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Review: SRAM Power Link Chain

by Noah

I’ve spent about a year and a half with a SRAM Power Link chain on my mountain bike. I’m in the middle of my second winter of daily bike commuting with it. In harsh commuting conditions, frequent cleaning of the drivetrain is a must. Solution: The SRAM Power Link quick release chain.

When you’ve got salty road slop all over your chain, you can’t give it a thorough cleaning without removing it, even with a chain scrubbing machine.

PowerLinkFocus

The Power Link is a quick-release master link that is formed by two halves, and it comes standard on most SRAM chains. This link can be removed very quickly without any tools, and on 7/8- and 9-speed chains, re-used. Due to the very thin construction of narrow 10-speed chains, SRAM recommends that the master link on 10-speed chains be replaced with a new one each time you remove the chain.

At first, I was somewhat skeptical that a quick-release master link would hold up to the brutal conditions and abuse that I put my bikes through, but it’s been a year and a half with hundreds of messy miles logged on each and they’re still going strong. I occasionally hit the singletrack as well, and the chains have handled my heavy body mashing the pedals without a single complaint. I’d say the Power Link is just as strong, if not more so than traditional master link pin systems.

Getting the Power Link released can be a bit tricky for the un-initiated. When I first tried taking the Power Link apart after one of my first winter rides, I couldn’t figure it out until I ran across these instructions. Although those instructions suggest using pliers, I’ve been able to remove it by hand easily enough. For those visual learners out there, these images show the link before and after the plates slide across each other.

PowerLink1
PowerLink2

Once the plates slide to the open position, the master link will split into two pieces. Pull both pieces of the master link from the chain and set them aside before removing the chain for cleaning. The first time removing it is the most difficult, and as noted by Jobst Brandt, excessive grime build-up can make it more difficult, so be patient. Rest easy knowing that re-assembly is quite literally a snap. Pass each half of the link through the loose ends of the chain, line the pins up with the notches and pull the chain to lock the master link together again.

The chain is available from most bicycle shops for about the same price as most other chains, including the popular Shimano HG series. You can also find the Power Link master link for sale all by itself many places for under $5 without buying a whole new Power Link chain. I keep one spare handy in my seat wedge pack in case I encounter a broken chain, whether it’s my own, or a fellow cyclist’s.

These chains are popular at my LBS, so I’m sure quite a few readers have tried them. What are some other reactions to it?

 
Burley nomad 229

19 Responses to “Review: SRAM Power Link Chain”

  1. David Schloss says:

    They’re significantly better chains that Shimano’s chains (my lbs won’t let people ride the shimano chains) and they’ve even saved me on a ride. I did a looong hill climb ride up into nowhere once and I got this massive chain suck. Couldn’t remove the wheel to undo it, the metal ground into the derailleur hanger and froze in place. Luckily I had a SRAM chain on so I undid the links and yanked hard, getting it out of there. I’d still be up in the mountains of Cali otherwise.

  2. Adam Wagner says:

    Agreed. I’ve replaced all of my Shimano chains with SRAM. I’ve had two Shimano chains break on me, once on the road and once in the mountains. On the road I was only a couple of miles from home and was able to coast and push. On the trail I was able to hammer the chain back into semi-working order with my multi-tool and nurse it back home. In either situation if I had been running the SRAM chain (and of course been carrying a spare master link) it would have been no big deal.

  3. Badgerland says:

    I have been using these chains for over two years and they are fantastic in their simplicity and functionality. On two different occasions I was able to help other rides get home from a broken chain by supplying a spare that I keep in my toolkit. I agree that the first time you try to disassemble it’s rather confusing. especially when dirty, but once you know how it becomes second nature. Good review.

  4. UltraRob says:

    I used to break Shimano chains all the time. Once I made the switch to what’s now SRAM I quite breaking them. Of course that was over 10 years ago but I’ve never looked back. Ok so I’ve been skeptical of the power link and always just throw them in my toolbox and put them together the old fashioned. My friends that are strong riders are always happy to take the power links from me. I guess I should give them a try.

  5. Jeff Moser says:

    I love SRAM chains too. They end up on my bikes after the stock chains wear out.

    One thing I like about the power link, is that it’s very visible. I lube my chains with just a little drop on each link, so having a strong visual starting and stopping point is very handy. It can be hard to find the master link on other chains!

  6. Michael says:

    I’m used to Connex chains personally, but do admit the SRAM master links are supreme. At the shop I’m at we actually ditch the master links that come with the lower end Connex chains (800, 804) and replace them with SRAM masters. Nearly ideal. Even lately we’ve noticed some discrepancies with the fit of the higher end Connex links and therefore have been subbing those with SRAM too.

  7. JiMCi says:

    When it’s time to give that chain a good scrubbing, I also use the PowerLink and… a second chain!

    I start by measuring chainwear. The Park CC-3 “go – nogo” tool is fine for that. If the chain is still within tolerances, I open the PowerLink (shifting the derailleurs to the smallest cog and chainring removes tension in the chain and makes the whole process easier) and attach a clean lubed chain to it. When I take the dirty chain out, it pulls the clean one trough the derailleurs. All that’s left to do is to close the SRAM PowerLink and voila, a clean chain is installed while the dirty one is ready for a good cleanup.

    (If the derailleurs and gears also need cleaning, I do it while the dirty chain is still on, otherwise solvent or grit would mess up the clean chain).

  8. Steve says:

    Love the SRAM chains, too. Just a little pointer on taking them off: pinch them together while pushing toward each other. Does that make sense? In other words, you quite obviously have to compress the link inwards, but at the same time push them together laterally. Works on everything but the 10 speed, which is worthless. KMC 10 speed links work better than that.

  9. Michael says:

    Another thing to do is when the link won’t click into place just exactly right, rotate the pedals until the just “unclicked” master link is above the chainstay. Grab hold of the rear wheel tightly while giving the pedal a forward push. This usually clicks the link in for the desired engagement. Otherwise, swap the master link for a different size, maybe to a KMC Missing Link (6, 7, 8 speeds).

  10. Tristan says:

    Im a Power Link lover as well. I’ve found them hard to undo from time to time, but the trick that always gets them apart is to wiggle the chain in the x-axis a bit (i.e. not the way the chain wants to flex) while pushing inwards.

    I’ve only blown out one powerlink, and that was on a well used chain, so I wont count it.

    Also, I’ve lost more than one powerlink when it flew off after separating. Good luck.

  11. Michael says:

    Separating them can be easier if the link itself is rotated vertically, then squeezing the opposing plates diagonally with some pliers for them to click together.

  12. Glen says:

    Just purchased a Sram PC 890 to replace my old Sram/Sachs PC 51. The new chain does not have the beveled edges like the old PC 51 (like in the photo). The new chain shifts terribly (on a brand new casette) and I’ll be using a Wipperman instead.

  13. R. Jordan says:

    Two days ago I was riding and I hop up a curb on campus and boom. I look down and my chain is draging along behind me. One half of the powerlink was gone and I had to push her back to the dorm. I dont know what went wrong. Why would it just come apart like that?

  14. chuck says:

    They are very noisy.

  15. jonavan says:

    ok so ive had the same problem, luckily i was close to home. I hop a curb, or in like three other cases im digging on the pedals, and BOOM! My chain in on the ground behind me and the powerlink has seperated flying in different directions. The last time it happened I almost went over the handle bars. Why is this happening?

  16. eric says:

    good chains unbeatable price in australia but don’t trust power link after 5 failures

  17. john says:

    Used these links for years, had over 20,000k on them and never had any kind of issue, except that they’re almost as much trouble as a regular link to remove. Much easier to refit on a cleaned chain though.

  18. Dwyer says:

    VERY VERY NOISY!! Shimano chains run much smoother and shift better.

  19. SpideRaY says:

    I have just replaced my SRAM PG830 cassette with a new one of the same but decided not to use the stock KMC X8.93 which has a Nickel Outer Plate with the X-Bridge for super fast and smooth shifting) but with an annoting KMC connector that required me to buy 2 sets of rounded pliers for removal and fitting cost £10 each)

    But I decided to try out a SRAM PC870 (Outer Plate Nickel, Inner Grey) I got one for a resonable £10 with the PowerLink included I also bought a spare PowerLink just in case, it works a treat and is dead easy to clean now I cna take it off. The easy way to place it back in is to place the two halves together while the tension is off the rear Derailleur reapply the tension then use the Pedals to snap it back into place.

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