazy expensive Campagnolo tool needed to close the links, simply align the holes to the opposite pin and pull.
It's worth noting that KMC says these are non reusable and for single use only. But I have heard of people disassembling the Missing Link 11 to clean their chains and reassembling them to no issue. In fact, my mechanic says that it's safe to reuse at least once. But again, reusing the Missing Link-11 will be at your own risk.
Taking out the chain cutter, We trimmed down the X11SL to 105 links, same as the recently removed Dura Ace. These came in at 217grams. Compared to the CN-9000, the KMC's came in 7 grams lighter.
KMC X11SL - 105 Links
Shimano CN-9000 - 105 links
The Missing Link 11 - 2 grams
On the road, we definitely confirm KMC's claims of better shifting. It may be hard to believe but the X11SL improves on the standard CN-9000 chain's already smooth shifts. The X11SL is also a tad quieter than the 9000, as the soft mechanical hum of the DA 9000 drivetrain is a bit less noticeable now. The only thing that's loud about these chains is the color, though a more subdued version in Silver is also available.
The price? It may be the most expensive chain out there but considering all the features you get and the cost of OEM Shimano or Campagnolo, the price is actually quite reasonable.
Whether your'e a Shimano 11-speed newbie looking for an upgrade or a Campy 11 user looking for an alternative, these 11-speed chains from KMC are hard to beat.
[UPDATE] We tried out the KMC X11SL Silver as well. Same features but less costly, this one might be better - value wise.
Inexpensive, bling and sexy, works well. Quick release is one-time use only though.
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