Like many cyclists, I rotate a set of chains (two chains every 1000 km in my case) to minimise gear wear and have an opportunity to do a deep chain wash every now and then. When the time comes, I replace both chains and the cassette, and the chainrings every second time.

This pattern results in a good lifetime for the transmission, but it means each chain is removed and placed back many times.

The chains I use (HG93) don't have a special connector link.

For safety, it's not good to extract the same regular pin more than once.

So what is the best way to mark the pins that were once extracted?

A very close inspection can identify them by some flashing and scratches, but this is slow and tedious, and never reliable. Sometimes I mark the extracted pins (or whole links) with the etch primer (other paints may not last through the use and wash cycles), but I don't always have it at hand.

What other simple methods do you use or know?

  • 1
    Two comments: First, most folks now are using quick links, so the issue is moot. Second, if you rotate every 1000km you'd only be getting 4-5 rotations before the chain is worn out, so you're not really removing/replacing the chain "many" times. Dec 6, 2016 at 3:22
  • @Daniel, rather 5-7 times (though I don't replace by count but by actual state). This is many enough to have the risk of hitting the same pin. With the quick links, if the chain was supplied with one, I would use it, but I don't feel confident using a 3rd party one (chain being one of the most safety-critical parts on a bike), nor does the problem warrant buying one.
    – Zeus
    Dec 6, 2016 at 3:37
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    Zeus, you obviously like messing about with your bike :-)
    – andy256
    Dec 6, 2016 at 8:17
  • Breaking and reattach ing a chain by pushing a pin in to begin with is a safety issue -- thats why you get a quick link or one time link or special rivet these days with the chain.
    – Batman
    Dec 6, 2016 at 22:24

4 Answers 4


Although you can get replacement pins for (many) chains, and I suggest you use them, I suspect that's not quite what you're looking for. I wouldn't want to break the same link again even if the pin was new.

A diamond scriber (amazon link as an example) can be used to write on steel, and if you make a clear, distinctive mark it will be easy to spot on a clean chain. You can go further and scribe then apply a dab of paint into the scratch, but you could probably just paint in the manufacturer's stamp more easily than that. If you have a chain that's plated against corrosion this might not be a good idea, but most plating is cosmetic on the visible faces.

If paint is your preferred solution there are touch up paint pens for cars that are small, cheap, hard wearing and long lasting.

  • I'm a bit afraid to put any scratch marks on the links (and it's hard to do on the pins). A fine scratch from a scriber is a great stress concentrator... And yes, as I said, if I have suitable paint at hand, the problem is solved.
    – Zeus
    Dec 6, 2016 at 8:34
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    Have you ever seen a link plate fail from a scratch? Mountain biking (dropping the bike onto rock) can put some pretty deep scratches in the plates. Scratching the pins isn't too hard if you do it once they're back in.
    – Chris H
    Dec 6, 2016 at 8:48
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    If you mark or paint the link, do it the right outboard face of an inner link as that'll minimize it getting worn off by gear changes.
    – RoboKaren
    Dec 7, 2016 at 0:29
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    Indeed! I didn't think of paint pens. I did try permanent marker, but they get washed out after a few wash cycles. Maybe automotive pens will be better, esp. if painting on the inner link as @RoboKaren suggested. (But still, others almost convinced me to use quick links...)
    – Zeus
    Dec 8, 2016 at 3:08

You're overthinking this

There are 100-114 links in a chain. Even blind shooting you have a 3.5% chance of getting the same pin twice out of 5 selections on 114 links. Even if you did get one twice, it should be perfectly happy to be pressed out again.

Otherwise use a $2 quick link, which are good for several dozen join/parts. If you use the proper curved pliers, it will be dead-easy to undo.

When I'm out on the road I don't carry the right tool for quicklinks, so I end up using either a length of brake cable inner that is in my toolkit, or some generic leatherman needlenose pliers, which takes a bit of effort.

  • 2
    Well, the chances may be small, but why not to eliminate them if it's simple? That's why I asked for simple methods. And the consequences of broken chain can be quite severe... Maybe I should consider quick links for my next set; but I was always afraid of it being the weakest link, literally.
    – Zeus
    Dec 6, 2016 at 3:56
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    @zeus definitely go quicklinks. Order a 5 pack and you'll even be able to use a fresh one each time. They're only $4 NZ each, probably cheaper for you. Quick links are stronger than normal links too - I've never had a quicklink break.
    – Criggie
    Dec 6, 2016 at 7:41

Shimano replacement pins are distinct due to the side where the pilot gets broken off. The regular pins should not be pushed back in under any circumstances to avoid breakage. The real solution for someone with your habits is use a KMC Missing link 9 on each chain, which is re-openable and works great.

I understand it can seem to make sense not to tarnish a safety-critical item with a third-party part. The truth is that the tactile nature of pushing pins through, even as per manufacturer recommendation with a new replacement pin, is much more accident prone than a securely fitting 2-piece connector made for the chain in question, as KMC ones are for Shimano. And disregarding their warning to not push normal pins back through is plain dangerous.

  • Probably you are right, strictly speaking, although I've seen many people extracting regular pins. The replacement pins must also be single use, and there is something wrong in paying $3+ for a pin. So yes, maybe I'll get a quick link...
    – Zeus
    Dec 6, 2016 at 8:29

It's pretty easy to identify a link that you've already pushed out -- it'll be dead easy to push out again, with little to no resistance. By that time, it's already too late and I'd just replace it with a quick link.

I'm not sure your resistance to quick links. They're cheap, strong, and easily identified. You don't have to use a quick link as a quick link, you can just avoid the quick link and push out the pins on another section of chain if that's what spins your wheels.

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