January 7, 2020

Lube, Tension and a Chain Reaction.

It is 2020! And I have finally settled on a New Year’s Resolution! This year I will be getting my motorcycle license. This is something I have wanted to do for a while but a recent trip to the beach on the back of my brother in-laws bike cemented the decision for me. It wasn’t the ride itself, followed by an awesome day at Bondi Beach, that convinced me. It was that in some ethereal way I felt connected to my dad, who when he was alive, rode a motorcycle.

To be honest I never got the chance to actually ride on my dad’s bike with him. However, on the rare occasions that I would go to visit him, he would give me odd little lessons on the most random things. I realise now, that he was trying to impart some of his knowledge with me. I guess to make up for not being around when I was younger. Anyways, one of these random lessons included motorcycle maintenance, or more specifically, motorcycle chain maintenance. Who knew I would ever call on that knowledge!

It turned out that as my family and I were leaving the beach for the day I noticed that the chain on my brother-in-law’s bike was looking a little droopy. I instantly remembered my dad showing me how to fix the tension on his motorcycle and helped my brother in-law adjust his. I am sure he thought I was overreacting, but I am pretty sure I may have saved his life! As I remember that if your chain is too low when you hit a bump while riding your bike can throw the chain which can damage the gearbox and lock up the rear wheel, causing you to crash!

I have been hesitant to own a bike previously, as my dad was in a pretty serious crash when I was younger. He had to have both of his arms in casts for months which really messed with his mood and livelihood. I didn’t really want to tempt fate and have that happen to me. However, this could also be why I received a little crash course in chain maintenance, so that if I ever did have my own bike, I would know how to take care of it and could avoid silly accidents.

Somehow I know that having my own bike to ride will make me feel some kind of connection with my dad. Maybe provide me with the ability to feel the freedom of riding like he must have and just get a better understanding of the kind of person he was. In case anyone else is interested I have some more tips on chain maintenance and if these little nuggets of information lead to motorcycle ownership than so be it. If I can do it, you can too!


  1. Adjust the tension when needed. Chains can stretch due to the wear and tear they have to endure. They get hot and dirty from road grime, water and dirt etc. You will need to move the rear wheel back if your chain is slack, or forwards if your chain is too tight. When making adjustments, loosen or tighten the bolts that are situated near the axle until you are happy with the tension. Just make sure to adjust each side evenly. Check the wheel alignment on the swingarm and then tighten up the axle fasteners to the correct torque. Take your bike for a wee little ride to make sure you have adjusted the chain correctly… if after your ride there is still some slack, or the torque does not feel right, you may need to make another small adjustment. If you do not feel confident in assessing the torque just by feel you can invest in a torque wrench and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  2. Remember to lube your chain. Chain lube is messy for sure. But the mess is worth not having to replace your chain and sprockets on the regular, which can get expensive. The best time to lube your chain is after a ride, when the chain is still warm. The lube will slide over your chain easily and settle into the rollers nicely. Use the spray straw, if available, on the aerosole to hit the chain side plates with precision. This is where the lube is most beneficial. If you can get someone to help you roll the rear wheel while you apply the lube that will be even better – just don’t have the bike in gear when you do this, unless you consider your fingers as optional extras. Finally, when your chain rollers become shiny, the lube has worn off and will need to be reapplied. Make sure to double check your chain rollers when you have been riding in the wet, as rain will wash lube away and leave your chain prone to corrosion.
  3. Of course there may be times where you let your maintenance habits slip and the only solution is to buy a new motorcycle chain. That is okay, just do better with the next one and save yourself some cash.


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