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What kind of sorcery are master links?!

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What kind of sorcery are master links?!

Old 11-05-20, 09:43 PM
  #1  
margoC
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What kind of sorcery are master links?!

Back when I actually worked on my bike you used a chain breaker. Easy peezy. Never had a problem.

So I decide to remove the chains on my two bikes. One has a master link. I get it off easy enough and put the whole shebang in a pan of kerosene and clean the drive train. My other bike didn't have a master link but was rusty from sitting so I ran to the shop to get a new one.

I got the special pliers that came with some extra master links I didn't think I would need. Well some how or other i couldn't find one half of the master link on the chain I was cleaning. Not sure how that happened, it was all in the pan, I thought. Maybe I put them on a paper towel that got blown from wind.

No problem, I have all these extras. I literally spent hours trying to put them on. I even watched some YouTube videos. I had 3 types, I figured one would work. I tried to put them together by themselves just to make sure it was possible. I'll be damned if I could get them to spread and lock while on the chain. The pins seemed to be long enough but I couldn't make them go through the plate. Sometimes I could get one to lock but not the other. I decided to try needlenoze pliers which only bent the plate. I almost broke my chain tool getting the pin out.

I finally went old school and put the chain together the old fashioned way. My chain is one link short but everything works great.

In my frantic state I mixed up the master link on the new chain with the selection that came with the tool. Or maybe I dropped it. That happened a lot. I put that chain on the old fashioned way as well.

How are these things supposed to be easier!?! What am I doing wrong? I line up the pins and holes but the link won't spread. Or one pin goes on nice and the other slips off.

After I cleaned up and calmed down I went for a little ride, about 5 miles. Everything worked great, although I'm concerned about the missing link. I'll never be on large/large anyway.

Are there better master links? Should I even care?
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Old 11-05-20, 09:46 PM
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margoC
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And yes I'm using the big hole first and trying to make the link spread and lock. Not sure if I made that clear. I'm probably not using the correct terminology.
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Old 11-05-20, 09:50 PM
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Just wait until you rebuild a hub and can only find 8 balls for the NDS when you are putting it back together.

John
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Old 11-05-20, 10:05 PM
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Are you using the pliers to spread them? The pliers work in two directions- squeezing together and spreading apart.
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Old 11-05-20, 10:47 PM
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Originally Posted by icemilkcoffee View Post
Are you using the pliers to spread them? The pliers work in two directions- squeezing together and spreading apart.
I wasn't having luck using the plyers to spread them apart. Maybe I need better pliers.

I have the links that have one pin one each plate instead of two pins on one plate.

I would rather use a chain tool like God intended. I ordered a park chain cleaning tool so I can keep my chain clean. I used to have one a long time ago.

I don't ride like I did in my younger days, I would be flattering myself to think I'm going to wear something out.

Back in the olden days I rode a lot in all kinds of weather. I routinely cleaned and repacked my wheel hubs. Seemed pretty easy. Now I do my tweaks in the driveway where everything looks like a greasy gray tiny part.
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Old 11-05-20, 10:58 PM
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You kind of rambled over past and never actually stated that you were able to get the links to lock when not on the chain. Assuming that you didn't have any problems with that, master links can vary between manufacturers. Who manufactured your chain, and who manufactured you master links? How many speeds is your bike? Are you sure you got the appropriate speed master links?
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Old 11-05-20, 11:12 PM
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If you're trying to remove a master link on a used chain, try cleaning out the link first. Hose it down with WD-40 to get the dirt out of the nooks and crannies first. Then kink the link sideways so you can push the corners of the link with pliers.

I've done this with SRAM chains for years and it works every time.
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Old 11-05-20, 11:17 PM
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Get the master link on the chain and carefully rotate the chain so the master link is located along the length of chain between the top of the cassette and top of crankset chainring. (You may need to hold the master link together with your fingers while getting the chain into this position to keep it from popping apart) Once in this position, get on the bike, grab the brakes, and stand on the pedals with pressure taking slack out of the chain and pulling the master link pins to the correct position in the plate - the link will easily snap into place with this procedure if it is the correct link for your chain.

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Old 11-06-20, 12:39 AM
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Originally Posted by margoC View Post
I wasn't having luck using the plyers to spread them apart. Maybe I need better pliers.
Just to make sure, you're using the special pliers made just for this purpose, right? Like these here, for example: Chain link pliers
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Old 11-06-20, 12:54 AM
  #10  
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a big help is making a flat U shaped wire to hold the chain in position when you connect and set the master link........

many chains now will not let you push the pin out an reuse.....you have to use a special one time use pin. master links make things much easier. and master link tools are super helpful

beyond that you should nver have a chain length that won't allow large/llarge....... it is not difficult to end up in that gearing.....and if it does not work sudden and unplanned stops will happen
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Old 11-06-20, 01:03 AM
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Originally Posted by skulking View Post
how many speeds is your bike? Are you sure you got the appropriate speed master links?
+1

I have a vague feeling that master links aren’t entirely cross-compatible between brands any old how. Had to abandon a group ride last summer when the chain snapped and the master link wouldn’t hook up. Or the one I had, still in its small ziplock bag, wasn’t labeled right from the supplier.

Last edited by dabac; 11-06-20 at 01:10 AM.
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Old 11-06-20, 03:44 AM
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Originally Posted by dabac View Post
+1

I have a vague feeling that master links aren’t entirely cross-compatible between brands any old how. Had to abandon a group ride last summer when the chain snapped and the master link wouldn’t hook up. Or the one I had, still in its small ziplock bag, wasn’t labeled right from the supplier.
Exactly what I was thinking.... we keep both 571 and 573 links in the shop just for this reason, that 2/10 of a mm makes a difference.....
we never know what gets donated in for 18 & 21 speed bikes
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Old 11-06-20, 06:55 AM
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Your post is long and not clear, but I suspect the problem is user error. I’m not very mechanically inclined, but I have used chains with master links from a couple brands – Sram, Shimano, one or two others - and never had a single issue.

You actually only need the tool to remove a chain with a master link. In that case, you’re only using the tool because you want to preserve the master link, in order to put the chain back on after a cleaning. But you can also remove a chain in the old fashioned way – use a standard chain tool and punch a pin right through. You can do this if you’re going to be replacing the chain.

To install a chain with the master link, you just put on the link, rotate the chain so that the link is on the top run, then apply your brakes, stamp down on the pedal, and the link will lock itself into place. Easy-peasy.

If you’re trying all these things, and still not having success, then you have probably mixed brands between the chain and the master link, or perhaps they are not designed for the same speed - for instance, you might not be able to use a 10 speed master link with an 11 speed chain, even if they are the same brand.
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Old 11-06-20, 07:36 AM
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Like the ball bearing example, you don't want to mix sizes up. Sounds like misplacing half of the link started you down this rat hole.

FWIW, I've been using master links for a while and never needed special pliers. Clean off the link as best you can before disassembly, hold the chain so the link is in the middle of a "U" shape, grab a pair of pliers and arrange them at an angle diagonally across the link, plier faces on the corners where the pins are attached to the link. Squeeze. It should pop right open.
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Old 11-06-20, 07:45 AM
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It's been mentioned, but I'll reiterate that the chain you're using now may not be safe. If it's a peened chain, the pins should not be reinserted. If so, your chain will break soon, probably when accelerating to get through an intersection.
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Old 11-06-20, 07:46 AM
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Do the quick links match the chain? Like , are you trying to use a 10 speed link on a 9 speed chain?
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Old 11-06-20, 07:51 AM
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If you can figure out how to tie your own shoes, connecting a master link is a breeze. be sure to use the correct size master link. it's not complicated, but if you're using a 9 speed chain and a 10 speed master link, the chain will be too wide for the master link and it will never fit. everything in your post sounds like you're using the wrong size. if you want to guarantee that your chain will break mid-ride, go back to pushing a reused pin through the chain with a chain tool. I hope you have a good dentist.

i've been using master links on hundreds of bicycles for over a decade and never needed pliers to re-connect a master link. install the link and push down on the pedal to put some tension on the chain and the master link will just click together.

Last edited by mack_turtle; 11-06-20 at 07:55 AM.
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Old 11-06-20, 07:59 AM
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Originally Posted by 70sSanO View Post
Just wait until you rebuild a hub and can only find 8 balls for the NDS when you are putting it back together.

John
I just took apart a child's bike with 2 balls in one wheel bearing, more ring than bearing
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Old 11-06-20, 08:29 AM
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Originally Posted by squirtdad View Post
a big help is making a flat U shaped wire to hold the chain in position when you connect and set the master link........

many chains now will not let you push the pin out an reuse.....you have to use a special one time use pin. master links make things much easier. and master link tools are super helpful

beyond that you should nver have a chain length that won't allow large/llarge....... it is not difficult to end up in that gearing.....and if it does not work sudden and unplanned stops will happen
I asked the shop about the one time pin. These are some older bikes that have older chains and weren't ridden a lot before they sat in the garage. The chain on the specialized was fine, just a little gunk. I don't know what chains they are, I looked but couldn't tell.

The old mountain bike had too much rust on the chain for me to be comfortable with after I cleaned it. It was time for a new one.

The plier I got from Amazon, it was just called "bike link pliers" and came with an assortment of links.

My suspension is when I opened everything up all the links where in nearby piles and got mixed up. No problem, I should probably use a fresh one right?

It was hard keeping the chain straight so the links would line up. The pliers didn't want to spread, only go in maybe my technique? I didn't think of using the brake and spread the chain like that. I thought the pins should have been further through the side plates they looked flush.

I can go through all my gears just fine. My specialized has a 7 cog cassette, I think the mongoose has 7 as well. The spare links had 8, 9, and 10 on them but one group had no number, just a triangle.

I guess I am missing the part were these things are an improvement. Back when I was a serious rider I simply used a chain tool (and so did the shop I hung out at) and never had a single problem. Not one.

I'm not a roadie anymore but have finally accepted there are other ways to enjoy cycling. I have too many injuries to even consider taking riding a road bike but I've recently dusted off my non-road bikes and now that I've finally gotten used to riding in a position that at first wasn't natural for me I've been riding regularly. I doubt I will ever be able to ride 20 miles at a shot but my 5-10 miles have had an amazing therapeutic effect on my knees and the rest of my body.

I have no plans on riding anything other than mostly smooth surfaces, and the area I live in has a lot of good fun riding sections.

I want to convert the old mongoose hilltopper into something else. I got some great inspiration in that thread.

My point in that long diatribe is that I don't need a lot of performance components to make it work for me. Maybe I can avoid master links, at least for the time being. Maybe all link wrenches aren't the same and mine is crappy. Maybe I need to use a wire to keep the chain in place while I fiddle with it. I have horrible arthritic hands which doesn't make any of this easier.

The rear wheel on my specialized was not properly tensioned and was making tinking noises as I road, plus it was out of true pretty bad. I managed to fix it right up without even a trueing stand, I knew I could improve it but it's a perfectly true wheel now!

So I can true a wheel, fix a flat, and adjust the brakes. We'll see how far that gets me. My original plan was to drop them both off for tune ups but they are all behind a few weeks. I'm back to wrenching on my own bike.

Thanks to all for the help and suggestions. I will return to my master link battle eventually. I'm going to look into some higher quality links, the ones that came with my plyers might not be the best.
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Old 11-06-20, 08:29 AM
  #20  
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Originally Posted by leob1 View Post
Do the quick links match the chain? Like , are you trying to use a 10 speed link on a 9 speed chain?
+1 this.

And you don't really need to use special pliers when you re-join the chain. Just get the master link on the top run of the chain and put some pressure on the pedals and it will slide into place.
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Old 11-06-20, 08:30 AM
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The chain links you're linking and the quick link have to be clean. You need the proper link, some links are very close in size, you need a caliper to show this. If the link is a hair too small it will not close. Even the same speed links from the same manufacturer may be different (KMC). With everything clean and proper I do them with my fingers, squeeze the sides together then diagonal squeeze the long way with the other fingers. Derail the chain first to give yourself slack.
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Old 11-06-20, 09:03 AM
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margoC If the link pliers you purchased are like this one https://smile.amazon.com/Bicycle-Mis...NsaWNrPXRydWU= I can see how getting the included links mixed up can happen as they only appear to be labeled on one side. Very easy to find the right one by just inserting the link halves in the chain and making sure the post groove extrudes far enough for the link to engage. Simple. With your pliers you can practice closing and opening the links by themselves and not installed on the chain.
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Old 11-06-20, 09:11 AM
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Originally Posted by mack_turtle View Post
If you can figure out how to tie your own shoes, connecting a master link is a breeze. be sure to use the correct size master link. it's not complicated, but if you're using a 9 speed chain and a 10 speed master link, the chain will be too wide for the master link and it will never fit. everything in your post sounds like you're using the wrong size. if you want to guarantee that your chain will break mid-ride, go back to pushing a reused pin through the chain with a chain tool. I hope you have a good dentist.

i've been using master links on hundreds of bicycles for over a decade and never needed pliers to re-connect a master link. install the link and push down on the pedal to put some tension on the chain and the master link will just click together.
I did that with 7 and 8 sp chains for years and never had any problems. In my experience, 7 & 8sp chains are much more forgiving than the thin plate 9 and up ones. Nevertheless, Campagnolo doesn't have replacement pins or master links for their 9sp chains IIRC.
For the record, I'm not telling anyone they should reuse their pins. I'm just stating my experience.
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Old 11-06-20, 09:12 AM
  #24  
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Only because you seem to be having issues, these are my suggestions.

Get a chain with a master link that come as a matched set. that doesn't require a tool. Even many that recommend a tool, don't need a tool. Maybe you should find someone demonstrate in person how easy they are to install and remove. No slight on your DIY skill intended here, just that sometimes an in person encounter shows you things a video or reading babble here won't.

I miss the easy peezy days of just using a hammer and punch to remove the pin from my chains. No new fangled chain breakers that were just instruments of the devil.

So far I've used quick links twice, and twice they worked. Once a couple years ago. The other back in my junior high days.
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Old 11-06-20, 09:21 AM
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I don't own a master link tool. never needed one, but I use some sort of master link on all bikes that I have ridden. if you look up "master link without tool" there are a dozen or so creative ways to undo it. installing it does not require a tool either. just use physics by putting tension in the drivetrain to click the link into place. you still have not answered as to whether you are using the correct size link for your chain. the differences are subtle but they matter.
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