Archive for June, 2013

Tool of the Week #3 – Chain Breakers & Master Link Pliers

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

This week, we’re continuing our examination of chain tools with chain breakers and masterlink pliers.

1. Chain breakers:

When to use:  The chain breaker is used if you need to disconnect your chain to shorten or lengthen it or to put a new chain on. They allow you to pull chain links apart without damaging the chain. Some chains have a quick release link, or master link, that does not require the use of a chain breaker tool, but if all of the chain links look exactly the same, you’ll need to use the tool.


How to use:


  1. Unwind the handle of the chain breaker tool until there is enough space to place one of the chain links in the outermost slot of the tool.

  2. Wind in the handle so the point of the chain breaker tool comes in contact with the pin in the chain link. Stop and inspect the chain to ensure it is lined up squarely and that the point of the tool is going into the pin straight.

  3. Keep turning the handle to push the pin out the other side. NOTE: If you want to reuse the chain, do not push the pin all the way out! If the pin pops out, it is impossible to put it back in. Stop twisting when you begin to feel resistance. It’s better to check and do it again than go too far.

  4. Remove the chain from the tool and separate the chain links by twisting and pulling the chain. The “broken” link should come apart without much force, if any.

  5. You are now free remove other links, add links or put a new chain on the bicycle.



  1. Place the chain link onto the outermost slot of the chain breaker tool, this time with the pin facing toward the tool’s point. Turn the handle to push the pin back into place. It should not take excessive force to put the pin back into place. If it is not moving easily, check that the hole in all links is lined up properly. Ensure that the pin is sticking out about the same amount on each side of the link.



  1. Sometimes, reconnecting a chain by pushing the pin back in will make that link stiff. To loosen it, back off the handle and move the chain link to other slot of the tool, the slot closest to you when you’re holding the chain breaker. Push the link pin very slightly from the side that is sticking out farther, about a quarter turn, with the tool point. This may mean moving the tool to the inside of the chain. To further loosen up the new connection, you can hold the chain on each side of the freshly connected links and move them back and forth. 


When can a chain not be rejoined? 

In the progression of drivetrain designs, rear cogs have gotten thinner and spaced more closely. Likewise, chains have gotten thinner to accommodate these new cogs and this means that chain breaking procedures are also different.  “Narrow” chains for 8,9, 10, or 11 speed drivetrains have pins that are peened*, or flattened, at the ends to increase the strength of the new thinner design.  This means that once a pin is pushed through a link, the peening is damaged and the chain will not have its intended strength.  Thankfully, manufacturers have thought of this and provide ways for rejoining these narrow chains.  Depending on the brand, your narrow chain will either have a master link (Sram, KMC), or use a replacement master pin (Shimano, Campagnolo).  If your narrow chain has a master link, you should only use the master link for breaking and joining your chain, never the chain breaker tool.  If your chain uses a master pin, you should break the chain at a non-masterpin link and rejoin using an additional new master pin.  Look for writing on your chain to determine what type you have and then look up the manufacturer’s instructions before breaking your chain to avoid damaging it and to ensure you have the correct parts needed for re-installation.

*Peened chains are also called “riveted” or mushroomed”.

Park tool has a great explanation of how to disconnect and reconnect peened chains here.


2. Master Link Pliers

When to use:  Many chains use a master link, or quick release link that allows the chain to be easily installed and removed by hand. Over time, dirt and corrosion can make it difficult to remove the master link from the chain. This is when Master Link Pliers can come in handy.

How to use: Insert the jaws into chain on either side of the master link and squeeze the handles for easy removal.

Next week, we’ll explore tire levers, a handy tool used to remove tires from wheel rims when fixing flat tires. 



Tool of the Week #2 – Chain Checkers

Thursday, June 20th, 2013

This week, we’re examining chain checkers: what they are used for, how to use them, and why some chain checkers are more accurate than others.

First, the anatomy of a chain. The outer plates are pushed onto pins, while the inner plates are pushed onto bushings. The pins rotate inside of the bushings, letting the chain bend. Rollers around the bushings allow the chain to roll easily on the bicycle’s sprocket teeth.

As pin spacing increases with wear, the chain will ride higher and higher on the teeth of the sprocket. If it wears too far and rides too high, it can damage the sprocket and can also start skipping. Consequently, replacing the chain can help alleviate uneven drive train wear and poor shifting.  Roller wear, on the other hand, does not affect a chain’s stretch. Unfortunately, some chain checkers incorporate roller wear into their measurements, resulting in less accurate measurement.

What chain checkers are used for: The chain checker is used to check whether the bicycle chain is worn enough to be replaced. Chain life varies with the type of chain, the riding environment, maintenance, the rider, and the type of use. Usually, around 3,000-15,000km chain life is typical. 

There are two types of chain checkers in the Bike Kitchen.  They are both on the mechanics-only tool wall, so you will have to discuss with a mechanic before using them. The fancier second type is more accurate, as it only measures pin wear and not roller wear. As covered above, roller wear is not a good indicator of a chain’s stretch and ideally should not be included in the measurement. Consequently, if you use the regular chain checker, it’s a good idea to double check with the Shimano tool too.


1. Regular Chain Checker (CC-2 Chain Checker)


How to use: Insert the Chain Checker’s pins into two links, press the swing arm gauge tight, and then check the gauge window for a reading. The worn reading for your chain will depend on the speed of your chain (the number of cogs on the rear cassette). For 9 and 10 speed chains, replace chain at or just before the 0.75% readings. For an 11 speed chain, replace at or just before the 0.5% reading.


2. Fancy Chain Checker (Shimano TL-CN41)


How to use:  First place the center tab into a chain link. Then use the right tab on a link to pull the chain tight. This pushes the roller on the first tab to the left. Next, push the third tab so it engages with a link as well. If the chain fits completely, as in the tool’s diagram, the chain needs to be replaced.



Next week, we will continue our exploration of chains with chain breakers and master-link pliers!

*Thank you to for the anatomy of a chain photo



Tool of the Week #1 – Introduction to the Bike Kitchen Tools

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

Welcome to the Bike Co-op’s Tool of the Week! Over the next eleven weeks, we’re going to explore one tool or tool group each week, offering tips on when and how to use them as well as where to find them in the Bike Kitchen.

To start, let’s explore the Bike Kitchen tool wall. The wall is magically divided into three colour-coded sections: green (left), blue (middle), and red (right). One thing to note is that all of the bike tools are metric, not imperial, so most are marked in millimeters. Click on any of the walls below to examine them in greater detail.

Green Wall

blue wall

Red wall

Each section contains many of the same basic tools, such as the following:

Cone Wrenches


Socket Wrenches

Crank Pullers

Chain breakers

4th hand tools/cable pullers

Less common tools may only be in one section, like the ones below.

Masterlink pliers (green section!)

Hacksaws (red section!)          

Measuring Tape (blue section!)



There are also two truing stands on the left and right sides, complete with spoke wrenches. These are used to true wheels that have a wobble in them.

To remove tires from wheels in order to fix a flat, tire levers are used. These are located in a container on the concrete post in the middle of the Kitchen.

If you need to pump up your tires, there is a pump hanging from the ceiling near the green wall. This will pump your tires to around 50 PSI, or pounds per square inch. The pumps on the floor have gauges that can be used pump your tires more exactly to a higher PSI.

And as always, if you’re in the shop and can’t find what you’re looking for, just ask one of our knowledgeable and good-looking mechanics. They will be delighted to help you out!

Week 2: Chain checkers

Week 3: Chain Breakers & Master Link Pliers

Week 4: Tire Levers

Week 5: Cable Pullers

Week 6: Pedal Wrenches

Week 7: Spoke Wrenches and Truing Stands




Improvements for Stanley Park Causeway

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

The Bike Co-op has written a letter to City and Provincial governments demanding improvements in the cycling infrastructure along the Stanley Park Causeway.

The initiative complies with the Co-op’s advocacy mandate, where we recognize our role as an organization to actively seek out ways in which we can push  for improvements in the Vancouver cycling community.

The letter supports the initiative of HUB: Your Cycling Connection, who have also written a letter to City and Provincial Government requesting changes, making short and long term recommendations for improved safety of pedestrians and cyclists. They have also started a petition to support their recommendations, and we strongly encourage you to sign it!

If you have any comments or ideas related to this matter, please do not hesitate to contact us! We are all ears.

Take a look at the letter.