Dirt Bike Axle and Chain Adjustment

March 20, 2009
JC Hilderbrand
JC Hilderbrand
Off-Road Editor|Articles|Articles RSS|Blog |Blog Posts |Blog RSS

Hilde is holding down the fort at MotoUSA's Southern Oregon HQ. With world-class dirt bike and ATV trails just minutes away, the hardest part is getting him to focus on the keyboard. Two wheels or four, it doesn't matter to our Off-Road Editor so long as it goes like hell in the dirt.

Every motorcycle manufacturer does things a little different when it comes to attaching the rear wheel, but they are all essentially the same. Make sure to consult your owner’s manual for the proper torque specs and recommended motorcycle chain tension.

Step 1.2
Step 1: A good coating of grease will make it easier to remove in the future.

Installation Steps:

Step 1: Axle prep
Once the wheel is ready to be re-attached to the bike, before inserting the axle, make sure that it is properly prepared. The axle should be cleaned of any grime or dirt and then coated with a fresh layer of grease. Most bearing or axle grease will do. Force the wheel up tight against the adjustment bolts and tighten the axle nut enough to hold the wheel in place, but do not cinch it down.

Step 2: Adjust the chain

Step 2
Step 2: Don’t forget to tighten the lock nuts when the adjustment is correct.

Loosen the lock nut on the chain tensioner on each side of the swingarm. Once loose, thread the adjustment bolts in or out to reach the desired chain slack (out to tighten the chain, in to loosen it). Use the marks on the axle blocks to make sure both sides are equally adjusted and the wheel is square.

Everyone has a favorite tip for the proper chain adjustment. We try to leave enough slack so that the chain is tight when the suspension is fully compressed. You can check this by leaning over the seat, grabbing the swingarm and compressing the shock to view the difference in tension. A friend can help get more compression and a more accurate gauge. If the chain becomes taught before the suspension is fully compressed, it is affecting the way your bike handles during a ride and creating unnecessary stress and wear on the chain, sprocket, axle and countershaft

Step 3.1
Step 3: The rag ensures your axle blocks are tight against the adjusters.

Step 3: Tighten the axle
Once you are satisfied with the chain tension, put a rag between the chain and sprocket on the top side of the swingarm. Rotate the wheel backwards to cram the rag between the chain and sprocket which forces the wheel tight against the tensioning bolts. Use a torque wrench to tighten the axle nut to the specified tension, lube the chain and go ride.

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