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I need to remove the chain on my internal-hub cruiser to clean it (i.e., no rear or front deraileur), and I'd rather not remove my back wheel if I can avoid that. What do I look for to find the master link?

Edit: Unfortunately, there's no differently-colored pin, and running my fingertips over the chain (both sides) didn't help. Do I have a one-piece chain?

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Since posting this question, I've gotten a better chain tool. The tool I had before was a "chain-breaker" tool included with a multitool. Once I did it a few times, I found that breaking a chain and later putting it together isn't that hard; even a little bit of experience counts for a lot! –  Neil Fein Feb 26 '11 at 20:47
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2 Answers

up vote 11 down vote accepted

Usually when I talk about or hear someone use the term 'Master Link' they mean something like this: master links

They are links that can be seperated without the use of a specialized chain tool to push a pin through the rollers. There are others besides those shown, one of the more common being an SRAM Power Link which looks like this:

alt text

If you don't have a link like those that is visibly different what you most likely have is a Shimano style HG or IG chain that requires the use of a chain tool to remove a pin from the roller. Frequently the pins will have a little indentation where the chain tool seats. When you break the chain with a chain tool, you normally reassemble it with a replacement pin that looks like this:

alt text

After the chain is back together you break off the insertion portion of the pin with a pair of pliers.

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Assuming I don't have a masterlink, I assume I'd need to use a chain tool. (One of my multitools has one, I think.) Does pushing a pin out weaken the chain, or am I worried over nothing? –  Neil Fein Oct 19 '10 at 4:45
    
No - but usually you need a replacement pin. It is almost impossible to force the old pin back into the roller. If it's a Shimano chain, your LBS will have replacement pins. You will need to know if the chain is marked IG, HG or some other marking. –  Gary.Ray Oct 19 '10 at 4:50
    
Wha? Impossible to push pin back in? They've always went back in very easily for me. –  dotjoe Oct 22 '10 at 20:13
    
@Gary Ray: (1) are there master links for 1/8 inch chains such as CN-NX10? (2) Do all bicycle replacement pins fit to 1/8 inch chains and 3/32 inch chains? –  user652 Feb 26 '11 at 3:28
    
@Neil Fein: I think Gary was not one of the clearest. If you take a pin out of the chain with a multitool and then later try to put it back, there is always a danger that you will damage the chain. I did it with Nexus CN-NX10 chain and the corners of the hole became a bit curly (the chain still works after a year so not sure whether the danger is big). I think the danger to damage the chain is minimized with the rounded corners in the replacement pins. –  user652 Feb 26 '11 at 3:33
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Usually the pin through the link is a different colour, for example black instead of the more usual brass.

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Unfortunately, that isn't the case. I'll modify my question. –  Neil Fein Oct 19 '10 at 3:57
    
it sounds like what you are describing is a replacement pin used with a Shimano HG or IG chain, not a master link. –  Gary.Ray Oct 19 '10 at 4:33
    
you may also be describing a chain with a master pin designed to be pushed most of the way out, and then after breaking the chain, pushed back in from the other side. These seem to be rare to me; I haven't seen one in a while. –  Gary.Ray Oct 19 '10 at 4:57
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