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Tech & Wearables

Technical FAQ: Master link chain repairs, lower Campy gearing, Campy-Shimano freehub switch, wires in tires

How many spare links is too many?

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Have a question for Lennard? Please email us veloqna@comcast.net to be included in Technical FAQ.

Dear Lennard,

I wrote earlier to your Technical Q&A, about chain link pins. My question was about whether the pin you push out should be reused to lengthen or shorten a chain, specifically a hollow link chain such as the CN-HG901.

It has recently dawned on me [!] that the tiny ring that shows up on the piston of a chain brake, along with the snap sound, is actually a structural part of the chain. I had never had to worry about this as I had never used the pushed-out pin to set the length of any chain. I just used a master link or the break-off pin that used to come with Shimano chains.

Is it implied then, [by chain manufacturers] that if you adjust a chain to be longer or shorter, you could have several master links installed? [How many is too many]? If I need to make a road-side repair*, should I also carry a spare master link to make that repair?

*I needed to use the chain breaker on my multi-tool the other day. It was not possible. I could not get enough leverage on the thing to remove the pin. I wonder if others have had a similar experience?

– Robert

Dear Robert,

Yes, you can have multiple master links in the same chain. I don’t know how many is too many. I have seen a joke bike on which the chain was entirely master links, and apparently it shifted okay.

Yes, you should carry a master link in your spare tire bag. I always bring two, in case more than one pink was damaged when the chain broke.

That’s common that a little multi-tool won’t have sufficient leverage to open an 11-speed or 12-speed (probably 13-speed, too) chain with standard hand strength. Chain pins are harder to push out of narrow, modern chains than they used to be in the days of 6-speed chains. This is because, to ensure safety with flush chain pins, the end of the pin is more squashed out; you can see it on illustrations 3 and 4 of your CN-HG901-11 chain here  (again, ignore that the “Shimano 105 DURA-ACE 11-Speed Super Narrow Road Chain” title on this page is screwed up; the CN-HG901-11 is Dura-Ace, not 105). Also, the link plates of narrower chains are made of harder steel, because they are thinner and need to carry the same load. Furthermore, since it is assumed that you won’t be using the same pin to reassemble the chain, no effort is made to ensure minimal damage to the pin (and perhaps to the plates as well, if a master link is assumed) during disassembly.

― Lennard

Dear Lennard,

As an older rider who’s mainly ridden Campagnolo since the mid ’90s, I’ve encountered problems similar to Jon in today’s post. A couple of things I’ve done to address his/my issue:

– There are 11 speed Campagnolo cassettes with 32-tooth cogs. Originally, these were Potenza, which has been discontinued, but they are now available in 11-32 and 12-32 Centaur, and those are quite inexpensive. I have a supply that should last the rest of my and my bikes’ lifetime. Also, the last Record and Super Record derailleurs actually accommodate 32-tooth cogs. A couple of years ago, I bought a couple of those NOS [new old stock] from a UK website. I could only get Super Record, and they cost a lot, but I’ve put about 5,000 km on them this year on old C40s [i.e., Colnago] with 50-34 compacts and 11-32 cassettes.

Earlier, there were Athena mid-cage derailleurs that also worked with 11-32, and I saw some of those NOS on eBay a while ago. They worked with the pre-2015 Chorus shifters, and I used them on my travel bike for several years. There are also current Centaur 11-speed derailleurs that work with 11-32 cassettes. I’m not sure what shifters they work with, since there seem to be two or three different Campagnolo 11-speed ratios, but I’m sure that some Campy expert could answer that.

– Campagnolo makes a Chorus 12-speed crank with 48/32 rings. Technically, this isn’t supposed to work as well as 11-speed cranks, but I had them on two bikes and they worked just fine.

So, there’s no need to switch to a non-Campagnolo freehub or use one of the links, although that’s certainly cheaper than a new derailleur.

– Jim

Dear Jim,

Thanks for that detailed and thorough response!

― Lennard

Dear Lennard,

I would like to suggest yet another way to extend the lower gear range of 11s Campagnolo that has worked well for me: extending Campagnolo cassettes with Miche cogs.

Miche offers Campagnolo-compatible cogs up to 32 teeth, which are also suitably timed and ramped. To make room for this cog, I replace the two smallest cogs of a Campagnolo cassette (say the 11 and 12T) with a Miche ‘first position’ 12T cog.

A spacer is needed between the final Miche cog and the final Campagnolo cluster. This spacer must be 1.5mm thick and no more than 40mm in diameter when using an alloy “Miche final position” cog, or 2mm thick and no more than 38.5mm in diameter for a “Miche final position” steel cog. The spacer diameter can be larger if the edge is suitably chamfered.

Cassettes so modified perform better than full Miche cassettes.

– Francisco

Dear Lennard,

You may have already recollected this, but regarding Jon’s query about using lower gearing on his Campagnolo set-up, the Campy Potenza 11-speed group offered an 11-32t cassette as well as a rear derailleur which could accommodate that gearing (i.e., without a Road Link extension). In my experience, and unsurprisingly, the performance of the Potenza RD was not quite on the same level of Record or Chorus components, but it worked reasonably well and did offer the slightly expanded gear range which many of us aging aspirants sought.

– John

Dear Lennard,

In regards to your response today on moving a Campy WTO to Shimano, I have just gone through this and believe the Fulcrum is not correct, rather this (FH-BO015x1) is the correct freehub for Shimano 11/12 speed on a BORA WTO wheel.

― Lennard

Dear Lennard,

Regarding steel wires causing flat tires, here’s a thought:

Bicycle and rider are electrically charged from the friction created while moving through the air. Being on rubber tires and insulated from ground, the charge builds. As bicycle and rider approach wires, do they stand up to align with electromagnetic fields?

Long shot.

At a shop I was a mechanic at, I changed a flat where the rider had a thin wire in his tire. I showed it to him, and he immediately recognized it as being from a wire wheel he was using on an angle grinder in his driveway.

I also used to get tiny cut offs from shifter and brake cables that would work their way through the sole of my shoe and begin poking and scratching the bottom of my foot.

– David


Lennard Zinn, our longtime technical writer, joined VeloNews in 1987. He is also a custom frame builder and purveyor of non-custom huge bikes , a former U.S. national team rider, co-author of “The Haywire Heart,” and author of many bicycle books including “Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance,” “DVD, as well as “Zinn and the Art of Triathlon Bikes” and “Zinn’s Cycling Primer: Maintenance Tips and Skill Building for Cyclists.”
He holds a bachelor’s in physics from Colorado College.

Follow @lennardzinn