Jim’s Tech Talk
By Jim Langley
Before I introduce my friend Nils and today’s fix-it, I want to give you all even more props for your mirror recommendations and other suggestions for staying safe out on the road. We’ve run back to back Tech Talks on mirrors, here: https://www.roadbikerider.com/tip-prevent-bicycle-crash/ and here: https://www.roadbikerider.com/top-bicycling-mirrors/ and the comments keep coming in.
That’s a huge help to anyone getting into cycling as well as a potential life-saver for riders who are considering trying a mirror for the first time. Thank you.
Garmin Varia Radar
One thing I meant to point out last week is that there were many positive remarks about Garmin’s Varia system. While it’s not something that lets you look behind, it does electronically track what’s behind you on the road and alert you. Many of you said it’s a game-changer. Though most of you mentioned you use a mirror along with it.
My Friend Nils
I met Nils Tikkanen because we both joined the same racing team about 20 years ago. Since then we’ve ridden together in my van (Nils doesn’t drive) and on bikes a lot. Luckily he’s younger than I am so I’ve never had to race against him.
But, on a training ride we got to talking and I put two and two together and realized that in the 1980s I had actually ridden a lot with another Tikkanen, who it turned out was his dad. At that time we were doing centuries and doubles like the Davis Double and the Terrible Two (both famous Northern California epics), which might explain why Nils is so fast!
Nils’ Tight Chain Link
The problem Nils asked for help with was a stiff chain link, also called a tight link. He had installed a derailleur chain and used the pin in the chain to join it, pushing it in with a chain tool. Joining the chain with its pin created a stiff link and he wasn’t sure how to fix it. Note that his chain did not have a separate connecting pin or a “quick” or “master link” to join it.
When the pin is pushed in it also usually pinches the chain link sideplates so tightly together that the link can no longer flex or pivot like all the other links can. And this can turn it into a stiff or tight link.
Stiff, Tight Links Can Cause Skipping and Even a Crash
The problem with stiff links like this is that they won’t usually loosen on their own. Worse, they create a glitch when pedaling because they get hung up going through the derailleur pulleys and over the cogs and chainrings.
If they’re tight enough they might cause skipping (a sudden lurch in the pedaling), which could surprise you, cause you to come out of your pedals and possibly crash. So, I wanted to help Nils fix it ASAP.
The Right Tool
There are ways you can try to loosen or free a stiff, tight link without tools such as by flexing the chain sideways in your hands. But the safest way to do it (to not risk damaging today’s narrower and narrower chains), is with the right type of chain tool.
What you want is a tool that has two positions for the chain. One position is for pressing the pin into the chain during installation. The other position is for freeing, loosening the stiff link.
The tool I like is Park Tool’s CT-5. It’s a durable tool that works well for chain installation and repair and is small enough to take along as a ride-saver https://amzn.to/3BcLprw. With this tool, to free a tight link, you put the tool on the other side of the chain and put the chain on the link loosening position of the tool.
Then, when the tool’s pin is driven into the chain pin just enough, it separates the sideplates, freeing them and fixing the stiff link so that all’s well again.
This is easier to show than to explain so I made a video for Nils and you.
10,144 Daily Rides in a Row
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 cycling streak ended in February 2022 with a total of 10,269 consecutive daily rides (28 years, 1 month and 11 days of never missing a ride). Click to read Jim’s full bio.