Thursday, August 22, 2013

If I Had A Hammer... I'd Have A Chain Tool

File under "low-budget shade tree mechanicking..."

Remember how I was about to install a new chain on the green machine? And how I was lauding the magical no-tools-needed master link that so many modern chains now include, save for stupid Shimano? Well, the new chain is on, and I discovered yet another reason that master links rock.

When you use master links, the only time you need an olde fashioned chain toole is when you have to shorten a new chain to the correct length. That's it. So I measured up my new chain against the old one, pulled my trusty Park CT-5 Mini Chain Brute (which is now going on probably 20 years old), and discovered -- DOH! -- that the pin was bent. Some clumsy, ham-fisted gorilla (a.k.a. me) must have wrecked it and stuck it back in my toolkit without mentioning anything to the shop purchasing manager (a.k.a. me). I searched for a replacement pin, but no dice. Tried to bend it back, but hardened steel doesn't really like to bend multiple times, so it snapped. And thus, I was screwed. Up the creek without a chain tool.

In times like these, I ask myself WWSD -- What would Sheldon (a.k.a. the late, great Sheldon Brown, patron saint of bicycle mechanics) do? The bike shops were closed, so I couldn't just buy a new pin and be done with it. Sure, I could put out a call on the social mediums for a local pal who'd loan me a chain tool if I put down a bubbly malt beverage as collateral. But instead, I pondered the problem at hand, hoping that my innate stubbornness (let's just call it "ingenuity" instead) could somehow win out.

All I needed was to drive a pin out of the chain at the correct location without damaging the portion of the chain I hoped to use on the bike. And what's good for driving things? A hammer, of course! So I put the chain in my vice, closing the jaws on the outer plates of the stub of chain I hoped to remove, and laid the "good" end of the chain on the bench to keep it from falling on the floor if this hack succeeded. Found a nail that was just slightly smaller than a chain pin, placed it on the pin I needed to remove, and pounded away. And it worked! The long end of the chain was freed with no damage, and I was ready to install it on the bike with the master link as planned.

I went out and bought replacement pins the following day, so now my CT-5 is as good as new (the pins come in a two-pack, so I even taped the spare to the tool just in case). But it's good to know that in a pinch, a bit of brute force applied strategically can get the job done.

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