A good chain breaker (sometimes known as a chain splitter or simply a chain tool) is an essential part of any home mechanic’s toolkit, allowing you to split old chains, shorten new ones and join those that use a pin rather than a quick-link.
You may already have a chain tool on your multi-tool, but these are often small and lacking in leverage, meaning that they’re best kept for emergency use only.
A proper workshop quality unit will split or join hundreds or thousands of chains in its lifetime, and the better ones have a replaceable driving pin so you don’t have to bin it when it inevitably gets bent.
We tested six chain breakers to find out which tools deserve your hard-earned cash.
Best workshop chain tools for 2020 according to our expert testers
The following chain tools scored four or more stars out of five in our test:
Birzman Damselfly Universal chain tool: £40 / $24
Topeak All Speeds chain tool: £28 / AU$50
Lezyne Classic chain breaker: £45 / $50 / AU$75
Pedro’s Apprentice chain tool: £55 / $72 / AU$110
Park Tool CT-3.2 chain tool: £35 / AU$72
Birzman Damselfly Universal Chain Tool
Birzman Damselfly Universal Chain Tool. Immediate Media
So good… We like the futuristic design of the Birzman tool, and the build quality feels great too. It’s nice and easy to use, thanks to the long handle, which gives plenty of leverage, and the deep, spring- loaded cradle, which holds chains securely. All speed chains are accepted. A spare driving pin is included.
No good… It’s one of the largest here, even with its middling 239g weight. There’s nowhere to store the spare pin. For this price, some extra features, such as a stiff-link cradle, wouldn’t go amiss.
Topeak All Speeds Chain Tool
Topeak All Speeds Chain Tool. Immediate Media
So good… Easily the most feature-heavy tool here, the Topeak All Speeds has a stiff-link cradle, and a replaceable driving pin and chain hook hidden inside the handle. It’ll even work on Campagnolo hollow-pin chains, if your road bike is equipped with the Italian brand’s components. The pin aligns well, and the comfort and build quality are good, with plenty of leverage for removing tough pins.
No good… The fixed chain cradle is one of the shallowest on test, so narrow chains are a touch less secure than on some other tools here. Weighing 274g, it’s also one of the heavier options.
Lezyne Classic Chain Breaker
Lezyne Classic Chain Breaker. Immediate Media
So good… The Lezyne tool is beautifully made and easy to use. It fits every speed chain securely, thanks to a threaded back stopper that fastens the chain against its otherwise small cradle. There’s plenty of leverage to help you push out even the most stubborn pins.
No good… We found it a bit fiddly getting the chain aligned on the small cradle when trying to drive in a new chain pin and ended up bending the driving pin. Fortunately, the Classic comes with a spare stowed inside its handle. It’s the heaviest on test, at 299g.
Pedro’s Apprentice Chain Tool
Pedro’s Apprentice Chain Tool. Immediate Media
So good… This is one of the simplest designs on test, but it works efficiently on all speed chains. Its deep cradle holds chains securely when driving out and inserting chain pins. Comfort and ease of use are high, and it has plenty of leverage despite its fairly light weight (213g).
No good… With no extra features, the Pedro’s tool is expensive for what you get. Although you can replace the cradle and/or pin if required, this comes at an additional cost. Because the cradle is fixed in place, wider chains can be a tight fit.
Park Tool CT-3.2 Chain Tool
Park Tool CT 3.2 Chain Tool. Immediate Media
So good… Thanks to its sliding chain shelf, this tool will fit all speed chains easily. The mid-size cradle keeps the chain secure enough for the driving pin and chain pin to line up nicely. It has enough length and leverage to remove tight pins, and feels like a sturdy, well-built tool.
No good… It’s heavy for its size, at 273g, and there aren’t any extra features, such as a stiff-link cradle. It doesn’t have the comfiest handle on test either. While the driving pin is replaceable, no spares are included with the tool.
Fabric Compact Chain Splitter
Fabric Compact Chain Splitter. Immediate Media
So good… By far the smallest, lightest (116g) and cheapest on test, the Fabric Compact Chain Splitter is easy to stash in your pocket. The medium-depth cradle means the driving pin lines up well with the chain pin, and it’s compatible with all different speed chains. It has a stiff-link cradle, which does the job well.
No good… Being the smallest, it has the least leverage, and requires the most force to break a link, so it can be tough to undo very stubborn pins. The fixed cradle isn’t the most secure here, and the driving pin isn’t replaceable. [Editor’s note: the latest version of this tool has a replaceable pin.]