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Loose Chains and Cheap Bikes

by Lee Meyer

When M.M.M. approached me about writing a tech column for their new newspaper, I thought it would be a great way to get some basic and some not so basic service and technical info to the riding public. Considering the large number of riders in this part of the country and how the bikes that come into my shop generally look, I knew there was a need. So here we are at issue No. 1.Let’s start with who I am. My name is Lee Meyer, and I live in South Minneapolis. I trained as an automotive driveline tech. I became sick to death of working on cars about four and a half years ago, so I decided to do what I like to do for a living–play with motorcycles all day.

I am a horsepower junkie and an acceleration freak. I’ve never been able to stay away from the dragstrip very long. The results of my summer adventures there will be the topic of many articles to come. Even though I have considerable experience behind the wheel of a car at the strip, I’m pretty much an amateur dragging a bike. This summer I will be taking my own personal test mule, a 1993 Kawasaki ZX-11D, to the strip to see what Mr. Ordinary can do against the pros. Along the way (if we are lucky), I may be able to convince my friend to pull his 200+ horsepower GS 1150ES Suzuki out of his garage for a few torture runs.

I would like to cover many other topics in the coming issues from small tech tips to major projects. I will include tips for sport bikes, cruisers, standards and even a classic Norton or T-140. This month let’s talk about a couple of small things that are not so small in importance.

I can’t believe how often motorcyclists neglect chain adjustment. There are two things to look at here: sprocket alignment and tension.

The alignment marks on the adjusters should only be used as a rough guide. These things are not micrometer accurate. Even Kawasaki’s cool adjusters on my ZX-11 are a notch off. Check the alignment with the bike on the center stand and the chain guard removed. With the transmission in neutral, spin the rear tire by hand. Stop the tire, and notice where the chain is riding on the sprocket teeth. Those teeth should be riding right in the middle of that chain. Adjust one side or the other and spin the tire after each adjustment, until you get it right.

Now you can adjust the tension. Set the tension by turning both adjusters equally one-quarter or one-half turn. Check for slack in the middle of the bottom half of the chain. Three-quarters to one inch of slack is about right when the bike is on the ground. Check your bike’s manual, as different makes and models vary slightly. Make a final check with the bike on the ground and you sitting on it. Reach down with a long screwdriver or the like to make sure the chain didn’t tighten up too much with your weight on it. If you are uncomfortable doing this for fear of falling over, have a friend check it while you sit.

Now that it is finally summer, everyone wants to buy a bike. Do yourself a favor, and have the bike checked out by a reputable shop BEFORE you buy. A minimal cost of twenty to fifty dollars could save you hundreds in potential repair costs. NEVER buy a non-running bike that “just needs a battery and a tune-up.” That bike probably needs $1,000 worth of work and parts. OUCH! If it does not run, but you insist on giving yourself a first-class skull ache, don’t pay more than scrap price for it. Your wallet will recover much quicker if the thing can be junked for close to what you paid for it.

That will do it for this month. Next month, I’ll be going over some pipe and jet kit info that might help you make the right choice for your machine. If you have a particular problem that has been tying your undies in a knot, drop me a line, and I will do my best to get you the information you need to solve it. Until next month, the Doctor is in.




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