Why should I care about motorcycle chains?
Motorcycle chain maintenance, along with oil changes and tire maintenance is a crucial part of safe riding. Chains are the unsung mechanical heroes of motorcycling; they're responsible for the crucial task of transferring power from the engine to the rear wheel, and without proper inspection and maintenance, can fail and cripple the motorcycle, or worse, become dangerous projectiles.
Clean Your Motorcycle Chain
Don't run your engine to get parts moving while you spray them; it's far safer to put the transmission in neutral and manually spin the rear wheel. Also, make sure the cleaner you spray is rated for o-rings, if your bike chain is so equipped.
Whether or not your chain needs adjusting, you'll want to keep it clean and well-lubricated. Most modern chains are "O-Ring" types which use rubber components, and are sensitive to certain solvents. Make sure you use an "O-Ring" approved cleaning agent when you spray the chain and sprockets or use a soft brush to apply the cleaner.
Wipe Off Excess Grime
Next, you'll want to wipe off the excess grime using a rag or towel, which will create a clean surface that's friendlier to lubricants. Be sure to thoroughly reach all the sprocket teeth and chain links by rolling the rear wheel (or the entire bike, if it's not on a stand.
Lubricate Your Chain
Keeping the chain lubricated will extend the life of the chain. You should lubricate every single pin in the chain. Although this method is time consuming, it is the best method of lubrication.
While rotating the wheel, evenly spray a layer of lubricant across the chain as it runs along the sprockets.
Most people (probably 7 out of 10) don't know how to correctly "lube" their Motorcycle/Bicycle Chain. A chain wears at it's "Pins", that holds the inner & outer Side Plates together. It's Pins wear that causes your chain to stretch!. Most people just spray the chain lube on the back of the sprocket down the middle of the chain. This would not maximize your chain lubrication, as the chain rollers doesn't need much lubrication. The only correct way to get the "lube" to the Pins is to spray just above the chain at the bottom of the sprocket & let "gravity" do the work. The lube will flow between the side plates to get to the shaft of the Pins. Then do the other side the same way. The difference between a improperly lubed chain & one that is lubed correctly can mean up to a 35% increase in the life of your chain. Remember that a properly lubed non O-Ring Chain with the same Tensile Strength.....will last just as long if "lubed" correctly. Even a O-Ring chain seals have to be lubed occasionally to keep them from drying out & help flush grit off the chain.
Adjust Chain Tension, If Necessary
Chain tension is generally determined by the distance between the front and rear sprockets, and many bikes have index marks to help with alignment.
Bikes have differing chain adjustment mechanisms, and in general, the rear axle and wheel move forward or backward in order to set chain tension. Single-sided swingarms usually have an eccentric cam which sets the position of the rear axle; other more traditional designs feature hexagonal-headed inner nuts to move the axle, and an outer one to lock and unlock it.
When chain tension is properly set, it should be able to move up and down between approximately 0.75 and 1 inch at its loosest point.
Tighten the Rear Axle
Once you've moved the rear axle, make sure that both sides are aligned perfectly before tightening, since not doing so can prematurely wear both the chain and the sprockets. Evenly tighten the axle nut(s) and replace the cotter pin with a new one.
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