Tuesday, May 24, 2011

25,000 Miles Ridden -- and a New Chain

I passed a milestone today. I have ridden this motorcycle 25,000 miles since I bought it.  You may recall that back in April of 2009, I wrote about another milestone passed, 10,000 miles at that time. 

Remember that this is my first real motorcycle, not counting the old minibike I had when I was a teenager, so I have ridden only this motorcycle 25,000 miles. The milestone was passed on an evening joy ride near the house. 

Right here:
You can see that I have my saddlebags and tail bag mounted, ready for a long weekend trip coming up.

I bought the bike in September of 2007, so I have owned it about forty-four months. That is about 565 miles per month on the average, including two periods of not riding for a couple of months each.  I do ride year around though to keep my skills at their meager level of development, and maybe improve them a bit...and because it is fun to ride, after all! 

The bike has performed well over this part of its life.  It has had a couple of oil changes -- now to a synthetic (Mobil 1, Racing 4T), a coolant change, and I am working on the third set of tires (one rear was retired far too early due to a puncture).  I certainly get a lot of mileage out of the tires, especially, compared with some much more aggressive riders.

I was recently surprised, though, that I began to feel the bike acting as though it was misfiring.  There seemed to be no problem evident with the transmission in neutral, and the exhaust sound was steady under all conditions.  So what could be wrong here? 

A clue to the jerkiness came when I was checking chain tension.  I put the bike on the rear stand and rotated the rear wheel until the chain was tightest.  The tension checked good there.  The tension was, however, very much looser at other sections.  That seemed strange -- after all, the chain was fine when it was new.  What could be wrong? 

I did a little research on line, which revealed that my chain was probably past its expected life.  The tooth profile of the sprockets was still OK, so a new chain should do the trick. 

The chain I settled on as a good mix of quality and price is an EK 520SRX Quadra X-Ring with 114 Links, part number 701-520SRX-114 and a rivet-type master link, part number 520SRX-MLJ.  The prices were $57.10 and $4.80, respectively, plus about $12 shipping, from Amazon seller Powersport Superstore.  The chain arrived in just a few days and I set to work. 

I had bought a Stockton Tool Company Chain Breaker and Rivet Tool Kit (#28165) from Cycle Gear when it was on sale, and a cheap pneumatic grinder (#52847) and a pack of 2" cutoff wheels from Harbor Freight Tools, so I broke them out, deciphered the translated-into-English-from-some-foreign-language instructions for each, and began.

Since this is my first riveted chain replacement, I go slowly, learning the tricks of using the chain tool properly despite the cryptic instructions. 

The grinder neatly removes the heads of one of the chain's link pins.  The chain tool presses out the remains of the link, and I fit the new chain, rivet the master link, check the link according to the Kawasaki service manual instructions (easier to understand than the others recently read, by the way), tension the chain (nice and even, now), and clean up.  

The first ride confirms that the chain was the issue with the "missing" problem. The bike almost feels like new now -- smoooooth -- and ready for the next 25K. 

...I still wonder how far I rode that little minibike.




Brian said...

That's interesting. As to the longevity of chain, I know in bicycling it's generally advisable to measure the chain periodically and replace it when it has elongated a certain amount but before it becomes symptomatic. After chain is stretched enough to cause problems, the mis-aligned rollers have already started grinding on the edges of the sprocket teeth and wallowing out the gaps between them. For bicycles, particularly high-end ones the sprockets are a lot more expensive than chains, warranting the pre-emptive replacement.

irondad said...

Congratulations. Seems you are now officially "hooked"!

Stacy said...

I have that same chain breaker kit and it can pop rivets without needing to grind the heads first.

@Brian: The rule of thumb for life expectancy of a set of motorcycle sprockets is every-other-chain. As in: replace the sprockets during every other chain replacement.

If the sprocket teeth look good and the chain is well maintained, they're probably fine.

bluekat said...

Congratulations on the Milestone. That's awesome! So many bikes never get more than a few 1,000 miles in their whole life. I like to see a bike that gets ridden.

Just curious about your saddlebags, which ones do you have, and how do you like them? We're looking at picking some up this summer.

I replaced my chain and sprockets this year. Same thing, the bike was acting up, kind of surging/lurching. Now the bike is good as new!

Bucky said...

Wow! Lots of comments on a simple posting.

@ Brian
There is a procedure for checking the amount of chain stretch found in the Kawasaki manual. It gives recommended maximum stretch dimensions of a counted number of links. Each of the measurements I took of three sections of the chain was in spec, however the DIFFERENCE in stretch from section to section is also important, and likely caused my problem.

@ irondad
Thank you, I believe I may indeed be hooked. I still watch your blog, so keep it coming!

@ Stacy
The chain tool can probably push out the pin without grinding off the head first, but I prefer not to stress the tool further. One piece of advice not included in the chain breaker instructions is to lubricate the screw threads. That makes it much easier to operate.

@ bluecat
The saddlebags are described in this blog posting: Memorial Day Weekend Rally, Part II, The Ride Up

It is all soft-sided, and the saddlebags could be larger since the exhaust of the 650R is beneath the engine instead of extending upward at the rear.
They seem robust, and easy to mount. Half of each quick clip stays on the bike, so mounting is also quick. Some of the straps need section of bicycle innertube over them to avoid abrading the tail cowlings. The saddlebags and the tail bag do separate, but not very easily, so I just leave them together and lug the whole thing as one into the motel room.
Mounting and dismounting the bike requires the rider to have a great deal of body flexibility to get the leg up high enough to swing it over the bags or step over the saddle, so start those stretching exercises early.

Mike said...

Congratulations! Nice milestone. I think we're in the same boat... racking up the miles a little later in life. May the safe riding continue!