How to Tighten Motorcycle Chain

How to Tighten Motorcycle Chain


March 26, 2022

The chain is at the heart of the motorcycle motion, and chain maintenance is essential for any bike user.

Apart from keeping it clean and well-lubricated, one other necessary procedure that must be carried out occasionally is adjusting or tightening the motorcycle chain.

Over time, constant use of the motorcycle causes the chain to become slack and stretch out. If you’ve experienced the problem before, you know how inconvenient it could be.

When the chain becomes slack, it has no firm grip with the sprockets. This means the chain skips over some of the teeth. As a result of this, the transmission of the motorcycle is distorted, and the rider is no longer in complete control of the bike’s motion.

While this article is about how to tighten the motorcycle chain, you should know that it also goes both ways. You could also have the chain too tight, which leads to too much tension. This causes a restriction of motion and could damage the chain. So, you should know how to adjust the chain so that it is not too loose or too tight.

Knowing how to tighten a motorcycle chain is necessary to keep it in proper shape for a long time. The good news is that it is a maintenance procedure that you can easily learn. But it begins with knowing what the ideal chain tension should be.

The slack settings should be in the owner’s manual, and you must know it before attempting to tighten a loose motorcycle chain. Without that, you may risk making it tighter than it should be.

So, if you’re ready to roll your sleeves and work on your bike, let’s go! We’ll be looking at the tools you need for this task, and a step-by-step procedure, especially if you’re trying it for the first time.

Not to worry, it won’t take time and is safe. You may want to know the procedure while still reserving such activities for the professionals. But if you’re set to try it yourself, why not?

How to Tighten Motorcycle Chain

Dangers of Loose Motorcycle Chain

Your motorcycle has a standard chain setting. This is contained in the manual of the bike.

But generally, if you ride a street motorcycle, the average chain tension required should be about 25-40 mm. That means it should be slack for about an inch to an inch and a half (1.0-1.5 inches).

With time, you’ll be able to gauge the tension of a bike chain by simply watching it roll when you move the bike by hand. But before then, you may need to calculate to know the tension.

As said earlier, the chain could be too tight or too loose. When a motorcycle chain is too tight, it puts too much tension on the sprockets and puts pressure on the engine. It is also constantly at the risk of breaking.

Also, it is dangerous when the chain is loose. When loose, the chain skips over the teeth of the sprockets and makes riding very uncomfortable. If left unchecked, the chain risks coming off. Here are the three real dangers.

The chain wears out faster.

When the chains are loose, they tend to wear out faster, causing more frequent damages and the need for repairs.

The chain skips over the teeth of the sprocket.

This is one real danger. Over time, a loose chain will skip over the sprocket teeth and eventually come off. This is very risky for the bike and rider.

Uneven transmission to wheels

Because the chain doesn’t have an even distribution on the sprocket, it doesn’t transmit power evenly to the wheels. This leads to jerky motion, less efficiency, and indeed more pressure on the engine. The ride is uncomfortable, and the engine parts are frequently under duress.

So, what is the way out?

If it’s loose, tighten it.

Can you tighten the motorcycle chain by yourself?

Can you tighten the motorcycle chain by yourself

Absolutely Yes!

Although it is best to refer to professionals, maintenance of your motorcycle chain is something you should be able to handle by yourself. If you’ve got about half an hour to spare and you can lay your hands on some simple tools, you should be able to tighten your chain yourself.

Moreover, you may find your bike chain needing adjustments at a remote location. You wouldn’t have to ride it in that condition before getting to a professional. That’s why you need to know how to tighten (and loosen) the chain by yourself.

Let’s begin by outlining the tools you need.

Tools and equipment needed.

To tighten the motorcycle chain, you’ll need some tools like:

  • Pair of gloves
  • Socket size for the rear axle nut
  • Breaker bar
  • Torque wrench
  • Pliers
  • Cotter pin
  • Wrenches for chain-adjustor nuts.

Step-by-step Guide to Tighten Your Motorcycle Chain

Adjusting the chain tension of your bike has to do with the rear wheel. Move the rear wheel backward by tightening the adjuster nuts. You’ll need the tools outlined above to do this.

Let’s look at the procedure.

But before you begin, here are some precautions you need to take. First, ensure your rear wheel is perfectly aligned. To do this, make sure that the bike stands properly on its stand. If you don’t provide the perfect alignment, you may end up causing damage to the tires when you ride.

So, let’s look at the procedure.

Step 1: Get a flat surface for the procedure. Your garage should do if you are at home. If not, you need a flat place

Step 2: Please put on your gloves and get the bike up on its stand. As noted, you should ensure the rear wheel properly aligns. When the bike is up, spin the rear wheel to check for anything that sticks or is unusual. It is essential to inspect the chain very well before beginning. Don’t forget to shift the transmission into neutral.

Step 3: Measure the tension of your chain with tape. This is where you check the tension of the chain. You should know the correct value of the chain’s tension from the manufacturer’s manual. If you don’t know how to measure it accurately, you may contact a professional.

To do it, find the distance between the lower and upper positions of the chain. As noted earlier, you’re aiming to bring it to between 1.2-1.6 inches. Remember, this is a process of tightening the chain, so it is assumed that it is slack.

Step 4: You can then loosen the rear axle nut and the lock nut. Use a wrench to loosen the nuts and do this for both sides of the bike.

Step 5: Tighten the chain by turning the adjusters clockwise. Make sure you move them gradually and do it equally for both sides of the bike. It has to be gradual because you need to keep checking the tension after each quarter turns to ensure it doesn’t become too tight.

Step 6: Tighten the axle nut back and ensure that it is fitted to reflect the recommendation of the manufacturer.

Should you leave it to a Professional?

Should you leave it to a Professional

It’s always the best idea to allow a professional to adjust your motorcycle chain. But there’s no harm in trying, as long as you follow the recommendations. First, adjusting your bike chain yourself allows you to take its maintenance more seriously.

Also, you may find yourself at a place where a professional isn’t close by, and you need to adjust the chain.

Finally, the procedure is not complicated, and you will get better at it with time. While doing your bike maintenance, you’re likely to discover other issues that can be easily rectified, especially around the engine.

So, while leaving it to a professional is ideal, tightening your motorcycle chain yourself is a great idea!


The motorcycle chain needs occasional maintenance as this is the best way to keep it rolling. When the bike’s chain is loose, the journey is more complicated. It is also risky to the rider and may damage the bike.

Tightening the motorcycle chain is not complex, although it requires following some procedures. When they are followed, it is pretty easy.

While you may have been used to leaving such procedures to professionals, learning how to tighten motorcycle chains is not only recommended for bike owners, it could save your ride very soon.

Reference articles


Jeffrey Bryce is an experienced motorcycle rider with years of experience caring for motorcycles. His natural fondness for motorcycles have made him come up with, which is dedicated to answering and teaching you how to care for your bike with the care it requires. LetsGoForARide is the one of his important lifework in reaching out to communities of motorcycle enthusiasts on how to take care of their bike and choosing the correct spare part.