Why Adjust Your Motorcycle’s Chain

Motorcycles require a lot of maintenance, but the good news is a lot of those maintenance jobs are of the do-it-yourself kind, like adjusting the chain.

Motorcycle chain adjustment

Drive chain adjustments are essential to the performance of your bike. An incorrectly adjusted chain prevents the motorcycle’s rear suspension from performing at its best, and can quickly wear out components.

Motorcycles are designed to have a certain amount of play in their chains. However, chains gradually stretch over time, which alters the amount of play to the point where it requires an adjustment. 

You should check and adjust a street motorcycle’s chain at minimum after every 500 miles of use, and even more often on performance and dirt bikes.

Dirt bike motorcycle chain

Adjusting a motorcycle’s chain is done by loosening the rear axle, and tightening or loosening the two axle adjustment bolts on the rear swingarm. There’s a measuring scale next to the adjustment bolts, and when they reach the maximum adjustment, the chain needs to be replaced.

Motorcycle chain alignment parts

When replacing motorcycle chains, always change out the front and rear sprockets as well. This is because all three components wear together. In other words, worn out sprockets rapidly wear out a new chain, which will then require yet another replacement, so it’s best to change them all at the same time.

Other Reasons to Adjust or Replace a Motorcycle Chain

When the chain is too tight, the additional resistance and friction reduces the amount of power getting from the engine (drive sprocket) to the rear wheel (driven sprocket), hindering the bike’s performance. Additionally, if the chain is too tight, it could end up snapping and cause a motorcycle accident.

Motorcycle chain adjustment bolts

If the chain is too loose, the bike will experience chain slap, where the chain makes contact with the swingarm and does damage to both. The chain can also jump off a sprocket and cause an accident if it’s too loose.

An important part of replacing a motorcycle chain is knowing how to measure one. Watch the video above to learn how to measure motorcycle and ATV drive chains.


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