Jim’s Tech Talk
by Jim Langley
There were so many great tips in the comments about last week’s Tech Talk on using chain quick links, we’re sharing some of the best ones here with some photos. And, offering another tip for quick links I think you’ll be able to put to good use.
Read part 1 and the Comments
First, if you missed part 1 and/or don’t know what a quick link is or why you’d want one, you can catch up here: https://www.roadbikerider.com/bike-chain-quick-links-guide/. Also, the comments which you’ll find at the bottom of the story are well worth reading. For example, reader Charlie Elsey provided a link to KMC’s online chart showing which of their quick links are reusable. Great resource, Charlie, thanks!
On Reusing Quick Links
And, reusing quick links is a bit controversial in that the makers say that some models are not to be reused, while roadies often reuse them anyway. I wrote more about this issue in a previous Tech Talk here. My advice is to figure out exactly what quick link you have and whether or not the manufacturer says it’s okay to reuse it. If not, then don’t risk it.
Chain Holder Tools
I mentioned that the easy way to install and remove quick links is to first lift the chain off the chainring. This creates slack in the chain.
Readers, Walt, John W. Willis, Bob and Bryan prefer to use simple home made tools for this. The advantage is not having to handle the chain as much as when you lift it off and put it back on the chainring.
Walt explained, “When removing or installing a quick/master link, I have found a way to work on the chain which, for me, is easier than just removing the chain from the chainring. I made a simple tool by taking a 6 inch piece of an old round spoke and bending about 1/2 inch of each end slightly more than 90 degrees to form hooks on each end. I then pull the chain to get some slack and hook each end of the tool into the chain on each side of the link to be worked on. This leaves the master link or the two free ends of the chain loose (without tension) and easy to work on.”
And, John W. Willis wrote, “A simple, large paper clip can be unfolded and used in the same way to provide slack and allow the ends of the chain to be free of tension while working to reconnect them with a pin or a quick link.”
The photos show my version of Walt’s chain holder. Like him, I made it out of a spoke. I cut it to length with diagonal cutters and bent hooks on the end with needle nose pliers. John’s paper clip tool could be made by hand so it’s even simpler.
No-tools Quick Link Opening
A roadie named Richard offered a cool way to open quick links without bicycle tools. He explained, “A brilliantly simple way to remove a quick link is with a cable or even a shoelace. Thread it through the side plates so that it goes around the pins at either end of the link, cross the ends on the opposite side of the chain and pull parallel to the chain.”
I’ve heard this trick before but forgot all about it until Richard reminded me. I have never tried it, so I gave it a go. I only had a pretty oversize shoe lace on which the rolled ends would not fit into the link. So, I smashed one end flat with a rock until it fit.
That made it easy to pull the lace around the link. Then by tying and tightening a knot the link should open. But only if you follow Richard’s advice and pull parallel to the chain. At first, I wasn’t aligned that way – even though I thought I had it right – and pulling harder and harder did nothing. Once I got the lace ends pulling parallel, it opened easily.
You can see from the photo that you could make do with a much shorter shoelace, which would easily fit in your seatbag for on the road use.
What about Campagnolo?
Reader Roy Bloomfield asked the great question, “What is your reason for not mentioning Campagnolo chains?”
I replied, Roy, it’s because Campagnolo has not provided quick links with their chains yet. However, this morning I learned that Wippermann is now offering a Campagnolo-compatible 12-speed chain that has a Wippermann Connex link. So, that’s a way to add a quick-link to Campy’s 12-speed chain. I heard that this new chain and link won’t be available until spring. In case you’re running one, Wippermann already has 11-sp Campy-compatible chains and Connex quick links. Here’s a link to those: https://www.cantitoeroad.com/Connex-11s0-Chain-_p_525.html.
Fellow Campy rider, Kerry Irons then chimed in that he has been using KMC quick links with Campy Chorus 11s chains for the past 45,000 miles with zero issues.
Meanwhile, Roy did some research and wrote back that he read that SRAM makes a quick link that works well on the Campy 12-speed drivetrain.
I hope this is helpful for those of you with Campagnolo components. Maybe at some point Campagnolo will join the other major makers and come out with their own quick link.
One More Quick Link Tip
Since some quick links are not designed to be reused, I save them for use as chain-sizing tools. I keep a used 9-, 10- and 11-speed quick link in a little container in my toolbox for this purpose.
How this works is, when I’m setting up a new bike drivetrain with a new chain, I don’t know for certain what the correct length the chain should be until I try it out (new chains come with extra links from the factory). With my bike-fitting quick links, I install the new chain temporarily to determine exactly how many links to remove. That way, I will never “cut” a new chain too short.
To size a chain, I start with it at full length out of the box. On some makes/models, it’s necessary to remove one outer-plate half link so that the quick link can be inserted. This requires having an open inner-plate half link on both ends of the chain (you can call outers and inners just “links,” but technically, each individual chain link is comprised of two half links).
Once the new chain is installed with the used quick link, I can shift the bike. And, I do that to make sure the chain is the right length to BOTH: 1) be able to smoothly make the shift to the big/big cog/chainring combination (both up onto it and down off it); and 2) have no slack or rear derailleur pulley cage rub when it’s on the small/small combination. Usually, there’s slack in the new chain, and with it on the bike and shiftable like this – thanks to the quick link too – you can remove a link at a time until the length is perfect.
Having the chain connected and shiftable with the used quick link this way makes sizing easier than trying to do it other ways. Be sure though to remove the used quick link when you have the chain the right length and insert a new one.
Thanks everyone for the comments and great quick link tips!
Ride total: 9,513
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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.