Motorcycles - Ernie Dube

Tech Tip: Motorcycle Chain Adjustment

For general non-specific make questions

Chain Tension

I had the opportunity to ride my son’s 1982 Suzuki GS1100 EZ last night and the first thing he said was, “there’s a noise coming from the bottom of the motor on deceleration. Can you check it out while you are riding?” I thought “great he’s giving me broken bike to ride with my friends”.

I no sooner got a block away and I knew that the chain was loose. Besides the clanking sound, the throttle response was very erratic. Ok so I can make this ride fun I thought.
Well beside the noise and the throttle responses every one that I rode with asked if the bike was going to make it. I guess the clanking was louder than I thought.

It very important that the chain is properly tightened. A loose chain can cause excess wear on the sprockets and eventually have to be replaced. Also the constant slapping and vibration could damage the chain guard and front sprocket cover.

Most motorcycle manufactures have some sort of tension adjustment. If you follow the manual, you can adjust it in a matter of minutes. Most times you have to loosen the rear wheel axel nut in order to slide the rear wheel back to make the chain tighter.

There is a measurement tool for adjustments. However, most of us don’t have this tool so if you are in a pinch, a quick way to adjust is to have the bike with full weight on the suspension. Get a helper and have her or him sit on the bike and you should have no more than ¾” of play on the drive side (top) of the chain. Then you can get to a dealer or your local bike shop to have it fully adjusted.

If you cannot achieve this, the chain is stretched beyond its limits. Don’t be tempted by removing a link to make it shorter. This will only add to sprocket wear because the chain is now running on the leading and trailing edge of the gears.

Oh yeah, don’t forget to oil it while you’re on your hands & knees.


The Author - Roger Chartier