Wippermann has been manufacturing chains for more than a century for all types of applications across different industries. Being a specialized chain manufacturer, the Wippermann brand name is closely associated with premium quality chains. My guess is most local cyclists will not be familiar with this since local bicycle chain market has been dominated by Shimano, SRAM and KMC as far as I can recall.
Recently, the Wippermann Connex chains were made available on local shore and sure is a welcome addition to a component that most would consider boring. The Connex not only give more choices to the consumers in terms of brand name, it also offers a variety of interesting chains that were never before available. For the first time, local bikers can have a choice of chains that comes in fanciful colours such as blue and red. You can even customize the colour through special order. And if you are feeling rich after getting your bonus, Connex has a titanium chain that is available at a whopping US$300.
First thing I realized when I first gotten the Connex 909 is that the chain does not come in a sealed packaging and is also without a heavy coating of grease, unlike its other major competitors. This clearly illustrates Wippermann’s confidence level on the rust proof properties of their chains.
The Connex 909 is one of the more basic models in the Connex range. Its hardened 6.5mm XHB pins ensure quiet operation with no sprocket rub on the narrow 9 speed cogsets. Chamfers on the outer link plates ensure smooth and fast shifts. Last but not least, the gold brass coating prevents corrosion and adds an ultimate touch of class.
All Connex chains come with the proprietary ConneX Link, which is similar to the more familiar PowerLink that are found on SRAM chains. The ConneX Link is essentially a tool-less quick release system that allow users to break the chain as often as they want for cleaning without weakening the chain. Fixing the chain via the Connex Link is straight forward and simple. However, do take note of the orientation of the link. The plates are asymmetrical and the user has to ensure that the more rounded side should brush against the cogset (Refer to the diagram, you can see the top side is more rounded than the bottom one). If the wrong side is used, it will cause shifting problems and the chain to skip.
Being a loyal user of Shimano chains, I must say that the Connex surprised me from day one. I noticed that the shifting is faster and crispier with the Connex installed. In fact the shifting was so smooth that it can almost be described as telepathic. The chain shifts at almost the same instance as when I tapped on the shifters.
After 500km on the chain, going through mud and rain, the Connex still shifts as fast, and operate as quietly with proper maintenance. While I read of many chain breakage reports on the Wipperman over the net, I did not face any problems with mine throughout the review period. Actually, the same goes for Shimano chains. There seem to be many adverse reports on them, but most local riders do not have problems with them.
In Wippermann’s website, there is a page that shows the result of an independent bicycle chain test done by Tour Magazine – Germany. In the result, it was shown that the Connex 9X1 has the highest breaking load among the variety of chains tested. On the average, all Connex chains have a breaking load of more than 10,000 Newtons when installed properly.
Dismantling the ConneX Link is suppose to be a tool-less process, but the link just could not be broken link with my bare hands. Got a pair of pliers, and broke the link with a light squeeze. Spend 10 minutes on my first try, but once you get the hang of things, subsequent attempts should take you less than a minute. Now that the chain can be taken off my bike as often as I wish, I can degrease the chain after every ride if I choose to. This translates to a cleaner drivetrain and longer usage life. Putting the link back is much easier. Simply fit the pins into the grooves of the other link plate and give the chain a pull, the link should slip into place nicely.
Is it worth it
With Shimano and SRAM chains selling in the region of $25-$50, it is really hard to convince oneself to fork out $65 for a basic Connex chain. But if you do, you can look forward to a quiet and buttery smooth shifting experience in the future. The variety of colours also serves as an added incentive for those who seek perfect colour co-ordination on their steel steed.
We could not put more mileage on the chain during our short review period and could not comment much on the long term durability of the chain.