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  1. #1
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    Chain Tension Question

    OK, did a search and all that, but wasn't patient enough to weed through all the threads.

    Anyway, what am I not understanding about this? Can anyone give me some kind of tip as far as getting that chain as tight as possible? I've seen tensioners on the Reload bag web site, but not sure if that's something that's practical. Anyway, can anyone impart some wisdom on me?? Just can't quite get it as tight as I want.

    Thanks in adavance.

  2. #2
    shoot up or shut up. isotopesope's Avatar
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    too tight of a chain can cause too much tension on your bearings and thus potentially wreck your hubs. you want a slight amount of play...

    but i always say, once you go slack, you never go back!!

  3. #3
    we're here, we steer!! mrRed's Avatar
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    pull the wheel back until there's a lil' slack left in the chain. Tighten down the non drive side. Put your hand right where the chain stays meets the downtube on the non-drive side and press on the rim of your tire, pushing towards the chain. When you have taken out most of the tension using this method, but still leaving enough that the chain is not tight (you do not want tight ... you want to have a little play in the chain or you will destroy your hub / bottom bracket), tighten the drive side. Grab the cranks and the wheel, you want it tight enough that when you move one, the other moves without any slack.
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  4. #4
    aka mattio queerpunk's Avatar
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    you don't want to get it as tight as possible. you just want to get it so that there's a bit of up-and-down movement. i put my thumb on the seatstay and wrap my fingers around the tire and tug back while i tighten the drive side nut on my hub. then i push the rim so that it's centered while i tighten the nondrive side, and that makes sure i don't get it too tight. i had a mechanic who had the bike in a stand and tugged the wheel backwards hard because he thought the chain should be really tight. bad idea. sounded terrible and i could feel the grind in every rotation. i was much happier when i loosened it up.
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    Do you guys leave enough slack that you can feel the chain give a little when you backpedal? I always question whether or not I've got my chain too tight. I tighten just to the point where I can't feel any "give" when I backpedal.

  6. #6
    Elitist carleton's Avatar
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    Remember that your chainring will likely have tight and loose spots. Choose the tightest spot then pull the wheel until the chain is "piano wire" tight.

    Tensioners make tightening (and keeping tight) so much easier...especially when you use a pair. No doubt.

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    Thanks for the info.
    But when stopping, standing, etc, - you guys don't mind the play the chain has when applying pressure back and forth? That's what is really getting to me. That little pop sound of the chain grabbing when track standing.

  8. #8
    we're here, we steer!! mrRed's Avatar
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    you want to try and take out that play, but just barely. If there's a little play, its okay, but too much tension will destroy your gear.
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  9. #9
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    I wouldn't ever have the chain completely taut. If your chainring is really round, you should have about 3/4 to 1 inch vertical play in your chain, which is enough for you to feel a little bit of give when you reverse your pedals. If your chainring isn't round, you should have it loose enough so that you get as much of this amount of play at the tight spots as possible, without letting the chain get to loose at other points that you can push it off the chainring. The best test for how loose you can go is that if you stick a wrench or screwdriver at an angle between the chain and the top of the chainring and you can flip the chain off by rotating the cranks, you are too loose. As long as the chain stays on, you are reducing tension on the whole drive system, minimizing the risk of snapping a chain, and making it a lot quieter in the process.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sin-A-Matic
    Do you guys leave enough slack that you can feel the chain give a little when you backpedal? I always question whether or not I've got my chain too tight. I tighten just to the point where I can't feel any "give" when I backpedal.
    That's what I do too. I figure if there's 1/2" or so of slack, it's all good. I can't stand feeling any real play when I'm pedaling.

  11. #11
    aka mattio queerpunk's Avatar
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    can anybody give more information on a too-tight chain destroying bearings? it seems to be one of those facts that we throw around on this board a whole lot, but i'm interested in some more information.

    what exactly is going on that's different from a slack chain tightening when the rider starts pushing the pedals?
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  12. #12
    YOU ARE NOW TUNED IN No_Minkah's Avatar
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    I should listen to 11.4, but personally I like to have enough slack in the chain so I can push up and down on the chain when its in the stand and get about 1/2-3/4 inch of movement on both the top and bottom, but not so much that there is movement when I switch from backpedaling to forward pedaling. I think that when you start to skip or skid when you're riding having that play when you switch directions makes for a hard snap on the chain, which I don't like, cus I think it puts a lot of pressure and wear on the chain. Am I making sense?

  13. #13
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    My thoughts were headed in the same direction as queerpunk. I'm curious to know how contstant pressure differs wildly from a large number of sharp tugs. Not questioning anyones experience, just trying to build on my own.

  14. #14
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    Queerpunk,

    Where in CT?

    I don't honestly know whether excessive chain tension can chew up rear wheel or bottom bracket bearings. I do know that slight overtightening of hub cones or bottom bracket cups can kill your bearings quickly, so an amount of tension less than that which we create by hard riding may cause bigger problems than one would think. I've seen a couple riders damage drive-side Phil Wood rear hub bearings with completely taut chain tensioning, but that wasn't so many cases that I'd say it's a solid argument. The bigger problem is probably that with a little too much tension, you start cutting into your chainring and cog more. And who wants to wear out an expensive chainring?

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    Oh, and by the way, I wouldn't worry about the snap tensioning of a slightly slack chain. There's so little slack that you aren't really re-orienting or whipping the chain when you tension it. When you tension chain-driven drive trains on major industrial machinery, you use the same kind of slack that I described above -- more, and you can actually break the chain on some of these situations. The strain on the chain is actually greater if there's excess tension and you do a sudden jump or reversal.

    Plus, the slack takes some of the instant responsiveness out of your legs and is a lot easier on your knees. There might be an occasional time when you feel the slack, but in daily riding you need that slack so your legs can relax slightly.

  16. #16
    YOU ARE NOW TUNED IN No_Minkah's Avatar
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    =11.4.

  17. #17
    aka mattio queerpunk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 11.4
    Queerpunk,

    Where in CT?

    I don't honestly know whether excessive chain tension can chew up rear wheel or bottom bracket bearings. I do know that slight overtightening of hub cones or bottom bracket cups can kill your bearings quickly, so an amount of tension less than that which we create by hard riding may cause bigger problems than one would think. I've seen a couple riders damage drive-side Phil Wood rear hub bearings with completely taut chain tensioning, but that wasn't so many cases that I'd say it's a solid argument. The bigger problem is probably that with a little too much tension, you start cutting into your chainring and cog more. And who wants to wear out an expensive chainring?
    Bridgeport!

    plus one on not wanting to wear out chainrings. also on the snap tensioning of slightly slack chains. and as for the mild discomfort it creates when riding: when i've hastily put my rear wheel on without spending too much time or energy on the chain tension, i only notice it when i'm trackstanding at a light, which is a decidedly small fraction of the time i spend on my bike.
    the hipster myth.

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  18. #18
    C21 H30 O2 plantdude's Avatar
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    I think that it is fine to not have any "slack" in the chain. Personally, I don't like the loosness while track standing at lights, so I tighten just enough so that there isn't any play in the pedal rotation. The chain is only going to get looser as you use it anyways...

    Just don't overtighten and you'll be fine.

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