As sure as death and taxes, you’re going to break/bend/twist a chain at least once in your riding life. Just as you pack a tube and a pump for a ride, a chain tool should be an essential item in your kit. Many of them are either too bulky, heavy or useless to actually get you going again, and consequently get left behind with a prayer that it won’t be needed. And it might not be, for years sometimes, but be sure that when you do snap a link, you won’t have it with you and will be begging anyone riding past for a loan of theirs.
When Specialized introduced their SWAT line of accessories a couple of years ago, the item that really piqued my interest was the EMT Top Cap Chain Breaker. Being that guy who usually forgets to pack at least one or two essential items, the idea of a chain breaker permanently affixed to the bike seemed like a godsend. It takes the place of the pre-load cap on the top of the steerer/stem and adds bugger all in the way of bulk and looks kinda cool as well.
Like standard top caps it pre-loads the headset bearings before the stem clamp bolts are tightened. You just use the supplied tool to knock the star-fangled nut a bit further into the steerer to accommodate the longer threaded bolt/pin pusher and you’re away. There’s also a version for carbon steerers, so roadies can get in on the action too.
Nestled under the top cap is room for a joining link, held in place by their pins. Just make sure if you change from 10-speed to 11-speed you change your joining links too. Ahem. The tool works with all width chains from 8 to 11 speed.
The little lever pops out for holding onto while you wind in the pin push-rod onto the chain pin.
It doesn’t get much simpler than this. Light alloy body and a steel pin require a bit of copper grease to keep the tool operational after it’s been subjected to mud and water and dust while sitting in waiting for action. If you can’t handle an extra 25 grams or so on your bike this ain’t for you, and you may need to seek professional help.
Lining up the pin push-rod with the chain pin needs a bit of a careful eye.
And then use your 4mm allen key on your multi tool to wind the plunger in… simple. (Yes I know that’s a workshop allen tool…). Mine’s been on my mountain bike for a couple of years now, and has seen action once, and worked without issue and saved a ride. For testing/review purposes, I broke and rejoined an old chain about four or five times, probably (hopefully) more action than it may ever see in its lifetime.
The EMT tool is what it says it is, an emergency tool to get you back on the bike. It is by no means a workshop tool, just like most mini chain tools. But it’s a great way to keep extra stuff out of your pack or jersey pockets, and is always where you need it; on the bike and ready to go. And for forgetful riders who have too many bikes and bits to carry, it’s definitely a worthy addition.