News Feature

Chains 'n' Sprockets ... Master Links & Chain Breaking



January 25, 2018 | By Jeff King

Our previous article covered Chain and Sprockets R & R, while conveniently glossing over chain breaking and the specifics of working with master links. This was done intentionally as it’s almost a separate task utilizing several specialized tools to get the job done. It deserves its own full length article ... so here we go.

C H A I N B R E A K I N G

If you’re lucky enough to be able to purchase a chain with the exact number of links your bike needs, you are indeed sitting pretty. For the rest of us, we’ll likely be removing some links from a standard chain length to fit our needs. (For example: not many manufactures make a 102-link chain.) The first thing to note is that drive chains need to have an even number of links -- 100, 104, 110, etc. This is because there are only two types of links in a chain, inner links and outer links. 'Breaking' the chain is simply the task of removing one of the pins of the chain to accommodate the master link and the target length of the final chain.

Master links are all outer links. Any decisions to break the chain should be made with that in mind. You’ll need two inner links on either side of the 'broken' chain to install the master link.


Your Owner’s or Service Manual should tell you exactly how many links you need for stock gearing (nice). Simply count the number of links you need to determine where to break the chain. But what if you’ve changed gearing? Well, there’s also another way to tell exactly what length chain you need.


Position your rear axle as far forward as it can go and line up the chain to determine the shortest you can have the chain while maintaining an even number of links.


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  The first thing to note is that drive chains need to have an even number of links -- 100, 104, 110, etc. This is because there are only two types of links in a chain, inner links and outer links.   

-- Jeff King, Moto Republic
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In the above case, (with the axle all the way forward), we are several links over. Keep in mind that you may end up sliding the axle back a little to accommodate an even number of links. Our goal is to put on the shortest chain, so we have the maximum amount of adjustability left to compensate as the chain wears.

Once you’ve identified the exact pin you want to extract, mark it with a felt tip pen or awl.


Using an angle grinder, grind down the protruding pin until it’s flush with the surface of the link. It’s doesn’t have to be pretty, just avoid hitting any links you still want to keep with the grinder.


There are several varieties of chain breakers out there … some dedicated to chain breaking only, and some as part of a chain tool kit that can handle chain breaking, pressing, and peening the rivet style master links. Motion Pro makes a dedicated chain breaker kit that does everything. (Kinda reminds me of James Bond assembling a handgun designed by 'M')


There is a learning curve to this tool for sure. Motion Pro also makes a dedicated chain breaker that I’ll be using for the demonstration in this article. I’m not trying to make this an ad for Motion Pro, but they do make some fine stuff! Line up the pin of the breaker with your ground down link and slowly press the pin out.


It will start out very difficult. But then you’ll feel it break loose, and it's easy going after that.


Nicely done! Let's move on to master links. There are two types of master links: clip and rivet.


C L I P  I N S T A L L A T I O N

Grease up your o-rings with the little packet provided with your master link. (No, that’s not a ramen flavor packet!) Place two of the o-rings on the far side of your link and install on the chain. Place the last two o-rings, and sideplate.


If you are lucky, you can press that side plate on with a pair of plyers. But, yes, you guessed it … they make a special tool for that as well. Both Motion Pro and DID make a press tool. Both are excellent, and make it a heck of a lot easier.


Press the sideplate on enough to expose the groove for the clip. (Be careful not to over press, as you’ll damage the o-rings you so lovingly greased.)


IMPORTANT! Install the clips with the closed end pointing in the direction that the chain travels.


____________________________________________________________________

  If you are lucky, you can press that side plate on with a pair of plyers, But, yes, you guessed it … they make a special tool for that as well. Both Motion Pro and DID make a press tool.   

-- Jeff King, Moto Republic
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This positioning helps to prevent the clip popping off if it ever comes into contact with anything. (Yup, go out and check your bike now. We often see them installed backwards!)

Clip style links are the easiest to install, but their use should be limited to smaller displacement motorcycles. Most modern motorcycles require a rivet type master link for added security.

R I V E T  T Y P E  M A S T E R  L I N K

Installing a rivet type master link is identical to the clip type until it comes to 'peening over' the rivets. Follow the sequence outlined above, press the sideplate on, and come back when it’s time to deal with the rivets.


You see the difference in the color of the metal on the end of the pins? That’s the area to be peened.

P E E N I N G  T H E  R I V E T S


Most chain breaker tools can also be used for peening by switching out the pin. The peening pin is different than the pusher pin in that it has a domed shape to help mushroom out the softer metal on the end of the master link pins.


You’ll have to peen both pins of the master link of course. Be careful not to over peen the master link. You run the risk of damaging the o-rings and/or having an overly stiff link in the chain. (You’ll know if you over do it.)


Dude, you are a master link aficionado now!

If you’d like to get some real world experience on this procedure, your local CMG (Community Moto Garage) certainly has all these tools available so you don’t have to go out and purchase them! Over at Moto Republic, we also offer mentorship if you would like a little guidance while tackling it for the first time. We’re here to help you rise triumphantly from any maintenance task you have the huevos to tackle.

Check out our current Workshop and Class listings at Moto-Republic.com.

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DISCLAIMER: The methods in this article are guidelines, provided and performed by a trained mechanic. If you are not comfortable performing routine maintenance on your bike, it is recommended you get a trained mechanic to complete these and more difficult tasks on your bike.

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