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I just ordered a new KMC X10SL Ti 10 Speed chain for my bike. And I am wondering if I should use a master link or not.

In the past I have had much trouble with them. I used to use them on my 9 speed mountain bike, and the master link would fall of often. It turned out that how the suspension compressed it pushed the chain backwards and the master link would pop out.

Now I'm changing the chain on my road bike for the first time. It's 10 speed. And it doesn't have any suspension. Should I use a master link, or not?

My bike is a Scott CR1, it's their entry line carbon bike. I ride it about 150mi/week. A am concerned that using a master link on a chain like the one I ordered will be a problem because it may wear faster then the rest of the chain. Is this true? Or am I just paranoid?

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    The (relatively) new SRAM master link ("Power Link") is quite reliable -- I've not had any trouble with them and I've heard no reports of trouble. I believe some other chain manufacturers have copied the design (or simply bought it). I don't know if anyone is using a different style that is less reliable. Shimano sticks with their special pins. – Daniel R Hicks Jul 2 '12 at 19:59
  • Actually the SRAM Power Link is the exact one that I had so much trouble with on my mountain bike. :( I guess I'll just have to rivet my new chain together. – Sponge Bob Jul 2 '12 at 21:24
  • Since your road bike has no suspension you won't see any of the issues you saw on the mountain bike. – mikes Jul 2 '12 at 22:58
  • @Daniel I believe the SRAM "PowerLock" for 10 speed chains is not reclosable/reusable, according to the specs. The "PowerLink" for 7/8/9 speed chains is reusable like the KMC Master Link. – James Schek Jul 4 '12 at 20:38
  • @JamesSchek -- Yeah, it probably is a good idea to replace any of them, if you "recycle" one more than a few times. But installed and left alone they should last for the life of the chain. – Daniel R Hicks Jul 4 '12 at 21:27
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The ones I've seen shouldn't wear any faster than the rest of the chain because the wear surfaces are the same - what's different are the side plates (and the notch around the end of the pin). If you look closely at how the powerlink is built it has the same elements as the rest of the chain, they're just held in place differently. The only time I've had problems with them was the old 8 speed ones when I used to regularly reopen them and they've become steadily easier to open until they were useless.

I found one report of faster wear here and a discussion here where Sheldon Brown actually measured things and concluded it wouldn't be a problem. The latter also features some good advice:

Don't worry about it. Just enjoy riding your bike. Too many people get caught up in the most minute of details and for some reason I tend to think they spend more time thinking about what's wrong (or what could go wrong) with their bike than they do enjoying it.

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I tried a master link, but for all that it was supposed to be tool-less, I couldn't lock it closed without pliars, and later I couldn't take it appart without tools. It may have been I didn't know what I was doing, but since then I just use the chain tool. Hope this helps.

  • You generally do need pliers to open one, or at least they're convenient to use. Getting one closed is a matter of pulling and flexing the chain side to side a little. – Daniel R Hicks Jul 3 '12 at 11:01
  • KMC Master Link doesn't need flexing - just pull and you're good to go. SRAM PowerLink was definitely more of a hassle to assemble, as was a Taya one. – moshbear Jul 14 '12 at 8:40
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Most master links I have used are designed to fit into the the "barrels" of the smaller links and never actually touch the sprockets, in that sense, there shouldn't be much wear on them. The master link is designed to be removed and so it has more moving parts than the other links and this makes it SLIGHTLY weaker. Unless you are cranking the snot of of your chain like a racer in a gate or straight up abusing it like a BMX street rider, you shouldn't have problems with them.

I have run into problems with my master links and so I have almost always just used a chain breaker to bolt the chain on, but I am in the last category, I beat the snot out of my bikes, so I need the extra strength. Basically it comes to this: You shouldn't have a problem with a master link, but if it gives you peace of mind, loop-bolt the chain!!

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Most manufacturers now recommend you use their provided chain joining method rather than the classic pushing the pin out partially to remove links and pushing it back. This is because with tighter tolerances, partially pushing a pin out and re-pushing in it in may weaken the chain or not provide a solid enough closing of the chain. This can lead to the chain breaking at the re-pushed pin area (so the questions of wear and what not are secondary; you want the chain to stay on, so you should use the master link/special rivet/whatever manufacturer suggests).

The chain joining method is generally in the form of a master link or a special rivet.

SRAM, KMC and others provide master links with new chains and it's highly recommended you use them. Some of them are one-time use (SRAM Powerlock; used for >=10 speed) while others are multi-use (SRAM Powerlink; used for <=9 speed, KMC Missinglink, etc.). Generally, manufacturers state you should only use their link with their chain, but many people mix and match depending on the situation (at their own risk, obviously; a lot of people, for example, use a SRAM Powerlink 8 speed with a KMC or Shimano chain which is 7-9 speed, even though it is against manufacturer recommendations).

Shimano uses a special rivet that you push in and break the head off. Campagnolo has a more difficult special rivet which you have to peen with a special tool on some chains, or some other systems of the sort.

I highly recommend using a master link (or whatever chain closing method the chain manufacturer recommends/provides). For <=8 speed chains, you can probably get away with the pushing pin out and pushing back if you're careful, but even these chains generally come with master links/rivets which are easier to get right and install (so I would recommend using the master link or rivet if provided). I would definitely not recommend trying the push pin out partially and pushing it back on a >8 speed chain.

If you're buying a chain with a master link and having trouble using it, you can try a tool like Park Tool MLP-1.2 to help install/remove them.

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I was thinking about this today. I have a similar KMC chain and own the Park Tool Master Link pliers. Following chain removal for maintenance, the KMC master link began to cause an audible click every time it engaged the cassette. The noise grew over the course of several weeks. I'd just as well go without the link from now on. I think the utility of a master link has diminished over time as tolerances grew tighter and cassettes narrower...

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