How to Adjust Motorcycle Chain Tension

Written by lina schofield
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How to Adjust Motorcycle Chain Tension
Chain tension can affect the performance and drivability of your motorcycle. (motorcycle. image by Yuri Bizgaimer from

Motorcycle chains carry the power from the engine to the rear wheel. This is an essential function, therefore proper chain care and adjustment is crucial to ensure the safest riding experience. Chains should be examined roughly once every 600 miles. This mileage may differ among motorcyclists depending on your typical levels of acceleration and deceleration while riding. Regular inspection allows you to monitor the status of the chains closely, making it easier to correctly adjust your chains as needed to meet the manufacturer's specifications.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Swing arm stand
  • Wrenches
  • Allen wrench set
  • 8mm Allen wrench
  • Owner's manual for your motorcycle
  • Tape measure

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  1. 1

    Load the motorcycle onto the swing arm stand. Loosen the axle nut with a wrench.

  2. 2

    Align the rear wheel in the swing arm stand.

  3. 3

    Locate the two adjuster nuts that sit on the end of the rear axle on either side of the swing arm. Insert an Allen wrench in each nut and turn them both a quarter turn clockwise simultaneously to ensure the rear wheel stays aligned throughout the chain adjustment process.

  4. 4

    Look through your owner's manual to determine the correct amount of slack to leave in the chain.

  5. 5

    Use the tape measure to verify that your chain falls within the acceptable amount of slack by pushing it up as far as it goes, then down as far as it goes and measuring the space between the two points

  6. 6

    Insert the 8mm Allen wrench between the chain and sprocket on the rear wheel.

  7. 7

    Rotate the rear wheel away from you to tighten the chain and take out excess slack.

  8. 8

    Go to the left side of the motorcycle. Measure the distance between the axle bolt on the rear axle and the bolt that holds the swing arm on the motorcycle. Repeat this for the remaining side and verify that the measurements are an exact match.

  9. 9

    Reinsert the 8mm Allen wrench in between the chain and the sprocket on the rear wheel and rotate the wheel back to tighten the chain. Tighten the rear axle with the wrench.

  10. 10

    Spin the wheel freely and use the tape measure to check the amount of slack by measuring the highest and lowest point the chain reaches at different random points as you turn the wheel. The measurements you get should fall within the manufacturer's recommendations detailed in the owner's manual for the acceptable amount of slack in your chain.

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