Bike Chain: SRAM Powerlink Removal




I decided to buy an SRAM chain with Powerlink, thinking (like most people) that this makes chain installation and removal so much easier. That is, easier than using a chain tool and having to get new chain pins every time. Shortly after buying the chain, however, I was hanging out in an online biking forum where numerous people were complaining about how hard it was (sometimes seemingly impossible) to get a DIRTY Powerlink to come apart. Some time later when it came time to clean my chain, I found myself being similarly frustrated, but eventually reasoned out the simple finesse way to get the Powerlink released. It seems like something worth sharing!

It is very important to note that using brute force is NOT the answer! Initially, I tried to use just some pliers at the points where the green arrows are (photo in step 3), and NOTHING happened! After thinking about it overnight however, I employed the technique I have described here (using just my fingers) - the link almost fell apart in my hands! No pliers or force required.

The design

The Powerlink is two pieces, each being a combination of a outer plate and a pin. The pins latch into the hole in the opposite half of the Powerlink. Alright, you know all that. The part that you may not be aware of is that the pins have a bit of a "head" on them that sit in an inset in the other plate. This makes it impossible to release the link when the plates are out all the way. They have to be pressed inward ever so slightly to get the head out of the inset. Take a look at the photos.

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Step 1: Get Some Slack

Before you can get the Powerlink to release, you will need to get slack in the chain so you can work with it. You probably knew this, too. Just in case you didn't, the standard way of getting slack is to put the chain on the smallest sprocket on the rear and also the smallest chainring on the front. Then you pull the chain off the front chainrings altogether so that it's hanging on the frame. If, like many of us, you intend to clean the front chainrings, this would be a good time to remove them since that will allow you pull the chain behind the bottom bracket (that thing the chainring and pedals mount on), getting even more slack. The idea is to get enough slack so that you can isolate the Powerlink as shown in the photos.

Step 2: Clean the Powerlink

You want to be able to squeeze the Powerlink plates together a bit, which means you have to eliminate all the dirt that you can. I like to use penetrating oil for this. The various brands include LiquidWrench, LPS, and of course, WD-40. You could also use some degreaser or carburetor cleaner. An old toothbrush in combination with the cleaning solution works really well.

Step 3: Release

Note the figure with the colored arrows. You want to use one hand to squeeze the Powerlink lightly where the blue arrows indicate, while at the same time using fingers on the other hand to slide the two plates in opposite directions per the green arrows. Again, one hand squeezes the plates, the other one slides them to unlock. Note that the fingers on the second hand (probably your right) will be pressing on only one plate each, just like the arrows show. If you press on the ends of both plates, they can't move.  The direction of sliding will result in the pins moving towards each other.

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    7 Discussions


    1 year ago

    Thanks you for the advice. I had given up on my Powerlink before finding this article. The blue arrow squeeze was my missing piece of information. For me, a finger-powered green arrow squeeze wasn't enough. I had to adopt a "diagonal pliers" technique until the thing eventually yielded.


    1 year ago

    I know this has been here for years but I've only just come across one of these main links. Thanks for saving my sanity.


    3 years ago

    use aceton for the chain, it's perfect and ecological (just watch to don't put aceton on plastic parts)


    4 years ago on Introduction

    very clear and helpful explanation - sorted me out in a minute


    6 years ago on Introduction

    WD40 might work well to clean the link for easy removal, but I can't stress enough that getting all the WD40 off the chain is REALLY important. WD40 collects dirt like a magnet and that dirt will drastically shorten the life of a bicycle's drivetrain. My solvent of choice is automotive brake cleaner. It cleans really well, comes out of the can at a pretty high velocity to blast away grime, and it dries fast and leaves no residue. One full overhaul of a bicycle takes about 2 cans. Once I get a dirty bike tore down, I toss the chain in an old Jiffy Peanut Butter container and spray in some brake cleaner. Toss on the lid and shake. I repeat this process until the brake cleaner comes out clear. For oil, I found an oil that is meant for industrial turbines. I lube the chain while it is off the bike. After applying the oil, wipe the chain down until you can rub the chain with your fingers and feel no oil. Many people believe that a chain needs to be greasy. Not the case. The part of a chain that needs oil is inside where the pins rub the roller bearings. ANY oil or residue you feel on the outside is nothing more than an invitation for dirt and grime. My chain and rear cassette on my Trek have almost 3000 miles on them and there is not one squeak, creak, or chain slip because I clean it after EVERY ride.

    I also suggest keeping an extra masterlink in your pack. If you ever have to do a quick roadside repair and you lose have the masterlink in the weeds on the side of the road, having a spare could save you a long walk.