StromTrooper banner

1 - 20 of 31 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
184 Posts
Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I found many ways to align your front and rear motorcycle wheels, which of course also aligns your chain sprockets assuming the motorcyle is constructed properly from the factory.

I tried the long straightedge method (one guy used long flourescent light tubes), the string method (SportRyder's Wheel Alignment Method), and the chain alignment tool method (see the MotionPro . The first two methods are an incredible pain in the rear, and with the third (alignment tool) it's too difficult to determine visually when the chain is truly aligned. Furthermore, the string and straightedge methods simply aren't practical on my bike -- and others -- because either the side stand or the center stand get in the way.

Then I had a small epiphany regarding the axles on the V-Strom, which like those on most other motorcycles are hollow. I googled my idea and at found at least one guy who also thought of it and made a tool for it: Quality Machine Company, Inc. - Savannah Georgia

But you don't need a tool. Just find two rods about 2 feet long that fit as tightly as possible into the front and rear axle holes (they can actually be a looser fit, but a tight fit makes it easier for a one-person alignment job since it won't wiggle as much). Get your bike as vertical as possible (like on a center stand or swingarm stand) and run the rods through the axle holes, leaving a foot or so sticking out on each side.

Now get your front wheel as straight as possible with respect to the bike frame. I used a piece of index card taped to the center of the top surface of the triple clamp, and drew a "pointer" line on the card that, when the bars were moved, would point the center of the triple clamp directly toward the center of the dash panel (between the odometer/clock adjustment buttons).

When the front wheel is pointing straight ahead, use a tape measure placed near the outer end of the rods to measure the distance from one rod to the other. When they're the same, your wheels are aligned. You're actually measuring the parallelism of the front and rear axles, but if the front wheel is in fact aligned with the long axis of the bike frame it's the same thing as measuring the alignment of the front and rear wheels.

The beautiful thing about this method is not just the simplicity, but the accuracy. Because the rod extends about a foot from the center of the wheel, any tiny misalignment of the rear wheel is magnified at the measurement point, allowing much greater accuracy compared to the string or straightedge methods. The chain alignment tool method doesn't even come close.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,589 Posts
not so fast

if not done right your method can give two wheels that are both parallel but at an angle to the bike's long axis, you are relying on the triple tree index card to suppress that effect

BTW - are Wee axles hollow, or is your trick just for the Vee?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
710 Posts
I like your method, but I have a difficult time determining if the front wheel is straight. I use the swingarm pivot instead.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
423 Posts
I take a different approach, and it is fraught with possible inaccuracies. But, I line it up best I can, then, with the bike rear wheel off the ground, spin the rear wheel several times around.

Then, I make sure the chain is positioned in the dead center of the teeth of the sprocket at the mid-point at the rear of the sprocket (this would be at 3 O'clock, when viewing the sprocket from the clutch-lever side of the bike).

Next, I check right where the chain first contacts the bottom of the sprocket and right where the chain last contacts the top of the sprocket. If all three spots are centered, at least I know the rear sprocket is in line with the countersprocket. If the rear wheel is cocked to the left, then the top or bottom (or both) of the sprocket/chain interface(s) will have no play on the outermost sprocket side, so, you'll be able to shove the chain from the inside-to-the-outside significantly at the top and bottom of the sprocket.

This method assumes the bike is correctly engineered to have the CS and Sprocket to line up straight to begin with, and that there are no bends in the frame and/or swingarm. I've never had a bike that had abnormal tire, sprocket, CS, or chain wear, and I've never had other riders say they could notice my bike tires not tracking dead straight.

I tried checking tire tracking by running through water and then onto dry pavement, just to make sure the tracks were superimposed upon one another, but, never saw evidence of one of my bikes not tracking straight, so, I don't know if this observation would help or not. I guess I could test it by purposefully getting them out of alignment and observing if the wet-dry test would indicate mal-alignment...but, I'm not really interested in experimenting that much.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,906 Posts
3 main variables, rear wheel, chain, front wheel (assuming all else is well).
Mine don't exactly agree, for reasons unknown.

Front wheel has its own alignment procedure.
I'm more concerned with rear wheel to chain alignment.
If they all align (back, chain, front), you're lucky.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
345 Posts
All of these methods work...and all have their own unique pitfalls and potential for error. I'm like everybody else--I do the best I can to get the wheel parallel to the chain line, but the proof of alignment for me is to go for a ride.

Find a road without any crown or side pitch (I know, that's difficult in itself) and get up to speed, at least 30-35 MPH--and let go of the bars. If your bike runs straight and you don't have to use body lean to keep the bike running in a line, you're tire is prolly as straight as it needs to be.

Disclaimer: Don't use this method if your tires are toast and showing weird wear, cupping or scalloping.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
944 Posts
I found many ways to align your front and rear motorcycle wheels, which of course also aligns your chain sprockets assuming the motorcyle is constructed properly from the factory.

I tried the long straightedge method (one guy used long flourescent light tubes), the string method (SportRyder's Wheel Alignment Method), and the chain alignment tool method (see the MotionPro tool) . The first two are an incredible pain in the rear, and the alignment tools are difficult to visually assess if you're getting the chain truly aligned. Furthermore, the string and straightedge methods simply aren't practical on my bike -- and others -- because either the side stand or the center stand get in the way.

Then I had a small epiphany regarding the axles on the V-Strom, which like those on most other motorcycles are hollow. I googled my idea and at found at least one guy who also thought of it and made a tool for it: Quality Machine Company, Inc. - Savannah Georgia

But you don't need a tool. Just find two rods about 2 feet long that fit as tightly as possible into the front and rear axle holes (they can actually be a looser fit, but a tight fit makes it easier for a one-person alignment job since it won't wiggle as much). Get your bike as vertical as possible (like on a center stand or swingarm stand) and run the rods through the axle holes, leaving a foot or so sticking out on each side.

Now get your front wheel as straight as possible with respect to the bike frame. I used a piece of index card taped to the center of the top surface of the triple clamp, and drew a "pointer" line on the card that, when the bars were moved, would point the center of the triple clamp directly toward the center of the dash panel (between the odometer/clock adjustment buttons).

When the front wheel is pointing straight ahead, use a tape measure placed near the outer end of the rods to measure the distance from one rod to the other. When they're the same, your wheels are aligned. You're actually measuring the parallelism of the front and rear axles, but in practice that is the same thing as measuring the alignment of the front and rear wheels.

The beautiful thing about this method is not just the simplicity, but the accuracy. Because the rod extends about a foot from the center of the wheel, any tiny misalignment of the rear wheel is magnified at the measurement point, allowing much greater accuracy compared to the string or straightedge methods. The chain alignment tool method doesn't even come close.

Your method warrants merit and has validity. However, to go a little further and as an added check, I'd consider using a laser chain alignment tool such as the Profi L-Cat or the less expensive D-Cat unit(which I use). If after using your method shows that the chain is aligned via the laser, you will have an extremely well aligned bike. As was mentioned by another poster on this thread, the manufactoring process has some deviation from prefect so we have to do the best we can and accept that the alignment will never be perfect. You simply try to get it as accurate as you can.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
184 Posts
Discussion Starter #9
Not perfect, but certainly good enough

Kiwi Outdoors wrote: if not done right your method can give two wheels that are both parallel but at an angle to the bike's long axis, you are relying on the triple tree index card to suppress that effect. BTW - are Wee axles hollow, or is your trick just for the Vee?

It's true that if the front wheel is not pointing straight ahead the method will produce the results Kiwi described. But if the bike was built in proper alignment from the factory the method described will be extremely close. The index card doesn't suppress anything that I can see. It's just an easy way to line up the front wheel with the long axis of the frame. If you can come up with a better way to do it, then use that method before taking the measurements between the rods.

As for focusing specifically on sprocket-to-sprocket alignment, I simply can't tell when the chain is running in perfect alignment over the 25+ inch distance between the sprockets, chain alignment tool or not. The measurements / visual cues involved are too small to discern with certainty. So I'm simply going to assume that if the wheels are aligned, the sprockets are aligned -- or are close enough.

Don't know about the Wee axles, but I assume they're hollow, as are those of many motorcycles these days.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
944 Posts
Chasing the alignment demon has caused me big headaches from banging my head against the wall. I've accepted that there is NO WAY to achieve perfect alignment. All you can do is get it pretty close. Even if the manufacturing tolerances are perfect, metal expands when hot....contracts when cold so things change. Seems to me that the way to go is setup the frontend so that the wheel/forks/triple clamp are all installed and fastened correctly and then move to the rear wheel. Align the rear wheel using laser chain alignment tool and you'll be as about as close as possible. That's IMHO.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,076 Posts
i've tried many different ways over the years but the easiest and most accurated for me is the motion pro type. but i see no reason why a broom handle of proper diameter could not be insaerted through the back axle with a 18" or so hanging out on each side of the wheel. if the stick is perpendicular to the bike, it should be aligned--I THINK.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
833 Posts
I dont know about the mentionned straight edge method previously mentionned, but i found an easy one with a 3' edge.
I put it on the top of the chain, with the side of the edge touching both the front and rear of the tire. Depending of the width of the edge and tire, you should have the other side (Opposite of the side touching the tire) of the edge somewhere over the chain over the rear sprocket. Watch about 20" farther forward if the side of the edge is the same in relation with the chain.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7,442 Posts
Keep in mind that the sprocket is rubber mounted with the rubber cushions inside the rear hub so it can float. Worn rubber cushions will make a chain alignment trickier.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,794 Posts
If I were looking for a parallel point on the bike then I would look at the swing arm pivot bolt, not the front axle.
In fact, if I were to design a new bike today it would have a hole thru the center of the pivot bolt to match the diameter or the hole in the rear axle so there could be a tool made to use in helping with alignment.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
363 Posts
Keep in mind that the sprocket is rubber mounted with the rubber cushions inside the rear hub so it can float. Worn rubber cushions will make a chain alignment trickier.
I believe sprocket alignment is controlled by the sprocket carrier bearing and not the rubber cushions. If I were seeing the sprocket alignment change then I would have a look at the sprocket carrier bearing.:confused:I could be wrong...bearings do have a small amount of radial and axial play, but I doubt that I would see that much at the sprocket.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
120 Posts
+1 from the area

I believe sprocket alignment is controlled by the sprocket carrier bearing and not the rubber cushions. If I were seeing the sprocket alignment change then I would have a look at the sprocket carrier bearing.:confused:I could be wrong...bearings do have a small amount of radial and axial play, but I doubt that I would see that much at the sprocket.
+1 on that. The sprocket could rotate back and forth on worn cushions, but not side to side
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
201 Posts
I've been hanging pictures in my home for years. My wife's critical eye can judge within 1 micro of straight and level. I've spent countless hours moving a picture up, down, right, go back too far 1 micro at a time. So I just call her into the garage and say "Honey look down that chain - look straight you you? - yep, done.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
268 Posts
All of these methods work...and all have their own unique pitfalls and potential for error. I'm like everybody else--I do the best I can to get the wheel parallel to the chain line, but the proof of alignment for me is to go for a ride.

Find a road without any crown or side pitch (I know, that's difficult in itself) and get up to speed, at least 30-35 MPH--and let go of the bars. If your bike runs straight and you don't have to use body lean to keep the bike running in a line, you're tire is prolly as straight as it needs to be.

Disclaimer: Don't use this method if your tires are toast and showing weird wear, cupping or scalloping.
Keep in mind even things like unbalanced tires will affect a bike's tracking when not under power.

Also, very few riders ride perfectly in the center of their bike. Even if they don't know it. A sliiiight weight change side to side will affect tracking as well, and as most riders inherently sit the tiniest bit crooked, this will also affect the outcome.

With that said, this is how I check my alignment :mrgreen:
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
184 Posts
Discussion Starter #19
Modified my alignment method a bit

Instead of using the handlebars to get the front wheel straight, I ran a tight rubber bungee cord through the rear of the front wheel and hooked it onto the bike frame so that it was pulling straight back along the centerline of the bike. If you have a bit of lubricant on the bungee, the front wheel will naturally be pulled into alignment with the centerline of the frame. Then you use the rod-through-front axle to measure the distance to the rod-through-rear axle. if they're the same, your front and rear wheels are aligned as well as they ever can be.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
160 Posts
I like your method, but I have a difficult time determining if the front wheel is straight. I use the swingarm pivot instead.
This is what I did on my SV. Dowel rods through the holes, measure each side, boom, done.
The lines on the side of the swingarm are a joke.
Haven't had to take the wheels off the DL yet, but I'll do the same thing.
 
1 - 20 of 31 Posts
Top