Condensed Answer: A SRAM PowerLink can be used on a Shimano chain as long as both are designed for the same number of speeds. Some people use PowerLinks intentionally for the convenience that they offer.
The requirements for a SRAM PowerLink to fit on a Shimano chain are:
The width of the quick link should correspond to that of the chain. If the link is too wide or narrow, it will be difficult to install it, and it won’t be secured.
Bicycle chains’ width differs according to the number of speeds that the bike has. More speeds require a narrower chain because there are more cogs on the cassette/freewheel.
Since the cassettes on modern bikes are equally wide from 8 to 12 speeds, the chain has to get thinner on denser cassettes or its outer links will rub against the adjacent cogs.
SRAM has power links in different colors changing along with the number of gears:
- Grey = 7 speeds
- Silver/Nickel = 8 or 11 speeds
- Gold = 8 or 9 speeds
- Black = 10 speeds
- Purple/Rainbow = 12 speeds
Note: SRAM’s 10, 11, and 12 links are called PowerLocks instead of PowerLinks and are designed for single-use during installation.
PowerLocks should not be used for routine maintenance of the chain because each subsequent opening deforms the quick link and makes it less secure than before.
The first time you install the link, it produces a loud click. If you continue to re-use the link every time you clean the chain, you will notice that the click’s sound level is diminishing because there’s less material at the contact points.
Technical Comparison Between Shimano and SRAM Quick Links
|12-speed||Shimano SM-CN910-12||5.25mm||N/A||SRAM EAGLE Chain Connector 12-speed Power Link||5.25mm||2.2g|
|11-speed||Shimano SM-CN900||5.62mm||2.4g||SRAM 11-speed PowerLock||5.6mm||3g|
|10-speed||10-speed link||6.1mm||N/A||SRAM 10-speed PowerLock||5.95mm||4g|
|9-speed||9-speed link||6.57mm||N/A||SRAM 9-speed PowerLink||6.6mm||3g|
|N/A||SRAM 8-speed PowerLink||7.1mm||3g|
|N/A||SRAM 8-speed PowerLink||7.1mm||3g|
As shown above, some of SRAM’s quick links are ever so slightly narrower than Shimano’s chains.
For that reason, you may experience some stiffness, but it shouldn’t be too noticeable nor a problem.
Universal Chain Links
KMC and Wippermann (Connex Link) produce universal chainlinks compatible with all 12, 11, 10, 9, and 8-speed chains regardless of brand.
Wippermann’s pins are reusable for the life of the chain and so are many KMC models but not all.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Are The Benefits of Using Quick Links?
The main pros of quick/master links are:
- You can quickly fix a broken chain. Some people tape a missing link to the cable housing of their bike for emergencies.
- It’s easier to remove the chain for routine maintenance.
If you want to clean your chain thoroughly, it’s necessary to get it off the bike. Without a quick link, you will have to use a chain tool to break and reconnect the chain later. The procedure is slow, dirty, and annoying if you lose a pin. A quick link fixes that.
What Tools Do I Need To Remove a SRAM Powerlink?
There are dedicated pliers for removing quick links (e.g., Park Tool MLP-1.2).
Quick-link removal pliers are very thin and have a nose shape that grips the pins of the links securely.
Nonetheless, you can use other forms of skinny pliers too. I’ve successfully removed quick links using the Leatherman PS4 Squirt which is part of my EDC (everyday carry) tools.
Tip 1: If you find yourself on the side of the road, and you don’t have a dedicated tool to remove the quick link, you can slide a shoelace through both sides of the link and pull the ends of the shoelace together.
Tip 2: For easier removal, squeeze the link plates before squeezing the pins/rollers together.
Note: SRAM’s PowerLinks (8, 9 speeds) are reusable and easier to remove. The PowerLocks (10, 11, 12 speeds) are designed for single-use and are more difficult to undo.
My Chain Is Skipping Because of The Quick Link. Why?
If the chain is skipping every time the quick link reaches the rear derailleur, there’s a chance that the quick link isn’t fully installed or is too stiff.
Observe the quick link. If it isn’t fully in, you can do the following procedure to install it:
- Rotate the cranks until the quick link is in the middle of the chain’s upper portion.
- Hold the rear brake
- Press the drive-side crank firmly
If the quick link is stiff, the usual solution is to wiggle it until becomes flexible enough.
Note: It’s also possible that the link is the wrong size for your chain.
I’ve been re-using non-reusable quick links. What am I risking?
With every use, non-reusable quick links weaken. The result is an increased risk of a broken chain. Once the chain is broken, you lose your ability to transfer power, and the bike becomes a coasting machine.
A broken chain isn’t fun to fix on the side of the road, especially if the weather is bad, and may also cause an accident. For example, if you’re pedaling hard out of the saddle, and the chain suddenly brakes, you may end up falling on the handlebars and hitting yourself. Since chain failure is sudden, you won’t have much time to react.
Nonetheless, many people reuse non-reusable links. Some do it because they don’t know any better while others are knowingly taking the risk.
In most cases, it’s better to go for proper re-usable links because they’re safer for repeated use and also significantly easier to remove.
How do I know that the PowerLock link is installed in the proper direction?
There’s an arrow on the link’s outer plate. When it matches the chain’s movement direction, the link’s orientation is correct.
Summary: What You Need To Know
1. SRAM PowerLinks and PowerLocks can be used on Shimano chains as long as both are designed for the same number of speeds (cogs on the cassette).
2. PowerLinks are re-usable; PowerLocks are engineered for single-use and weaken if used repeatedly.
3. Quick links are useful for emergencies and make routine chain maintenance faster.