Published on August 21st, 2015 | by Scotty

Gear: Shimano’s Ever-CHAINging Nomenclature

With the plethora of “standards” in the modern day bike industry, things can get a bit confusing. Also not helpful is the endless variety of parts ranging from 5 to 11 speed drivetrains, cantilever to hydraulic brakes, and more bottom brackets than anybody knows what to do with. In this article, I’ll be going over the ways in which Shimano names their chains to give you a bit of clarity as well as a basic understanding of chain/drivetrain compatibility.

The two main criteria in selecting a chain are: 1) how many speeds you have, and 2) how “nice” of a chain you want. The first portion of the equation is not quite as malleable as the latter because it requires much more time and money to upgrade or change the number of gears on your bike. However, as chains get better, “better” tends to mean lighter, smoother shifting, and longer lasting. In this regard, Shimano organizes their chains in the same way as their groups, starting from the top and going Dura Ace/XTR, Ultegra/XT/Saint, 105/SLX, and finally Tiagra/Sora.

Shimano’s 8/9 speed chains used the same names for both ROAD and MOUNTAIN.

8/9 Speed Road/Mountain Chains
Dura Ace/XTR/Saint CN-7701
Ultegra/XT/Saint CN-HG93
105/SLX/LX/Deore CN-HG73
Tiagra/Sora/Deore CN-HG53

Shimano’s 10 speed chain line-up is complicated. You will need to discern between a ROAD or MOUNTAIN chain. If it’s a road chain you need, your chain selection will be dependent on whether you are running a double or triple crankset.

10 Speed Road (Double/Directional) Chains
Dura Ace CN-7901
Ultegra CN-6701
105 CN-5701
Tiagra CN-4601
10 Speed Road (Triple) Chains
Dura Ace CN-7801
Ultegra CN-6600
105 CN-5600
10 Speed Mountain (Directional) Chains
XT/Saint CN-HG95
Deore CN-HG54

Shimano first released an 11 speed road bike drivetrain in 2012 (about 3 years before an 11 speed mountain bike drivetrain would arrive), warranting a category of chain all its own.

11 Speed Road Chains
Dura Ace CN-9000
Ultregra CN-6800

Now it’s 2015, and Shimano’s road and mountain groups are both 11 speed. This means that, once again, Shimano is able to use the same chains for both the road and mountain groups.

11 Speed Road/Mountain (HG) Chains
Dura Ace/XTR HG-9000
Ultegra/XT HG-7000
105/SLX HG-6000

For the record, Shimano is not releasing any new standards or renaming for any of their old (8/9/10 speed) chains. So if you need any of the older chains, you can simply purchase the same one you have  before, or refer to the charts above to find the one that you will need. If you are on the new 11 speed goodies, just keep in mind that the chains go as follows: HG600 = 105/SLX, HG700 = Ultegra/XT, and HG900 = Dura Ace/XTR.

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About the Author


is a non-professional, fun-having kind of fellow who likes riding bikes. CX and mountain bikes are where he spends most of his time. If he's not riding, he's surfing a board that he's crafted by hand. He is also passionate about building frames of the steel variety. Scott joined us after completing a thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail.

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