Gregorius T

Take These Chains Off!

Take em off from my heart!

You all remember that 80s song, from the band Judas Priest, yes?  Of course, you do!  Ha.  Great song!

Judas – Take These Chains

This post isn’t about the song, but it is about some maintenance I recently completed on my Yamaha FJ-09, that I would like to share with you.

Yes.  You guessed it.  I experienced the pleasure of swapping out my old, battered chain, and sprockets, with brand, spankin new ones.  And, I must tell you, it was well worth the time and effort.

How did I know my chain was “breaking my heart”?

The first indicator was, while lubing my chain, I noticed alternating slack and tight spots.  As you rotate the wheel, the chain tension should be constant throughout an entire rotation of the wheel.  If it’s not, your chain may be “breaking your heart”.

The next indicator was just piss poor riding performance.  Especially, during acceleration.  The bike does the ol’ herky jerky, when pulling out of a stop, and also when accelerating out of a corner.

And, then lastly, I had just over 20K miles on the stock chain and sprockets.  That’s a crap load of miles for any chain, let alone, the mediocre quality stock setup.

I got on the computer, and ordered my new kit from this outfit here:  Sprocket Center

Aside from missing a digit on my home address, the ordering experience went well.

Here’s a tip on ordering motorcycle parts … don’t do it just after drinking a couple of pints.  Oy!

Anyhow, when ordering, you just select your bike model, and then the kit that you want.

I went with the SuperLite kit.  You will receive the chain, already cut to size, along with a new master link.  Also, a front and back sprocket.  In the case of the back sprocket, I also received a set of new locking locks.

In the photo below, disregard the chain tensioner block doo hickies.  I ordered those separate.

With that being said, I must say, those are really nice, handcrafted blocks, made by a guy in the U.K.   If you interested in ordering a set, I’ve got ya covered:

Chain Tensioner Blocks

Pretty nice kit, eh?

Ok.  Onto the fun stuff.  Here is the order in which I did the various operations.  This is just the order that I chose.  You may choose different.  It’s your call.

Step One:  I did the easy part first.  The back sprocket.

First, of course, I removed the back wheel.  Then, you simply remove the six, or so, nuts that hold the back sprocket on.  The sprocket will pop right off.  Pop the new sprocket on.  If there is any writing, or logo, on a side of the sprocket, you will want to ensure that side of the sprocket faces out.  Tighten the sprocket nuts down per the bike manufacturer’s torque specs.  If you received new nuts with the sprocket, make sure to use em.

Step Two:  The front sprocket.  This is where things get just a little bit tricky.  Not too tricky, but just a little bit.

First, remove the front sprocket cover.  It should only require the removal of a couple of nuts.  If you have to disconnect the gear shift linkage, take note of the position of the linkage on the spline.  You might need to mark the positioning, so’s you can ensure it’s positioned correctly, upon reconnection.

Upon removing the cover, a big glob of greasy, dirty goop might spill out.  Go ahead and take the opportunity to clean things up a bit.  I find that a good sprayin of Kerosene works well.

By the way, I use Kerosene to clean my chain, also.

Now that the sprocket, and its big ass nut, is exposed, ( and hopefully cleaned up a bit ), it’s time to take that sucka off.  Believe me now, and believe me later, when I tell you, that mutha is on tight!  You can’t just crank on the nut, and expect it to come off.  The only thing you’ll end up doing is turning the engine.  There are a couple of ways to loosen it.

One is to put the back wheel on, attach the old chain, and have a bud stand on the back brake.  Since I work alone ( just like I do when I’m drinking ) I didn’t have a bud available.

The other method, which is the one I used, is to stick a screwdriver through the old chain.  Simply slide the axle on, without the wheel, and stick a screwdriver through the chain.  This keeps the chain, and hence, the front sprocket from rotating.  Then, using a breaker bar, crank to high heaven on that nut, and that sucka should come right off.

If you decide to go this route, you might want to use one of your cheapo screwdrivers.  As you can see in the photo below, I now have a new “angled screwdriver”.

By the way, that front sprocket nut probably has some sort of locking washer thingy, that is folded into a gap.  Before cranking on the nut, ensure you carefully unfold that washer, so’s the nut can loosen.

Once the nut comes off, simply remove the front sprocket and put the new one on.  Go ahead and tighten the nut as much as you can.  But, not until you get the rear wheel on, will you be able to torque it to spec.  Also, if there is some writing, or logo, on a side of the new front sprocket, ensure that writing faces out.

In the photo below, if you zoom in, you can see the locker washer thingy folded into a little gap.  I just used a small screwdriver, to unfold that bit of metal.

Now it’s time for the real fun!  Let’s git that new chain on!  But, before doing anything with the new chain, if it’s not already on, go ahead and put the rear wheel back on, and put the old chain on the rear sprocket.  This will make it easier to remove the old chain, and put the new one on.

Swapping the chain involves 3 steps:

  • Step One: Break a link on the old chain, and remove the chain.
  • Step Two: Put the new chain on, and then join the chain, using the new master link.
  • Step Three: Flare out the master link pin heads.

For all three of these steps, it’s recommended you pick up a chain tool.  I went with this one.

Motion Pro Chain Tool

That’s right.  It’s a link to Revzilla.  Hey Revzilla!  I’m givin you some lovin!  How’s bout you give me back some lovin, in return, eh?  A free tire, perhaps?  Heh, heh.  I know that’ll never happen.  🙂

In addition to the chain tool, a digital caliber tool will come in very handy.  I went with this one.  It’s not the most high end caliber tool available, but for this type of job, it gits er done.

Neiko Digital Caliper

Ok then, let’s do this!

Select a link on the old chain, and file off the pin heads so that they are flush with the plate surface.   This will make it much easier to push the link pins out, using the chain tool.  I used a small hand file, but a power tool with a grinding wheel will work just as well.  Just grind them pin heads flat.

Next, using the chain tool, push the chain link pins out.  Just carefully follow the chain tool instructions. It’s pretty damn easy.  Once the pins are out, the link will fall off, and the chain will just come apart.

Pull that old chain off, and do whatever you want with it.  Make some artwork out of it.  Give it to your significant other.  Make a dog collar out of it.  Doesn’t matter.  Just git rid of it.

Now it’s time to wrap your new sprockets in that beautiful new chain.

Go ahead and unpackage the new chain, and spin it around the sprockets.  Next, the new chain should have come with a little packet of white grease.  Unpackage the new master link and glob the white grease all over it.  Especially, on the pins.  Also, don’t forget to slide an O-Ring on each pin.

If you’re not familiar with how the O-Rings work, take a look at the instructions that came with the chain.  There should be an easy-to-understand diagram that you can refer to.

Go ahead and join the two ends of the chain, with the master link.  Now, glob a bit more grease on the part of the pins that are sticking out and slide an O-Ring on each protruding end of the pins.  Next, slide the master link plate onto the protruding pins.

Now it’s time to bust out that chain tool, again.

Using the chain tool, you need to press that plate onto the pins.  It takes a lot of force, which is why the tool is needed.  But, before you do that, using the digital calibers, measure the width of the factory links.  You want the final width of the master link to be the same as the factory links.  Be very careful, when pressing the master plate.  If you go too far, you could be screwed, as there is really no way to reverse this operation.  I recommend you press just little bits at a time, and take a measurement after each bit of pressing.

If you pressed the master plate on correctly, you should see a good bit of the two master link pins sticking out from the plate.  What you’re going to do now is, you’re going to “flare out” those pin ends. Or, as the pros say “swage”.  This operation requires the digital calibers again, as you will need to swage to the manufacturer’s specs.  You should be able to find the specs in the chain installation instructions.  If not, check the chain manufacturer’s website.  If you can’t find specs on the website, just swage the pins to the same width as the factory link pins.

What’s going on here is, using the chain tool, you’re going to press on those pin ends and cause them to “pancake out.  This will ensure that the master link is locked on solid, and won’t come off during one of those 100+ mph sweeper corners.

You can see in the photo below, how the master link pin heads are swaged out.  You need to be very careful, when doing this operation.  If you swage the pin heads too far, the pin head may crack, in which case you will need to trash that master link, and start all over, with a new one.  Just as when you pressed on the master plate, do this operation little bits at a time, and take a copious number of measurements.

Now that the new chain is installed, go ahead and tighten down that front sprocket nut.  You will need to apply the rear brake, in order to be able to apply the required torque.  I was able to do this myself, but some people prefer to have a bud, or significant other, stand on the rear brake.

Also, don’t forget to punch that lock washer thingy back down into the gap.  This is pretty important, as it’s an extra safety measure to prevent your sprocket nut from coming loose.

We’re almost done.  You just need to put the front sprocket cover back on, and if necessary, reattach the shfit linkage.  You did mark the linkage position, yes?  Heh, heh.

Congrats!  You’ve installed a new chain and sprockets.  Pretty easy, eh?

Go ahead and adjust the chain tension to spec, torque down the rear wheel, apply some chain lube, and give it a whirl.

Go easy at first, and keep an eye on that master link.  Especially, the pin head swages.  You want to ensure that the swages do not crack, warp, or change in any significant way.  Once you’ve got a few miles on the chain, you can go ahead and exercise it a bit more aggressively.  Basically, just slowly step it up, with each test.  Before you know it, you’ll be cranking out of those 100+ mph sweeper corners, smooth as butter.

I hope this post was helpful, and as always, please feel free to post a comment.  Also, please don’t hesitate to pass the word on my blog.  It’s really appreciated.

Ok then, my good motorcycling bros.  Ride hard, ride good, ride like you know you should!  Yeah baby!




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