Chain tension. How to do it yourself!

Adjusting and cleaning the chain.

Your motorcycles chain is one of the most crucial parts of your bike. Right next to the tyres, brakes and motor oil. Without the chain your bike has no transfer of power from the engine to your rear wheel which drives the bike forward. (unless you have a bike with cardan, then skip this post and check out my blog about CLICK HERE WHEN YOU HAVE A CARDAN 😉 )

Such an important piece of your bike needs its attention on certain times. Depending on your aggressiveness on the throttle you will need to inspect your bike chain around every 500-700 km. I recommend cleaning it while you’re at it. This makes it easier to see any deformities or other things you don’t want on your chain. This was how I found out my X-rings were coming out of their place.  CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT THE MOTUL POST for that story!

Oke! let’s get started, what do you need:

  1. Raggs or towels
  2. Soft brush (I use a fingernail brush, its perfect for this task!)
  3. Tape measure
  4. Paddock stand (or the centre stand on your bike, just keep the rear wheel off the ground)
  5. Chain cleaner (check if its compatible with the rubber O/X/Y rings)
  6. Chain lube (Also check if you can use it on your rubber O/X/Y rings)
  7. Wrenches ( which ones depend on your type of bike, a number 22 and 24 for the Vstrom)
  8. Allen wrench ( depend on your bike, but for the Vstrom 650 its a 5mm)

Running low on some of the above? Then click the logo below!

Chain tension

Get tidy!

Let’s clean up everything first! What to do:

  • Put your bike on the paddock or centre stand.
  • Make sure your rear wheel is free.
  • Check if you need to remove some stuff from your bike for easier access,

While turning the rear wheel and moving the chain, spray the cleaner on the chain and sprockets until you cover it all, watch out for your fingers. Let the cleaner soak in for a minute and then start brushing the chain with the soft brush. Use the rags to remove the grime. Repeat until it’s all clean. Be sure to check if you find any broken rubber rings in the grime. This can indicate that your rings are getting pushed out of the chain links. This can lead to losing the internal lubrication out of the chain and can make it possible for rust to get into it.

Get tight!

Now that everything  is clean we can go ahead and check it for any abnormalities. Take a good look at your sprockets too. Make sure they are still intact and that there are no cracks, wears and tears. To check if you need to tighten or loosen the chain do this:

Take it between two fingers somewhere in the middle from the rear and front sprockets. Put the tape measure behind it and move the it up and down. If it has more than 2.5cm (1 inch) diversion up or down,  you need to tighten it. If it has less, than loosen it. Always consult the owner manual for your specific slack. Note that your chain has different stiffness on different points. So run this check on multiple spots on your chain to get a good average. I will be demonstrating this in the video.

Make sure that when you adjust the tension by moving the rear wheel back or forth, that you align the left and right side exactly. Doing this wrong could influence your riding pleasure and safety. Most bikes have some sort of measuring stripes engraved into the swing arm on which you can align everything.

Check out the video for a guided tutorial.


  1. Check your owners manual for correct chain tension…
    Not all bikes fall into your guidelines…
    This is very important and you haven’t mentioned it.

    1. Hi Simon,

      Thanks for your comment. I tried to make it even more clear by editing a text in the lower part of the screen: ‘check your bikes manual for your slack’ it’s at the point i mention the specific tension for the 2015 dl650 vstrom.

      You are right, it’s vital to know the chain tension/slack your bike needs.

      So to everyone! Check the owners manual before doing this 🙂

  2. If you work to the average when setting chain slack you could end up with a spot so tight that it damages the sprocket bearings.
    Also, you need to be sure that the chain doesn’t go tight when your bike is off the stand and loaded up with you and your kit.

    1. Hi Nich,

      Thanks for your comment! You’re totally right. That’s exactly why you need to take the average. Because of the “over tensed” parts of your chain.

      When you use the owner manual slack there will be enough wiggle room for the rider on the bike vs the chain tension.

      When you’re riding with a lot of gear it is advisable to adjust the chain slack, suspension and tyre pressure to that of course.

      How would you proceed with that?

  3. My V-Strom manual indicate to check the slack while the bike is on the side stand. The suspension should be loaded, otherwise you risk over-tightening the chain. Perhaps the screwdriver in the chain/sprocket is your way of preventing over-tightening, but it’s not the recommended method.

    1. Hi John,

      Thanks for your comment. It’s possible to do it on the side stand or centre stand.

      I prefer the centre stand because i can move the wheel easy. But indeed this means that you have to be spot on with the tension and not overtighten the chain.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *