Chain pliers are a vital tool for modern mountain bike drivetrains and Lifeline's 2-in-1 pliers are a cost-effective solution for occasional mechanics.
Back in the old days, when I was a kid, a bike chain was held together with a split link – albeit one with an extra plate holding the whole thing together. Thankfully these were eventually ditched in favour of replacement rivets that you pressed into the chain, but it did require a specialist chain tool and things could go wrong if you pushed the rivet out too far.
Now we’ve come full circle and most chains use split links or Masterlinks as they’re also called. These are more secure and easier to install – to fit a SRAM Powerlink you simply thread the link together, position it along the top run of the chain and the stomp on the pedals to lock the link into place. Splitting the chain so that it can be reused does require a special pair of pliers, like this 2 in1 MasterLink Plier from Lifeline. This tool, and most like it, has two curved prongs that slot between the chain rollers, and you squeeze to push them together, which unlocks the link. All chain link pliers work like this, and plenty of manufacturers make them. The difference is mostly just cost and build quality. Lifeline’s 2 in 1 MasterLink Pliers are par for the course in that regard, the difference being that they have a third prong that allows you to use the tool in reverse for fitting the link.
Does it work? It does indeed do this job and it is easy to use. The thing is, you can fit the chain just as quickly using your body weight, so the second function isn’t essential. However it doesn’t add much to the cost – the Lifeline 2 in 1 MasterLink Plier is better value than the Park Tool plier at £19.99 or Topeak at £14.99, but you can get the Birzman pliers for £6.99 and if you shop around, you can get an unbranded set on eBay for as little as £3.99.
The reason I’m recommending you consider a cheap pair of pliers is because most mountain bikers will only ever use this tool once or twice a year. However, if you're a tweaker and like to remove the chain for cleaning, wax coating or have two or three chains and like to rotate them, then the Lifeline 2 in 1 MasterLink Plier is a must buy.