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I started riding in the eighties back when derailleur chains didn't come with quick link connectors (master links). Since that changed I've been using my chain breaker to get new chains to the correct length and then use the quick link to connect it.

I have a SRAM 8 speed chain that's pretty new that I need to remove and reinstall on the bike. I don't know if disconnecting and reconnecting the quick link is a good idea. Any reason I can't do things the way I did back in the eighties and nineties? Have modern chains changed?

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    Re-using the master link should be fine. But don’t use a chain tool to push out a normal pin and then push it back. You won’t get a proper press fit. Unless you have a Rohloff Revolver which can actually rivet them back in place. – Michael Nov 8 '20 at 16:43
  • You can open and close master links. The think is that some chain makers advise against doing so, is linked to a patent that claims that their master links are the only ones that can be re-used. Rainmaker has an article about this. @Michael: If you want to go the conventional way you can either open the chain and close it again with a new re-inforced pin or remove the two plates and join the two ends with a master link. – Carel Nov 9 '20 at 18:38
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I assume you're talking about a quick link, depicted below, rather than the one-use connecting pins that Shimano and Campagnolo are only now transitioning away from. Cyclingtips has an excellent general guide to quick links.

enter image description here

In practice, many cyclists reuse quick links without issue. With 10, 11, and 12s links, more caution is warranted, and you would want to discard the link when it doesn't close as tightly as before. This is because with these chains are narrow, and they require a lot of force to open or close the link because the clearances between the chain components are very tight. That amount of force probably does wear the link components out in repeated use. In fact, we need specialized tools to open a master link. Nevertheless, as I stated, many cyclists reuse even these types of quick link.

I haven't got my hands on an 8s chain, but I believe they need much less force to open or close. In fact, you may be able to open and close the link by hand (although of course a tool won't hurt, and you could keep using that even if you upgraded the drivetrain). Because relatively little force is required to open and close an 8 or 9s link, there should be absolutely no issue reusing them. Historically, from the Cyclingtips article, SRAM may have been the first manufacturer to make one-use links with their 10s chains. This implies that many or all 9s or earlier links should have no official manufacturer recommendation against reuse.

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  • No, you definitely cannot open the link on an 8 speed chain by hand. Not if it has been ridden. I struggle even with some cheap chinese quicklink pliers. Fortunately, it is not something one would need to do on the roadside. – Vladimir F Nov 8 '20 at 17:24
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    I think it depends on the quick link design. Connex links can be opened just fine if you know the technique. And yes, back in the day there were warnings about installing by non-professionals, off road use, racing, etc but not reusing the quick link. – ojs Nov 8 '20 at 17:36
  • 100% recommend carrying some lightweight quicklink pliers on your bike. I've opened these with a leatherman before, and it was fiddly. Now I have some plastic tyre levers which combine to form quicklink pliers, so dual purpose. – Criggie Nov 8 '20 at 18:52
  • @Criggie I wonder why would one have to do that on the road. If the chain snaps, you just break the chain and add a new quicklink. – Vladimir F Nov 8 '20 at 18:55
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    @Criggie my all-plastic tyre levers/quicklink pliers broke on the 2nd use on a chain. The part that engages the roller snapped clean off. So be careful! Now I carry some cheap metal quicklink pliers with the handles cut down to fit my tool case – Chris H Nov 9 '20 at 8:52
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Shimano chains are still connected using the connection pin and the chain tool. There is nothing wrong about it, just use the special pin. But do not do that for chains that are not made for this and for which there are no special connecting pins available.

So, use the quicklink for SRAM chains. The Shimano pin will probably work, but one does not know how reliably. Some SRAM chains even use special hollow pins or what not so use the approved joining methods.

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  • Shimano use "one-time pins" with many of their earlier chains, intended to press in once, snap off the end , and they're permanent. If you want to press out a pin and re-insert it later, then that becomes a weakness. Shimano's advice would be to use a new one-time pin to rejoin the chain, and throw away the old pin. – Criggie Nov 8 '20 at 18:51
  • @Criggie As I wrote "use the special pins", I believe it is natural one has to follow their instructions of use. – Vladimir F Nov 8 '20 at 18:53
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    Shimano chains, at least 11-speed chains, are now available with quick links as well. Shimano has a two-function tool that combines closing and opening QLs, reference: TL-CN10 – Carel Nov 9 '20 at 9:00
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    @Carel Not surprised at all. Weiwen Ng's first sentence sort-of implies it. The advice to follow the method supplied with the chain still holds. I've use third-party quicklinks with Shimano chains even before anyway, but that is at my personal risk. – Vladimir F Nov 9 '20 at 9:16
  • I think the risk of using a non-manufacturer approved quick link has to be overstated. A lot of people used quick links on Campy or Shimano chains and didn’t die. Anyway, I think that Shimano may have just phased out the connecting pin, at least on 11s road chains. The R8000 chains I’ve bought have all lacked pins (as far as I recall). – Weiwen Ng Nov 10 '20 at 18:44
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I have a SRAM 8 speed chain that's pretty new that I need to remove and reinstall on the bike. I don't know if disconnecting and reconnecting the master link is a good idea. Any reason I can't do things the way I did back in the eighties and nineties? Have modern chains changed?

A long time ago, I bought some SRAM 8 speed chains too. The reason I did so was that I found some old brochure about the connecting methods, and they specified chain tool as one possible connection method (with quick links being the recommended connection method). The brochure had a model of a chain that was still sold although the brochure was few years old.

Since I don't like quick links, I threw the quick link away. I connected the chain with a chain tool. Then, when just pedaling along, the chain suddenly snapped. I had a chain tool in my emergency tool kit so I just reconnected it, thinking that I must have done a poor job in connecting the chain. Then some time later, the chain again snapped. I had to reconnect it again.

After this, I carefully investigated the chain. I noticed that the chain pins were punched. So the press fit between the chain sideplates and the chain pins is not strong enough. The chain pin is pushed to the chain sideplate and a machine punches it at both ends to improve retention.

If you push a chain pin of this type through the sideplate, both the punching at the end of the chain pin, and also the sideplate hole, will be damaged. When reconnecting, these damaged parts do not have a secure press fit.

A new SRAM brochure no longer listed chain tool as an allowed connecting method. So what must have happened is that SRAM changed its manufacturing method to have poor press fit and improve the retention by punching the pins, without changing the model name of the chain that was sold.

This caused me to switch to Shimano chains and never look back. The Shimano special reinforced connecting pin can be pushed to side plates that have been damaged by pushing a punched chain pin through them, costs some extra, and does not allow using the same connecting point again so you must be sure to break the chain again at a different point. However, the Shimano special reinforced connecting pins are cheaper than quick links, weigh less than quick links (important for keeping your emergency toolkit weight down since ideally you will be carrying not one but few of these), and are very easy to install, far easier than installing a standard chain pin. The benefits outweight the drawbacks: most chains see very few if any removals in their lifetime so the extra costs are not an issue (these stupid bushingless chains last so little with proper care anyway and are cheap so it's not worth the time and effort to clean them properly off the bike), and the maximum amount of times you can reconnect a single chain is equal to its link count, usually 116. I don't think any chain will be removed more than 116 times in its lifetime.

At least the Shimano still sells chains that allow not using these stupid quick links.

So, the short answer to your question is: YES, modern chains have changed, and NO, you cannot use the old chain connecting methods anymore. But with Shimano you can use these special reinforced connecting pins with a standard chain tool.

There may be some benefits of the punched pins. They allow shifting when under load. On a non electric bike, an experienced cyclist does not do that, but the response time of electric bike motors is not so fast that shifting without any load would be feasible on electric bikes. About the only way electric bikes would allow shifting not under load is electric shifting -- standard mechanical shifters are not connected to the motor computer, so the motor computer doesn't know when you are about to shift and cannot reduce its electric assist in advance to anticipate the shifting.

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    So, you ignored the manufacturer's recommendation to use the quick link because you thought that it is stupid, did things your own way, it didn't work and it's somehow the quick link's fault? – ojs Nov 8 '20 at 17:38
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    Shimano exclusively uses quick links on its newest chains. Quick links are the future, and chain pins will eventually disappear. – thelawnet Nov 8 '20 at 18:02
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    Nothing about 36 spokes? How come? – Carel Nov 9 '20 at 18:33
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    @Carel Imagine how many extra spokes you can have in your wheels when you have saved the massive weight of a few spare quick links! – Walto Salonen Nov 10 '20 at 14:57
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    Bushingless chains, wheels with 28 spokes, I can only wonder what comes next, rims without sockets or eyelets? – gschenk Nov 10 '20 at 16:09

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