A Useful Chain Link Tip I Learned As an Apprentice 

from Rookie’s keyboard

Hello, friends

As I wrote in the previous post, the other day I spent an afternoon as an apprentice in a bike shop (otherwise I work in a warehouse for the time being.) 

And I wanted to share one more tip that I learned there. 

As I was reconnecting the chain of a client who needed a derailleur replacement, I discovered that the quick link of the chain was too worn and needed immediate replacement. 

It was a Shimano quick-link, but we didn’t have one for that number of speeds. I asked the main mechanic there what to do, and he gave me a SRAM PowerLink. I looked at him and said, “You sure!”. 

With a calm tone (trying not to be too condescending), he explained to me that SRAM PowerLinks work just fine on Shimano chains when the number of speeds match (e.g., 9-speed PL and 9-speed chain).

“Thank you,” I said and started working on the bike, happy that I learned something new. 

Being a bike maniac, I decided to do some research at home and make a post sharing the experience and providing some data. 

I hope you find the information useful.

Matching Width

The width of the quick link should always correspond to that of the chain. If the link is too wide or narrow, it will be difficult to install it, and it won’t be stable.

Never forget that chain width depends on the number of speeds. More speeds require a narrower chain because there are more cogs on the cassette/freewheel fitted within roughly the same space. If the chain doesn’t get progressively thinner, it will rub against the surrounding cogs.

SRAM has power links in different colors indicating the number of gears:

  • Grey = 7 speeds
  • Silver/Nickel = 8 or 11 speeds
  • Gold = 8 or 9 speeds
  • Black = 10 speeds
  • Purple/Rainbow = 12 speeds

SRAM’s PowerLinks (8, 9 speeds) are reusable and easier to remove. 

SRAM’s 10, 11, and 12 links are called PowerLocks instead of PowerLinks and are designed for a single use when originally mounting the chain.

PowerLocks should not be used for routine maintenance of the chain since each opening deforms the quick link and reduces its strength and security.

The first time you install the link, it produces a loud click, but if you continue to re-use the link, you will notice that the click’s volume will drop. That happens due to the removal of material at the contact points.

Quick Link Technical Comparison Chart

12-speedShimano SM-CN910-125.25mmN/ASRAM EAGLE Chain Connector 12-speed Power Link 5.25mm2.2g
11-speedShimano SM-CN9005.62mm2.4gSRAM 11-speed PowerLock5.6mm3g
10-speed10-speed link6.1mmN/ASRAM 10-speed PowerLock5.95mm4g
9-speed9-speed link6.57mmN/ASRAM 9-speed PowerLink6.6mm3g
8-speedShimano UG517.3mmN/ASRAM 8-speed PowerLink7.1mm3g
7-speedShimano UG517.3mmN/ASRAM 8-speed PowerLink7.1mm3g

Some of SRAM’s quick links are slightly narrower than Shimano’s chains.

For that reason, you may experience some stiffness, but it shouldn’t be the end of the world.

Universal Chain Links

KMC and Wippermann (Connex Link) produce universal chainlinks compatible with all 12, 11, 10, 9, and 8-speed chains regardless of brand. (This is what I use on all my bikes.)

Wippermann’s pins are reusable for the life of the chain and so are many KMC models but not all.

The Pros Of Quick Links

The main incentives to use a quick link are:

  • A broken chain can be fixed quite fast. Some riders tape a link to the cable housing of their bike for emergencies.
  • Chain removal for routine maintenance is faster and easier.

If you want to fully clean your chain, it’s necessary to get it off the bike. Without a quick link, you will have to use a chain tool to break and reconnect the chain later. The procedure is slow, dirty, and annoying if you lose a pin. A quick link fixes that.

What Tools?

There are dedicated pliers for removing quick links (e.g., Park Tool MLP-1.2).

Quick-link removal pliers are very thin and have a nose shape that grips the pins of the links securely.

You can use other skinny pliers too. I’ve successfully removed quick links using the Leatherman PS4 Squirt which is part of my EDC (everyday carry) tools.

Tip: If you find yourself on the side of the road, you can slide a shoelace through both sides of the link and pull the ends of the shoelace together.

Don’t Forget That Quick Links Have a Direction

There’s an arrow on the link’s outer plate. When it matches the chain’s movement direction, the link’s orientation is correct.

Skipping Chain?

Unfortunately, sometimes a chain could start “skipping” every time the quick link reaches the rear derailleur. The usual causes are an improperly installed or a super stiff link.

Observe the quick link. If it isn’t fully in, you can do the following procedure to install it:

  • Rotate the cranks until the quick link is in the middle of the chain’s upper portion.
  • Hold the rear brake
  • Press the drive-side crank firmly

If the quick link is stiff, wiggle it until becomes flexible enough.

It’s also possible that the link is the wrong size for your chain.

Until next time, 

– Rookie





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