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  #1  
Old 18 Feb 2014
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Africa Twin Chain Problems?

I've read through some other threads to try and sort this one out but am still quite lost.

I had 2 links taken out of my chain a few weeks back. The chain was well cleaned, the sprockets looked in good order, so this solution was acceptable. I'm not super confident that the 'mechanic' knew what he was doing, but he seemed to put everything back together okay. Due to Carnet complications, I'm now in a sudden rush to get out of India and into Nepal.

Now, the chain seems to be "stretching" at an alarming rate. It goes from snug to slack in 600km, needing an adjustment of 2-4mm each time. I'm almost out of room on the adjusters again.

As was mentioned in previous threads, I started hearing a grinding noise at low speed, but only when the clutch was engaged. When I tightened, and lubed the chain, this noise seemed to go away.

Currently, the slackening/ noise seems to be more constant, and adjusting the tightness/ oiling it doesn't seem to do the trick. I'm 1500km from the Nepal border, will be passing near Calcutta, and NEED to be out of India in 6 days (by the 24th of February)


Questions:

Should I stop in Calcutta for a day and try and sort this out? There are no shops/ knowledge in Calcutta that I know of.

Are motorcycle chains interchangeable?. My biggest question/ most likely fix if it is the chain. Supposedly, Hyosungs, CBR's and some other large bikes are for sale in Calcutta, although last time I was in Calcutta nobody seemed to know what they were talking about with regard to foreign/ big bikes.

Any other thoughts as to what it could be?

Thanks!
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  #2  
Old 18 Feb 2014
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Obviously you need to change the chain and both sprockets..
2 links were taken out of the chain shows it was already stretched to the max.
Theres a rubber that sits around the front of the swinging arm and the chain slides along the top of it, this is probably worn out making the noise. It was this on my twin..
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  #3  
Old 18 Feb 2014
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Travelers who are clueless about chains are my Pet Peeve

"What it could be" ? You're kidding me, right?

Most definitely stop, find a new chain and sprockets. Go to HU community, maybe someone there can direct you to a source? In a City of so many millions there must be someone who can get hold of a chain/sprockets for your bike.

Repeated stretching indicates chain is totally gone ...next it will BREAK! Not good.

Do you not carry any spare front sprockets with you? I always carry TWO. The front is the important one and wears quickly. Once worn, it eats your chain quickly and accelerates wear on rear sprocket too.

Do you know what size chain your AT uses? It's one of 3 pitch sizes ... either 520, 525 or 530. Hopefully it's a 520, as that is the most common size, may be easier to locate. The number refers to "pitch" and is common, worldwide reference. Use it to locate a new chain but it must match sprockets.

Can't believe you got all the way to India before knowing your chain and sprockets were shot. Ever actually looked at your front sprocket?
The front sproc wears the worst ... and by now could be missing teeth or looking something like this:



Try to find a QUALITY O Ring or X Ring chain. DID, RK or EK are all quality Japanese chains, best in the world. But buy what you can find and afford. I doubt an Indian chain will last long but better than pushing.

Be SURE to buy NEW sprockets too ... these may be hard to find or maybe you will get lucky. A tiny chain from a 100cc Pulsar will not work. You must match pitch: 520 chain goes with 520 sprockets and so on.

When the guy removed two links (!! !!) from your chain, that SHOULD have been your clue: Stop Now, find new chain and sprockets.

Best you can do now is ride very gently, slather chain heavily with 90 wt gear oil, keep it adjusted best you can (not too TIGHT .. a bit loose is FINE) and pray to Krishna you make it.
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  #4  
Old 18 Feb 2014
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A bit harsh there on the fellow Mollydog, but good advise.

But chain maintenance are very important. If the chain breaks, it could end up 'around' the front sprocket, and you'll destroy the engine casings and that'll be the end of your bike.

Also check your main drive bearing, but if the problem's that bad, you'd have noticed the oil stain on the ground by now.

If you can't find the parts you're looking for in India, try Mtechnik in Singapore. Chan 'knows' Africa Twins and he can get you any parts you want (OEM or not) and ship it wherever you are. They're on the web with contact numbers if you want to call them or you can email them.
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  #5  
Old 18 Feb 2014
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The standard chain on an AT is 525 pitch 124 links. Yes it needs replacing immediately. I strongly recommend the sprockets do too. The front sprocket should ideally be a Honda oem original part to help preserve the life of the output shaft. Also get a few spare front sprocket retainers if you can.

Do your research on xrv.org.uk
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  #6  
Old 18 Feb 2014
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The standard chain on an AT is 525 pitch 124 links. Yes it needs replacing immediately. I strongly recommend the sprockets do too. The front sprocket should ideally be a Honda oem original part to help preserve the life of the output shaft. Also get a few spare front sprocket retainers if you can.

Do your research on xrv.org.uk
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  #7  
Old 18 Feb 2014
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I'm in Calcutta

You're going to need a chain and possibly both sprockets, and you might want to grab a spare sprocket or two for the rest of your ride. Grab extra sprockets even if you don't need them immediately. Grab a spare chain.

I'm in Calcutta, and have an empty apartment you can crash in and a cage to lock the bike. There are several big bike brands in the city, including Hysosung, KTM, Honda, and Yamaha. KTMs are now made in India, so if you're really lucky a chain / sprocket transplant from the Duke 390 is doable. I've got a Duke 200 and an Enfield here, and know quite a few bikers in the city, so someone here will be able to sort you out. I changed the chain and rear sprocket on the 200 last summer, and it was fairly quick (it's more pain to take the back wheel off and get the disk lined up inside the pads than it is to actually deal with the sprocket or the chain adjustment).

Any local mechanic *can* (in theory) change that sprocket, but most are just going to use this as an excuse to play with a big imported bike. None of them are going to know where to source that chain / sprocket combo.

If you're ordering chains and sprockets from abroad and you're on a tight schedule, pay for expedited shipping. I'll shoot you my office or home address; you can ship them before you arrive.

Where are you at the moment, and how many km per day are you covering on your way to Cal? I'm +91 905 158 4089 in India, or dave@nonprofitable.org.

Baby the bike for now. Very easy on the clutch, no power shifts, nothing that'd put a sudden / sharp tension on the chain. If it breaks before you get here, you're going to get ripped off by a truck driver to get it hauled here. If it's a sealed O-ring chain, keep it *extremely* lubed (as in oil dripping off it whenever you stop), and hope for the best.

Good luck. Don't worry about it too much. This is how we all learned this stuff. The fun way.

D.
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  #8  
Old 18 Feb 2014
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Thank you all and thanks Squilly! But, I'll take harsh yet correct advice over no advice any day.

So here is the situation: I don't know s#@t about bikes; I'm only trying to ride one across Asia overland I picked up a low mileage '03 AT in Thailand about a year ago, and so far so good, which is to say a few hiccups but nothing major. However, when hiccups do occur, I tend to freak the f%$k out because it could be anything.

Unfortunately, I recently got a surprise notification from the Indian Gov't which stated that I need to get my bike out of the country in a week, so I'm making a b-line to Nepal all the way southern India. Thats when the trouble started. I don't have time to stop.

I did 1100Km in one go two days back, and thats when it really started so sound awful. I checked the teeth on the rear sprocket this morning, and for the first time ever they suddenly looked worn as hell. I DO know how to adjust / oil the chain, so its been getting extra good lovin.

I'm 600km away from the border and things went okay today. I thought I might pick up a new chain in Calcutta, but I was there for 3 weeks not long ago looking for tyres, and other parts. Everyone just laughed when I asked if they had a chain that would be workable for the bike. Nobody knows anything about big-bikes there, even if they claim to. Either that or I was just talking to the wrong people. In retrospect, I wish I had done more of the work myself.

Aaaanyhow, I do have a front sprocket, but when we opened it up to remove 2 links from the chain the mechanic said it was fine. Oh well.

This "525 pitch/ 124 links" information is huge btw.

So, new plan: get the bike to Kathmandu, order parts, and do the work myself. I just hope it makes it. I hate to be putting this much strain on my bike, but unfortunately I don't see any options for the time being, assuming the bike will make it.

Its due for an oil change, which I had all worked out in Chennai, about 1800km ago, and was chasing down leads on a chain, but no more.

One thing of note: for the first time EVER the oil level was running low - totally dry dipstick unless I screwed it in one thread, or leaned the bike towards the dip-stick ever so slightly. So not totally empty. 400Km later, and I needed to lean it a bit more (ie it was continuing to burn oil, which makes some sense: it was on old/ 12k km semi-synthetic oil, running at highway speeds for 14 hours in one hot day, with a full load, a bad chain/ sprocket/ and knobby tyers on the front wheel.

I got nervous so I googled the pro's con's of adding a different oil (I had forgotten the weight of the oil I already had in there) and found the same brand (Motul), but it was full synthetic (specifically for 4-stroke motorcycles) and I dont THINK it was the same weight (15w50 vs 10w-30?). The pros far outweighed the cons, but over the course of the day I ended up adding a full litre of oil! This is to a bike than didn't burn any oil when beasting over the Himalayas with me and a passenger all summer.

So that's got me worried.

"Also check your main drive bearing, but if the problem's that bad, you'd have noticed the oil stain on the ground by now."

Well I don't know what that is, but I'm going to google it now. I've got a vague idea and I'll take a look in the morning. I did a quick look for leaking oil this afternoon but saw nothing.

Thanks for the Singapore link. I shoulda been on here earlier, not listening to everyone who told me it will be fine, no problem, you'll get parts for sure in (insert name of next city with millions of people). Its India. You're lucky if you can find AAA batteries here.

Lesson learned. Hope I didn't/ am not destroying my bike. Gonna ride nice and easy to Kathmandu. Be there on the 20th.
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  #9  
Old 18 Feb 2014
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Originally Posted by theoverman83 View Post
Thank you all and thanks Squilly! But, I'll take harsh yet correct advice over no advice any day.
Sorry for the harsh tone ... but as mentioned above ... if the chain breaks it could be disastrous. I'm a chain nut because I learned the hard lessons you're learning now a few decades back. I've seen chains break (rare these days), ruin the engine case, lock the wheel and send bike and rider into a ditch. Not a happy outcome. A broken chain at speed should be avoided.

This is perhaps one of the most common things those "new to bikes" miss. They ignore their drive chain.

The "main bearing" comment maybe should have read "Main Counter Shaft bearing". the Counter shaft is the shaft the front sprocket goes onto. There is a bearing that fits into the engine case and seals that shaft. These sometimes fail or leak ... easily fixed if you can find the right bearing. (common size)

Looks like you've got lots of local help here ... gotta love the HU community!

Glad to read you're doing bike research and learning your bike. Big ups!
It ain't rocket science ... just basic maintenance. Step by Step.

The oil use is a bit worrying but as long as you keep the level up, you will be fine until you have time to sort it out and find the problem.
It could be a few things:
1. be consistent with the way you check the level. NOTE: Level will always be different when bike is cold as opposed to HOT. Is bike always level? Are you supposed to screw in dip stick all the way in? .. or not? (varies bike to bike)

2. Sometimes switching to a much lighter synthetic oil can cause some oil use. Use correct weight oil when possible. (10/40 ?)

3. Don't worry about mixing & matching oil. Regular non synthetic is fine to mix with semi or Full synthetic oil. Mixing brands is fine too. JUST KEEP the level up ... but never OVER FILL

4. If the valves are well out of spec, this can sometimes cause more oil use.
5. If the crankcase vent hose is pinched, kinked or blocked, this can cause oil use or pumping of oil into Air Box.
6. Check your Air Box and Air Filter ... is there oil in the Air Box? Is the Air Filter soaked with oil? If so, then you may have OVER filled the crankcase with oil ... or rings are bad. Over filling is not good. Make sure you check the oil level using Honda's recommended method.

Good luck sorting all this out!
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  #10  
Old 18 Feb 2014
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The way to measure oil on an AT is cold (in the morning before setting off...) with the bike on horizontal ground and vertical (on centre stand?). The dipstick should be placed in the hole, not screwed in to measure.

ATs (and Transalps) all start to use oil after a while. Apparently it is caused by hardened valve guide stems. I have 3 Honda twins (one AT with 50k miles/80k km and 2 TAs, both with unknown mileage, but probably each over 80k miles) and they all use oil. If I ride very conservatively and not faster than 90kmh, there's virtually no loss and at a more aggressive riding style and speeds up to 140kmh about a litre for 1000km. So... check your oil in the morning and make sure it's full. For max to min on the dipstick is 0.5 litres. (max is 2.6, min is 2.1) and fill up at lunchtime if you need to. And ride conservatively, which you'll being doing because there's so much to see, Indian/Nepali roads don't allow speed..... and you're nursing a shagged chain.

Standard sprockets combo is 16 tooth front and 45 tooth rear. Like I said previously, try to get a Honda original front sprocket. Also buy a few spare front sprocket retainers.
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  #11  
Old 19 Feb 2014
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Drive shaft bearing = the bearing behind the sprocket. If this bearing goes, the shaft goes off-center and oil seeps by the oilseal, resulting in a rapid oil loss from the engine, a very oily chain and rapid sprocket/chain wear. Unfortunately, if this bearing is shot, you'll need a complete breakdown of the engine to replace it, and depending on how long it's been shot (distance you did with it), there could be significant wear inside the engine and oil pump due to small metal parts distributed throughout the engine and gearbox.

That's the bad news.

Oil use: I found on my bikes and the AT, the 'older' the oil gets, the more oil the bike uses. I.e. the bike will not use any oil for thousands of kms, but then all of a sudden, the oil 'disappears' and I constantly have to fill up. I've done some reading, and if I understand it correctly, when the oil wear's off, the polymers that make it 'clingy' wears off and more oil stays behind in the cylinders and burns up through the exhaust. A good quality oil lasts longer than cheap oil, but according to Honda, any oil consumption upto a liter / 1000km is normal.

So just cause it uses oil, doesn't mean there's something wrong, but it's worth keeping an eye one and isolating 'when' it uses oil- e.g. if you do an oil-change, is it 'better' all of a sudden?

As for previous comment on valve guides- relatively easy to check: if you stop for a few minutes, e.g. at a traffic light, then pull off- is there a small puff of black smoke that disappears? if so- that's a leaking valve train.

Running against back-compression (e.g. down a hill, closed throttle with the engine doing the breaking) with a smoke cloud behind you = rings. If this is the issues, you should also see a lot of oil in the airbox or dripping out of the crank case breather as you'll have too much crankcase pressure.

These checks above can be done without any instruments/tools just by being observant when you're riding.

Last but not least- spark plug foul: if there's too much oil in the cylinders (for whatever reason), you'll start to foul the plugs with unburnt residue. In fact spark plugs can tell you a lot of what's happening in the engine
Spark Plug Troubleshooting - YouTube



Good luck!!!
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Old 20 Feb 2014
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Originally Posted by theoverman83 View Post

Lesson learned. Hope I didn't/ am not destroying my bike. Gonna ride nice and easy to Kathmandu. Be there on the 20th.
What year model is your AT (and it´s an RD04 or RD07)? How many kms on the clock?

In any case, check your chain tightness very carefully. The AT´s rear end geometry almost resembles a motocross machine, and especially if the chain is adjusted too tight, it will put a lot of strain on the chain and your drive shaft bearing. The AT needs more chain slack than your average streetbike. (Actually I´ve had this bearing once go bad on my AT´s, it started to make horrible noise on engine braking, I was lucky that the whole engine did not grenade, and I think the mechanic was able to replace it without actually removing the engine, although this is what the workshop manual instructs to do). Note, that a worn chain will usually be unevenly worn, and you need to have enough slack for its whole length, including its tightest spot.

Removing chain links sounds like it could have been adjusted way too tight after this.

Also do check, that the swingarm adjusters do not have different setting on left/right side, this mostly kills driveability, but could lead to other problems as well, including rapid chain wear.

New chains could be available from big cities in India (..or Kathmandu, maybe) ... but looking up a place from a big city in India will no doubt be fun! If you have to have parts flown in with DHL, the customs process could be slow & costly. Some have adviced to make new parts look like they´re used (discard packages, put some oil & dirt on them) to help with the customs, but of this I have no personal experience, as I´ve been lucky enough to never really need any parts sent to me while on a trip.

And do NOT let your engine oil level drop too low – oil starvation will kill your engine very quickly! It´s been several years, since I was in India on my own bike, but I seem to remember, that finding suitable (well, suitable enough!) oil was never a big problem. There are lotsa small cc 4-stroke bikes, what they use in them should be good enough (although I halved the oil change interval on my Vstrom, when I used some local oil, so I changed it every 3000 kms).

“I did 1100Km in one go two days back “ - wow, that´s crazy, you´re a hard rider! A bit more than 400 kms is all I ever managed in one day in India, and even that felt like doing a few back-to-back Iron Butt-rides!! S*it I hated the traffic on Indian highways.

Here´s hoping you´ll get it fixed with no further drama or issues!

(BTW, if you´ll need something from Thailand, I´ve got a friend who lives near BKK, and actually has several AT´s on his +20 bike fleet, I´ve also rented AT´s from him to tour Thailand, Cambodia & Laos... his health is not good, so has to spend time in hospitals, but I´m sure he´d also be willing to help you, if his situation allows.)
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  #13  
Old 20 Feb 2014
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Originally Posted by pecha72 View Post
... and I think the mechanic was able to replace it without actually removing the engine, although this is what the workshop manual instructs to do).

The 750 engine used in the RD04 and 07 has the bearing press-fitted from the inside. The only way to replace this bearing without splitting the engine, is to completely drill our the crankcase from the outside to the same size as the bearing, but: will you get oil seals to plug the hole? You can always add a retainer plate to the casing to prevent it from coming out, but I think it'll be hell to remove the bearing to the outside with the shaft in place without damaging the casings or the shaft.

And the final drive bearing is a double roller-bearing, which I could not source through our local bearing supplier- had to get OEM sent from Singapore/Japan.
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Old 20 Feb 2014
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It was almost 20 years ago.. but if my memory serves me right, he did not take the engine off. I don´t know what tricks he had to do to achieve that.

But yeah, this is definitely a problem you do NOT want to get, while you´re in India.. and if that bearing goes, and you´re not as lucky as I was, there may be a long list of other stuff, that needs fixing!
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Old 21 Feb 2014
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Definitely get a new chain, and a Japanese quality chain if possible. I've had a cheap chain snap before which left me stranded
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