October 29, 2017 | By Jeff King
So, you’ve run out of adjustment, and your chain is slap-happy, making more noise than your exhaust. Well, done my friend! You can certainly rest easy knowing you’ve squeezed the maximum value out of your current chain and sprockets. How about we take your worn drivetrain out of its misery and swap em’ out for a fresh set?
Well. Let’s get cracking. All great how-to articles start with an informative diagram:
OK, diagram dispensed, individual components and terms to be defined as we need them.
First off, we going to need to find a nice level place to work. You need a lift, center stand or jack of some kind. Don’t get the rear tire airborne just yet though ... the first steps are much easier with the wheels on the ground.
Step 1: Loosen the rear axle and countershaft sprocket
Put the bike on its sidestand, and loosen the rear axle nut. You may need someone to stand on the rear brake petal unless you’ve got some serious yoga moves. Just get it loose at this point. We’ll be removing the axle later.
Step 2: Loosen the countershaft sprocket nut.
This is a much easier task with the weight of the bike on the ground and the chain still installed. You’ll have to remove the countershaft sprocket cover, usually just a few bolts. And here’s what you’ll find under the cover:
You’ll have to bend back the locking washer with a drift and a hammer. Yes, it’s a barbaric but very effective method of securing the sprocket. Most times you will be able to re-use the locking washer, but if it’s totally hammered, think about ordering a new one to have on hand the next time.
-- Jeff King, Moto Republic
Hope to god that you have a big enough socket in your kit, have someone hold the rear brake petal down, and loosen the countershaft sprocket nut counter clockwise.
If you have an impact driver, you’ll laugh at how easy this is to accomplish. If you manage to succeeded with pure muscle and determination, you should be very proud of your efforts. Leave the nut and sprocket on for now. It’s just important that you’ve got it loose.
Another common countershaft arrangement is this:
A much more sophisticated arrangement. Remove the two small bolts securing the lockwasher, rotate the lockwasher one tooth either way to remove. Success ... treat yourself to a cup of tea ... Earl Grey.
Step 3: Remove the old chain
Get the rear tire up in the air so it can spin freely. Whatever method you use, just make sure the bike is secure.
If you have a clip type masterlink, simply remove the clip (and masterlink), and roll the chain off the sprockets by spinning the tire clockwise. If you have the rivet type, you can use a chain tool to press out the pin, but I prefer cutting off the chain with and angle grinder.
Cut the chain anywhere you want ... it doesn’t matter. We’re not trying to save any parts here. Use eye protection, common sense and possibly a fire extinguisher. Once cut, remove the chain with the same clockwise method.
Step 4: Remove rear wheel and R and R the rear sprocket
Slide out the rear axle and remove the wheel from the swingarm.
Lay the wheel sprocket side up on a mat or on your workbench, and remove the nuts securing the old sprocket.
Install the new sprocket and torque the nuts to the specs in your owners manual.
Re-install the rear wheel.
Push the axle as far forward in the swingarm as possible. Snug up the axle nut, but don’t do the final torque on it just yet. We’ll need a little room for movement of the axle later when we adjust chain slack.
-- Jeff King, Moto Republic
Part of the idea here is to make sure the rear axle is positioned as far forward as it can go, so we end up installing the shortest possible chain on it, retaining the maximum adjustability with the chain adjusters. As your chain wears, you’ll need to move the axle backward to take up the slack. More room to adjust, means you can squeeze out more life from your chain.
Step 5: Swap out the countershaft sprocket
This one’s easy peasy, lemon squeesy. Don’t worry about the final tightening torque and locking washer just yet. You’ll be addressing that later after the new chain is installed.
Step 6: Install the new chain
Thread the new chain onto the new sprockets. (Watch those fingers.) Start at the top of the rear sprocket, and thread the new chain on by rotating the rear wheel CCW and guiding the chain around the top of the countershaft sprocket and back to the rear sprocket. Have I mentioned to watch your fingers? (Go slow and no one gets hurt.)
I like to line up both ends of the chain on the rear sprocket to make it easier to install the masterlink. Don’t forget to grease and install the o-rings on the inboard edge of the masterlink. If you have a clip type masterlink, go ahead and install two more greased o-rings and the side plate.
Install the clip, closed side facing the direction of the chain’s travel.
If you have a rivet-style link, the process is the same (two greased o-rings, press the sideplate on) but you’ll be peening the rivets over with a chain tool.
Now that you’ve got the chain installed, let’s do the final torque on the countershaft sprocket nut. (You lucky folks with the locking plate arrangement simply install the washer, rotate one tooth and secure the two bolts.)
For the rest of us, we’ll need to knuckle up with a good torque wrench. Lower the bike off the stand and have the weight of the bike on the rear tire for this step. Again, holding the rear brake, torque the countershaft nut to the specifications in your service manual. When fully torqued, bend the locking washer back over one flat of the nut.
Time to adjust the tension on your new chain and torque the axle nut. May I suggest referencing our previous technical article on the subject as a refresher: Drive Chain Clean, Lube & Adjust?
Alright, you’ve adjusted your new chain’s tension, torqued your rear axle nut ... and gosh darn it ... you are Dunzo! Nice work. Take a moment to bask in the glory of this semi-momentous task you’ve completed, and then remember to put the countershaft sprocket cover back on. Now you’re officially done.
If you’d like to get some real world experience on this procedure, Moto Republic offers a monthly 'Chain Lube & Adjust' workshop -- that covers the care and feeding of your new chain, and a mentorship as an add on to your service bay rental if you’ve like to tackle the R&R yourself.
Check out our current Workshop and Class listings at Moto-Republic.com.
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DISCLAIMER: The methods in this article are guidelines, provided and performed by a trained mechanic. If you are not comfortable performing routine maintenance on your bike, it is recommended you get a trained mechanic to complete these and more difficult tasks on your bike.
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