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?

  • 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! Commented Feb 26, 2011 at 20:47
  • Tangential comment: if you want to practice using a chain breaker tool without risking damaging your real chain, drop by a bike shop and ask if they have a few spare links from a chain they've installed on someone's bike. They often will. When I asked at a local bike shop, they had 4 links still connected, sitting in a garbage bin. I practiced on those a bit before going live. Bonus: if they're off a new chain, they'll be fairly clean, so cleaner practice!
    – SSilk
    Commented Mar 22, 2018 at 16:49
  • 2
    Break the chain with a breaker tool. About 15 seconds after you get the chain off you will see the "quick link" about eight links away from where you broke it. Commented Mar 22, 2018 at 17:57

3 Answers 3


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 separated 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:

SRAM Power Link

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:

replacement pin

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

  • 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? Commented Oct 19, 2010 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
    Commented Oct 19, 2010 at 4:50
  • Wha? Impossible to push pin back in? They've always went back in very easily for me.
    – dotjoe
    Commented Oct 22, 2010 at 20:13
  • 2
    My chain didn't have a masterlink when I asked this question, but it does now! (I took the chain to my shop and they sold me a masterlink that fit the chain. It took me a few tries, and I had to go back to the shop once for some help, but it all works well now.) Commented Feb 26, 2011 at 20:53
  • 1
    If you're hoping to reuse the pin, don't drive it all the way out!! Commented Mar 22, 2018 at 0:59

Usually the pin through the link is a different colour, for example black instead of the more usual brass.

  • Unfortunately, that isn't the case. I'll modify my question. Commented Oct 19, 2010 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
    Commented Oct 19, 2010 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
    Commented Oct 19, 2010 at 4:57

If you speak about the link that can be disconnected with the chain pliers, it just looks differently from other links. The hole for the pin is "dual", with the pin residing in outer part that is more tight (image credit):

enter image description here

The chain is disconnected by squeezing the link with chain pliers so that the pin is forced into the inner part of the hole that is wider so it can be disconnected.

The link is can be easily located by visually inspecting all links of the chain.

Most often you cannot remove chain from the bicycle by just removing rear wheel. Be sure you remember the path of the chain so you could put it back correctly.

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