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A followup to my own question, seeking specific help. I'd like to know if anyone is using a set of "master link pliers" (something like Park's MLP-1) to help them with derailer-free chain work?
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I have an IGH without a derailer or tensioner, so my chain line resembles a fixie / SS setup. The chain has an ok amount of tension, but without a derailer, generating enough slack in the chain to both remove and reattach the power link isn't happening unless I remove the rear wheel. Will a tool like the Park MLP-1 allow me to get the chain off and back on again for regular cleaning without forcing me to remove the rear wheel?

Thanks oodles!

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As a followup to my own question, I got a pair of the pliers shown above, and these do allow me to unlink and relink the PowerLink on my chain without removing the rear wheel. I wouldn't put up an argument about the pliers being overpriced for what they are, but in absolute terms, they were well worth it for me. –  teeber Sep 30 '11 at 6:20
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The MLP-1 will definitely help you with master link disassembly. It's been much more useful for me than simple needlenose pliers. If your chain has enough slack for the SRAM-style masterlink to disengage (only a few mm) you should be able to remove it easily using this tool or a similar one.

I'm doubtful that it will really help you with assembly, because if tension is high it'll be difficult for you to keep the loose ends of the chain lined up in the teeth of the jaws. An alternate technique you might try is only partially wrapping the chain around the top half of the chainring during reinstallation. Once the chain is joined, pedaling forward slowly should be able to pull it the rest of the way onto the chainring. Use caution to avoid binding.

It's pretty much a given that trying to reinstall a chain while it is under tension is going to present more difficulty than not, so the best option might be to look at methods for optimizing rear wheel removal and cleaning the drivetrain while installed on the bicycle.

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My gut says you're right on this one. I think I'm going to be investigating making an adjustment to my eccentric bottom bracket and/or some half-links, and/or just getting a new chain and leaving one more link in place! –  teeber Sep 14 '11 at 3:20
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If you're looking for a way to get the chain off without loosening the wheel then this won't help you. This tool require there to be enough slack in the chain to pull two links together. I'd say the links move about 5mm in order to break the link. I would recommend having this much slack in the chain normally.

What you want is a 3 piece master link that uses a c-clip to hold it together. These don't require any slack in the chain to disassemble. They seem to be more common for 1/8" chains though.

Example of a 3-piece master link

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Thanks for the diagram. I indeed did get one of these "clip" style links from KMC. I'm guessing that right in line with your 1/8" observation, it's also targeted at a similar audience -- it's supposedly a 3/32" part, but the side plates are awfully thick compared to the rest of my chain. It'd work in a pinch, though. –  teeber Sep 14 '11 at 3:18
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First off... no I have not used the tool nor do I have a single speed/igh set up. I did look around some fixie boards and a lot of riders are using various brands of master links. Nobody admitted using something like the MLP-1, but that could just be attitude.

So as one who does use a master link... I could see where it would be useful if you chain is a bit tight or you want to eliminate that one extra link.

Only issue I would see if you have the chain a bit too tight which might lead to faster wearing (i.e. stretching) and so you'd have to replace it sooner.

In short if you need the extra leverage then it's looks like a good purchase.

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Close as I can tell that tool helps you take apart the master link (if a SRAM style, at least), but does not really aid in assembly. I've seen images of a different tool, a sort of vice, that gives you some slack for both disassembly and assembly (by grabbing the links adjacent to the master link or taken-apart standard link and holding them in alignment) that I would think would be a more useful tool. But I don't offhand know where to get one.

The SRAM style master link can be disassembled with a pair of pliers if you hold your mouth (and the pliers) right. The trick is to catch one plate with one jaw and the other plate with the other jaw, holding the pliers at an angle. Works best with needle-nose pliers, but can work with regular ones.

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