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, enabling 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 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 2023 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
- £42.99 / €46.72 / $48.77 / AU$70.03
The Birzman Damselfly Universal Chain Tool has an attractive, modern aesthetic. The build quality feels great too. It’s nice and easy to use, owing to the long handle’s leverage.
The deep, spring-loaded cradle holds chains securely.
All speed chains are accepted and a spare driving pin is included.
The Damselfly is large, but not too heavy at 239g. There’s nowhere to store the spare pin though.
For this price, some extra features, such as a stiff-link cradle, wouldn’t go amiss.
Topeak All Speeds Chain Tool
- £25.49 / €29.78 / $31.09 / AU$44.64
The Topeak All Speeds Chain Tool has loads of features, including a stiff-link cradle. The handle holds a replaceable driving pin and chain hook.
The All Speeds chain tool even works on Campagnolo hollow-pin chains.
The pin aligns well, and the comfort and build quality are good, with plenty of leverage for removing tough pins.
The fixed chain cradle is shallow, so narrow chains are less secure than on some other tools.
Weighing 274g, it’s also one of the heavier options.
Lezyne Classic Chain Breaker
- £27.99 / €32.70 / $34.13 / AU$49.01
The Lezyne Classic Chain Breaker 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 enough leverage to push out even the most stubborn pins.
It can be fiddly to align the chain on the small cradle when trying to drive in a new chain pin.
The Classic comes with a spare stowed inside its handle. It’s heavy at 299g.
Pedro’s Apprentice Chain Tool
- £54.99 / €64.25 / $67.07 / AU$96.29
Despite its simple design, the Pedro’s Apprentice Chain Tool works efficiently on all speed chains.
Its deep cradle holds chains securely when driving out and inserting chain pins.
The tool is comfortable and easy to use. At 213g, it’s light yet gives adequate leverage.
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
- £34.99 / €40.88 / $42.77 / AU$61.27
A sliding chain shelf allows the Park Tool CT 3.2 Chain Tool to fit all speed chains. The mid-size cradle keeps the chain secure enough for the driving pin and chain pin to line up.
The CT 3.2 has enough length and leverage to remove tight pins. It feels well built too.
But it’s heavy for its size, at 273g. 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.
The Park Tool CT 3.2 has now been superceded by the Park Tool CT-3.3 chain tool.
The following tool scored fewer than four stars but it is still worth considering.
Fabric Compact Chain Splitter
- £21.03 / €24.57 / $21 / AU$36.83
The small and light (116g) 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.
It’s compatible with all different speed chains. The stiff-link cradle does the job well.
Being small, it has little leverage, so requires a lot of force to break a link. Undoing stubborn pins can be tough.
The fixed cradle isn’t overly secure, and the driving pin isn’t replaceable. But the latest version of this tool does have a replaceable pin.