What’S The Difference Between A 420 And 428 Chain

Motorcycle chains play a pivotal role in the transmission of power from the engine to the rear wheel, influencing both the performance and the efficiency of the ride. These chains come in various sizes and styles, each tailored to specific types of motorcycles and riding conditions. Choosing the right chain is not just about compatibility; it’s about maximizing your motorcycle’s potential.

The primary difference between a 420 and a 428 chain lies in their size and application. A 420 chain is typically found on smaller, lighter motorcycles and offers a balance between flexibility and strength. In contrast, a 428 chain is slightly larger, providing increased durability and strength, making it suitable for heavier bikes and more demanding riding conditions.

While both chains serve the same fundamental purpose, the nuances in their dimensions, strength, and intended use cases can significantly impact a motorcycle’s performance. For riders looking to make informed decisions about their equipment, understanding these differences is key to optimizing their machine’s efficiency and longevity.

The material differences between a 420 and 428 chain

Chain Basics


The core components of motorcycle chains are links, rollers, and pins. Each part plays a crucial role in the chain’s functionality and durability.


The chain link is the fundamental unit of a motorcycle chain, consisting of inner and outer plates that hold the rolling elements together. It facilitates the smooth operation of the chain as it wraps around the motorcycle’s sprockets.


Rollers sit between the inner plates of each link and rotate around the pin. Their primary function is to reduce friction as the chain moves over the sprocket, ensuring efficient power transmission from the engine to the rear wheel.


Pins pass through the rollers and both the inner and outer plates of the links, holding the chain together. They are designed to withstand the force transmitted through the chain during operation.


Motorcycle chains can be categorized into standard, O-Ring, and X-Ring types, each offering different benefits and suited to specific applications.


Standard chains are the simplest type, without any special seals. They are typically lighter and less expensive but require more maintenance and are less durable than their sealed counterparts.

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O-Ring chains feature O-shaped seals between the inner and outer link plates. These seals retain grease within the links and keep out dirt and water, significantly extending the chain’s lifespan and reducing maintenance needs.


X-Ring chains are an evolution of O-Ring types, with X-shaped seals that offer less friction and longer wear life. They provide the best performance in terms of durability and maintenance intervals.

420 Chains


420 chains are a popular choice for smaller motorcycles and off-road vehicles, characterized by their specific dimensions, weight, and application scenarios.


The 420 chain has a pitch of 1/2 inch and a roller width of 1/4 inch, making it suitable for bikes with lower power outputs.


Being lighter, they are ideal for vehicles where reducing weight is crucial for performance.


They are commonly used in smaller motorcycles, dirt bikes, and some scooters, where their size matches the lower torque requirements.



The primary advantage of a 420 chain is its lightweight design, enhancing the overall performance of lightweight motorcycles by reducing the rotational mass.


Their smaller size grants flexibility, allowing for smoother operation in tight sprocket areas, which is particularly beneficial for off-road motorcycles navigating through challenging terrains.



The main limitation of 420 chains is their lower tensile strength, making them less suitable for high-power motorcycles.


They also tend to have a shorter lifespan compared to heavier-duty chains, requiring more frequent replacement.

428 Chains


428 chains are slightly larger and stronger than 420 chains, designed for mid-range motorcycles and certain off-road vehicles.


With a pitch of 1/2 inch and a roller width of 5/16 inch, the 428 chain offers a balance between strength and weight.


They are heavier than 420 chains, which contributes to their increased strength and durability but can impact the vehicle’s performance.


428 chains are typically found on larger dirt bikes, street motorcycles, and ATVs where a balance between durability and performance is necessary.



The most significant advantage of 428 chains is their durability, capable of withstanding the higher torque and power outputs of more robust motorcycles.


Their strength makes them a reliable choice for riders looking for a chain that can handle aggressive riding styles and challenging conditions.



The increased weight of 428 chains can slightly reduce the performance of the motorcycle by adding to the rotational mass.

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While still versatile, they offer less flexibility than 420 chains, which can affect their performance in very tight sprocket configurations or extremely technical off-road situations.

The size differences between a 420 and 428 chain

Key Differences

Size Comparison

When comparing 420 and 428 chains, the primary distinctions lie in their pitch and width. These dimensions directly influence the chain’s compatibility with different motorcycles and their performance characteristics.

Pitch and Width

  • The pitch of both chains is 1/2 inch, but the width is where they diverge. The 420 chain has a narrower width of 1/4 inch, whereas the 428 chain is slightly wider at 5/16 inch. This difference may seem minor, but it significantly impacts the chain’s strength and the types of motorcycles it can support.



  • While the speed capability of a motorcycle chain might not directly affect the bike’s top speed, it does influence how smoothly power is transmitted. 428 chains, being slightly heavier and stronger, can handle more power without stretching as quickly as 420 chains.


  • Lifespan is another critical factor. The 428’s increased durability means it generally has a longer lifespan than the 420 chain, which can wear out faster under the same conditions due to its lighter construction.



  • The choice between a 420 and 428 chain also depends on the sprocket size. 428 chains require sprockets with a wider groove to accommodate the chain’s larger width.


  • Typically, lighter bikes and small-capacity engines pair well with 420 chains, while mid-range motorcycles and those designed for heavier-duty use are better suited to 428 chains.

Choosing the Right Chain

Selecting the proper chain for your motorcycle involves considering several factors, including motorcycle type, riding style, and maintenance commitment.

Factors to Consider

Motorcycle Type

  • The motorcycle’s power output and design dictate the chain’s required strength and durability.

Riding Style

  • Aggressive riding or frequent off-road use demands a chain built to withstand higher levels of stress and wear.

Maintenance Commitment

  • If regular maintenance is not feasible, opting for a chain with higher durability and lower maintenance needs, like the 428, might be preferable.


For Light Bikes

  • 420 chains are ideal for light bikes used in less demanding conditions, offering sufficient strength while minimizing weight.

For Heavy-Duty Use

  • 428 chains are recommended for bikes used in heavy-duty applications, where their added strength and durability can handle the increased load.

Maintenance Tips

Regular maintenance is crucial for extending the life of your motorcycle chain, whether it’s a 420 or 428. Here are some essential tips for keeping your chain in top condition.

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Regular Cleaning

  • Dirt and grime build-up can significantly shorten a chain’s lifespan. Regular cleaning, using a gentle degreaser and a soft brush, can prevent this.


  • After cleaning, thoroughly lubricate the chain with a product specifically designed for motorcycle chains. This reduces friction and wear, protecting against rust.


  • Regular inspection for wear and tear, such as stretched links or damaged rollers, is vital. Early detection of issues can prevent more serious damage to the motorcycle’s drivetrain.

Steps for Effective Chain Maintenance

  1. Clean the chain with a dedicated motorcycle chain cleaner.
  2. Rinse thoroughly and let it dry.
  3. Apply lubricant evenly across the entire length of the chain.
  4. Wipe off any excess lubricant to prevent attracting dirt.
  5. Inspect the chain for any signs of damage or excessive wear.
The uses of 420 and 428 chains

Frequently Asked Questions

What is chain pitch?

Chain pitch refers to the distance between the pins in a chain. It’s a critical dimension that affects the compatibility of the chain with the motorcycle’s sprockets. The correct pitch ensures smooth engagement and transmission efficiency, reducing wear on both the chain and the sprockets.

Can I interchange a 420 and 428 chain?

While a 420 and 428 chain may look similar, they are not interchangeable due to their differences in pitch and width. Using the wrong chain can lead to increased wear, potential damage to the bike, and even safety hazards. Always choose a chain that matches your bike’s specifications.

How often should I replace my motorcycle chain?

The lifespan of a motorcycle chain depends on various factors, including the type of chain, riding conditions, and maintenance habits. Generally, a well-maintained chain should last between 15,000 to 20,000 miles. Regular inspections can help identify when a replacement is necessary.

How can I extend the life of my motorcycle chain?

Regular cleaning and lubrication are key to extending the life of your motorcycle chain. Remove dirt and grime that can wear down the chain and sprockets, and apply a quality lubricant to reduce friction. Also, ensure that your chain is properly tensioned to avoid excessive wear.


The choice between a 420 and a 428 chain might seem minor, but it’s a decision that can have a profound impact on the performance and durability of your motorcycle. By understanding the specific features, benefits, and limitations of each type, riders can make informed decisions that enhance their riding experience and safeguard their investment.

Ultimately, the best choice depends on your motorcycle’s requirements and your personal riding style. Whether you prioritize flexibility and lightness or durability and strength, selecting the right chain is a crucial step in tuning your motorcycle for optimal performance. Regular maintenance and care remain essential, regardless of the chain type, ensuring that your ride remains smooth and reliable mile after mile.

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