Join Date: Apr 2006
Location: Gainesville/Tampa, FL
Bikes: Trek 1000, two mtbs and working on a fixie for commuting.
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Yes you can. As far as my experience goes, you can go add two links or subtract two links (4 half links) and still be fine and shiftable. However, optimal smoothness in shifting usually is best at a certain number. Also, there is less leeway in road bikes for some reason.
As for the problem of the pin, go buy a Wipperman Connex or buy new master pins. Reusing an old pin is not safe and will pop out in the worst conditions, like when you shift or when you stand up and pedal. Experienced riders can get away with a foot slip and it will be a face plant for non experienced riders. And don't forget the loss of the RD.