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Masterlink Tech

By Brad Quartuccio

Masterlinks are found in some chains and allow you to break and remove the chain from the bicycle without the use of a chain tool. Additionally, they allow a chain to be adjusted in length without having to push a chain pin back in place, which in some cases can considerably weaken the chain. Until fairly recently the masterlink had fallen out of favor both due to incompatibility with derailleur systems and a reputation for failure. With the introduction of the SRAM Powerlink and other such sliding masterlink systems they’ve largely come back to life in a stronger, more easily used form.

Traditional masterlinks still in wide use on ½” width chains are made up of three pieces—an outer plate with two notched chain pins attached, a matching “floating” outer plate that slips over the pins, and a spring clip to hold it all in place. These require some sort of pliers or really strong fingernails to install and remove, and have been known to fail on occasion, though the current crop seems to work well enough. By nature of their width they are incompatible with derailleur systems so don’t even bother. Some fairly rare versions use two small threaded nuts rather than a spring clip to hold the masterlink together but chances are you’ll never encounter a bicycle chain like this.