KMC Z1x 1/18th INOX CHAIN
Long Term 3,000 Mile Test
KMC Z1X is a beefy stainless steel model designed specifically with the rigours of track racing in mind. It’s a brilliant option for one-cog disciples of a broader church, hub gears too but not bikes on strict, calorie controlled diets.
So let’s recap. The Z1X is a portly stainless model, 112 links long and with a magic link option (I’d risk that on a single-speed freewheel but not on a fixer, thanks). Then of course, there’s “no drop” technology, which is basically a clever way of saying the inner plates are elevated slightly for a more precise, thus quieter connection with ring and sprockets.
Contrary to misconception, fixed chains are under more strain and therefore wear faster than derailleur types. I have run our two samples in parallel, one between a CNC machined straight cut titanium and CNC machined stainless steel sprockets (double hub); the other paired with budget conscious, run of the mill cro-moly.
Track chains will run amicably with narrower 3/32 road ring and sprockets but I wouldn’t be fitting anything of this calibre, or might, to a hack with bargain basement bevelled sprockets -I ’ve even known cheaper 3/32 chain-rings to fold under the efforts generated.
Somewhat predictably, the first was a much sweeter marriage, seemingly channelling every bit of rider effort into forward motion with total serenity.
Under load, say when climbing, or track standing, that additional heft really inspires confidence. The same is true when holding back on the cranks to scrub-off speed on icy bends. Not that the experience was too much of a come down with less exotic rings/sprockets-save for some additional noise.
3,000 all weather miles on my cyclo-cross inspired fixer build have revealed some minor limitations. Firstly, while generally impervious to the elements, the pins will turn orange and quite stiff when subjected to wet, salty roads. Lubes obviously play a part.
Stodgy wet/ceramics tended to stay put but lighter ISO/PTFE preps showed a tendency to migrate from the rollers, resulting in that tell-tale tinkling after 85 winter miles. Put into context; with nickel plated models, I can typically get 200 miles plus from a single application of the same lube.
Aside from occasional tensioning and cleaning to test new lubes, after extensive neglect, the chain checker only reads 5, which is pretty impressive given the environments ours have been serving in.
Bottom line; depends on what you want. Half link models are a better bet for addressing chain line/tension problems on fixer conversions and there are much lighter (and cheaper) options if shaving grams is high up your list. Those wanting a super-refined and bomb-proof chain for their fixer or single speed won’t be disappointed.
Verdict 4/5 stars. Refined and extremely reliable chain for track and winter duties; Not impervious to rust or my first choice for bikes on calorie controlled diets though.
PUBLISHED APRIL 2016
READ MICHAEL'S ADVICE ON CHAIN CARE AND REPLACEMENT