Camchain and tensioner seen up close in a cutaway bike engine

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Chains And Weather

Blog Date - 12 December 2018

We have enjoyed quite a dry summer this year. Now as it sit here on a dark, damp and windswept evening it all seems so very long ago and so very far away. Dry! Dry! I remember dry. 

Blue skies with just a handful of fluffy clouds over the broad Barmouth beach
Oh sweet sunshine, sweet warm sunshine, where for art thou?

I also remember noticing during that lovely, blissful, exquisite dryness that when I lubricated my chain in the morning it was, for the most part, still fairly well lubricated. Days, nay weeks, nay months rolled by and the only thing the chain yearned for was a fresh dab of slippy stuff, just enough to replace that which had flung off from yesterday's ride.

And now this last week or two the rains have returned along with cold darkness and the bitter taste of Christmas in the air. After splashing through several miles of saturated tarmac with a little grit thrown in for extra grinding power my chain is lube free in the mornings and slackening off with disappointing regularity. Oh what am I to do?

The engine on the 125 is caked in salt and dirt from a winter's ride
If my engine gets this dirty imagine what the chain goes through.

There are of course options. Shaft drive - the Suzuki Townmate which looks more like a C90 than a genuine C90 does - has a shaft drive. Hmmmm. Speaking of scooters most scoots have covered variomatic gears thus negating the chain problem. I could go MZ/CZ with covered chains. I am - at present - unaware of any small capacity motorcycles with a toothed belt drive system. 

All of these options involve one drastic measure that I'm not prepared to take - spending my own money. While no doubt I shall at some point have to replace my current chain it is more affordable than a new-to-me 2 wheeled transport machine. I shall soldier on bravely with my imperfect transmission.

The shaft paralever system on a BMW motorcycle
Meh stuff it, I'm getting me a Beemer.

The effect of weather on chain longevity does make forming sound opinions on chain quality and wear something of a nonsense. On social media, forums and even on this website we hear such things as "I purchased a XYZ chain. I've done 30,000 miles on it and never once adjusted it". Correspondingly "I fitted an ABC chain and it only lasted 8,000 miles even with the best of care".

If I were to be living somewhere warm and dry (please!!) any cheap as chips chain may last half a lifetime. I assure you I've swiftly ruined some top quality chains in the grim grimy gritty and oft be-soaked north west of England. Back to back, like for like comparisons for chain life in the real world are at best difficult, probably impossible.

An angle grinder used to grind off an old motorcycle chain
The Latchy method of chain removal. Brutal, but effective.

So how will I choose my next chain? Without extensive scientific and most importantly accurately reproducible data it's not easy. Being human I'll take the shortest, easiest route. I'll purchase a reputable brand's low-to-mid range offering. The hope is being branded it won't be dangerously poor quality, being low-to-mid range it won't be overhyped and overpriced unicorn dust.

It's far from ideal, but it's the best I can come up with. 

If you have branded low-to-mid range chains you'd like to sponsor BAT with contact

Reader's Comments

Pocketpete said :-
Well you have no excuse you know how to swap a chain now after practising on mine.

That chain cutter worked a treat.
13/12/2018 8:30:48 PM UTC
Pocketpete said :-
Doesn't the Suzuki address scooter have a belt drive. I'm sure I saw it in the shop a couple of years back.
13/12/2018 8:35:24 PM UTC
Jim said :-
My trusty steed is currently in bits on the the garage floor having it's chain and sprockets changed. I had found that I was having to tension the chain every couple of weeks. When I got the old chain off I discovered it had stretched to the point that it was 2 whole links longer than the new one. Is this unusual for a CBF125?


13/12/2018 9:52:51 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
The Suzuki Address I can find looks like a standard scooter with the typical variomatic drive Pocketpete? Variomatic systems use belts within the housing so unless the housing cover was off you wouldn't see the belt. I wouldn't necessarily buy one but I would be curious to find a 125 or smaller capacity bike with toothed belt drive (like Harleys).

2 links longer Jim? Possibly yes. Think about how long the sliders are for the chain adjustment. On my CBF I bet they're an inch long BUT but but with a new chain fitted I'd guess there's about a half inch, just over 1cm of adjustment left over to use up. Something akin to the length of one link. Bearing in mind there's 2 length of chain (top, bottom) that would come to about 2 links overall.

Hardly accurate science here but yes I could see 2 links worth of growth in the adjustment available. Definitely time for a new chain though.

It's been my experience chains go through 3 stages.

Stage 1 when new there's quite a bit of initial wear as everything beds in.
Stage 2 the settled chain wears normally, hopefully quite slowly.
Stage 3 as the chain gets to the end of it's life it starts to wear faster once more. I figure the looser pins and plates and rollers are letting in more dirt and crashing into one another harder.
14/12/2018 8:38:36 AM UTC
Ross said :-
"I wouldn't necessarily buy one but I would be curious to find a 125 or smaller capacity bike with toothed belt drive (like Harleys)."

Sir wants a Kawasaki GPZ305 from the mid 80's(?)...they had a belt drive for a bit and then reverted back to chain if memory serves...I seem to remember this model suffered frequent engine problems as well so probably not many remain!

14/12/2018 9:13:38 AM UTC
Stuart said :-
I did have an er5 for my commute but early this year found a Honda @125. A typical scooter with auto transmission so am now enjoying not having to adjust the chain.

Before the er I had a cg125 and that had a fully enclosed chain like the MZ system. Perhaps you could graft that onto your 125?
14/12/2018 2:51:49 PM UTC
Pocketpete said :-
Didn't Kawasaki have a z305 or something weird with a belt drive I always thought it's was pretty cool at the time mid 80s
14/12/2018 7:43:40 PM UTC
said :-
Pocketpete - Ross has already mentioned the GPZ305. Oh my how I hankered after one of those but they were far too new and expensive at the time. I'm glad I didn't because I too have heard they used to each their top ends for breakfast Ross. I got a CD200 Benly because it was all that I could afford - and that was a great bike in spite of having a regular chain.

I have pondered grafting a CG125 chain case onto the CBF125 Stuart. The later CG's didn't have a chain case and they're not the sort of thing that you just stumble across these days. Got me thinking now...what sort of cunning and devious bodge could I come up with...?

My mate has a scoot. What I did not realise is that the belts, fly-weights and a few other components wear out as quick as chains - if not quicker. How long have you had your Honda scoot and have you had to do any transmission work on it?
14/12/2018 9:16:00 PM UTC
Joe Fitz said :-
I recently parted with my XMax 250. I changed the drive belt at 33,000 Km as per the service manual. A fiddly job but not too difficult. As it turned out I felt it was a waste of time. When I compared the old belt with the new (110+ euro) I could see very little diffidence, there didn't appear to be any great wear or tear. The same for the rollers in the variator. I know belts can be deceptive and I'm told a small crack can quickly become a large tear. Apparently shredding a belt in the transmission casing is none too good for the delicate internals. I'm now back to cleaning, lubing and adjusting a chain, a job I didn't miss at all while I had the Scoot.
14/12/2018 9:39:38 PM UTC
Stuart said :-
Hi. My scoot is 17 years old but had a genuine 3k on it when I got it in April this year. It's now got nearly 5 k. I've noticed there is a rudder when I first start but hope that it will keep going until the warmer weather comes. I think the age of the belt may be against it rather than the amount of miles it's done.

I did have a Piaggio Zip before the ER and the belt snapped on that but apart from a push home no other damage done.
14/12/2018 10:17:12 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
So it appears the belts should last some time then? As far as I can tell there's no maintenance other than replacing the belt and the roller weights in the variator at the correct service intervals.

I keep on trying to come up with a better solution but it seems everything is imperfect - just like real life.

I did ponder the use of hydraulics but the weight of the hydraulic driven unit in the rear wheel would ruin handling. I'm not sure about the efficiency of hydraulic power transfer too.
Toothed belts (Harley style) sap power as they have to be tight. Not as efficient as a chain.
Shaft drives sap power too.
Electric motor in the rear wheel? Again handling and sprung to unsprung weight problems.

Damn you physics!
15/12/2018 9:33:24 AM UTC
Ian Soady said :-
As has been mentioned, the MZ system was pretty good and I'm sure could be adapted to fit almost anything given your bodging - er, improvisational skills.

And it appears you can get bits for them from a less well-known auction site - see below.
15/12/2018 2:21:12 PM UTC
David Barwick said :-
I give you the Honda CB125 "Shine SP"

Dear Mr.Honda why did you not fit this to the CB 125 F?

CB125 Shine SP enclosed chain.
16/12/2018 10:43:58 AM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
David Barwick - That image took me on a little internet tour. It seems the CB125F is known as the Shine in India. The complete chain gaurds are fitted to prevent the loose Indian clothing from getting caught in the chain - particularly saris.

I know my CBF125 (not to be confused with the later CB125F - why Honda WHY!!) was sold in India as the Stunner. So I started looking at Indian Stunner images. While not all of the Stunners have enclosed chains I have found a few images with them fitted.

Which leads me to believe there is a plastic chain enclosure similar to this available...somewhere. As yet I have not managed to find one...

CBF125 enclosed chain cover guard
17/12/2018 10:32:41 AM UTC
David Barwick said :-

Found one!

New Honda cbf125 chainguards - pair.
17/12/2018 4:33:35 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
AAAARGGHH!! Well done David Barwick. After some extensive searching I have double checked and this is indeed actually for the CBF125.

*** BUT ***

I can only, sadly guess it's not for UK spec model. You seeeeeeee... the bolt hole on the lower section? There's actually 2. Unfortunately there are no mounting points for the lower section on my bike.

I could get some welded on? I could bodge something?

The uk mount point and the diagram for this swingarms with mounts
18/12/2018 11:11:19 AM UTC
Ross said :-
Oh good greif...what IS that...the monster from the swamp! :-O Quick, somebody call the RSPCH (Royal Society for the Prevention of cruelty to Honda's)

18/12/2018 3:46:54 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Are you suggesting that my Honda needs rescue? Are you suggesting it may be a tad dirty and unloved? I'll have you know Mr Ross that this machine has recently had fresh oil, has it's chain lubed every day it's used, tyres checked weekly and maintenance is perpetually ongoing! I don't have time to C L E A N!!

If your poor heart is bleeding I shall bring it to you and you can clean it until your heart is contented. You can treat and paint the rust. You can touch up the now very scratched tank. You can make good all my bodges. But I doubt you can undo all the wear any tear that 78,500 miles of all weather all year abuse creates.

Or you could always buy me a shiny new CB125F...? No??
18/12/2018 4:14:16 PM UTC
David Barwick said :-

YOU can bodge it ( it"s only a bit of plastic)
18/12/2018 6:45:02 PM UTC
Ross said :-
Bring the wee beastie down to Kent and I'll give it a wash and brush up for'd be interesting to see what's under all the crud! :)
18/12/2018 9:11:43 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
You sure this one is plastic David Barwick...looks more like a metal one to me? Hard to tell for sure.

Ross - you'll be sorry if I do! I hope your driveway has a run-off drainage system.
19/12/2018 7:56:48 AM UTC
George said :-
I've got myself a Loobman chain oiler on the CB125F. That seems to have been working great so far for keeping the chain oiled with a "little and often" approach using the old engine oil. Just press the button whilst sat at red lights and it slowly works it's way onto the rear sprocket.

Only just past 8k miles with it, but definitely way less adjustment than previously, and no signs of wear on either sprocket.

Got a 210 mile journey coming up this weekend on it, so that'll be fun :) (York to Whithorn)
1/1/2019 6:00:43 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Hi George. I do like the loobmans. Simple, effective and a dam sight cheaper than Scottoiler, easier to fit too I believe.

York to Whithorn? I've had a look on google maps and that looks like an excellent run. Check the oil, check the chain and give the bike the once over the day before and you'll be fine. Also ensure you plan plenty of brew stops and enjoy the scenery because it'll be gorgeous. I hope the weather holds for you.
1/1/2019 7:20:38 PM UTC
Borsuk said :-
I have a Loobman on my Honley. I use a mixture of EP 90 gear oil and Engine oil, seems to do the trick, I have a habit of forgetting to squeeze before I set off on it but between the times I remember and the weekly painting of the chain I think I am doing OK. 6000 Km on the chain so far, donĀ“t think the chain will do fantastic as it is the OE Chinese one and is as basic a chain as you can get, but time wise it has lasted over 2 years and probably has a good 4000 left on it before I change it for a DID.

Might get another Loobman for the Himalayan, though at the moment painting it with gear oil seems to do the job, wonderful things centre stands, makes it so easy.
1/1/2019 8:37:37 PM UTC

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