Sunday, February 2, 2014

Chain, Again!


About 15,000 miles ago, in the middle of 2011, I replaced the original drive chain on my 2006 Kawasaki Ninja 650R.  It had become worn unevenly -- some links stretching more than others -- resulting in a jerky ride, almost as though the engine were misfiring.

I replaced the chain with an EK 520SRX Quadra X-Ring, part number 701-520SRX-114 and a rivet-type master link, part number 520SRX-MLJ.  That fixed the jerkiness problem back then. 

In August of last year, I noticed that the jerkiness was coming back.  It couldn't be the "new" chain, of course, so I dredged around for something else that could be causing the feeling.  I settled on the sprockets as being the most likely cause.  I ordered and installed a set of OEM sprockets from Ron Ayers

That seemed to help, but the problem continued to worsen.  I listened to extensive audio from my ride-along video camera, and the purr of the engine under all conditions was flawless as far as I could tell.  The symptoms, at least from the seat of my pants, still felt like the engine was misfiring, especially in the lower gears under hard acceleration.  Try as I might, I could not find evidence of that. 

I rechecked the chain tension at several points, and found the slack varying as much as the original chain showed just before I replaced it.

Rats.  Is that chain toast already?  Did the somewhat worn sprockets cause the new chain to fail prematurely?  My demure riding style certainly didn't contribute to its early demise, I don't think. 

I don't know for sure what caused it.

At any rate, I went back online and looked for a replacement chain.  I didn't want to try another EK, in case that was a contributing factor, so I looked further.

I found quite a few types and brands of chain, but many of them were non-O-ring, so they were not right.  You have to have a chain with O-ring seals so it lasts a long time even with it getting wet. 

Almost all chains say they come with a master link, but I had a terrible time figuring out whether the master link is a clip type or rivet type.  I never did find this answer for most of the chains I looked at, so I assumed they were clip type.  You shouldn't use such a link on a highly-stressed drive chain, as it is weaker than the regular links and may fail or come open.  That would be very bad.

Once I had tentatively picked a chain I could afford, I started to look for a riveted master link to match.  Surprisingly, there were few references I could find that pointed me toward the right one.

They ought to tell you what you are getting with the chain and make a link [pun] to the matching riveted master link page. 

After a good deal of armchair searching, I finally settled on a higher-priced-than-EK DID chain from Amazon.   It is a pretty gold-linked one: DID 520VX2GB-114 Gold X-Ring chain, and rivet link part number DID 520VX2GB-RIVET-CL Gold.

The numbers and letters mean that it is a number 520 chain, has gold links, X-ring style seals, and a length of 114 links.

Prices for the chain and the link were $79.73 and $7.97, respectively -- about 40% higher than the EK.

Maybe this one will last longer.  The product description says "Projected wear life 35.0 times longer than a standard chain under similar conditions."  If that is true, it should last me more than a lifetime.  Note, however, that it says "35.0," not "about 35 times."  They must think they are very accurate in this, but that is hogwash.  What is it measured against?  No way is it possible to predict that well. 

I few days after I pressed the order button, the chain arrived in the mail, and I set to work. 

The first thing I notice is that the instructions for the chain are in a barely intelligible translation from Japanese.  There are also some of those little pictures with exclamation points and such to explain to those who do not read any of the 257 languages printed on the box.  Why do they not pay somebody to translate for them?  I could do better, I believe.  I wonder how much they pay.  

I suppose most people just wing it, instead of trying to read the instructions. 

I put the bike on the rear stand and use my pneumatic grinder (#52847) and a cutoff wheel from Harbor Freight Tools to grind off the old chain master link rivet heads.

I break the old chain with the Stockton Chain Breaker (#28165) I bought from Cycle Gear.  I oil the threads and the tip of the chain tool to make it easier to use, since it takes a lot of force to work with a chain of this size.

Once the chain is unzipped from the sprockets, I clean the accumulated crud and lube, especially from around the front sprocket, and thread the new chain into place.  I have to move the rear wheel forward considerably to make the new chain reach, so the old chain must indeed have been stretched.

I pop the new rivet link into place and make sure to press the side plate on to the correct width dimension.  I measure across from side plate to side plate on one of the standard links and push the master link together with the chain tool to equal that dimension.  I work slowly, a little bit at a time, and use a digital caliper to make the measurements.

The plate press attachment:


Then I flare the link pins over so the side plate won't come off.  This takes a lot of torque on the chain tool, but I work at it little by little too, measuring the flared diameter to make sure it is sufficient, but not too much.  Too much may cause the pin to fracture.  Not good. 

I tension the chain by tightening the nuts on the two studs behind the rear axle, making sure the alignment markings display the same, side to side.  This time, however, I also have a new tool to check for proper alignment of the rear sprocket.  It is an OTC 4749, also sold as MotionPro 57-8048.  It cost $12.90 from Amazon.

... but mine matches the color of the bike! 

There are too few instructions on the product package, so I looked around and found on-line instructions and a video that describe its use.

The little piece of wire hanging down next to the numbers acts as a plumb bob so you can tell if the rod is parallel with the ground. The MotionPro doesn't have that. 

That helps make sure you are not fooled when sighting down the chain by the tool being aimed too high or too low.  You sight down the rod, and if the chain does not deviate from that line, it is OK.

Mine is surprisingly well aligned using only the markings on the rear axle carriers.  I make some minor adjustments, then tighten the rear axle nut and recheck the chain tension, because sometimes tightening the axle causes the chain tension to change a bit.  It turns out OK. I put in the cotter pin and bend over its legs so the rear axle nut cannot loosen. 

[Well, Bucky, you have spent a lot of time and money here.  Did this finally solve the problem?] 

The first ride into the foothills confirms that the chain was the issue with the "misfire" problem. The bike really does almost feel like new now -- smoooooth again -- and ready for the next who-knows-how-many miles.  I am not going to guess how many, but 35.0 times the life of a "regular" chain (say, like the EK) is more than half a million miles.  That ought to be enough to get me through.  I will make a posting when I change it next time. 

As long as we're exaggerating, after this first ride, the estimated 17 pounds of grease the new chain was packed in is all over my pretty, recently-cleaned rear wheel.  So, scrub-a-dub-dub. Again. 

Here are a couple pictures taken during the chain test ride, right here under the bridge on Roy F. Jones Road.

Pretty, even in winter.  See you next time! 


Chiller tek said...

I always put new sprockets on when I replace the chain as invariably when the chain wears so do the sprockets causing the new replacement chain to wear faster than it should. A new set of sprockets don't cost much extra.

Conchscooter said...

Loobman, fifty dollars from Aerostich. I get 40,000 miles out of my chains with just a frequent push of the button and I ride rain or shine.

George Ferreira said...

Somehow I missed your request to add your blog to my list of Motorcycle blogs. I added the blog here:

Walter Cronenburg said...

Funny, we used to say in the 70's that if you wanted a cheap chain that stretches like elastic, buy a DID chain, else pay serious dosh and get a proper Renolds chain which will last as long as the sprockets (ie: a decade or so). Don't know if things have changed since then but it seems that bikers change sprockets like engine oil these days. :-)

Advie Motor said...

Thanks for sharing this story with us.