I have terrible luck with chain breaker tools. I cannot quite figure out why; I have worked as a bicycle mechanic at a local shop, so I am in no way unfamiliar with the proper usage of such a tool. No matter the brand, they always end up breaking, or the pin that breaks the links apart snaps. Broken pins can be replaced, but sometimes they cannot be taken out…essentially rendering the tool useless.
Hello and Goodbye
Recently, I have been working on tuning up my bicycles for the upcoming season. And part of this maintenance is removing the chain and thoroughly cleaning/and or degreasing it. Over the course of a season, a chain can become quite soiled. Since the chain I was working on did not have a master link, I needed to remove a pin from the chain. So, I went to grab my Park Tool chain breaker, to find out the pin had broke, and was not removable. Dag nabbit! Even my expensive tool was useless…only after using it a few times over the past couple of years.
Frustrated, I decided to see what Amazon had to offer for a decent price. After looking around, and reading the myriad reviews on each chain tool, I decided to give the Oumer’s branded chain breaker the ol’ boy scout try. The reviews were mostly excellent, aside from a few negative ones (I have a hunch these folks either got a defective product or just had no idea how to use it–despite the great instructions included in the packaging). Three days later, the tool arrived safe-and-sound.
My initial impressions? The tool is well built, the handle is of decent length and girth, and though the handle is plastic, it is quite sturdy…despite its appearance. The tool feels (to me) well balanced, and the plastic handle spins well, allowing a firm purchase when applying torque. The finishing of the metal is not spectacular, but at 10.00, I am impressed. And besides, its a tool, not a showpiece.
The Moment of Truth
The next day, I ventured out to the garage to try out my $10.00 chain tool. I first examined the threads, to ensure they were adequately greased. And, to my surprise, they were! I grabbed my freshly cleaned chain, set up the tool, and spun the pin into the chain…perfect! I was so excited. And when I was ready to re-install the chain, the tool again worked flawlessly (note: I was using the tool on an eight speed Shimano HG chain).
In truth, the fact that my chain was already clean before I used the tool was certainly helpful. Over time, lubricants and dirt particulates enter into the small spaces between moving parts. This build-up can cause a bit of rust, effectively making removal of pins increasingly difficult.
The lesson here? Make an attempt to at least clean/degrease the link area and pins you wish to remove before using the tool. While some bicycle mechanics suggest staying away from using products such as WD-40, I have found it to be very beneficial…if it is used properly. Do not rely on the product for a total clean, but instead to loosen up the stiff areas of the chain. Chain tools work best when the chain is moving freely.
In a follow-up post, I will walk through the process I use to remove, clean/degrease, re-install, and lubricate a bicycle chain. But back to the Oumer’s tool: I highly suggest the tool for anyone that occasionally works with chains on their bicycles. While the tool works well, it is not (at least it appears to me) designed to meet the demands of constant use–such as in a professional bicycle service department. In such cases, I would still prefer to use a Park or Pedro’s chain breaker. But hey, who knows, I may be surprised…and incorrect in my assessment.
Pick one up, try it for yourself, and see if you agree.
Until next time, get outside and breathe.