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Sram says that their quick links should only be used once. I've installed new chains, had to shorten them and have broken the link more than once doing so. I've also continued to reuse them when doing things like removing the chain for a deep cleaning without any problems.

I'm wondering if this advice is just to steer one into buying more links or if there is a real issue that I just haven't run into yet? Is there any safety concern in reusing the quick links? Has anyone had a major failure with a reused link?

3 Answers 3

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Prior to 2013, US Patent 5,362,282 covered "reusable master chain link(s)":

A reusable master chain link for a derailler chain ...

Most quick-link designs haven't changed since pre-2013, when reusable master links would likely invite litigation. For example, the KMC 11-speed quick like is almost identical to a KMC 10-speed link.

Also of interest, Shimano seems to have refrained from offering quick links of any kind until after the patent expired. After 2013, though, they've offered quick links. Given the timing, I strongly suspect the patent was the real reason, despite any claims about the "superiority" of Shimano's "sooooper speshul pin". Shimano certainly abandoned that pin real fast on their top-end groupsets after the patent expired.

As noted in Weiwen Ng's answer, cyclists have been reusing quick links of all types since they've been sold, whether they're labelled as reusable or not.

Why would a company make "reusable" claims or spend money to redo existing product labels and descriptions when there's no upside? Almost nobody paid attention to the "single-use only" descriptions before, and anyone who did was pretty much ignored.

There could also be significant downside to relabeling as "reusable" a design sold as "single-use" before the patent expired. IANAL, but I can see how doing that could potentially open the door to patent infringement litigation even now. Patent holder: "Hey! We asked you about your design back in 2008 and you told us it can never be reused. Now you're selling the same design as reusable?!?!"

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  • To be fair to the manufacturers, 8 thru 10s links didn't (I think) snap shut very tight. The 11s and 12s links go through more stress when you close them.
    – Weiwen Ng
    Nov 29, 2023 at 20:37
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Unofficially, all quick links can be reused, even if they are not rated for re-use. They will not explode if you snap them closed a second time. That said, the SRAM and Shimano links snap closed very tightly. If a re-used link doesn't snap together tightly, then you should discard it.

There are exceptions to the above. The YBN quick links, officially rated for 5 re-uses, don't snap tight at all. They don't produce a positive click. Now, this can be disconcerting. However, I have used the 11s and 12s versions for 3 years of waxing my chain, and I've never had one fail apart from user error (failure to properly connect both sides). Wipperman's Connex links are another exception, and they use the geometry of the cutout to hold the link closed. I have no experience with reusable KMC links, but they make both single- and multiple-use ones.

We can only speculate why the manufacturers mandate that their links stay single use. Part of it has got to be limiting their liability. I wonder if institutional inertia is part of it as well. Frequent reuse of quick links was not probably not a big thing in the past, but now people have got more aware of the performance and longevity from cleaning chains and also from waxing. However, all the manufacturers still say that their factory lube is the best - this is certainly not true in a friction sense, although adding a good drip lube on top of the factory lube is perfectly fine for chain wear if you aren't willing to wax. Basically, they think that it's not advisable for consumers to be frequently removing their chains, which admittedly may take more mechanical skills than the average person has.

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As a chain-waxer, I reuse master links dozens of times. I've had ~3 break while riding, normally while accelerating away from a traffic light stop.

The symptom is that the link clicks together with minimal pressure, or feels sloppy once in place - which is a sign the lip on the end has worn or broken. At that point I now discard the two parts and use a fresh set.

A joiner breaking is the same as the chain parting at any point in its length - generally a break will be annoying, you'll coast to a safe stopping spot, and then rejoin the chain with a spare pair from your toolkit.

Perhaps if you're rushing to accelerate through a traffic gap and the chain parts, you may end up in danger but for regular riding, its just annoying.

Worst thin I remember, was once dropping the chain off the bike inside an intersection, and had to take a walk back to grab it. Fortunately no vehicle drove over the chain, and I refitted it to the bike fine.

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