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When I'm breaking a chain with a master link (to remove the chain from the bike), usually I can do it with my hands by pushing the links together until the master link comes apart. But sometimes it's trickier than others, and can be a recipe for sore thumbs.

I know there are special tools that help with this, but I'm curious if there's a trick I'm missing.

What is an easy, reliable way to un-do the master link (even when stuck), without any specialty master-link-specific tools?

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You have to remove the tension from the chain. One way is using a small piece of wire to slacken the chain such as this one made by Topeak: enter image description here

which you hook in a few links to the left of the quick link and a few links to the right.

Another way is to use the rear derailleur. Then, just pinch them together and slide your fingers opposite ways.

If that still is too hard, you can use a tool like the Park Tool MLP-1.2 or a pair of needlenose pliers as a substitute.

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