The Taya Onze 111 (UL) chain looks great, but unfortunately its performance isn't as impressive. With the noisy drivetrain, occasional messy shifts and no improvement in weight over a standard Shimano Ultegra train, it's a hard one to recommend.
Taya is a brand I wasn't familiar with before receiving the chain for review, but it turns out it has been around longer than I have (established in 1969) and produces a dizzying array of chains in all the colours you could imagine. From a bit of research it would seem that its cheaper budget end offerings are widely available in high street cycling outlets so I'm not sure how I've missed them.
The Onze 111 UL is at the higher end of the range, marketed as a lightweight (the UL in the name being Ultra Light), and made from a high carbon steel with Taya's patented DHT (Diamond Hard Tech), a hardening process that applies a tougher layer to the outer steel – and in this case a Titanium Nitride gold colour coating too.
Straight out of the box, the chain looks great and is slippery as can be – most new chains are coated with a thin layer of thick grease, this was slick and oily, needing a wipe down to make it easier to handle. Also in the box were two proprietary Sigma quick links and a small saddle-bag-friendly sachet of chain lube.
I decided to fit the chain to my most recent bike as the chainset and rear cassette were relatively new, although a bit of a mix – Ultegra outer chainring, Absolute Black inner, and Miche cassette.
Fitting was as routine as expected, with a slight curveball in the Sigma link. I needed to refer to the little instruction pamphlet in the box, as they were nothing like the standard quick links from the likes of KMC or SRAM. Taya's consist of a sideplate with two pins, and another sideplate with two holes. You need to put both pins in to either open end of the chain to join it, locate one hole over one of the pins then gently bend the chain inwards so that the other pin locates, then pull to engage as with a KMC/SRAM link.
I was somewhat sceptical at first, but it went on with no issues and once locked was virtually indistinguishable from the standard links.
They are single use and the chain has to be broken with a tool to separate it again, but as mentioned you do get a spare Sigma link in the package or you could use a standard quick link.
As it was just a chain swap, I left it at that and went out for a ride. Initially it seemed OK (if a little rattley) but when I got to some steeper inclines and needed the lower gears I found it would randomly slip on the lowest gear, throwing my cadence out and making things harder than they should be – along with the terrible noise that sounds like teeth of the cassette being ripped off.
When I got back, I had the bike up on the stand and reset the indexing from scratch. Next ride, not much difference – same rattley noise, same slipping in the lowest gear.
This time I went further, even checking the derailleur hanger alignment, stripped and cleaned the cage and again, re-indexed. Still no good.
If I'm honest I was a bit perplexed and lived with it for a week or two, just avoiding the lowest sprocket where I could and leaving out the steepest hills on my local routes. Eventually I caved, popped a Shimano Ultegra chain on, checked the indexing again and... bliss. Quiet in action, smooth shifting and no messing about on the 30t either.
Wondering whether it was the odd combination of components, I did try the chain on another bike with a full Ultegra drivetrain and the results were much better: smoother shifting and no slipping in any gear, but still noisy – and this was on lightly worn components. The chain is still on there now performing perfectly well bar the noise, and heavily lubing the chain did quieten it down some but the background noise is still there.
Taya makes big claims too that the Onze will last for 7,000km. I'm not so sure any chain will last that long but to give it its due, I've put 500-600 miles on this one and there are absolutely no signs of wear, even with slipping off the cassette sprocket, and the gold finish is still flawless.
In terms of its cost and weight it's a bit of an oddity. Retailing at £44.99 and weighing in at 268g, it sits squarely in the premium bracket, on par with the Shimano Dura-Ace chain for RRP, but the Dura-Ace is lighter at 243g. To go lighter than Dura-Ace will cost you too: the KMC X11-SL is only 239g but costs a whopping £69, but again KMC offers a full range that are much cheaper. Even a standard Ultegra chain is lighter than the Onze at 260g and at least £10 less.
I would summarise that, paired with brand new matched components and some careful setting up, and if you want a range of colour options (if you can find them), then the Taya might be worth a look – otherwise the industry standards have you covered.
An attractive chain that does an okay job, if somewhat needy on the setup side and noisy on the move
road.cc test report
Make and model: Taya ONZE-111 (UL), 116L, 11 Speed, Ti Gold
Size tested: 1/2 x 5/64x116 links
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
The Onze UL (Ultra-Light) chain from the Taiwanese manufacturer Taya is designed as an upgrade to the standard chain that most bikes arrive with, or as a replacement for a worn chain for those looking to shed a little weight.
From the Taya website:
"With Diamond Hard Tech one more revolutionary technology has been developed.
DHT provides the solidest hardened base with extreme hardness performance and self-lubrication feature.
To balance the durability of chain with other derailleur components is an essential task for derailleur parts makers. DHT hardened treatment does not affect the worn condition of cassettes and chainwheel and that friction-free lubrication helps shield away from the strain and wear on the drivetrain components.
Thanks to the excellent performance in anti-elongation, chain life has greatly increased based on the DHT advanced durability enhancing treatment.
DHT allows TAYA high-end products to compare with the branded chain products in the market with splendid performance in durability."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
The chain has been manufactured with low weight and durability as prime factors, made from high carbon steel and incorporating Taya's patent DHT (Diamond Hard Tech) which it states gives a 25% increase in surface hardness over most mainstream chains and claims to also prolong the chain's life through reduced stretching. The chain is also self-lubricating through porous sintered bushes within the rollers. The side plates are drilled to shave even more weight and in the case of this test chain, also coated in a hard wearingTitanium Nitride gold colouring.
Out of the box the chain looks great and well manufactured.
I found that in two scenarios the performance was variable: on a bike with mixed components it was pretty poor, on a bike with an all-Shimano groupset it was better but not perfect. Front shifting was fine in both cases, but shifting at the rear was never even close to perfect.
With around 500-600 miles on the chain there are no visible signs of wear, and the gold coating is blemish free. Checking with a tool revealed no stretch at all but I wouldn't expect to see any until at least 1,000 miles in, and would expect an average chain to last at least 2,500 miles in normal use, so it would be unfair to score on this point without much more testing – Taya claims a 7,000km lifespan.
We weighed the chain at 268g, versus the average 260g for a Shimano Ultegra chain. It does make you wonder why it's marketed as ultra light, but I would assume that with the higher density steel and coating this chain has, without the non-drilled side plates of the standard version it would be considerably heavier. This weight will vary anyway depending on your setup – I took five links out for my needs which would have shaved a good few grams.
At an RRP of £44.99 it's in a tough market, where a top end Shimano Dura-Ace chain can be had for the same money or less when discounted.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Although it worked as a chain should, I never could get it to run as cleanly as my usual mainstream offerings from Shimano and KMC despite numerous adjustments and two different bikes.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
It did look fantastic on the bike, and Taya's proprietary quick link system 'Sigma', which I was a bit sceptical about at first, did work really well – even if single-use-only meant once on, it was on; you do get two in the package, though, one for first joining and one as a roadside spare.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
None of the miles I put in on the chain were quiet and/or trouble-free. From initial setup and tweaks on the bike stand to running changes while out, I just could not get it to run quietly or shift without an issue somewhere.
Did you enjoy using the product? No
Would you consider buying the product? No
Would you recommend the product to a friend? No
Use this box to explain your score
Despite looking great and promising much, the constant drivetrain noise and occasionally messy shifting drove me to distraction when out on the bike. When I finally gave in and swapped back to a Shimano chain the noise and issues dissipated. I can live with the little extra weight in this case.
About the tester
I usually ride: Boardman AirPro Di2 My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, club rides, sportives