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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I've read in a couple other threads on our board that the guides on the swingarm aren't to be trusted when it comes to adjusting chain slack and aligning the rear wheel. Is it truly safe to assume that this should always be the case and we should instead be using other tools like the Motion Pro Chain Alignment Tool to ensure that the rear sproket/wheel is in proper alignment with the front sprocket?

The reason I ask is because I adjusted the slack on my chain yesterday, following the instructions in the service manual. Slack is now good, the alignment marks on the guides on both sides of the swingarm are the same; however, when I attached the motion pro chain alignment tool, it's obvious that the rear sproket/wheel is not parallel to the chain. It also bothers me that the guides on the swingarm have a little play to them when you loosen the bolt on the rear axle to make adjustments to the chain, which IMO means that those guides shouldn't be trusted since they aren't always fixed to the same place.

Should I simply ignore the guides on the swingarm and trust that as long as the slack measurements are good, and if the rear wheel is straight based on the use of the motion pro chain alignment tool I should be ok?
 

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I've read in a couple other threads on our board that the guides on the swingarm aren't to be trusted when it comes to adjusting chain slack and aligning the rear wheel. Is it truly safe to assume that this should always be the case and we should instead be using other tools like the Motion Pro Chain Alignment Tool to ensure that the rear sproket/wheel is in proper alignment with the front sprocket?

The reason I ask is because I adjusted the slack on my chain yesterday, following the instructions in the service manual. Slack is now good, the alignment marks on the guides on both sides of the swingarm are the same; however, when I attached the motion pro chain alignment tool, it's obvious that the rear sproket/wheel is not parallel to the chain. It also bothers me that the guides on the swingarm have a little play to them when you loosen the bolt on the rear axle to make adjustments to the chain, which IMO means that those guides shouldn't be trusted since they aren't always fixed to the same place.

Should I simply ignore the guides on the swingarm and trust that as long as the slack measurements are good, and if the rear wheel is straight based on the use of the motion pro chain alignment tool I should be ok?
Yes, forget the hash-marks. The alignment tool does not cost much, it frees up your hands and you can *see* if the wheel is straight based on how the alignment tool lines-up with the chain.

The hash marks still leave you guessing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
Yes, forget the hash-marks. The alignment tool does not cost much, it frees up your hands and you can *see* if the wheel is straight based on how the alignment tool lines-up with the chain.

The hash marks still leave you guessing.
Yea, the tool is so cheap, I bought it months ago and put it to use this past weekend. Just confusing for a motorcycle maintenance newbie like myself when the 'trusted' service manual suggests one thing, but your observations tell you something else.
 

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I have never found the marks to be off. I get down to chain level and look along the top of the chain from the back to make sure it is straight. I've never had a problem although my new Ninja 300 chain was too tight when I picked up the bike and I mentioned it so the set-up guy adjusted the chain....on one side! Soon as I got home I had to adjust it again. The tool sounds like a good idea to double check though.

I do see a lot of chains (especially on new bikes) that are too tight, which will stretch the chain and wear the sprockets among other things. The salesman always says the same thing...."It will loosen up in a few miles." It is one thing you should check at delivery.
 

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I don't "trust" them, I always measure for accuracy, but I've never found them to be off.. the problem is there is a lot of play in them, so if you don't have them both in the same position they will lie to you..
 

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The hash marks are probably reliable, just not demonstrably reliable until you test them against another measurement. To be safer, get the alignment tool and see if your particular hash marks are accurate. I also find it easier to use the alignment tool than to see the hash-marks whilst adjusting where the rear wheel is.
 

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Does aligning the rear tire to the front tire (using the string method) automatically align the chain as well?
 

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If you're not near your house and don't have the tool with you but you have everything else and you find yourself needing to do a chain adjustment elsewhere and align everything back up those marks are still going to be useful until you can get back home and use the tool.
 

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If you're not near your house and don't have the tool with you but you have everything else and you find yourself needing to do a chain adjustment elsewhere and align everything back up those marks are still going to be useful until you can get back home and use the tool.
If you're not home and don't have the tools, most likely a normal rider will not have a massive 24mm wrench and a 17mm wrench for the axle.

Will also need needle nose pliers to get the cotter pin off.

Then need two more smaller wrenches to adjust the chain.

I mean, if you have all 4 wrenches with you along with needle nose plier with you on a regular basis, you might as well carry a metal ruler (to check chain alignment) and a long piece of string to check rear tire to front tire alignment.
 

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If you're not home and don't have the tools, most likely a normal rider will not have a massive 24mm wrench and a 17mm wrench for the axle.

Will also need needle nose pliers to get the cotter pin off.

Then need two more smaller wrenches to adjust the chain.

I mean, if you have all 4 wrenches with you along with needle nose plier with you on a regular basis, you might as well carry a metal ruler (to check chain alignment) and a long piece of string to check rear tire to front tire alignment.
Good advice,, Thanks
 

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I always go by the hash marks on swingarm. During chain adjustment and tire changes. Tires always wear evenly with no other issues. All biker friends do the same.
 

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I always go by the hash marks on swingarm. During chain adjustment and tire changes. Tires always wear evenly with no other issues. All biker friends do the same.
FYI, by using the swingarm markers, my alignment was off. By the time the string got to the front wheel, one side had a gap of 1.25" while the other side had a gap of 0.75". If you're not as picky as I am and you're ok with riding a bike whose rear tire doesn't track the front tire completely dead on, the swing arm marks are somewhat reliable.

Here's what the alignment looked like when I used the swingarm hash marks.





Right side of bike:





Left side of bike:

 

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FYI, by using the swingarm markers, my alignment was off. By the time the string got to the front wheel, one side had a gap of 1.25" while the other side had a gap of 0.75". If you're not as picky as I am and you're ok with riding a bike whose rear tire doesn't track the front tire completely dead on, the swing arm marks are somewhat reliable.

Here's what the alignment looked like when I used the swingarm hash marks.




Right side of bike:





Left side of bike:


To each his own. I understand there are those who prefer a near 100% alignment. It's all personal preference. Its just how I've always done it since my motocross days as a kid. Until I hear of a major catastrophe or it gives me problems with handling, uneven or abnormal tire wear, etc. I'll continue to use the provided convenient marks on swingarm.
 

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If you're not home and don't have the tools, most likely a normal rider will not have a massive 24mm wrench and a 17mm wrench for the axle.

Will also need needle nose pliers to get the cotter pin off.

Then need two more smaller wrenches to adjust the chain.

I mean, if you have all 4 wrenches with you along with needle nose plier with you on a regular basis, you might as well carry a metal ruler (to check chain alignment) and a long piece of string to check rear tire to front tire alignment.
I was making a point that the marks on the swing arm are not as useless as people are making them seem. It was sort of a metaphor. I don't expect people to carry those big tools around, and the tool kit that comes with the bike work fine for a chain adjustment and wheel alignment and those are always with me,t hey're just not ideal.
 

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To each his own. I understand there are those who prefer a near 100% alignment. It's all personal preference. Its just how I've always done it since my motocross days as a kid. Until I hear of a major catastrophe or it gives me problems with handling, uneven or abnormal tire wear, etc. I'll continue to use the provided convenient marks on swingarm.
I completely understand. Like I said, I'm extremely anal when it comes to a balance between left and right; up and down (with all things in life). Most of my friends use the hash marks. Like you said, accurate enough so that tires are worn evenly and no one ever died from it.

When I used to work at a large warehouse, I would take a 6ft long florescent bulb off and use that for alignment. With someone's help (holding it along the two edges of the rear tire), I was able to make adjustments within 3 minutes. With the string method, it takes long than 3 minutes to set the damn thing up!
 

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I was making a point that the marks on the swing arm are not as useless as people are making them seem. It was sort of a metaphor. I don't expect people to carry those big tools around, and the tool kit that comes with the bike work fine for a chain adjustment and wheel alignment and those are always with me,t hey're just not ideal.
Ahhh...I understand. Didn't realize it was a metaphor. I agree with you. The swingarm marks are not useless at all. It gives a pretty good reading; just not perfect. And if you don't have "perfect" alignment, it's still ok and save to ride. As long as it's not off a crazy amount (which my bike isn't when aligned with the swingarm), there isn't going to be any adverse affect handling wise.

Ok, now that you mentioned the tool kit. I don't think you fully understand what's needed for a chain adjustment. Even though you can back out the adjuster nuts, how on earth will you be able to move the wheel forward or backwards to adjust the chain while you're on the road?
 

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Ahhh...I understand. Didn't realize it was a metaphor. I agree with you. The swingarm marks are not useless at all. It gives a pretty good reading; just not perfect.
Indeed, just not ideal

Even though you can back out the adjuster nuts, how on earth will you be able to move the wheel forward or backwards to adjust the chain?
What do you mean? When you adjust the nuts on both sides, it moves the plate with it or whatever it's called. Once you have it right where you want it you push the rear wheel forward by hand and you stick the screwdrivers between it and the chain, you roll the wheel so it gets nice and tight against the screwdriver, and you tighten everything up. I never had an issue nor has anything ever been out of alignment. Unless I'm thinking of a complete chain adjustment and not a direct wheel alignment. Don't they go hand in hand? Like, when I adjust the chain, and the notches move the wheel creeps along with it. That's how I've always done it and had no issues. Whenever I stop by the dealer since I have such a good relationship with the service department they always have their best guy check over the bike for me while we talk and they never once told me the wheel was all out of whack because even if it was by a hair they would still say something to me because they tell me everything.
 

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You got the process down. Crossed all Ts and dotted all I's.

But one thing. You can't do that if you're on the road because you need the monster 24mm wrench to loosen the axle bolt and a plier of some sort to take out the cotter pin. If not, the rear wheel will not move a mm!

I guess we all do this at home and don't realize what we have and don't have while out on the road. =)
 

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...have their best guy check over the bike for me while we talk and they never once told me the wheel was all out of whack because even if it was by a hair they would still say something to me because they tell me everything.
Which leads me to my next question.....

Does anyone know how dealerships (and other shops) do the alignment? What tool do they use to align the wheels? Or do they just go off the swingarm marks as well? Has anyone seen how they do it in the shop?
 
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