How To Adjust Your Dirt Bike Chain & Sprocket

Checking your chain on a regular basis is a super important thing to do because it goes through a lot of stress when you’re riding and in this post, I’ll be showing you how to check and adjust your dirt bike chain and sprocket.

You should get into the habit of checking and oiling your chain every time you do any other maintenance (or even after washing your bike). I’ve never had it happen to me but I couldn’t imagine being out in the woods somewhere and having the thing break in half.

There are a bunch of reasons your chain could break. It could get corroded from the lack of maintenance, it could break because it was too tight, or it could end up falling off if it’s too loose. This post will cover pretty much everything you need to know about testing your tension, making any adjustments, and maintaining your chain. Let’s get started!

How Tight Should A Dirt Bike Chain Be?

It’s important to make sure your dirt bike chain has the proper tension because if it’s too tight or too loose, you could have some major issues. Here’s how you check to make sure your chain is tight enough:

  1. Elevate the rear wheel by placing a stand or block under the engine.
  2. Pull the chain down to see how much slack you have.
  3. Measure the distance between the bottom of the swing arm and the top of the chain (in the center between the drive axle and the rear wheel axle).
  4. The distance between the two should be 35-50mm (some bikes may be different and that’s why you should always check your manual first). If it’s not, you’ll have to adjust your chain. A quick way to reference is by using your three middle fingers. Stick them between the chain and the swing arm and it should be fairly tight on your fingers.

How To Adjust Your Dirt Bike Chain

  1. The first thing you’ll want to do is loosen the axle nut. Don’t unscrew it all the way, just make it so it’s lightly tightened.
  2. Locate the chain adjuster bolts and turn them evenly on both sides. If your chain is too tight you’ll have to loosen the bolts and if your chain is too loose you’ll have to tighten the bolts. Make sure you turn them the same amount on each side (the adjuster blocks should have lines to reference). You should see the chain start to move when you tighten or loosen the bolts.
  3. Push down on the chain until it touches the swing arm and then tighten the axle nut back up. Double-check everything is right and then you should be good to go!

What Happens If Your Chain Is Too Loose?

If your chain is too loose it’s not as bad as if it were too tight but it’s definitely not good. If your chain is loose it can cause the chain to fall off when you’re riding and it can also wear out the rubber on your swingarm. It would absolutely suck if you were out for a long ride and your chain suddenly decided to pop off and you didn’t bring the tools to fix it.

Your chain will stretch out over time but what’s really happening is the rollers and pins are being worn out and that causes the chain to stretch. Once they get worn out you’ll be best off if you replace it altogether.

How Long Do Dirt Bike Chains Last?

It’s all going to depend on how hard you ride the bike and how well you maintain the chain. That’s why the best way to see if your chain needs to be replaced is by measuring it. You’ll have to look in your manual to see how many pins they suggest measuring. It’ll tell you to measure a certain amount of pins on your chain and if that distance is longer than what the manual says, you should replace the chain. Make sure you pull the chain tight before you take the measurement (you can put a weight on the bottom of the chain or wedge something between the chain and the rear sprocket).

Do I Need To Change Sprockets With The Chain?

Normally, when your sprocket needs to be replaced it’s a good idea to replace the chain as well. If you change your chain but keep your old sprockets there’s a good chance your new chain will wear out prematurely. You might as well check your chain slider, guide, and rollers as well to make sure they’re in a good standing order.

Sprocket Settings

You might need to change your sprockets depending on what you’ll be using the bike for. If you’ll be riding on an open track you might want to increase the top-end power. The best way to do this is by changing the sprocket. You can increase the top end power (but lower the low-end power) by putting a bigger sprocket with more teeth on the front. You can also put a smaller sprocket with fewer teeth on the back and it will do the same thing.

It’s always a good idea to check your chain and sprockets on a regular basis. They can get worn out pretty quick and I’m sure you don’t want to break down in the middle of nowhere. Check all the bolts and make sure they’re tight and always be sure to clean your chain and lube it to make sure it lasts for as long as possible.

Let me know your thoughts and any questions you have. Like this article? Feel free to give it a share!

Looking to get some new dirt bike gear? Click here to check out our recommended gear page to see the stuff we’re actually using and the cheapest place to get them.

Jon Webber

I'm by no means an outdoors or fishing expert, but it's something I've been interested in for over 20 years. I created this site to test out different gear and techniques to see what actually works.

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