Often riders feel they need a larger engine size (cc) motorcycle to gain more power; a bigger bike so to speak to “keep up with my friends”. Outside of the fact that it is dangerous to ride with riders you can’t keep up with (pushing yourself brings you beyond your skill limits), the reality is that the ability of the machine depends a lot on the rider. However, if you are looking for a little more power from your motorcycle – you can achieve this by simply making some small adjustments – here’s how.
Motorcycles are high-speed machines that run in tough conditions—rain, dirt, sand, and high shock loads. Their specially developed chains or final drives – are part of the drivetrain to transmit the motor or engine’s power to the back wheel. Consider that the engine power may be 180 hp, and the chain speed is 1,500 m/min. Therefore the chain type/condition is relevant to the final-drive you get of power.
Motorcycles have become faster and more powerful so your motorcycle chain needs to be of greater durability. Similarly, motorcycles are getting lighter and smaller and manufacturers are working on new materials, sizes, and heat treatments to improve the overall performance of the chain.
The easiest and quickest ways to get more power from your drive chain is to lower the gearing. This is done by buying a front sprocket with one less tooth and this can be done without replacing your chain. The front sprocket is not expensive can cost you, depending on your bike, less than twenty dollars.
The easiest and quickest ways to get more power from your drive chain is to lower the gearing.
There are a few cons to doing this which you need to know.
Firstly, if you are saving on budget and not replacing your chain, the new sprocket size will lengthen your wheelbase. This is not an issue, yet based on the theory of “cause and effect”, losing one tooth in the front sprocket will put additional torque on your counter-shaft (Defined: a machine drive-shaft that transmits motion from the main shaft to where it is required, such as the drive axle in a vehicle). This has the potential of ruining a seal or at ever worse, bending your counter-shaft which of course amounts will result in a big repair bill. The likelihood of this happening depends on how dramatic the change is and the characteristics of the motor. But it is important to be aware of potential consequences before making any decisions about alterations to your final drive.
With that in mind, the best way to lower gearing is to add teeth to the rear sprocket. Depending on how dramatic a change you want, you will likely need a new chain. Generally the rule is 4 to 1 – increase four teeth in the rear is equal to dropping one tooth in the front (can vary depending on what your stock gearing is). By changing rear sprockets, you have more control (versus front sprocket). You can go up any number of teeth to get the result you want.
Accompanying sprocket change is another common practise called a “520 conversion”. A 520 is a smaller slightly thinner chain (lighter as well), giving you a small performance/handling boost. The con is it’s slightly weaker so its lifespan is a bit shorter.
*Tip: You can find some makes that produce a “tri-metal” unit that is guaranteed for life. Naturally you’ll pay a little more for this.
To explain further, chains are constructed in some basic sizes – numbered 40, 50, and 60 etc. as the standard of roller chains. But they have a special width of inner links. Because of their very demanding working conditions, some motorcycle chains have the following special features:
Resistance to dirt, sand, or mud: To prevent debris from getting into tight joints, the bushings are extended beyond the inner link plates, and often O-rings are used to seal the chains. This extension and O-rings prevent abrasive material from getting into the chain.
Strength: Quad-staked riveting on the pin head helps to retain the link plate on the pin. Connecting links are press fit. (Riveted connecting links are also available.) Link plates are thicker (heavy) and the rollers are seamless.
Wear life: Special coated pins, sintered bushings that are oil impregnated, and seamless bushings with O-rings are used to extend the wear life of the chain.
Appearance: Some chains may have special colouring, plating, (gold or silver), or glossy finish on the plates. (*source Tsubaki chain company)
Consider the following important factors:
- Both O-ring chains and oil-impregnated sintered bushing chains wear rapidly if the O-rings fall off or if the oil in the sintered bushings is depleted. If either of these situations occurs, the chain must be replaced—even if it has not elongated to the limit.
- Oil it! Life of O-ring chain is usually determined by its durability and to improve durability, there should be an oil film on the O-ring at all times. Even though it is a sealed chain, lubrication is required to extend the working life of the O-ring. Note that cleaning sprays may cause deterioration of the O-rings. Do not allow chains to air dry after washing, or to rust.
- Generally specifications differ for each motorcycle or chain use, even with the same-sized chains. Do not select the chain just by size of the sprocket; take into account the motorcycle type use. I.E. an off-road motorcycle travels through dirt and sand which gets on the chain. You should avoid the use of oil-impregnated sintered bushings for this type.
- Failure of Motorcycle Chains may result in injury or death. Care must be exercised when connecting or aligning the chains. If you’re not confident get the assistance of your mechanic.
- Most new motorcycles today come with a link-less chain that allows the chain to be taken apart literally in a snap. Meaning there is no master link. Every link is riveted. The master link is a single removable link segment of the chain. It is not permanently fused, which allows you to remove your chain making it easy to change and clean. It’s a good idea to purchase a chain rivet tool so that you can replace your chain with another link-less chain.
To protect the workings of your motorcycle, including the drive sprockets and transmission, most motorcycle manufacturers recommend that the chain on your bike be replaced every 4800 km / 3000 miles. This is to lessen the chances of chain-break.