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What Kinda Bike Is That?
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Discussion Starter #1
I have read tutorials, and I have seen photographs, and I have listened to stories of individuals that have devised, highly accurate and elaborate ways to align their rear wheel and chain with their, front countersprocket. This is well-and-good for a "clinical setting", like a garage, or other home setting, but what do you do when you are out on the road and need to make an adjustment?

Before I left on last weekend's trip into Québec, (I'm working on the photos.........I just came across these that I wanted to share separately), I installed new, rear brake pads. My method of doing this job has been to, drop the rear wheel off of the bike. When changing rear pads, I have always made it a point to do chain maintenance as well, (cleaning the chain and cleaning the chain guide.). That is why I drop the rear wheel. (However, I have since learned that, if I don't want or need to, I can change the rear pads without removing the rear wheel. Thanks, Frostypuck!).

By the end of my first day of riding up to La Tuque, I noticed a vibration in my left footpeg. I knew that it was chain related. I figured that in my rush to get the brake pads installed, I either, didn't get the rear wheel aligned quite right, or did not apply enough tension to one of the adjusters; allowing the axle to slip forward a little.

By the time I got to Rivière-Éternité, (Saguenay), the vibration was bugging me. Because I could not get into my campsite until 3:00pm, or until the current campers left the site I had paid for, I decided to fix the problem.

I set my bike up on its centerstand. I loosened the nut from the rear axle and then loosened both adjusters. I then "tunked" the wheel forward with the palm of my hand, to loosen things up a bit. I then began to tighten the adjusters to bring the rear wheel aft and to tighten the chain, (To where I personally like the slack to be.). When I was close to where I liked the chain tension, I fine tuned the alignment.

Here's how I do that while on the road:

Using a 3 x 5 index card, (I carry a few of them in my tankbag for taking and leaving notes), I butted one end of the card up against the back end of the left axle plate. Using a pen, I made a mark on the index card where the end of the swingarm meets the adjuster cap.


I then transferred the mark to the other side of the card. I then butted the card up against the right axle plate. I don't know if you can see in the below photograph, but the mark I made on the left side, does not match the right side.


I adjusted the right side to match the left side, and then tightened up the axle bolt.


The vibration was gone for the rest of the trip.

This is what I believe; I believe that the length of both "arms" of the swingarm are very accurately machined at the factory. I believe that the swingarm is mounted very accurately to the bike frame. I have had no problems using this method of alignment over the latter part of last season and all of this season. The only change I make when I am at home is, I use a tape measure instead of an index card. But, really anything will work that can provide you with a "left to right" comparative measurement.

Just trying to keep things simple.

B.
 

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The problem here is that you are assuming that the swing arm is square in relation to the chain run. That can be dangerous. You must always check that the sprockets are aligned by rotating the wheel and watching from behind to ensure that the chain runs true and does not sway from side to side. If you align on the swing arm marks only it is possible to end up with a rear wheel that is not tracking in the same direction as the front one.
 

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The problem here is that you are assuming that the swing arm is square in relation to the chain run. That can be dangerous. You must always check that the sprockets are aligned by rotating the wheel and watching from behind to ensure that the chain runs true and does not sway from side to side. If you align on the swing arm marks only it is possible to end up with a rear wheel that is not tracking in the same direction as the front one.
How can you be sure it's not just the chain itself that is tracking from side to side?:confused: If the chain stayed tracking on one side only of the rear sprocket, then I would think there may be an alignment problem.
 

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I don't know how accurately the swingarm is machined, nor do I know how important it is.

I DO know that I picked up a chain alignment tool, very similar to units I see for $30, for 99 cents at Harbor Freight. It was on sale, but less than five bucks normally.
 

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Unfortunately I can't use this method of alignment as there's .0825 inch difference from the plates to the back of the swingarm when my chain is running true. This also translates to about 2/3rds of a factory mark. I do it the way Kiwi said.

How can you be sure it's not just the chain itself that is tracking from side to side?:confused: If the chain stayed tracking on one side only of the rear sprocket, then I would think there may be an alignment problem.
I agree. What I've noticed is as the chain wears, you get more side to side action when it's aligned. This may also become more aggravated as the cush hub rubbers wear. I plan to replace mine along with the chain next time.
 

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What Kinda Bike Is That?
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5,520 Posts
Discussion Starter #8
The problem here is that you are assuming that the swing arm is square in relation to the chain run. That can be dangerous. You must always check that the sprockets are aligned by rotating the wheel and watching from behind to ensure that the chain runs true and does not sway from side to side. If you align on the swing arm marks only it is possible to end up with a rear wheel that is not tracking in the same direction as the front one.
You are correct, I am assuming that the swingarm is machined correctly and that it is mounted correctly into the bike's frame. I stated that in my original post, (The "I believe" part.). I do not see any reason not to believe, (having faith), that the parts are machined correctly. When I use the method I have outlined, everything looks fine.

You are also correct about the swingarm marks. I do not trust them. Mine are painted over with black rhinoliner; that's how much I care about them!

However, I do trust my method as "good enough"; particularly while on the road.

I am not sure of the context of your choice of the word, "dangerous". Do you mean, "dangerous" from an injury standpoint? Or, "dangerous" to assume what I stated that I assume?

I am not concerned about a dangerous injury to myself or the bike following what I described above.

Clarify?

Thanks.

B.
 
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