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How do YOU measure your chain slack?

  • On side stand, from a low, resting position to a high, pushed-up position.

    Votes: 6 16.2%
  • On side stand, from a low, pushed-down position to a high, pushed-up position.

    Votes: 11 29.7%
  • On center / paddock stand / jack, from a low, resting position to a high, pushed-up position.

    Votes: 5 13.5%
  • On center / paddock stand / jack, from a low, pushed-down position to a high, pushed-up position.

    Votes: 9 24.3%
  • I eyeball it or poke it with my boot and declare good enough.

    Votes: 6 16.2%
  • Chain? What chain?!?

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Other

    Votes: 0 0.0%
1 - 15 of 15 Posts

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Premium Member
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've seen different comments about how to measure chain slack posted throughout the forum over the years. The two main differences I see are:

<1> Low Point Position

I think everyone's in agreement that when measuring chain slack, we're measuring from a fixed point on the chain (e.g. top of a link pin), at a low chain position and again at a high chain position. The difference between the two is the measured slack.

But I've seen different posts about what people use as the 'low position' when making their measurement. I've seen some recommend measuring from a low, resting position to a high, pushed-up position.

Something like this:

My 2012-16 DL650 service manual shows a diagram I interpret as measuring the distance between a low, pushed-down position and high, pushed-up position:

1623648605084.png

Like this:

The difference between a low, resting position, and a low, pushed-down position is not inconsequential. I've always measured from a low, pushed-down position.

What do you do?


<2> Measuring on Side or Center Stand (or jack)

I've also seen a lot of reference in the forum to measuring chain slack on the side stand or center stand. My 2012-16 DL650 service manual says to measure with the bike supported on a jack. I interpret that to mean with the rear wheel / suspension unloaded, i.e. on a center stand or paddock stand or jack. I measure with the bike on the center stand.

What do you do?
 

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3,133 Posts
I prefer to make use a swingarm stand, when available. To me, I think that it helps place a weight / load in fully extending the swingarm, thereby applying the most tension to the chain. Compare the arc in letter C, to the chain slack during the range of a swingarm movement. The back of the arc in the letter C being the tightest point of the chain, in relation to a fully extended swingarm. As the swingarm moves up or down, there is less tension on the chain.
None of the stands are wrong, when checking the chain tension. I would say that it is up to each rider to follow a process, that works best for them, to ensure that each time a chain tension is checked, it is read in the same spot for the tension inspection.
 

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2016 DL1000 ABS
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796 Posts
I didn't vote because none of the above options cover my method. There is one exercise that I perform once in the life of a motorcycle that I own. I put the bike on a centrestand or jack it up. I undo part of the shock linkage and then with the countershaft, swingarm pivot and rear axle all in line I take the slack out of the chain, not guitar string tight, but virtually no slack. Then with the axle tightened I reconnect the shock linkage. Then with everything back in place, either on the centrestand or on the sidestand with the shock fully extended, I take a measurement again at a fixed point and note it, sometimes taking photos for reference in the future. Thereafter that is the measurment I go by for the duration of my ownership. Sometimes it coincides with the recommendation in the manual and sometimes not. So far so good.
 

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2007 V-Strom 650
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255 Posts
The owners manual is rather "vague" about specifics other than the amount of slack. I'm not too concerned. Tension/slack changes as the suspension moves so not constant.
First chain drive bike I've had in decades along side the GoldWing now and the chain maintainence is the biggest detriment.
 

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4,421 Posts
I don't measure slack. Bike on the side stand push the bottom run of the chain up at about the mid point of the swingarm. Should just make contact.

Looser is better. It's just a chain don't over think it.
 

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1,308 Posts
I didn't vote because none of the above options cover my method. There is one exercise that I perform once in the life of a motorcycle that I own. I put the bike on a centrestand or jack it up. I undo part of the shock linkage and then with the countershaft, swingarm pivot and rear axle all in line I take the slack out of the chain, not guitar string tight, but virtually no slack. Then with the axle tightened I reconnect the shock linkage. Then with everything back in place, either on the centrestand or on the sidestand with the shock fully extended, I take a measurement again at a fixed point and note it, sometimes taking photos for reference in the future. Thereafter that is the measurment I go by for the duration of my ownership. Sometimes it coincides with the recommendation in the manual and sometimes not. So far so good.
WOW!
That's...serious.
Anyway, I wish the poll allowed me to "check all options that apply", because I only use a measuring device about once a month. When lubing the chain after every couple 100 miles, I move it with the toe of my boot and call it good.
 

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392 Posts
I think Griff2 is spot on, but I shortcut that method just a little. Bike on centerstand, I use a ratchet strap thrown over the bike and hooked on either side of the swing arm. Pull til countershaft/swing pivot/rear axle all line up, confirm tiny slack. Just takes a minute, removes the guess work.
 

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Premium Member
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465 Posts
Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I've added a poll option for 'Other'.

Interesting there's so much variation in such a simple, common task. Thanks, all!
 

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Farkle Purchasing System
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3,114 Posts
Book says to hold bike upright on wheels when checking slack. That means suspension is at unloaded sag. Specified slack should then ensure chain is neither too tight at maximum tension, nor too loose at minimum tension.

Getting the countershaft sprocket, swingarm pivot, and rear sprocket all lined up is big brain time, but beyond what I can do in my garage.
 

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Administrator
Queensland, Australia
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7,769 Posts
Griff and Bentwee's methods are the way to find out exactly what slack you really need. Then measure with the bike on its main stand.
I have always wondered about the official factory method as varying initial suspension sag WILL make a difference.
Then add in a little for the inevitable variance as the chain wears unevenly.
 

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I don’t adjust my chain between tire changes. ~10-12,000 miles. Loose and wet = 😎

when I first got my bike I was adjusting it every 1,000 miles, and I believe I kept it too tight. I got 22,900 miles out of the chain and it was clicking and popping and needed frequent lube and adjustment. It was shot and my sprockets mildly hooked.

I replaced both sprockets and the chain, and quit adjusting my chain. I spray it at the end of the day that I fill up, or at the end of the day on a trip, and that is it.

At 50,000 miles I was in Arizona for a couple of weeks, so I had a local shop order a sprocket set and chain. He told me if it was him, he wouldn’t replace it yet. The sprockets weren’t hooked, and the chain was still very smooth. I told him I had another 5,000 miles before I got home and I couldn’t risk having trouble in the middle of nowhere (my intended destination), so he took my money. He was very interested in what I (wasn’t) doing to make my chain last so long. I do ride with a light throttle hand most of the time, but the bike does see redline occasionally and moderate engine braking at times.

I know others here on the forum get more mileage out of their chains, so I believe he was probably right. I probably could have gotten 5 or 10k miles more.

center stand, and I consider the maximum measurements from the manual to be the normal measurement. I push down gently and push up gently until it stops.
 
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2016 DL1000 ABS
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796 Posts
WOW!
That's...serious.
Anyway, I wish the poll allowed me to "check all options that apply", because I only use a measuring device about once a month. When lubing the chain after every couple 100 miles, I move it with the toe of my boot and call it good.
Boot toe is good, once the basic parameters are set. On one of my bikes I simply pull the lower run of the chain down at a certain point and if it lines up with another fixed point it is good. However, on that bike the "process" had been completed when new to set the fixed points.
 
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