This week Shimano gave us all a first look at their new 2009 Dura Ace Gruppo. There were a lot of interesting developments the most noticeable is the departure from the exposed shift cables to an internal routing method which is similar to both Campy and SRAM. But, what interested me most was the introduction of a master link for joining the chain. No more pins which need to be precisely centered between the plates. No more worrying if the pin is too tight and is holding the plates too tight as a result. Click the master link and you are good to go.
First off, let me state for the record that I am not a professional bicycle mechanic. However, I like to know how to work on my bike not only because sometimes it is more convenient to do it on my own and if I ever break when I am on the road I have a better chance of making a repair and getting myself back up and running.
This explains why I think chain master links are the best way to join a chain. Using a master link is basically goof proof and that is a huge benefit when you are way out in nowheresville and don't need to add the additional worry of whether your chain is going to snap.
I have to give credit to my local bike shop (LBS), The Bicycle Outfitter in Los Altos, California, for turning me onto master links. Unlike me, these guys are top-flight pro mechanics and I trust their advice. So when they recommended that I switch from pins to a master link I decided to give it a try. I haven't looked back; I haven't broken a chain and I no longer worry about breaking a chain.
So, should you all rush out and put master links in your chains? If you run Campy or SRAM, breath easy, you are already there. If you run Shimano, next time you replace your chain, think about putting in a master link. Obviously, I think it is a desirable upgrade, hopefully you will, too.