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Old 9 May 2014
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F650GS Dakar Chain questions

Hey fellow riders,

Noob asking some input..

I'm leaving on my Dakar on a 4 month trip (Belgium Japan via the Stan's), about 25.000km and am looking up information about chains (tension, durability,..). I seem incapable of getting it correct and use my chain/sprockets a bit too fast I feel.
(on the Dakar, factory chain is still on, but want to put a new one on before I leave)

Can I ask some experienced guys for some input?

- What's the best way to check chain tension? Manual etc says unloaded to about 4.5cm of 'play' but I have a chain guide which blocks the full up-and-down movement so no way to really tell .. Apart from that, I always feel like it would be better to check tension with some/all load on the bike (with some help obv) so to avoid overtensioning
- Is there any chain, provided good tension, maintenance, chainging front sprocket timely,.. etc which has a great chance of surviving the trip? (DID ZVM-X?)
- Whats the best way to ensure good lubrication? I read a lot that oil is actually better than sticky stuff (which entraps the dirt and resembles sand-paper). I have (from previous bike) a Scottoiler but will settle for WD 40 mainly I think for this trip
- What sort of chain tool (lightweigt like motion pro T6 or 'all-in' like DID KM501) should I take (or not even bother?) with shich link type?

Sorry for all this, but might be interesting for other riders as well I thought so I allowed myself to ask all at once ;-)

Thanks in advance

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Old 9 May 2014
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Hola Antonio,
I'm a certified "Chain Nut" and have devoted way too much time and energy in watching chain wear and performance over the last 10 years.

You are asking all the right questions and doing the right things!

The standard BMW chain is a mid to low quality item. Your choice of the DID ZVM X ring, is, IMO, the way to go. I've done 250,000 miles on DID VM X Ring chains. Not one problem.

I usually go around 22 to 25,000 miles (40K kms) on a chain ... have done so on various bikes (Tiger 955i, Vstrom 1000, DR650)

Sprockets are important too. If you can afford them ... probably BMW OEM sprockets are best. But JT and Renthal are good too. JT sprockets are made in Thailand and cheaper than OEM BMW sprockets, last almost as long.
But here is THE THING:

To extend chain life it is best to change your Front sprocket at around 12K kms. Going to a NEW front sprocket at this point adds about 20% to overall chain life. Also, with a new front sprocket you will feel a MUCH smoother drive line. The front sprockets wear fast and can cause a "rough" feel in drive line once they begin to wear out.

The rear sprocket can usually survive longer (especially if front is changed) ... up to maybe 35 to 40K kms. if not too much mud, rain or off road or very hard riding. Rear sprockets will last well if a TOP quality sprocket is fitted. Cheap sprockets die quickly. Wheelies Kill Chains!

If you start your trip with a NEW chain and NEW sprockets front and rear ... then I see no reason to carry any chain tools at all. That is just my take, others carry all the tools. My experience indicates not every chain tool is required on a relatively short trip. I do carry extra chain (4 links), a spare master rivet link and spare O rings). I've never had a chain problem, never had to use spares. I do not carry a chain cutter or rivet link tool. YMMV. IMHO.

Speaking of Rivet link, I highly recommend over a "clip type" master link. A properly installed rivet link is unlikely to ever fail. Clip links work well if installed perfectly. I prefer Rivet type on any bike over 450cc.

Many Rave about Scott oilers. They are great in Rain but make a mess of the rear wheel and can possibly get lube on rear tire. Keep an eye on this.
My method is more work:
I clean and oil my chain daily when on tour. I also clean up the rear wheel, swing arm, spokes, hubb and have a good look around at everything.

This is good because it gives a chance to inspect that area. (tire, wheel, chain, shock linkage, and more) Some prefer the Scott Oiler. The Scott is best if you are riding in constant RAIN .... like in the UK, where the Scott was developed.

In rain, constant oil is GOOD! But in the dry, a common 90 wt. gear oil works fine for me, makes less mess. But Oilers are good if flow adjusted correctly. It's still important to clean up your chain and wheel from time to time.

Modern chains are STRONG and GOOD. The oil we put on the chain is only for smooth, quiet running and to lubricate the chain roller faces and sprocket teeth a bit. Chain links are all sealed, lubed internally. Some riders NEVER oil their X ring chains and do quite well. I like a bit of lube for smoother, quieter running and never any rust. IMHO, YMMV. I also believe a bit of lube on roller faces means chain takes less of a beating at high speeds. (IMO)

Off road on dirt, gravel, I use NO lube on chain at all. If you have a Scott, turn it OFF when Off Road. Wipe chain clean before doing dirt. Oil, dirt/sand don't mix very well in my experience. Dry is best off road, IMO. YMMV.

WD40 is a great cleaner ... but it is NOT a lube. (acts more like a solvent)
It does prevent rust and is great for cleaning up OIL Grunge build up from too much Gooey chain lube ... keep WD off your rear tire. WD is also a great water dispersant (WD) NO, WD will not damage O rings. WD is my favorite cleaner but can't take it on the road, not for sale everywhere. I use Kerosene on the road.

You are correct to adjust chain slack with your bike loaded up. You should be on board too (Get a friend to help). A bit loser is better than too tight.
A bit of chain sag in the middle of chain run when unloaded is normal.
With quality chain and sprockets you never will have to worry about your chain. Enjoy!

Safe Travels ....
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Old 9 May 2014
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well mollydog,

What can I say.. Thanks a million for your time and 10 years of chain-watching

I'm taking an extra front sprocket anyway (with one less tooth for the dirty bits), so will have that covered as my road will be close to 50/50 I think. The scottoiler will stay on and I'll use it as a second lube dripping slowly.. Will stick to normal cleaning and lubing and then when it rains a lot or so maybe turn it open just a bit..

I'm happy you agree on doing the tension when loaded, I also felt like overtensioning is a problen better to avoid.

Maybe a breaker tool with, a clip type masterlink as spares, just for emergency repairs.. to avoid taking a whole chain with me..

I'll let it all sink in and keep track of the forum for other tips and tricks.. Learned a lot already..

Thanks again

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Old 15 Sep 2014
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Maybe to conclude this topic: i did as mentioned above with a great dependence on the scottoiler. I was tremendously happy to have it as chainlube is not always available and oiling the chain manually is.. well... too much work for me.. ;-)
I did cleaned the hell out of my chain mainly with wd-40 or something resembling that and now have 27.300km without having tightened the chain once! Changed the front sprocket as planned after 15.000km (was necessary) and the rear is still fine although starting to show signs of wear now as well..
Perfect! No need for chain tools or or spares.. just any tupe of oil for the scottoiler and some rags and wd40!
Where and Back Again
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Old 15 Sep 2014
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Never had any problems getting that mileage out of a chain on the Dakar (heavily laden). For tension I usually try and see if I can get it to touch the swing arm when I sit on it by lifting it with my boot. If it doesn't touch it's about right. After doing it the way from the manual you tend to know how much slack is about right. Tight is worse than a bit on the loose side.

Lubing is simple. I do this every night after a ride. Wipe the excess grime with a cloth. This is only if there is any, which there usually isn't with this method.

Then I drip ATF over the whole thing by spinning the wheel, or just stationary (I don't tend to ride with a chain guard if I can help it) and brush it in with an old tooth brush. It'll drip off and soak in overnight and keep the thing nice and lubed.

ATF isn't sticky, so it's never a grimy mess. Not even in mud because everything just falls off and lubes the o-rings perfectly.

Chains last ages. 2 bikes with fresh chains through South America for just under 20k km and I sold them a few thousand k's later at home with the same chain. I actually find the front sprocket tends to wear first. I went for Chaingang (Australian company) hardened rear sprocket. But the front was a typical one. Heavy duty chain though.

Never had drive chain problems ever.
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chain, chain set, sprockets

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