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What Is a Bike Chain Master Link Rivet? (And How To Find It)

In this article, you’ll learn what a master link is, what it is used for, and how to remove it so you can do proper maintenance on your fixed gear bike.

Image of a red bicycle with a silver chain. Source: 선인장, Unsplash
Image of a red bicycle with a silver chain. Source: 선인장, Unsplash

Your chain is the driving force behind your bike. It converts the power generated by your pedaling into gears that propel your bike forward. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most overlooked parts of a bike. Road filth, mud, and salt spray wear down the chain, while age causes it to slacken. As a result, you’ll sometimes want to remove or replace it. To do this, you will need to find the maser rivet, but what is a master link rivet and how do you use it to remove a bike chain?

To remove your bicycle chain, look for the master link or master chain link rivet. The master rivet allows you to open your chain without using a chain tool. The rivet will have a spring clip that looks like a horseshoe on the side or special easy-release pins. To remove your master chain link rivet:

  1. Use a pair of needle-nose pliers to pull off the piece that looks like a horseshoe.
  2. Pull off the side plate of the link and slip the chain apart.
  3. Bend the chain where the master rivet is as if trying to form the link into a U shape. This will loosen the side plate. 

But there’s a lot more to it than that. So, in this article, you will learn what a master link is, what it is used for, and how to remove it so you can do proper maintenance on your fixed gear or any other type of bike.

Editor’s note: This article was updated on June 15, 2022, to include additional information regarding bike maintenance.

Before getting into how to remove a master link, let’s first understand what a bike chain master link is in the first place.

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What is a bike chain’s master link?

The master link, also known as a fast link or link rivet, is a pair of two outer plates, with each plate resembling the outer plate of a chain. If you don’t have a chain tool, a quick-release master link enables you to join or detach a chain. It also serves as a set of the chain’s outer plates, connecting two sets of inner links.

Because a quick link may or may not be reusable, when you disconnect a chain to replace it, you may end up discarding the old master link.

There are two kinds of master links. The first kind is a straight-chain line-compatible link, often seen on single-speed and hub-geared bikes. The other is a derailleur-compatible external link.

Red fixed hear bike with black drop bars.
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Red fixed hear bike with black drop bars.

What is the master link on a bike chain for?

A master link makes it simple to connect and unhook your bike chain. There are specialist tools that make disconnecting a master link even simpler. If you don’t have one, check out the ones below. 

Do all bikes have master rivets?

Master links are not present on all bikes. They are often seen on single-speed or three-speed bikes with internal gears or on BMX bikes. If you’re uncertain whether you have a master link, just measure the distance between your connecting plates. If it’s at least 1/8 inch, your chain should have a master link.

How to identify and find the master link

To find the master link, first, mount your bike on a bike work stand. If you don’t have a work stand, turn the bike over and rest it on the handlebars and saddle. Next, stand on the drivetrain side of your bike to look down on the chain. Turn the pedals slowly to rotate the chain as you watch each link go by. You’ll notice a link that’s wider than the others. Your main link is the widest one.

How to unlock the master link rivet by hand

To unlink the master link by hand, follow these easy steps:

  1. Find the rivet. The rivet will either have a spring clip that looks like a horseshoe on the side or special easy-release pins. 
  2. Use a set of needle-nose pliers and pull off the piece that looks like a horseshoe. 
  3. Pull off the side plate of the link and slip the chain apart. 
  4. Bend the chain where the master rivet is as if trying to form the link into a U shape. This will loosen the side plate. 
  5. Finally, pull off the plate and take the chain apart.

How to remove a chain with a chain tool

If you can’t find the master link on your bike or have a chain without this master link, use a chain tool to open your chain.

  1. Before using the tool, slip your chain off the gears to keep the chain from snapping when the tension is released. 
  2. Position the chain tool over any link so the rod of the chain tool is lined up with a pin on the link. 
  3. Finally, turn the lever on the chain tool to push the rod forward until the pin pops out. 
  4. The chain is now open and ready for cleaning or replacing.

Below are a few tools to help your remove your chain.

Are you looking for more advice? Watch this video called “How to Remove a Power Linkor Quick Link for Bike” from the Zachary Kenney YouTube Channel.

A video called How to Remove a Power Linkor Quick Link for Bike from the Zachary Kenney YouTube Channel.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Below are some commonly asked questions regarding the bike chain master link.

Is it possible to reinstall a bike chain?

A bicycle chain can easily be installed back on a bike once it has been removed. In fact, removal and reinstallation are sometimes required for proper maintenance.

How do you reinstall a bike chain once you remove it?

To reinstall the bike chain, remove the inner end of the chain from the pin. Lay the chain’s outer end flat so that the pin is now horizontal to the ground. Hammer the outer piece (the bit without the pin) repeatedly until the holes of the outer pieces are aligned. Using the chain tool, screw the pin back through all of the parts as usual.

How much do bike chains cost?

A bike chain may cost anywhere from $10 to $90, depending on the brand, quality, and kind of bike. Basic, less expensive bikes that need just a basic chain will cost closer to $10. Higher-grade chains that are robust and designed for top-tier road bikes will cost between $60 and $90.

Conclusion

So now that you know where to find your master link, you can easily and quickly remove your chain for whatever reason.

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This article covered what a master link is used for and how to remove it so you can properly maintain your fixed gear or any other type of bike. Here are some key takeaways:

Key takeaways

  • The bike master link detaches the chain from the bike quickly.
  • The master link is usually the thickest link on the chain.
  • There are several methods to remove a bike chain link.
  • You can remove it with your hands or pliers. There are also dedicated tools for removing a chain.
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So, have you ever removed your bike chain from your fixie? Let us know in the comments below (we read and reply to every comment). Also, if you found this article helpful, check out our full blog for more tips and tricks on everything fixie. Thanks for reading, and stay fixed.

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Written by Bradly Knight

As a native New Yorker, Bradley is no stranger to the fixed gear scene. He’s been riding fixed for over ten years. When he’s not on the bike, you can find him practicing his many hobbies including playing guitar, video production, and photography.

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