It’s easy to hop on the bike, hit the starter button and roll down the road or trail. But will your bike’s critical chain and sprockets be up to the task? Depending on riding conditions and riding habits, drivetrain components can wear at different rates. And the last thing you want to experience is unexpected failure miles from home. A simple 30-second pre-ride check before every ride is cheap insurance and will keep you informed about your bike’s drivetrain condition.
Here are four super-quick steps to performing the simple 30-second pre-ride drivetrain check:
- Are You Feeling Tension? Tension isn’t so good for a rider, but it is critical for chains. Proper chain tension assures that your motorcycle’s chain will mesh perfectly with the sprockets and provide direct, predictable power to the ground. A loose chain will result in excessive slack (what’s known as driveline lash), resulting in a bit of bucking and abruptness when rolling off and on the throttle. Left unadjusted, that jerking contributes to accelerated chain and sprocket wear. Visually inspect the chain to see if it appears to be drooping in the center. Then, lift upward on the bottom row of the chain to determine how much vertical movement there is. Typically, the acceptable range is roughly 1 to 1-1/2 inches for streetbikes and a little more for dirtbikes (1-1/2 to 2 inches). To be accurate, consult your owner’s manual. While you’re at it, take a look at how far the chain adjusters at the axel are cranked in. If they’re near the limits of adjustment, your chain is near the limits of its service life.
- Is it Slick? While most modern chains are sealed and contain internal lubricant, it’s still important to keep the external components lubricated and free of debris. If the chain is dry, showing signs of rust, or a buildup of dirt and debris, it’s time to do a thorough cleaning and apply fresh lube made specifically for motorcycle chains.
- Look at Your Teeth. Um, the bike’s sprocket gear teeth, that is. Visually inspect the profile of the sprocket and look for signs of wear and thinning. A worn sprocket will have pointed teeth that may even be curling into a hook shape. Notice how the chain fits along the sprocket. If it’s riding up on the teeth, the chain and sprocket are no longer meshing properly and failure is a real concern.
- Give it a Spin Is the chain rolling smoothly over the sprockets, or is it catching and binding? With the engine turned off and the transmission in neutral, walk the bike around on a smooth surface (if you’ve got a center stand, just give the wheel a manual spin with your hand). Listen for clicking, clunks or clattering as the chain wraps around the rear sprocket. A healthy chain rolls smoothly and quietly. If yours is anything but smooth, it’s time for replacement.
Completing all four steps takes only about 30 seconds or so. That’s time well spent before a ride since the consequences of a neglected drivetrain can be nasty, especially at speed.
If your inspection indicates it’s time to replace components, be sure to replace chain and sprockets together to assure that everything meshes the way it’s supposed to and lasts longer. You can find the high-performance chain and sprocket options for your bike at sunstar-braking.com.