CHAIN REPAIR & YOU, YES YOU!


bicycle chain broken linkIf you ride a tadpole trike (or any other type of human powered vehicle using a chain) sooner or later you are likely to encounter at least one incident of chain failure. If you are one of the few who manage to elude such a fate then you should indeed count your blessings. For the rest of us all I have to say is … “you better be prepared!”. Having a chain failure while out riding can leave you stranded. You won’t be going anywhere without the chain functioning intact. Even if you can call for help to have someone come get you and your trike you may have to deal with getting your trike on down a trail some distance before you get somewhere that someone can get to by car or truck to meet you. If you have never had the experience of pushing or pulling your trike along let me tell you that it is not a fun task. It will wear you out. They are far more awkward and difficult to deal with than a standard diamond frame bicycle when it comes to “walking” them.

So a discussion on chain repair is in order. If you have a chain failure you should immediately stop pedaling and come to a stop as soon as possible to help prevent further damage and hopefully keep the chain from coming off. Having to restring a chain around sprockets, derailleurs and thru chain tubes is a lot of work and can be challenging, especially for someone with knowledge or experience with it. Repairing a broken chain may sound intimidating to some, especially if they have never tried it. I want to state upfront that in my opinion the very best thing anyone can do is to get an old chain to use to practice with … learning how to take it apart and put it back together using a chain tool and also using repair/connecting links. It is the old adage … practice, practice, practice … practice makes perfect. Nowadays nearly everybody uses quick links (most often referred to as “missing links”) which are easy to use and faster than conventional repair links of yesteryear like many of us grew up with. Never the less, a pin or two may have to be removed in order to prepare the chain so the missing link can be used. Be careful not to shorten the chain removing a link(s) as then the derailleur may encounter a problem and get damaged. Here is what a missing link looks like and how it is used.

missing link chain repair collage

Missing Links are made by KMC for KMC chain. If you have a different brand of chain then you should get the connecting links designed for the brand you have. SRAM makes the Power Link.

SRAM PowerLink

Another important note … be sure to buy and use only the connecting links made for your chain as far as the width. By that I mean what speed the trike’s chain is … 9, 10 or 11 speed for example. You can see in the picture of the SRAM PowerLink above it shows 9 speed on it.

As to chain tools one can buy an inexpensive one and they work sufficiently. I have had several of them. However, a few years ago I finally bought a more professional higher dollar chain tool and will readily recommend doing so as they work so much better than the common inexpensive type. My only regret is I didn’t do it 55 years or so earlier. That being said, I only keep my pro tool home in my toolbox. On my trike I still carry one of the common inexpensive type.

Here is the pro tool I bought. It is a Pedro chain tool.

Pedro's Pro Chain Tool 2.0

Here is a different brand of pro tool being used to push a pin thru a chain link.

chain-breaker-tool

Below is one of the common inexpensive chain tools sold in many bike stores and is the type I carry on my trike.

Topeak chain tool

I need to insert here something I just recently learned myself. It is inadvisable to reuse a chain link by pushing the pin out and then back in. It is not something which is supposed to be done. A connecting link should always be used instead. The following paragraph explains how to reuse a chain link, but since they should not be reused the pin should be pushed out sufficiently to get the needed link(s) apart so that a connecting link can be used.

Pushing the pins (some people refer to them as rivets) thru the links using a chain tool is something one needs to learn as it is all too easy to push the pin too far and completely thru the far outside plate of the chain link. Once that happens you really have problems as they are extremely difficult to get back into the hole in the side plate. This is where it pays to learn this thru lots of practice using an old chain. They do make special pins which are for the purpose of more easily getting the pin started back into the hole. As you can see in the picture below it is tapered on the one end so that it can more easily be started back into the hole. Actually the longer end of it is slightly smaller diameter so that it can be pushed thru the link side plates easily and then the chain tool is used to push it the rest of the way thru. Once it is pushed all the way into position the long part sticking out is “snapped off” as the short part is the actual pin used in the link.

shap off pin 2

Another tool I highly recommend is called a third or helping hand tool. It is used to hold the two ends of the chain together while the connecting link is placed in the chain. It makes the job so much easier. You can buy these or make them. I have a couple of them I bought as well as a couple I have made.

3rd hand chain tools

Even though the missing links are supposed to be fairly easy to get apart (once they have been put together in a chain) just using one’s hands many find them extremely difficult to get apart. I think they are very difficult to get back apart just using one’s hands so I bought a special tool for this and highly recommend this to others. It makes the job so much easier and faster. I am sure there will be some who would argue this and say that they can get the missing links back apart quickly and easily just using their hands. More power to them. I have had very little success in doing it with my hands and found it to be time consuming, hard on my hands, frustrating and aggravating. The special pliers work so easy.

chain-connector-link-tool

Here is a short video which does a pretty good job showing and explaining how to use a chain tool to push the pin, take the chain apart and put it back together. It explains how to deal with a tight link which often happens when working on a link like this.

Others can do what they want, but I always carry tools, missing links and several inches of spare chain to use in case I need links to replace bad ones on a chain. More than once I have had to use all of these items to make a repair which would have left me stranded if I was not prepared. If your chain has a side plate which has got bent to the side it is highly advisable to replace that link rather than trying to straighten and salvage it. Making a proper repair initially is a whole lot better than making a repair that doesn’t last and has to be redone.

Here is another video which shows how to connect chain links together using a missing link as well as a replacement pin. It also shows how to use the special pliers to take a missing link back apart. It also shows how to route the chain thru a rear derailleur. I had a hard time understanding him (I think he was speaking English), but I could follow the video okay.

Here is one man’s temporary emergency repair …

chain link temp. emergency repair

Obviously this is quite uncommon and for a good reason … well, more than one reason applies.

One thing to watch out for if you have to feed the chain back thru around sprockets and the derailleur is that you don’t twist the chain 180 degrees and connect the two ends back together with it like that. It is fairly easy for this to happen, especially if you have chain tubes you feed the chain into. It can turn over upside down while going thru the chain tube.

Being able to deal with a broken chain will help you to …

KEEP ON TRIKIN’

I wasn’t going to include this last video, but decided to go ahead placing it here:

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About Steve Newbauer

I have a few current blogs (tadpolerider1, navysight, and truthtoponder) so I am keeping busy. I hope you the reader will find these blogs interesting and enjoy your time here. Feel free to email me at stevenewbauer at outlook.com

Posted on June 20, 2016, in maintenance/repair, tadpole trikes, tips, tools, videos and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Yes, separating the SRAM master link after it has been on the trike for a while is certainly extremely challenging, as there has been great pressure pulling on it from pedaling. The last time I had to remove the master on my Full Fat so that I could install a chain protector at the rear wheel, I could not separate the two sides of the SRAM link with my fingers, no matter how hard I tried, or how many weird angles I attempted – it was stuck in place (better that of course, than it being loose and falling apart while riding, haha). I did not have the special tool you showed in your post, but I found that a small needle-nosed plier worked perfectly, and was quickly and easily able to separate the two sides of the master link. I always keep needle-nosed pliers in my road tool kit, along with a chain breaker tool (had a chain break on the coast in central California a few years ago, out in the agricultural fields, with no assistance for many miles – had I not been able to repair with extra links from my kit, I would have had a very loooong walk to the next town). Yep Steve, it definitely pays huge dividends to always carry a few simple chain tools! BTW. here is the link to Day 15 of the ride, describing the incident, with photos at the bottom of the chain:
    https://trikephantoms.wordpress.com/day-by-day/day-15/

    • It doesn’t have to be a matter of being on the trike for quite awhile and pedaling to discover that the Missing Link is so tight it won’t come back apart with the use of hands only. I have tried to get them back apart almost immediately and couldn’t do so until I got a tool out. All I accomplished is making my fingers and hands sore attempting to get the Missing Link back apart. The picture of your chain laying on the ground behind the trike is one I have seen more than once … my own chain, that is.