How I adjust my chain - Triumph Forum: Triumph Rat Motorcycle Forums
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post #1 of 14 (permalink) Old 10-21-2012, 12:45 PM Thread Starter
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How I adjust my chain

I messed it up a few weeks ago and as today was such a lovely warm & cloud free day here I decided to have another go at tightening the chain.

Here's my method, it won't be to everyone's liking but life's like that I guess.

OK, first we'll need a few tools -


..namely 2x13mm claw spanners, 2x27mm big-arsed claw/ring spanners, a couple of sturdy flathead screwdrivers, tools to remove the chainguard, a square and a good straight edge, and lastly a small pocket light (not too important but it certainly helps).

A bike jack also comes in very handy but you can get away with doing all this on the sidestand.

First remove the chainguard then loosen the axle bolt with the 2 big spanners. It should be very tight so you might need a bit more leverage, for which I use the old bush mechanics trick of coupling a couple of spanners together like so -


I have a strange 3 part rear axle where both the nut on the LHS and the bolt head on the RHS are removable. If you completely disassemble it you end up with a long tube with a male thread on one end and a female thread on the other, one big nut and one big bolt. I don't think this is standard but just be a little cautious as loosening the RHS bolt head and tightening the LHS nut leads to a gap of exposed thread in the middle of the axle and a potential weak point.

Loosen the locknuts -


What I do next is use an angle iron and locate a spot on top of the swinging arm that you can easily locate again without much fuss.


I do that because I want to be able to measure roughly how much play I have and measuring from the same place each time improves accuracy. I rest the heel of the angle iron against that plastic nub thingy and the blade snug against the swinging arm. It's very easy to locate each time.

Measure between loose and tight positions by pushing up hard on the chain. For the pics I jammed a claw spanner under the chain because I ran out of hands, but pushing up hard with your finger is good enough here.

.... you can see I have about 15mm of play and I aim to end up with around 15mm of play, so it's too tight at this point. I think the manual recommends 15 to 25mm but I like it just that tiny bit tighter to stop clunking and give a nice firm gear change. From experience that means I'm looking to have at least 20mm of play at this point (bike on sidestand, loose axle bolt, and nobody on the bike) because 5mm is always taken up by tightening the bolts and sitting on the bike.

Use the screwdrivers to take out and any play when making a negative adjustment, ie loosening the adjuster bolts because the wheel will not move forward by itself.



Last edited by ArferBrick; 10-21-2012 at 12:56 PM.
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post #2 of 14 (permalink) Old 10-21-2012, 12:46 PM Thread Starter
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As well as measuring the play in the chain, I also use a straight edge to make sure the rear cog; and ergo the rear wheel; are also in alignment. My theory being that it is nearly impossible for the cog to be out of alignment with the wheel without you knowing about it (horrible grating noise when rotating wheel, totally worn out teeth on one side of the cog, chain flying off at speed!).

You could just use the lines marked on the rear axle eyes to do this but there are 2 potential problems there - 1) To see the marks properly you will either have to jack the rear of the bike up to clear the mufflers (on the Adventurer, maybe not an issue on other models) or remove the mufflers, and 2) you must also be confident that the marks are accurate. IE that there is no play in the swinging arm bearings, your swinging arm is not slightly bent, and that the bloke at the factory was having a good day when he made them.

Here's how I go about it -

.. ..

Place the ruler flat against the cog with the end sitting just at the point of the curve. Don't go too far back towards the rear as that messes up the measurements, and make sure the ruler is sitting nice and square against the chain, applying pressure from underneath and in towards the cog itself.

.. .. I held the front of the ruler up with the angle iron because again it's not easy to take a pic at the same time as holding everything, but you can see by looking down the ruler, and even better by looking from above, if everything is lined up nicely. It doesn't have to be mega perfect, but try to get it as close as possible.

And don't forget to recheck both chain tension and alignment with every small turn of the adjuster screws, as a tiny movement can make a big difference. They really should have made the threads on the adjuster screws a lot finer in my mind, but that's something we can't change, so just be wary of it.


As a final check I use the pocket light to make sure the marks on the axle "eyes" are in agreement with my measurements at the cog/chain. Obviously if one side is a whole mark different to the other then I would be looking for the cause of the problem. Luckily for me all went smoothe and the marks line up exactly the same on both sides.

I like to sit on the bike at this point and jump up and down a few times, then check the chain tension with my fingers while sitting on the bike. You can tell if it's too tight as it gets a "hard" feeling to it. I can't explain it, but you'll know when it feels right.


Before tightening the axle bolt, make sure the adjuster bolts are locked into position by tightening their lock-nuts. Take your time here as one tiny movement of those blasted adjuster bolts means you're going to have to do it all again! Use 2 13mm spanners, make sure you are holding the bolt firmly with one of them before tightening the locknut. You will find that you can only turn it a tiny bit at a time, so be patient and go slowly.

Once you're satisfied you can then tighten the rear axle nut using the reverse of step 1 above. And make sure that thing is tight, it's "B@stard Tight" on the ArferBrick scale of backyard mechanic's Torque settings!

There's potentially a couple of tons of force being held back by those flimsy adjuster bolts and that nut, so make sure you do it right. If in doubt, (or you have the correct flashy expensive tools!), then use a torque wrench.

The tensioning system is actually a lot better than in days gone by, most bikes had only a pressed steel U-bracket with an adjuster bolt threaded into them. They would strip very easily because they were made of soft steel, very annoying when you opened the throttle hard and the thread gave way, making the wheel go sideways and popping the chain off .

I remember many times limping home with an old bolt or socket lodged in front of the axle to keep the damn wheel straight!
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post #3 of 14 (permalink) Old 10-21-2012, 12:52 PM
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Well written and useful.. Thanks.
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post #4 of 14 (permalink) Old 10-21-2012, 01:28 PM
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Good tip about using the steel rule to check alignment, I would never have thought of that- but I did buy a tool recently that does a similar thing.

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post #5 of 14 (permalink) Old 10-21-2012, 01:56 PM
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Yeah, I like the alignment check too, good write up Arfer!

98 Tbird tank/seat, Sprint fairing, ZX7R forks+Racetech Gold Valves, 08 ZX6R shock, short sw/arm, Alcon 6-pots, Ignitech+TPS, T'bike 3-1+Beowulf can, airbox/jet mods, tubeless wheel mod, lots :) per mile, 55mpg ave(imp)
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post #6 of 14 (permalink) Old 10-21-2012, 02:41 PM
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looks a good tips there but am following another route as mine has the early chain adustment and ive always found it easier to take off the silencers and ive always checked the wheel aligment with a steel rule i deffo say the later bikes look easier to adjust than mine and one of these days i might get round to changing the swing arm out but many thanks for the detailed info on how to adjust the chain its off gret help to other in here so thanks guys
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post #7 of 14 (permalink) Old 10-21-2012, 04:09 PM
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In 100,000km of ownership, I only ever check alignment after I remount the rear tire. Once it i alignd, I turn each adjuster equal turns when adjusing slack. Ihav eneve had it go out of alignemnt. For example, I will turn one adjuser 1/12 of a turn and the other side the same amount.
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post #8 of 14 (permalink) Old 10-23-2012, 01:26 PM
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I don't find the lines on the swingarm very accurate. I use the old method of strings to align the rear wheel with the front. Another method you can use to check is to get the bike on a stand, get behind the bike and watch how the chain tracks on the sprocket as you turn the wheel. The teeth should stay centered in the chain when things are lined up right. If not the chain will be hard on one side or the other and you can see that.

Once I get things lined up that way, I just count flats when turning the adjusters, keeping the same amount of flats on each side (in other words, I always adjust in increments of 1/6 of an adjuster turn since they are hex bolts). I believe that should keep the alignment right.

I like to adjust on a stand, supported right near the axle. Much easier to get a reading with the bike vertical. You can turn the wheel and watch the chain above the slipper to find the tightest spot, which is where you should adjust.

Last edited by PaulBx; 10-23-2012 at 01:29 PM.
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post #9 of 14 (permalink) Old 10-23-2012, 04:05 PM
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Originally Posted by PaulBx View Post

Once I get things lined up that way, I just count flats when turning the adjusters, keeping the same amount of flats on each side (in other words, I always adjust in increments of 1/6 of an adjuster turn since they are hex bolts). I believe that should keep the alignment right.
I usually go from flat to point but essentially the same thing. Never goes out.
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post #10 of 14 (permalink) Old 10-26-2012, 01:08 PM
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I notice that you measure the play by pushing up only. Should you not measure the difference between pulling the chain down and pushing it up?

My chain must be too tight if your method is correct because there is roughly equal play up and down; so I essentially have half the play of yours. (But the transmission shifts well. )
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