Welcome to Netrider ... Connecting Riders!

Interested in talking motorbikes with a terrific community of riders?
Signup (it's quick and free) to join the discussions and access the full suite of tools and information that Netrider has to offer.

Chain Adjusting > the basics

Discussion in 'Bling and Appearance' started by VTRBob, Feb 1, 2009.

  1. Most of this has been plagiarized from here with some editing to make it more relevant, and the removal of some sections regarding some of the older bikes. :wink:

    It's a grubby job and it has to be done - adjusting and lubricating the chain that is. The good news is that it shouldn't take more than 15 minutes once you have a handle on exactly what to do.

    How you go about it will depend on the type of bike you own. Some use snail cam adjusters at the rear (so named because of their shape), others eccentrics (because of how they run in the swingarm), then there's the plain old screw adjuster in the end of the swingarm and finally you'll come across some single-sided variations on bikes such as VFR Hondas, T955 Triumphs and Ducati’s.

    In any case, the general principle remains the same: you want to take the excess slack out of the chain, without overdoing it, and make sure the back wheel remains more or less straight in the process. You also want to keep the chain lightly oiled, again without drowning it.

    Wiggle the lower run of the chain as close as possible to the middle. As a rule you should have about 20-40mm of slack up and down, but it is always wise to check your owner’s manual for the correct amount of slack for your particular bike.

    Less and it's probably too tight; more and it's too loose

    Most chains that have had some use will have a ‘tight spot’ and you will need to spin the wheel { by hand } and keep wriggling the chain till you find a tight section, that is where you adjust from.

    Good question. A tight chain will place a lot of unnecessary strain on itself, the sprockets and even gearbox bearings. Keep running chains too tight and you can do a lot of expensive damage.
    Have it too loose and you risk the chain thrashing around and causing increased sprocket wear or, in a worst case, throwing itself off the sprockets altogether and causing a crash.
    A well adjusted and lubricated chain transmits the power smoothly (you can actually see the difference on a dyno), lengthens the service life, smooths out your gear changes and makes the bike feel better to ride.


    Check your owner’s manual. In general, the only bolts you should have to touch are the rear axle in some cases or the bolts holding the axle clamps, plus the adjuster bolts themselves (if there are any). On bikes like the late-model VFRs with Pro-arm, you loosen a clamp and use a C-spanner to make the adjustment.

    To make it easier on today’s bikes with no center stand, a ‘race stand’ will make adjusting a heap easier.

    so we've checked the tension - it's too loose - and we now have the relevant axles/clamps loosened. Move the rear wheel back gradually - a millimeter or two at a time - and recheck the tension. A small amount of rear wheel movement will make a big difference.

    You are also aiming to move both sides evenly. The swingarm will have markings near the axle to act as a guide and the general idea is to keep them even. If it's back, say, four notches plus a mil on one side, make sure it is on the other. (This obviously doesn't apply to single-side swingarms. :LOL: )

    The only catch is that markings often aren't accurate and you may end up with a slightly misaligned wheel. If there is any doubt use a ruler and marker to check your alignment.

    Once you have the tension right, nip up all the bolts again. Axle bolts and axle clamps generally require a lot of force - the amount required to undo them is often a rough guide.
    However, adjuster screws and the like need to be treated more gently. If you're unsure, get someone with a little more experience to show you. What is critical is that you double-check that everything is back where it should be.


    The ideal environment is one that's free of dirt with a constant and minuscule supply of oil - the direct opposite of what chains experience. Most bikes run O-ring chains these days, with the links having lubrication trapped inside the link behind O-rings. That lengthens the life considerably, though they need some help. Even an O-ring appreciates some external lube to cut down the friction on the sprocket and therefore keep the running temperature down.

    For most the practical option is spray lube. Generally you should apply it while the chain is warm (just after a ride) and allow ten minutes of so for the carrier liquids to evaporate.

    You apply it to the inside of the chain (spray it on top of the lower run, forward of the rear sprocket) and remember a little goes a long way.
    Regardless of what you're using, it pays to clean the chain occasionally. All you need to do is get a rag soaked in kerosene (not petrol, which will damage the O-rings and dilute the lubricant inside) and wipe the chain.

    I know chain cleaning has a whole thread devoted to it.
    Kero is MY preferred choice, it may not be yours.

    Do not, under any circumstances, be tempted to prop the bike on the centrestand, start the engine, put it in gear, and then let the chain run through the rag. There are gruesome cases of people watching the rag get caught in the chain, and then their hand...

    Phanoogy, how’s your missing finger tip going ?
    :wink: :shock: :LOL:

    How often should you adjust and lube the chain? That depends entirely on your riding. Hard riding, unsealed and wet roads all punish a chain.
    So does a lot of horsepower and a heavy bike. A weekly check is a good place to start if you ride most days.

    On longer runs, take a can of spray with you - you can get them in mini sizes - and apply it at the end of the day. Looked after, a chain and sprocket set should do 20,000km and anything up to double that.
  2. Mark slides beer along bar to Bob.

    Well written and concise find mate. Top job. Just wait until some annoying b@st@rd claims that there shaft drive is better...
  3. Not having a centrestand makes this diffiuclt on the roadside :) (yeah, I know, stop living in the past!!)

    Would you like to comment on the difference between this task on modern, single-shock bikes with longer travel suspension and on older, twin shock machines?
  4. Good information. The first time I cleaned my chain I made quite a mess, so here's a few thing's I've learned to make it easier.
    1. I pour the kero into a spray bottle, then spray it on the chain, holding a rag underneath the section I'm spraying, turn the wheel then repeat. That way you don't waste as much, and your not going to make a mess if you knock the bottle over (yes I speak from experience :( )
    2. Instead of using a toothbrush to clean the chain, I bought one of those brushes that you use to scrub you hands and under your fingernails. Gets the job done quicker and more thoroughly.
    3. Place lots of newspaper beneath the chain to soak up the mess. I know, it seems obvious, but that's something I didn't think to do the first time.
  5. Good post Bob.
    Tripple check after the axle nuts are done up though. My Bandit chain tightens as I'm doing up the nut so I have to allow for that in the first check. My RF900R did it too. Maybe others are the same.
  6. Yep. Chain will generally get a lil bit tighter after you tighten the axle bolt up. as the swing arm spreads when its loosened off, the wheel comes forwards slightly, it then moves back again when the tighten the bolts up
  7. How accurate do you have to be to get both sides lining up properly when adjusting the chain tension? If it needs to be really accurate (in case of misalignment) is there a better method than using a ruler?