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A Horseshoe clip is the "U-shaped" spring steel fitting that holds the side-plate of the joining (or "master") link formerly essential to complete the loop of a roller chain.

The clip method is losing popularity as more and more chains are manufactured as endless loops not intended for maintenance. Modern motorcycles are often fitted with an endless chain but in the increasingly rare circumstances of the chain wearing out and needing to be replaced, a length of chain and a joining link (with horseshoe clip) will be provided as a spare. Changes in motorcycle suspension are tending to make this use less prevalent.

Common on older motorcycles and older bicycles (e.g. those with hub gears) this clip method cannot be used on bicycles fitted with derailleur gears, as the clip will tend to catch on the gear-changers.

In many cases, an endless chain cannot be replaced easily since it is linked into the frame of the machine (this is the case on the traditional bicycle, amongst other places). However, in some cases, a joining link with horseshoe clip cannot be used or is not preferred in the application either. In this case, a "soft link" is used, placed with a chain riveter and relying solely on friction. With modern materials and tools and skilled application this is a permanent repair having almost the same strength and life of the unbroken chain.

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horseshoe_clip — Please support Wikipedia.
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