Jim’s Tech Talk
By Jim Langley
One of the best technical developments recently has been that most chain companies are now providing special connecting links. They’ve become known as “quick links.” That’s because they can be connected by hand. Which makes them quick and easy compared to the days of old when the only way to install or repair a chain was by pushing out and driving back in a tight-fitting pin with a chain tool.
That job – still necessary on chains without quick links – requires the right tool (a quality tool, too). And, it isn’t that easy to accomplish. If it goes wrong, you’re often left with a stiff link causing an annoying skip every pedal stroke – or worse, a broken chain down the road.
Tips: If you have a chain without a quick link, you can get one for it. Just make sure the link matches your chain type, i.e. 8-, 9-, 10-, 11-speed. I recommend carrying a spare, too, because it’s the easy way to fix a broken chain on the road.
Today, Shimano has their Quick Link; SRAM their Powerlock and Powerlink; Wipperman has their Connex Link; and KMC’s is called the Missing Link (photo).
To ensure compatibility, it’s best to read the manufacturer’s recommendations for the model of chain you have and also the quick link maker’s. Otherwise, you might end up with pedaling or shifting glitches like that stiff link from pushing a pin in wrong with the chain tool I mentioned.
Shimano, SRAM and KMC quick links are designed for single use. Once installed, if you open the link to remove and clean the chain, for example, you should install a brand new quick link. That’s because the act of locking these quick links removes material weakening them. The locking mechanism is essentially a press fit between mating parts.
Wipperman’s Connex Link is unique in that it’s designed to be used repeatedly. Instead of a press fit, the Connex has a cam lock that holds the link closed simply from pedaling pressure. It cannot come free on its own. It’s a great choice if you like to remove chains for cleaning: https://www.cantitoeroad.com/b-Connex-Link-b-_c_48.html.
For installing all types of quick links, it’s just a matter of lining up the two halves and assembling them. But be sure to read and follow the quick link instructions. Some are directional and only work properly when installed the right way.
Tip: To make quick link installation easy, lift the chain off the chainring and rest it on the frame. If you don’t do this, the chain will be under tension from the rear derailleur and the ends will tend to pull away from you making it difficult to line up the quick link’s two sides.
For all quick links, after you’ve assembled them on the chain loosely, they must be locked. Locking means getting the quick link’s two pins to snap into their fully closed position, which ensures it cannot open.
Wipperman’s Connex link locks as soon as the chain tension pulls on it. Its pins slide into place without any extra force. To lock other types, you can push forcefully forward on the pedal. You’ll feel the pins find home and might hear it, too. But, check visually to be sure the pins are seated correctly all the way into their pockets.
Quick Link Tools
You don’t need fancy tools to install and open quick links. Wipperman’s can be installed and opened by hand. And, with pliers you probably already have in your toolkit, it’s not that difficult to open press-fit locking quick links. In the photo, notice how I have the jaws positioned so that by squeezing the pliers the link pins will move toward each other opening the link. You can then remove the link by hand.
Yet, while pliers work in a pinch (pun intended), it does take a little skill to use them. And it is possible to pinch yourself if the link is stuck and the pliers slip. Likewise, pushing forcefully on the pedal to lock a link can result in miscues, too, particularly if you didn’t quite assemble the link correctly.
Which is where proper quick link tools come in. They are all types of pliers. Most have thin jaws to fit in between the link sideplates and press on the chain rollers. Using these tools places the force exactly where it’s needed and because you’re looking at the link using the tools, you’re more likely to notice if a link is assembled wrong when you go to lock it.
KMC makes removal and installation pliers – two separate tools that both work by squeezing the handles. One compresses to open/remove links: https://amzn.to/36a1kHB. The other spreads the links to close/lock them: https://amzn.to/2rDM2f3. While these tools work well, it does mean having to have two tools.
Park Tool’s MLP 1.2 Chain Plier https://amzn.to/2ZxQEQB both opens and locks quick links. To open, the tool’s handles are squeezed. To lock links, the handles are spread.
I happened upon an unusual quick link tool design from Shimano. On theirs, there is a third jaw, which allows squeezing the handles to both open and lock links.
See the photos below. Note: this is an expensive chain tool: https://amzn.to/2F6sPpC.
I’m sharing the pics because it wasn’t obvious to me at first how the third jaw was placed to lock the link. It’s too far away to fit inside the quick link. So you simply place it on another link. Clever.
There are many more quick link tools available on Amazon. The ones I’ve tried have not performed as well as the brand name models I’m pointing out here. If you’ve found one you’ve used and recommend, please comment. Thanks!
Ride total: 9,508
Jim Langley is RBR’s Technical Editor. He has been a pro mechanic and cycling writer for more than 40 years. He’s the author of Your Home Bicycle Workshop in the RBR eBookstore. Check out his “cycling aficionado” website at http://www.jimlangley.net, his Q&A blog and updates at Twitter. Jim’s streak of consecutive cycling days has reached more than 8,000. Click to read Jim’s full bio.