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I took my 11spd KMC bike chain off a few days ago to give it a good cleaning and re-mounted it to the drivetrain using a master link and park tool master link pliers. I must have not set it correctly because as soon as I went for my ride and turned the pedal the chain broke at the master link and I lost one of the pins attached to the master link.

I removed both pieces of the master link inspected the chain for bent or broken links. It looks good, I had a spare 11spd KMC master link that I fitted in the same spot and road around with no issue.

Is this something that is okay to do or now that I've had to replace the master link has the integrity of the chain been compromised?

Thanks!

  • Anecdotal experience: I have reused an old 11 speed KMC for a season without issue. Of course I could have gotten lucky, and it also possible to damage the links when opening and closing. As such your mileage may vary. – Rider_X Mar 21 at 21:55
  • @Rider_X thanks for the input, based on the feedback I am going to ride it out for the next week couple of weeks until and then will replace the chain and cassette together. Chain is still good but has a lot of winter training on it and I'll want to throw something fresh on for race season. Thanks for the input! – Matt Solomon Mar 22 at 0:13
  • What riding distance do you mean by 'old' chain? – Carel Mar 22 at 19:08
  • I carry several cheap master links in my tool kit - if I break a master then I stop and fit a new one (after walking back down the road to pick up the chain.) Yes I carry lightweight chain pliers too, but a leatherman or multitool will work too. – Criggie Mar 23 at 6:17
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Many master links from several vendors are specifically designated to be single use meaning you replace it with a new one after you unlock the old one. Which means you'll generally be fine by using a new master link.

For a moderately worn chain, adding a new link to the group of old ones means that less than 1% of your links will be a bit different (a typical geared bike has 110-116 links in a chain). It is unlikely that you will notice it.

If your chain is extremely old and stretched far beyond normal, adding a single shorter link to the mix may become noticeable, at least as a periodic sound appearing when this new link interacts with the rest of the worn drivetrain parts. In the worst case, it won't last because of that mismatch with the rest of the drivetrain.

  • Thanks! So is the purpose of a master or missing link is only to make it easier to install/replace changes? If that is the case its not something that should be used to remove a chain for general cleaning/maintenance. Thanks again for the help. – Matt Solomon Mar 21 at 21:39
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    @MattSolomon - The (supposed) main reason for the "master links" on newer chains is that the narrower chains are more difficult to reliably reassemble using the extracted pin. Of course, the new master links also give the chain manufacturers something else to sell, but we won't go there. – Daniel R Hicks Mar 21 at 22:51
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    KMC master links can be reused. Per the KMC FAQ: "How many times can the Missing Link be used? The Missing Link on chain models X11SL and X11L can not be reused. All other Missing Links can be reused between 2-3 times per life cycle of the chain. If you purchase a replacement chain, the used Missing Link should not be reused and is not interchangeable. Missing Links offer riders ease of maintenance and quick chain replacement when there is an emergency on the road or trail." FWIW, that "2-3 times" is very conservative... – Andrew Henle Mar 22 at 12:11
  • On the other hand, removing a chain for cleaning is considered overkill by many. even cyclocrossers don't do it Using a stiff brush, water and organic grease solvent (though not necessarily) and an oily rag are generally considered sufficient. Wiping off any excess oil/grease/wax after re-greasing is probably the best step. – Carel Mar 22 at 19:16

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