Sunday, January 10, 2016

Chain Replacement (Part 1)

Well, we're right at the doorstep to 20,000 miles and it appears that the 2015 Kawasaki Versys 1000 is in need of a new chain. Last weekend's miles of water crossings down in the Glades may have been their last swansong. It didn't help that we had one of the wettest summers here in Florida. The problem with water is that it drys out chains and the o-rings.

The Versys 1000 comes factory equipped with a 525 O-Ring Chain with 116 Links. I don't know what the life expectancy is, but I'd consider 20,000 at the low end, but like I said, it's been a wet year. One other point is that I had some very long trips this year. Should I be lubing the chain every day on long trips? I haven't; maybe every third day. Something to think about going forward.

There are a number of ways to inspect a chain in addition to just visually inspecting (or hearing) it. Pull the chain outward away from the bike and see if it flexes more than 1/4 inch or so. It's not supposed to do that. Then take a narrow screw driver and poke at the rollers to see if they're excessively loose. If they're excessively loose, the bushing between the chain pin and roller has deteriorated, likely due to losing the lubricant through the O ring. See the diagram in the second photo below. Check the rollers all the way around because it's very possible for the rollers to be loose in some lengths of the links and tight in others. In my case, the rollers were very loose all the way around.


This is a diagram of an O-Ring chain link. A loose roller is due to deterioration of the bushing.


I really don't buy the "chain length" approach to wear, but I know some keep track of the measurement between a series of links. Certainly bushing wear does cause chain stretch but that's just part of the normal wear. The only relevant issue I seen in chain stretch is to adjust the slack.

Finally, after running around my neighborhood a couple times to heat the chain up, I stopped it and took a peek at how the chain hung between the countershaft and rear sprockets. Those minor kinks wouldn't be present in a good chain that's all heated up after a couple miles. So that's another indication of a bad chain. Put a fork in it!


Before closing the book on this project, I also took a peek at the sprockets to make sure that they're still in proper shape. There's a old rule along the lines that if one's chain is bad, one or both of the drive sprockets probably need replacement as well. In fact, while I don't agree with this, the Service Manual for the Versys 1000 outright calls for sprocket replacement when a chain is replaced.


During the sprocket inspection, what I'm looking for are points that have really become points (from wear) or are bent or are pointed in directions other than directly out from hub center. The other thing I'm looking for is wear in slots. Those slots should be half circles, not half ovals. It's hard to see in the photo above, but the drive edge of the sprocket slot is a little worn. I can almost feel it with my finger better than I can see it, but it's clearly there.

The rear sprocket needs to be replaced with the chain. The front counter shaft sprocket had a few rough spots caused by the loose rollers so that'll get replaced too.

Chain Selection:

The factory replacement chain for this model is a whopping $413 on BikeBandit and elsewhere. That's ridiculous. My dealer would probably give it to me cheaper, but I really don't want one like that anyway. I think there are much better (and certainly cheaper) alternatives in the aftermarket.

I'll be going with a DID X-Ring Chain. X-Rings are a little more modern than the O-Ring although their rings have the same function. They just have less of a friction component than O-Ring chains. The specific chain I'm going with is the top-o-line D.I.D 525 ZVM-X model from their Super Street Series. With a tensile strength exceeding 10,400 pounds, this chain is designed for heavy, liter sized sport and sport touring models. Nothing equates to longer life, just a good solid chain for one-third of what the factory chain costs. My deal only came in 120 links so I'll be cutting it down to fit.

BikeBandit and Motorcycle Superstore had this D.I.D. chain for $211, but I found it on eBay for $139.99 with free ship. That's a huge savings and one-third the price of the factory chain. I'll be getting the chain in nickel though, not gold. Works for me.

Sprocket Selection:

Out of the gate, I can safely say that I've long held the position that the 15/43 final drive ratio is perfectly fine for the Versys 1000. So I have no interest in deviating from that configuration, even though I actually have a brand new 16t counter-shaft sprocket that I could use sitting in my garage.

On the oe parts, once again, the factory tosses out some sky high prices for the two final drive sprockets; $38.45 for the front and $59.62 for the rear, before shipping. Aftermarket providers include JT, Sunstar and Renthal.

I'll be going with the basic JT sprockets at $20.14 for the front and $32.85 for the rear, with free shipping, and saving $45.08! JT's sprockets are carbon steel and will get the job done. There are lighter aluminum sprockets on the market, but they're just going to wear faster.

Let's hope for a quick delivery so I can get on this project soon.


Here are the Sprockets to entertain you until I get the parts.

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