12 Speed Chains

12 Speed Chains


Finally it is here! The latest version of the YBN 12spd has passed all extensive testing at ZFC to finally enable me to stock.

All 12 speed chains below are ultrasonically cleaned and treated with mspeedwax. Some chains have an additional option to be fully race optimised or ceramic speed UFO treatment.

*Lead time for full Race Optimisation approx. 2 to 4 weeks – made to order*

*** Additional Note lead time for Silca Hot Melt Prep and Absolute Black Graphene Prep is approximately 1 week as chains are prepped once ordered ***

ZFC has conducted over 100,000 km’s of machine controlled longevity testing in-conjunction with outright chain efficiency data from Ceramic Speed test labs (and where possible a bunch of field testing) to bring the most up to date object test information to ascertain a) What products should ZFC stock and what we should not, and b) provide detail information to help guide what product selection is right for you. If you already know what chain you need / want – select away. For the best independent information on chains available, refer to detail in product description below.

Categories: , Tags: ,

Finally it is here! The latest version of the YBN 12spd has passed all extensive testing at ZFC to finally enable me to stock. Whilst the top of the line YBN 11 and 10 speed chains have always been the Rolls Royce of chains, the initial 12spd didn’t pass muster and so for the last 2 years I have been testing prototype after prototype until now latest version is where it needs to be to be stocked by ZFC. Lastly, the YBN 12spd includes a Master link.

Whilst not as long lasting as the crazy longevity with srams X01/ XX1/ AXS rainbow chains, it is much multiple watts faster, silky smooth, and shifts brilliantly – so it is a great option for those on Sram drive trains to have as race chain vs their hardy but very slow eagle chains.  It is also compatible with Shimano XTR 12 drive trains, however if on Shimano 12spd still recommend XTR 12 for those drivetrains as the XTR 12 is an outstanding chain – just get the YBN if you want some colour in your life!


All 12 speed chains below are ultrasonically cleaned and treated with mspeedwax. Some chains have an additional option to be Fully Race Optimised / Ceramic speed UFO treatment / absoluteBlackGraphe / Silca Hot Melt prep.

*Lead time for Full Race Optimisation may be approx. 2 weeks – it has been impossible to keep pace with pre stocking this option so all full race prep orders are slotted into chronological order for completetion. Lead time for Silca Hot Melt approx 3 days, absoluteBlack graphene 3 to 5 days due to needing time time slot for its specific ultrasonic application. 


12 Speed chains have seen manufacturers in many cases look to lock consumers back into their own brand in a closed system and remove aftermarket options. This is fine in cases where all aspects of the drivetrain work brilliantly, less so if it is the case that one brands chain has much higher efficiency losses vs other brands. For some systems there are options, for other systems your best option is simply to ensure you are running the best possible lubricant choice & maintenance.

Also note that many 12 speed drivetrains tend to have very expensive drive train components. So even if not concerned re friction losses for racing – it is important to remember that higher friction losses due to an average / poor lubricant & maintenance will correlate directly with drivetrain wear rates. This makes your lubricant choice critical with regards to running costs (as well as low friction for those who do race).


Campagnolo – 12 Speed record

At this time ZFC does not have outright efficiency test data for record 12 speed, however to date all efficiency testing for previous campy chains have shown them to be a top performing chain and this is not expected to change for their 12 speed.

Their 12 speed record chain did test with a measurably lower lifespan vs their 11spd chain however, so ensure keep a regular check on chain wear due to cost of Record 12 speed components.

Very handily, the Record 12 speed chain is same dimensions as Sram Eagle 12 speed chain so for those looking for best possible performance and longevity, you can use mspeedwax simply by using Sram eagle master links to pop chain on and off.

Sram AXS Road

AXS wireless in a very impressive system in many ways, however ZFC has to be a straight shooter here – the move to 10t cog and smaller chain ring sizes is a step backwards regarding drivetrain efficiency. Ceramic Speed testing showed a 6w increase in efficiency losses for a 48x10t vs 53×11 due to greater chain link articulation as well as higher chain tension with smaller rings. For the same reason Oversize pulley wheel systems save chain watt losses due to less chain articulation, going smaller Rings and correspondingly smaller cog size for given gear inches increases losses. You may not ride around in the 48×10 much, so maybe it is only an average of 2 to 3 watts being lost vs running larger rings / larger cogs – it is still a move in the wrong direction with regards to drivetrain efficiency.

Compounding the above issue,  like all sram chains tested to date the AXS road chain is not a fast chain. Long lasting, but not fast – being around 2w+ higher loss vs top 11spd chains.

There are no aftermarket AXS road chains on the market at this time, and none are on the horizon that we are aware of.

The very high cost of AXS road chain rings with integrated spider (especially integrated power meter spider) as well as cost of cassette – lubricant choice and maintenance is critical for on both the efficiency front as well as parts lifespan.

Whilst Sram AXS rings / cassettes are indeed impressively hard wearing, it will still only take a poor lubricant choice (there are plenty of powerfully marketed, mainstream lubricants that are not that great, at all) as well as being lax on chain wear checking – and in short order you will cause considerable wear to these expensive components such that they will not accept a new chain.

If not careful an AXS road bike can have running costs similar to a Ferrari, or with a top lubricant choice / maintenance and chain wear checking the hard wearing AXS components will last a very very long time, and you will be getting some watts back.

*Note – testing has shown that AXS Force level chains are around 0.5w faster than AXS Red level chains.

**ZFC does not have comparative longevity for AXS road chains at this time as test machine does not have AXS compatible parts + needs a different chain wear checker due to larger rollers.  Stay tuned it will get done, in the interim ZFC is certain it will a very long lasting chain as claimed – however do not take this a green light to be lax on lube selection / maintenance as the cost penalty and watts loss penalty for doing so will be very high indeed.

Mountain Bike

Sram Eagle / AXS Eagle

This is the most fun area yet. Again the higher level eagle components are very, very expensive, and of course riding off road presents huge challenges for many lubricants. The chain is completely exposed to the dirt and dust and most are using a liquid lubricant. It is very tricky for liquid lubricants to not quickly into a grinding paste masquerading as a lubricant.  Imagine removing the dust seals off your bearings and riding around – how would they feel after a couple of rides? That is the challenge for your chain / lubricant.

Yes your lubricant will claim it repels dirt / dust / grime. Yes your lubricant will claim it cleans as it lubes etc. If you wish to know how well it is actually doing that please refer to key learnings from lubricant testing round 1;


It cannot be overstated the difference in parts lifespan and running costs for mtb (and cx) for running top lube choice vs meh or poor lube choice.

Too the best chain options – hold onto your hats;

Sram Eagle XX1 / X01 / AXS – Hands down the longest lasting chain in the world by a huge margin on anything else on the market. They are astoundingly long lasting.

Alas, they are also probably the slowest chain tested to date, with efficiency testing needing to be stopped at the 2 hour mark as losses were off the scale of the machine (8.8w limit to avoid damaging a 6k usd torque sensor – this is a fully optimised race version, so as fast as an eagle chain can be made to go). In short a great training chain – not the fastest choice for racing.

*Note – the X01 chain was around 0.5w faster than XX1 chain, but doesn’t look as cool being boring ol silver.

Mspeedwax / wax emulsion lubricants adhere well and stay silky smooth for a long stint – again making Sram XX1 / Xo1 / AXS a great training chain combination – you will attain simply astounding drivetrain lifespan.

Sram NX / GX eagle chains are a huge step down re longevity – ZFC does not recommend these chains at all. I have seen numerous customers who’s NX / GX chain is at 0.5% wear mark within 5 to 10 rides on factory grease. If you have bought an NX / GX chain equipped bike  – great groupset, but swap that chain out asap.

How do I get my Eagle drivetrain running fast?

Option 1:

KMC x12 Eagle – Probably one of the fastest chains ever tested. In same test above, the KMC eagle was stable at 3.5 to 4w for the 13hour test where the sram eagle chain tests had to stop at 2 hours due to being off scale.

However – Machine testing for longevity wasn’t amazing, and real world field testing has been worse, with the kmc eagle chain hitting the 0.5 mark within around 600 to 800 km even with best known lubricants.

Also rather annoyingly – kmc coatings have wax treatments feeling very dry very quickly. Mspeedwax is ok for around 2 hours before feeling very dry indeed, quite a contrast to the still silky smooth riding on sram chains after 8 to 10 hours of training.

So the KMC x12 eagle is likely the fastest option for XC length races (Shimano XTR 12 efficiency result pending), but do not expect to get too many races out of them.

Recommend as a dedicated XC race chain only. ZFC does not recommend for XC Marathon / Enduro length events nor as training chain.

*Note KMC eagle chains are minutely wider than eagle chains, as such eagle master links are not compatible, nor are shimano’s XTR 12 links –  you need to use kmc’s x12 eagle links.

Option 2:

Campagnolo Record 12 speed

Yep that’s right, Campy road chain! Your first thought is probably that’s nuts, will it be strong enough? Yes – aside from axs road, all 12spd chains have very similar dimensions so plate / pin thicknesses etc are nearly identical, as will be the tensile strength of the steel. All bicycle chains must meet industrial standard of 8000n tensile strength –  depending on a few factors such as crank length and chain ring size – let us convert that to conservatively around 6000w plus. If you can put out more that 6000w, then we may need to test what chain is stronger (that’s coming anyway) if not – don’t get caught up on road chain / off road chain – sans manufacturing fault they are all plenty strong enough for any cycling application including e-bike – the main factors that vary are wear rates due to surface hardening / plating treatments and efficiency – there will be small tensile strength differences – but again sans a manufacturing error with your chain resulting in a poor rivet or brittle plate, these differences will only come into play once you get above circa 6000w power output. Yes chains snap – sometimes at high power, sometimes at low power. In all cases it is due to a single weak point from manufacture, not the outright tensile strength the chain should it have been manufactured without fault.

So, having covered that yes a supposedly “road” chain is fine for mtb work, what ZFC can advise with confidence is the Campy record chain will be very fast (test results pending but like shimano / ybn – they are always fast), it is medium hard wearing, and it gets along well with mspeedwax so it is great chain for XC marathon / enduro length events.

Campy Record 12 speed chain dimensions are almost identical to Sram eagle so eagle master links work perfectly, and shifting on eagle drivetrain system has been perfect in field testing.

There is an important caveat to be very aware of however – Record 12spd chains only come in 114 links (Eagle / XTR 12spd chains are 126 links).  For my personal mtb’s (both Eagle AXS drivetrains) – luckily they use exactly 114 links. Larger frames with longer chain stays or if running an oversize pulley wheel system – you may need more. So count how many links your current chain is prior to ordering. An inner link is one link, an outer link is one link. It is faster to count just outer links counting up by 2 at a time. If you are 114 links or less, this is a great option. If your chain is longer than that – bugger. You can of course by two chains and steal links from one to add to other with a second master link, and that second chain will be around to provide extra links for many other Record chains over the years as needed – but that situation will be a bit annoying to start with.

Option 3:

Shimano XTR 12spd.

If you are already on XTR 12 speed – you have no problems. I am awaiting the efficiency test results from CS at this time, however rest assured like all top end shimano chains – it will be either fast or very fast.

The XTR 12 speed chain also tested as very long lasting – the next longest lasting chain behind Sram eagle XX1 / Xo1 /AXS.

Shimano chain coatings do have wax treatments go a bit drier a bit faster, but nowhere near as fast as KMC, they are fine for 4 to 8 hour enduro / XC marathon length. Longer than that – consider a chain swap half way or a refer to some of the longer lasting lubricant options (at a bit of a cost re friction however vs some of the fastest options such as mspeedwax).

If you are on Sram Eagle drive train:

XTR 12 speed chain is still a brilliant option as you have overall the best of many worlds – a fast chain that is also long lasting and gets along well enough with the fastest known chain treatments like mspeedwax / UFO.

But there is a but…….

For Eagle drive train users to consider this option you will need to swap your sram eagle compatible chain ring to a shimano XTR 12spd compatible chain ring.  XTR 12 chains have extended inner link plates and will jump of sram compatible rings.  They do work perfectly with sram pulleys and cassettes –  in fact personally I think the XTR 12spd works better. The extended inner links were designed to provide unparalleled rear shifting performance for shimano system, it seems to improve on sram’s system too. Shimano know how to do shifting – they are often the benchmark for a reason.

Wolf Tooth and Absolute Black make great after market XTR 12 compatible chain rings to fit Sram / Race face cranks etc.

*Note shimano XTR 12 is slightly thinner than eagle chains – I would recommend using Shimano XTR 12 links for popping chain on and off if waxing / for best chain maintenance – it is unlikely the tiny difference would cause an issue running eagle links on xtr 12 chain, however I have not tested as yet.

**I have not had chance to test at time of writing the compatibility of eagle chains on XTR 12 rings, however I would not recommend at this time, due to the much thinner tooth profile on XTR 12 rings for the longer inner plate links, I believe there will be a much greater risk of chain drops running eagle chain on XTR 12 ring.

So, there are no compatibility issues running an XTR 12 chain on eagle cassette, or an eagle chain on a XTR cassette (shimano advise you will have a lower shifting performance vs if you ran XTR chain, ZFC believes this is probably true, but also believes the shift performance will still likely be the same as what you experience normally on an eagle drive train it is simply the xtr 12 chain offers superior shifting) – however at the Chain Ring – Sram / Shimano rings & chains are not cross compatible.

What is Mr Low Friction himself running?

At the time of writing this product info I have one bike set up testing between eagle axs chain, kmc x12 eagle for XC, and campy record for XC marathon, and another set up with a wolf tooth XTR ring on my race face crank / eagle axs drive train and an xtr 12spd chain. I am awaiting final efficiency test results from CS at the time of writing for Record 12spd and XTR 12 efficiency – however I expect campy 12 will be very good, and xtr 12 probably a little better. Based on the exceptional shift performance of xtr 12 chain, and that it comes with 126 links, I will likely soon swap ring on other bike and have both running sram axs wireless drivetrain with aftermarket xtr ring, and each bike with an xtr 12 training chain and another chain for each bike as dedicated race chains.

If swapping your sram ring to an aftermarket Xtr compatible ring and running an xtr chain on your sram drivetrain will freak you out, then refer to previous options re kmc x12 / campy record 12 if saving watts is of interest to thee.

**Remember- watts savings are scalable to load so if a kmc / campy / xtr 12 chain is say 4w faster than eagle chain at 250w, that will be nearly 8w less at 500w, and keep adding nearly 4w gap every 250w load. Mtb events are often riddled with short power climbs and steep ramps. Im not the most powerful rider but I do 400 to 500w a lot in races on the short climbs and ramps and if you think I am going to throw circa 8w away in my chain just to stay matchy matchy….. Not on your life. Mr Low Friction likes to own all his mediocre watts and not waste a single one unnecessarily – I want them all propelling me forwards faster for the same input vs uselessly disappearing into easily avoidable efficiency losses (In fact i’m so passionate about drivetrain efficiency I started an entire business around it as well as the some of the worlds most in depth test projects on chain / lubricant efficiency!)

Summary for MTB 12 speed

  • If you are on shimano XTR 12 – you are sorted – just by XTR 12. If you race the smart way to go is simply have a dedicated race chain and training chain so that you are not racing on same chain that has been hammered away in training. Chains loose efficiency from wear, and the first part to be compromised is the chains low friction coating – this is one of the key reasons behind why pro teams (road and mtb) change to a fresh chain’s after very little use.
  • If you are on Eagle and do not care about watts – just run XX1 / X01 / AXS and enjoy the astounding longevity. If your chain is GX / NX watch that chain wear like a hawk – literally use your chain wear checker after every ride, and transition immediately when it reaches 0.5%, or just change immediately if you do not have a chain wear checker.
  • If you do race and you do care about watts being lost (and why wouldn’t you – you train hard so why throw hard earned watts away with a slow chain) then run XX1 / X01 / AXS chain as training chain, and either;
  • Use KMC eagle for XC length races only – Keep a VERY close eye on chain wear after every race as they do not last long.
  • Use Campagnolo record 12spd chain as your race chain (or one for training and one for racing if you don’t like losing watts in training either). Use eagle master links if waxing or for popping on and off for best maintenance. **Note check chain length required as you only get 114 links.
  • Swap sram chain ring for XTR 12 compatible ring from Wolf Tooth / Absolute black and run XTR 12 chains.

*Note – I have not fully tested yet but at this time I do not recommend running eagle chains on XTR 12 compatible chain rings – the tooth profile for XTR 12 has a much higher chance of chain drop for other 12 speed chains.

For the full data and test wrap of the chain test project refer to that tab on website or click this link here….. 

Finding the best bicycle chain: What over 3,000 hours of testing revealed

Finding the best bicycle chain: What over 3,000 hours of testing revealed