Proper drivetrain care is key to keeping your bike running smoothly and reliably. Preventative maintenance can go a long way in ensuring you get the most out of costly drivetrain components. This not only means keeping things cleaned and lubricated properly, but checking and replacing your chain often. By replacing your chain before it’s worn, you can vastly extend the life of the cassette and chainring.
To do so, you’ll need a chain breaker, because chains come long and must be measured and trimmed to the correct length for your bike. If you work on your own stuff, this is a must-have item. My favorite is the Decade chain tool by Abbey Tools, which makes highly precise, professional quality bicycle tools in Bend, Oregon.
Now, I’m not saying you need a chain tool that costs 175 bucks like this one—you absolutely do not. Nobody needs this tool—it could even be considered overkill for pros, to be perfectly honest. I used a single $40 chain tool for the entire time I wrenched for a living. It never broke once, but it did reliably break thousands of chains. Hell, most home mechanics can probably get away with using the little emergency chain tool on a folding multi-tool.
So why the Abbey one? Because I enjoy nice things. I appreciate thoughtful design, precision manufacturing, and premium materials. And, I like supporting small businesses. I like all nice things, but especially love using excellent tools. Or maybe it’s that I absolutely can’t stand using ones that suck. If you’re like me, plus have a couple extra Benjamins burning a hole in your pocket, get this tool. Turn your greenbacks into green handles.
It’s seriously so nice. Even just picking it up and feeling its heft makes any buyer’s remorse instantly disappear. Then, you spin the handle and feel an unprecedented level of buttery-smooth threading action, and you’ve fallen in love. You might even head into your local bike shop to see if they’ve got any chains that need breaking. And when they don’t, you’ll be rummaging through their metal recycling bins like an addict looking for old chains to break just to feel that velvety-smooth action one more time. Shop employees will be chasing you off with rigid forks and steel handlebars. You’ll come home after a chain breaking bender: “Where have you been all night? You smell like grease again. You promised you’d stop!”
Any decent chain tool will likely last most folks a lifetime as far as durability is concerned. But, the Decade is designed to change with the times. Its swappable mid-plate ensures that as long as Abbey is in business, they’ll be able to keep making mid-plates to match any new chain designs. Currently, there are three. The standard one works with most chains all the way up to 13-speed. Then, there’s a mid-plate for SRAM AXS road chains (MTB AXS uses standard 12-speed chains), and another one for eighth-inch one-speed chains. Those are sold separately, but to be honest I think it’d be sweet if the tool came with them all. I mean, it’s a pretty expensive piece of equipment. The tool will peen Campagnolo chains as well, by using the thread-in peening insert that’s stored in the handle along with a spare breaking pin that you’ll likely never need (in testing, Abbey broke more than 10,000 chains on the same tool and pin).
The main body and lead screw are both made using a specially coated chromoly steel, giving the tool its strength and addictively smooth action. The handles are machined out of aluminum and anodized in Abbey’s signature green.
Every rider should have a chain tool, and while you don’t need this one, you didn’t need XTR, a carbon handlebar, Kashima Coat, custom wheels with anodized nipples, or matching Chris King hubs and headset either. If you like working on bikes almost as much as you like riding them, there’s simply not a better chain tool on the market.
Oh, by the way, if you’re looking for a good chain wear gauge, Shimano’s is really good. The one in the image below has been replaced by the newer TL-CN42 (Shimano always has the coolest names). The important thing is to go for a three-hook type because they’re much more accurate than the ones with just two. That ubiquitous Park Tool that every shop in the world has—the one with the little pivoting wedge—cannot be trusted. If you see a mechanic using one of those things, take it out of their hands and bring it out to the metal recycling. You’ll be out there fiending for chains to cut anyway.