Are Motorcycle Chains Directional? A Helpful Guide




Affiliate Disclaimer

As an affiliate, we may earn a commission from qualifying purchases. We get commissions for purchases made through links on this website from Amazon and other third parties.

Motorcycle chain

After reading this article, you will fully understand if motorcycle chains are directional and how to replace them.

As you rotate the chain, you can see that the chain went from loose to tight with every wheel revolution. This is not a good sign. It’s time to change the chain.

So, are motorcycle chains directional?

When fitting a chain to your motorcycle, the direction you fit the chain does not matter. You can fit the chain onto your motorcycle with it pointing in any direction.

If you take excellent care of your motorcycle chain (cleaning and correct adjustment) every 500 miles or so, you should be able to get about 20,000 miles from it. If, however, you’re not that meticulous about looking after your chain, you may only get 6000-8000 miles out of it. Wow, that’s a BIG difference!

By the way, you may be reading this article because you may need to replace your motorcycle chain. If you click HERE, you will be taken to Amazon, where you can view my best overall rated chain. I use this chain on all of my bikes because they are of excellent quality and last a long time.

There are other signs which will indicate if your motorcycle chain needs replacing, which I have listed below. So please keep reading.

How To Check If My Motorcycle Chain Needs Replacing?

There are certain things to look for, which will help you decide if your chain needs replacing:

  • Your chain can move freely from side to side, touching the rear tire’s wall and able to move over the protective chain runner.
  • When you move the lower chain up and down, the top chain double bounces. This shows you that the plates and the bushes are wearing out.
  • Is there free-play between the chain and the teeth of the sprocket from the rear wheel? To Check, grab the chain from the rear wheels sprocket on both sides and pull back. If there is free play where the chain moves and reveals about half a tooth of the sprocket, the chain needs replacing.

When checking your chain, if any of the above is applicable, it’s time to change your motorcycle chain.

checking motorcycle chain

How Do You Measure The Length Of Your Motorcycle Chain?

You have carried out the checks, and it’s time to replace your old worn-out chain. You will need to replace it with one which is the same length. This means you will need to know how many links you have in the chain.

So, how do you measure the length of your motorcycle chain?

  • Find the master link of the chain.
  • Start counting all the faceplates from the master link all the way back round to the master link.
  • This will tell you whether you need to purchase a chain with 114,116,118 or 120 link chain etc. which are the standard lengths.
  • Now you can purchase a chain with the correct number of links and fit it onto your motorcycle

Before you start measuring your chain, check on the side of the links first, as most motorcycle chain brands stamp the size there.

What Are The Measurements Of The Different Motorcycle Chain Sizes?

Your looking to purchase a new motorcycle chain.

So, what are the measurements of the different chain sizes available? Below is a table of the different measurements of the various chain sizes

ChainPitchWidthRoller Diameter
41512.70 mm4.88 mm7.75 mm
42012.70 mm6.35 mm7.75 mm
42812.70 mm7.75 mm8.51 mm
52015.88 mm6.35 mm10.16 mm
52515.88 mm7.85 mm10.16 mm
53015.88 mm9.53 mm10.16 mm
53215.88 mm9.53 mm11.10 mm
63019.05 mm9.53 mm11.91 mm
63219.05 mm9.66 mm12.68 mm
The table above gives the chain measurements of all different chain sizes

I want to thank the sponsors of this post-EMANUALONLINE. Using their service, you can download your motorcycle or car manual to your mobile phone or any other device, so you will have it handy should you ever be out and about and need to use it. You can visit their website by clicking the icon below and using the code BUDDY15 to get a 15% discount.


How Often Should You Lube Your Motorcycle Chain?

It all depends of the conditions you have been riding your motorcycle in, and the type of motorcycle you ride.

So, how often should you lube your motorcycle chain? It’s a general rule that you should lube your motorcycle chain every 300-500 miles for road bikes, but this does depend on the conditions you have ridden your bike in.

For off-road motorcycles such as motocross bikes, the actual distance you travel on them before lubing the chain will be a lot shorter than mentioned above as the different conditions will strip the chains dry a lot faster than for road bikes.

You can view the motorcycle chain lube I use on all of my motorcycles by clicking HERE. It will take you over to Amazon.

Should You Replace Your Sprockets When Replacing Your Motorcycle Chain?

You have decided to replace yours motorcycle chain and have inspected your sprockets at the same time.

So, should you replace your sprockets when replacing your motorcycle chain? It is good practice to replace your front and rear sprockets each time you replace your chain for a new one.

If you replaced your chain only and kept your old worn sprockets, your new chain will wear out at a faster rate. If you replace your sprockets only, both chain and sprockets will wear out prematurely without replacing your chain.

When checking your sprockets, look out for sprocket teeth that may be hooked shaped, pointed, or chipped. If you notice any of these oddities, you should definitely replace your sprockets as well as your chain.

I use carbon steel sprockets on my motorcycles. If you click the link HERE, you can view the latest price on Amazon for the rear and front sprocket I use on my motorcycles.

What Tools And Parts Are Required To Replace My Motorcycle Chain?

Before you start to disassemble your chain and sprockets (if you decided to do both), you will need to have the parts and tools needed to carry out the work.

So, what tools and parts are required to replace my motorcycle chain?

  • A New Chain
  • New Front and Rear Sprockets
  • A Riveter Tool Set and Chain Breaker
  • A Caliper for The Measuring
If you click HERE you can view the rivet toolset I have had for many years. This set includes the chain breaker, cutter, and press-fit as well.

Changing A Motorcycle Chain And Sprockets. A helpful Guide.

Why not check out my article, A Photo Guide To Replacing Chain And Sprockets which will show you step by step how to replace the chain and front and rear sprockets on a motorcycle.

First of all, remove the sprockets and chain. You may have to remove any coverings first.


Start by removing the front sprocket bolt. Ensure that the rear wheel is off the ground by putting the motorcycle on its center stand or your choice of other motorcycle jack.

Some bikes have a large nut and washer lock, which will have to be removed first.

To loosen this bolt, you will have to lock the front sprocket in place, and by putting the motorcycle in gear and using the engine compression may not be enough to loosen it.

You may have to wedge some wood, for example, in between the spokes and the swing arm to lock the wheel in place to prevent the chain from moving and turning the front sprocket.

Now using a breaker bar, for example, loosen the front sprocket bolt. You will have to do this with the chain still in place, as it is the only sure way to release a sprocket bolt or nut.

With this done, it is now time to remove the chain from the bike. Remove the clip from the master link if it has one, and with the chain breaker tool, drive the two pins out, which held the master link in place. With the chain disconnected, remove it from the motorcycle.

Since we are removing the sprockets as well, the rear wheel will now have to come off the bike. So using the wood wedged in the spokes trick again, loosen the nuts on the rear sprocket before removing the rear wheel.

Now the sprocket nuts are loosened, remove the rear axle and pull the wheel away from the swingarm.


Now is a good time to clean the front sprocket area and the swingarm, as with all the parts you have just disassembled, you will have access to areas you may not have been able to reach.

If you click HERE you can view the latest price on Amazon for the degreacer I use. It really is very good!


Start by fitting the new front sprocket to the bike’s engine and then attach the new rear sprocket to the rear wheel. Next, attach the rear wheel to the swing arm by sliding in the freshly-greased axle to hold the wheel in place.

Now place the beginning of the new chain over the front sprocket and drap the rest of the chain over the rear sprocket. As stated above, the direction of the chain does not matter.

With the chain bridging, the two sprockets have the two ends of the chain meet at the rear sprocket, which will act as a holder for the chain, making installing the master link easier.

You will now need to install the master link, and the first part of this process is to install the new ‘O’ Links, which would have came with the new chain.

The purpose of the ‘O’ rings is to house the grease, which will lubricate the master link hinge points for the chain’s life. Now apply an ‘O’ ring to each side of both chains ends.

It’s now time to slide the master link into place by sliding the two master link pins into the receiving ends of the chain.

Now you will be able to install the master link side plate. The side plate will now need to be pressed onto the master link’s pins using the chain installation tool.

It is essential not to press the side plate on too hard, as the master link has to line up with all the other links, giving it the same flexibility as the rest. However, you want to make sure that the side plate is pressed on enough so that the master link pins extrude far enough out the other side.

To confirm, you have the side plate pressed on correctly, measure the width of an existing chain link, and compare the measurement to the new master link. Unless stated otherwise within your new chain instructions, they should have the same width.

With the master link aligned, you can now rivet the master link pins against the side plate. This created a permanent fastening against the side plate, which is commonly known as ‘Mushrooming.’

You will need to measure the ‘mushroomed’ pin diameter is correct according to the chain manufacturer’s specifications. When both pins are correctly fastened, the chain will now be permanently fitted together.

Now tighten the front and read sprockets bolts and nuts to the correct manufacturer’s specifications.

What Direction Should I Fit My Split Link? A Useful Tip

You should fit the split link with the closed end facing in the direction of travel. Facing your motorcycles handlebars.

This is so if the split link hits a branch or stone, it will not be popped off the chain.

How Do You Align The Rear Wheel On A Motorcycle?

We may have to remove or loosen the rear wheel on our motorcycles from time to time, so ensuring that the rear wheel is correctly aligned when put back or tightened is a must.

So, how do you align the rear wheel on a motorcycle?

Use a chain alignment tool. The tool clamps to the rear sprocket, and a straight rod extends from it. Align the rod with the chain. Once that condition is met, your rear wheel is more or less straight with the swingarm. With the rod and chain aligned, you can tighten the axle nut.

If you are going to adjust your motorcycle chain, then lightly tighten the rear wheels axle nut as the axle still needs to move in the swingarm to adjust the chain slack.

Click HERE to view the chain alignment tool I use on Amazon.

How To Measure The Chain Slack On A Motorcycle. A Helpful Guide

Keeping your motorcycle chain slack correctly adjusted is an important part of helping you get the best ride possible from your two-wheeled machine.

If you have removed the rear wheel for any reason, align the rear wheel first and then measure the chain slack. The reason for this is simple. The rear wheel alignment can be maintained by turning the axle adjuster screws on each side of the swingarm in exacting increments.

So, how do you measure the chain slack on a motorcycle?

To measure the chain slack, find the chain’s center point between the rear and front sprockets. Press down on that part of the chain. Use that low part of the chain as the starting point of your slack measurement. Press the chain upwards in the same center point until it stops, and measure the distance in which the chain moves upwards and downwards. This is your chain slack measurement.

Depending on your particular motorcycle’s specifications, you may have to tighten or loosen the chain.

If you need to increase your chain’s slack, you will have to move the rear tire forward towards the engine.

To decrease your chain’s slack, the reverse is so, and you will need to move the rear wheel backward in the swingarm so that you will be moving it away from the engine.

You should adjust the swingarm adjuster nut in tiny stages until the correct chain slack measurement is achieved whilst maintaining the correct wheel alignment.

About the author

Latest posts

  • Are There Automatic Motorcycles?

    Are There Automatic Motorcycles?

    If you are interested in purchasing a motorcycle, you want to make sure that you are happy with the model and that it is the perfect one for you. If you are unhappy with your motorcycle, you may struggle to drive it or comfortably ride it, which can make you unsafe on the road.  You…

    Read more

  • How Old Do You Have To Be To Ride A Motorcycle?

    How Old Do You Have To Be To Ride A Motorcycle?

    Are you considering purchasing your child a motorcycle and want to know if they are old enough? Perhaps you have heard that children can’t ride motorcycles and want to know if this is true? Or are you curious and want to know more? Whatever the reason might be that brought you here today, I am…

    Read more

  • How To Wheelie A Motorcycle

    How To Wheelie A Motorcycle

    Among motorcyclists, the wheelie is the stunt that is the most well-known and the one that is performed the most frequently. Even people who are not in the motorcycling world know what a wheelie is.   “Doing a wheelie” may be a fun pastime, but it is also a pretty dangerous move to try. You must…

    Read more