What actually causes stiff links in chains? - Suzuki GSX-R Motorcycle Forums Gixxer.com

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post #1 of 6 (permalink) Old 02-13-2019, 07:51 PM Thread Starter
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What actually causes stiff links in chains?

I know, the pins rust and the link seizes, easy... But why? How does water get in there and displace the factory lube?

My Versys eats chains, never got one to last more than 125000 miles and that chain actually scratched the engine case (not the case, but the neutral switch cover). Usually I only get 10,000 miles out of them...

Except for the current Bike Master chain, 6250 miles and has no less than 10 stiff links...

I'm not anal about chain maintenance, but 6250 miles is ridiculous. To add insult to the injury I was very carefull with this chain as I installed it last September, so it didn't even get a lot of rain! The little rain it got I made sure it was dry and that there was still lube on the chain when the bike was parked. I'm thinking there is more to it than just chain lube.

Thinking back, I've only had two other bikes that ate chains like that, Yamaha XT660s (XT660R and XT660X). Back then I thought it was because they were thumpers, but the Versys is a twin... Then I caught something, all three bikes come with 520 chains, every other bike I've had used a 525 or a 530. I've done lots of miles on these 520 chained bikes as they have been used for commuting and touring. Regardless of how consistent I was with chain maintenance, what kind of lube was used, sprockets replaced or not along with the chain, they were all toast by the 10,000 mile mark.

My previous theory, that I now believe to be completely false, was that if a chain was not dried/lubed and the bike parked with a wet chain it would corrode. This corrosion would then cause the o-rings to fail, lube to escape and allow water ingress.

Another theory is that when ridden in the rain, specially when going through puddles or standing water at speed, the spĺash of water might be strong enough to seep past the o-rings; similar to what happens if you direct the pressure washer to the chain or a seal.

New theory, based on my experience of low 520 chain life vs. 525 long life, is flex. As you accelerate / deaccelerate the side of the chain that is not under tension flexes as the links are pushed by the driving sprocket at higher speed than the speed of the links not under tension, moreso as the pins wear and there is more play. Flex will cause the o-rings to have less pressure on the side plates allowing lube to escape, maybe some water ingress to... But an air void left by the lost lubricant will be filled by air that will expand and contract, drawing ambient moisture into the chain. Pins on a 525 chain have more surface and wear at a slower rate, also being longer means they will allow for less play keeping good pressure on the o-rings.

More ideas?
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post #2 of 6 (permalink) Old 02-13-2019, 10:37 PM
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Re: What actually causes stiff links in chains?

Bike Master is an economy chain so I'm not surprised that it doesn't last as long. But 6,250 miles seems silly. A look at EK's specs indicates that pin & roller diameters are the same from 530 to 520. Plate thicknesses are sometimes thicker on the 530, but not always. You might try switching to a 525, but I'm not hopeful in your case. Use a chain with a quad or X-type seal instead of just an O-ring. How often are you cleaning & lubing the chain - and with what? Might you be in a dusty environment and it's affecting or otherwise getting past the seals? Something to consider is an automatic oiler like these. Some people swear by them, though the better ones aren't cheap. You might have to become anal about maintenance - or at least more so. Finally, make sure that your front and rear sprockets are aligned. Your entire problem could be due to misalignment. Check with things like straight edges and related equipment, not by eye.

Here's an automatic oiler on a Versys.
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post #3 of 6 (permalink) Old 02-14-2019, 04:53 AM
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Do you think that if the chain is hitting the case it may be too loose? And having 10 links that are tight? If you are talking about a versus, isnt that like an adventure tourer? Are you riding like its a dirtbike on a lot of dirt roads? Hitting jumps and stuff? I think what causes a chain link to be tight is dirt and water getting past the seal.
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post #4 of 6 (permalink) Old 02-14-2019, 11:13 AM
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Re: What actually causes stiff links in chains?

Originally Posted by BillV View Post
Bike Master is an economy chain so I'm not surprised that it doesn't last as long. But 6,250 miles seems silly.
from my 'seprience.. bike master chains are very near the bottom of the "quality chain list", stay with DID/RK/EK, they are more $$ but worth the cost.
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post #5 of 6 (permalink) Old 02-14-2019, 02:57 PM
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Re: What actually causes stiff links in chains?

Seals are not perfect, and neither is the application of chain lube and internal lubricant, so the parts will not always be fully lubed and oxidation will eventually occur. This is especially true because of the constant changes in tension of the chain due to suspension movement and acceleration.
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post #6 of 6 (permalink) Old 02-15-2019, 01:21 PM
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Re: What actually causes stiff links in chains?

Bikemaster. That's your problem.

10000 to 12500 miles out of a chain is not bad. That's pretty typical.

As for lube/maintenance... there are some misconceptions about chains. quality O-ring chain maintains the internal lubrication. No amount of external lube will change what's on the inside. Keeping the chain clean and lubed will prevent damage to the O-rings, which in turn, they keep their end of the bargain longer.

Even better than O-ring are X-ring. They are newer tech and last even longer.

Use name brand chain cleaner, or Kerosene to clean, and a quality lube/wax. WD-40 does NOT clean or lube a chain, and is bad for O/X rings.

Don't get hung up on 520/525 chain differences. A quality aftermarket 520 has more performance than you need and they are stronger than japanese OEM 525.

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