More than just food for your stomach

A lot of times I’ll be walking down the street and people will stop me and say “Hey!  You look like a Renaissance man.  I bet you can cook and work on your own car and other cool stuff.”  I am usually shocked people can tell all this just by seeing me walk down the street.

No, that never happens but I like to think of myself like this!  (Or as Travis Pastrana likes to say, “Jack of all trades – master of none”) Today, I needed to tighten up the chain on my BMX bike.  I figured since I help those of you too afraid to cook, I’d try to help those of you too afraid to work on your own bikes, too.

The “Stealth Bomber” (yes, I named it) is my BMX bike.  It’s more of a freestyle type BMX and I only use it on the street.  I have a dirt jump style mountain bike for offroad use.

My BMX is a 2009 Giant Modem.  I bought it down in CT at Suburban Sport.  The guys that work there are great.  I highly recommend them for casual bikers and any snowboarder or skier.

As a note, the method described only works on bikes with horizontal dropouts as shown.  Typically this is any bike that came with a single speed from the factory.

So, dads, when your kid says his bike’s chain fell off, this time you’ll be able to fix it right!

I’ll admit, when I was younger, I never knew the chain had to be adjusted or that it could get loose.  However, I learned that as a chain gets older it stretches.  This is completely normal and there’s really nothing you can do about it.  The good news is this is a very simple fix and you only need one hand tool!  I’d recommend mechanics gloves as well since chain grease is pretty messy and it will stain clothes pretty easy.

How did I know I had to tighten the chain?  With the bike on two wheels, there was a noticeable droop in the chain.  Much more so than normal.

Also, when I flipped the bike over to work on it, I was able to show just how loose it was.  I was able to squeeze chain as shown.  That’s way too much slack!

After you get the bike upside to work on it (unless you have a bike stand), we’ll loosen up the axle nut.  The nut size will vary bike to bike.  On this bike it was 18mm.  The only tool I used for this was my 18mm socket and  ratchet.  I needed an extension since I have pegs on my bike.  Without pegs I wouldn’t need an extension.

Loosen up the axle nut on each side of the axle.  You don’t need to completely remove them!

Once the nut is loose, pull back on the wheel until the chain is stretched.  Now, if you have an assistant, you can have them tighten both nuts as you hold the wheel.  If you are like me and doing this alone, you’ll need to do one side and then the other.  While holding the wheel, tighten one nut and then the other.  I believe I did the chain side first and then the other side… but I honestly forget!

As you can see, the chain no longer has all that slack.  It’ll be less likely to skip a tooth and also less likely to fall off the gear, too.

After you tighten up the axle nuts take the bike for a test ride.  Be sure to not ride some place that is too easy to pedal – you want to place a good load on the drive train.

Recheck the chain after the test ride.  Did it slacken up again?  If it did, readjust and tighten the nuts a little more.  If not you’re done!


~ by NJC on October 28, 2010.

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