Trail Tech: Mastering master links

Why 10-speed SRAM PowerLocks aren't reusable

Question: I’m attempting to remove the PC 1070 on my mountain bike in order to give my drivetrain a thorough cleaning. Why does SRAM caution against reusing their 10-speed master links? Will it break if I attempt to reuse it? Also, what’s the best tool to get it apart?

This question is certainly not MTB-specific. Roadies, if you’re reading this, pull up a chair as well.

SRAM changed the design of their master links when they went from nine to 10 (and now up to 11) cogs. The reduction in chain width from nine to 10-speed necessitated a redesign of SRAM’s master link. Eight- and nine-speed chains use a PowerLink, which can be reused. SRAM's 10 and 11-speed master links are called PowerLocks and are not to be reused.

SRAM's PowerLock chain connectors are designed to be used once

According to SRAM, the ridge that joins the two plates of the PowerLock together can be damaged when unlocking it, increasing the risk of failure if reused. So yes, if you choose to reuse a PowerLock there is an increased likelihood of if failing, according to SRAM.

I know a number of professional and team mechanics who routinely reuse PowerLocks on their own bikes, but replace them with a new link when dealing with a customer or athlete, so it’s a bit of “do as I say, not as I do.” 

If you’re not willing to shell out a couple of bucks for a new PowerLock, or if you frequently remove your chain for cleanings, another possible solution would be to replace your SRAM PowerLock with a reusable 10-speed master link from Wipperman or KMC.

As for the best tool to unlock a PowerLock—a bit of elbow grease and an expletive-filled rant can generally dislodge a PowerLock. But my preferred method is to use a Park Tool MPL-1.

Work smarter, not harder

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