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Wit's end on chain tension

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Wit's end on chain tension

Old 08-13-19, 05:48 PM
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draxz1289
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Wit's end on chain tension

Hello everyone,

I have a single speed bike and I am at my wits end on this chain tension screw on the back wheel. Every time I remove the wheel it's such a pain to correctly dial in the chain tension - I have tried pliers, my hands - using these screws on both the size of the wheel, I end up incorrectly replacing the chain and wheel and so the bike wobbles when I ride.

How do I correctly keep the tension on both the size of the wheel since I have to manually tighten the screw on both the size. I saw there was something called a chain tensioner.

Any help is really appreciated
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Old 08-13-19, 10:55 PM
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Do you mean something like this? You might just be better off removing those completely, not practical at all for daily riding. A finger behind the seat tube pushing back on the wheel should do the trick to get things lined up for proper tension. Your chains tension doesn't need to be tight, in fact a little slack is better to keep things running smoothly as long as the chain won't lift off the teeth of the cog or chain ring.
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Old 08-13-19, 11:22 PM
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I ride fixed rather than singlespeed. Chain tension is less critical on singlespeed. As hardboiled718 said, as long as the chain can't jump off, it's ok on a single speed. For comparison, think how much slack there is on a derailleur system, with that slack taken up only by a fairly weak spring in the derailleur mechanism.

What I do is stand the bike upside down, gently finger tighten the two wheel nuts, and pull the wheel back until the chain is tight enough. Then I nip it up a bit tighter on each side alternately. I always position the spanner so that as I turn it, the handle is moving towards the back of the bike, which, if anything, is applying a force in the direction of more tension on the chain. Whether this makes a difference is moot, but it works for me.

If your chain is too tight, it will result in friction and wear, and make your bike harder to pedal. If it is too loose, the chain may jump off. For a single speed, there is quite a lot of safe leeway between these two extremes.
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Old 08-14-19, 12:28 AM
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All you need is a good routine. First, use a wheel with a hub set up with nuts, not a quick release. Get the proper wrench. Now, when you need to replace the wheel and set the chain tension:

stand behind the bike with your left hand on the chainstay and fingers around the tire. Pull the wheel hard both back and against the left chainstay. Tighten the right nut. Now center the tire and tighten the left nut. Lift the chain with the wrench. You would like to see it lift 1/8" to 3/8" above a straight, tight line. Next, lift the rear of the bike and spin the crank. See to it that at the loosest and tightest portions of several crank revolutions, 1/8" to 3/8" lift still works. If not, loosen the ight nut and tweak the tire a little right to tighten, left to loosen. Tighten right nut. Loosen left nut and center the tire. Spin the cranks and check again. Good? Tighten both nuts and ride.

Every bike is a little different on how far over you should pull the tire to the left to start the process. Once you have that dialed in, you will find the first tightening of both nuts gets you very close most of the time. (How much your chain loosens and tightens also make a big difference in repeatability. A lot of chain action (tightening and loosening) is a function of crankset and chainring roundness (and to a lesser extent, hub amd cog quality). Quality makes a big difference here. So does whether they were intended for single-speed/fix gear use or for derailleur bikes. That roundness makes a big difference here and very little on derailleur bikes. (In fact, out of roundness might even improve shifting.) So manufacturers have little incentive to spend time, effort and $$s to carefully drill chainrings accurately - unless they know it is going to singlespeed/fix gear use. Good track quality gear is a joy to own and set chains with.

You talked of setting chain "tension". I trust you know that the chain should never have actual tension on it except the upper portion as you ride (or lower portion as you brake. At rest, there should be visible sag both top and bottom. Pulling the chain tight is/was very popular with the fix gear hipster crowd in Portland. Also with the shops that sold hubs, bottom brackets and replaced sealed bearings. If you go to a velodrome, you will see a lot of very slack chains on very nice bikes. Now, they do not have bumps and we road riders do so we have to run a little less slack and poorer equipment means going tighter still so that the loosest portion of the chain cycle is acceptable, but still, we NEVER want to see fully tight.

You do not want a quick release because then you have to both set the slack and centering the wheel at the same time. And if you miss slightly, when you release the QR you will lose everything. With nuts, you can break those into two almost completely separate parts. You use the right nut to adjust the tension. Get it where you want it. Then use the left nut to center the wheel. Yes, the tension will change, but only a very little. And with a little practice you will get to know how much and you can (say) pull the chain just a hair too tight, knowing that bringing the tire to center from the left will slacken it a touch.

If you always use just one cog/chainring combination and your bike has dropouts, not track ends, you can set the dropout screws for the proper chain slack. Now all you have to do is push the wheel back to the screws and tighten the nuts. (Dropouts, those near horizontal slots that open to the front as used on older road bikes. Track ends are dead-on horizontal and open to the back. Used on all bikes made for the velodrome and near universal on modern road fix gears. Some of us have learned that on the road, dropouts make life simpler.)

Ben
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Old 08-14-19, 06:33 AM
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Originally Posted by hardboiled718 View Post
Do you mean something like this? You might just be better off removing those completely, not practical at all for daily riding. A finger behind the seat tube pushing back on the wheel should do the trick to get things lined up for proper tension. Your chains tension doesn't need to be tight, in fact a little slack is better to keep things running smoothly as long as the chain won't lift off the teeth of the cog or chain ring.
Thank you for the reply. Wish I could post the photo - I am new here - yes I suppose it serves the same function. You guys have literally saved me a lot of pain - I thought that screw was crucial to correctly position the wheel.

I removed the screw and manually aligned the main axel nut and tightened it - the chain is also in the correct tension too - thank you
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Old 08-14-19, 06:38 AM
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Wow this is great Mikefule - saved me a lot of pain. I have tossed away the screws and followed your instructions to align and tighten the nut. How do you ensure the wheel is straight?
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Old 08-14-19, 06:49 AM
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"trust you know that the chain should never have actual tension on it except the upper portion as you ride" This is the highlight of the post LOL. Haven't learnt a lot about bikes yet so your post is very informative so thank you. I will ensure the chains are not fully tight - which I thought was needed for best transfer.

I hear about about quick release and it makes sense, I have a track forkend drop out - I have a simple nut tightening it.

Another quick question, I have a 700X28c tire and what is the size of the inner tube do you recommend? The store I went recommended getting the 700X28C tube but when I fill it and put everything in place the wheel seems to wobble - I am suspecting the tubes have too much pressure. I had released some air but they are still wobbling
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Old 08-14-19, 10:17 AM
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Originally Posted by draxz1289 View Post
"trust you know that the chain should never have actual tension on it except the upper portion as you ride" This is the highlight of the post LOL. Haven't learnt a lot about bikes yet so your post is very informative so thank you. I will ensure the chains are not fully tight - which I thought was needed for best transfer.

I hear about about quick release and it makes sense, I have a track forkend drop out - I have a simple nut tightening it.

Another quick question, I have a 700X28c tire and what is the size of the inner tube do you recommend? The store I went recommended getting the 700X28C tube but when I fill it and put everything in place the wheel seems to wobble - I am suspecting the tubes have too much pressure. I had released some air but they are still wobbling
It's not wobbling because it's overinflated.

Is the WHEEL wobbling, or is the tire itself mounted unevenly on the rim?

If the rim itself has a wobble to it, then the rim needs to be trued by tightening/loosening spokes.

If the rim is straight, but the tire moves in relation to the rim as you turn it, then you just need to mount the tire correctly on the rim. Overinflating in this case helps. Take the pressure all the way up to 100psi, see if that seats the tire a bit more uniformly. If so, then adjust pressure to what you want to ride at and call it a day. If not, then you need to massage the tire a bit...let the air out, and just smush the tire around a bit, pushing the beads off the rim, squeeze the tire all the way around. Just generally give it a good kneading. Some tires just want to be a bit difficult...others mount dead on all the time without trying. I've found you generally have the most issues the first time mounting a tire.
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Old 08-14-19, 11:40 AM
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Originally Posted by draxz1289 View Post
Wow this is great Mikefule - saved me a lot of pain. I have tossed away the screws and followed your instructions to align and tighten the nut. How do you ensure the wheel is straight?
Look at it from behind and center it with the seat tube.
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Old 08-14-19, 09:04 PM
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It needs to be mentioned that one should never check chain tension while the chain is moving.

To put it bluntly, getting your finger caught between the sprocket or ring and the moving chain can chop off your finger.

If you want to try to derail the chain while pedaling the bike in a stand then use a screwdriver to lift the chain.

Safety is no accident!
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Old 08-15-19, 07:18 AM
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Originally Posted by draxz1289 View Post
How do you ensure the wheel is straight?
I use a 6"/150mm steel pocket ruler that I place against the rim and measure to the seat stay or chain stay on one side, then check the other side.
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Old 08-15-19, 11:45 AM
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Originally Posted by TimothyH View Post
It needs to be mentioned that one should never check chain tension while the chain is moving.

To put it bluntly, getting your finger caught between the sprocket or ring and the moving chain can chop off your finger.

If you want to try to derail the chain while pedaling the bike in a stand then use a screwdriver to lift the chain.

Safety is no accident!
I prefer to check mine while the chain is moving, but only visually.
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Old 08-15-19, 01:50 PM
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Originally Posted by ThermionicScott View Post
I prefer to check mine while the chain is moving, but only visually.
You'll shoot your eye out.


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Old 08-17-19, 06:23 PM
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Thanks you for the reply. I understand how the tension is not crucial for a single speed
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Old 08-17-19, 06:23 PM
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I suppose I didn't put the tube in correctly then
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Old 08-17-19, 06:24 PM
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Phew good call and thanks for the guidance
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Old 08-17-19, 06:25 PM
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Thank you everyone and for suggesting how I align the bike. Here is the photo of the screw I mentioned earlier; I have removed it and now use the nut to tighten the wheel.


I guess I didn't put the tube in correctly - here is the video of what I mean when I said it was wobbling https://photos.app.goo.gl/JyRsSH2dP7VAuDdr5



Hope I can ask a couple of more things:

* I am trying to find a single speed chain to replace the one I have. I am only finding 3+ speed chains and I was wondering I can get any chain and size it?
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Old 08-18-19, 01:13 AM
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Old 08-19-19, 07:02 AM
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Originally Posted by draxz1289 View Post
Hope I can ask a couple of more things:

* I am trying to find a single speed chain to replace the one I have. I am only finding 3+ speed chains and I was wondering I can get any chain and size it?
In my quest for single speed chain, much of it seems to be listed under BMX chain.

One issue to check for is the chain on your bike 3/32"x1/2" or 1/8"x1/2"?

It sure is annoying to purchase 3/32" chain that won't fit over a 1/8" chainring or cog.

Some measurements listed here. https://www.sheldonbrown.com/gloss_ch.html
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Old 08-19-19, 10:56 AM
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Originally Posted by FiftySix View Post
In my quest for single speed chain, much of it seems to be listed under BMX chain.

One issue to check for is the chain on your bike 3/32"x1/2" or 1/8"x1/2"?

It sure is annoying to purchase 3/32" chain that won't fit over a 1/8" chainring or cog.

Some measurements listed here. https://www.sheldonbrown.com/gloss_ch.html

If your freewheel cog or your chain ring is 1/8" thick, you need a 1/8" chain. These are sometimes sold as "track" or "fixed gear" chains. They are a little heavier than narrower chains but they probably wear longer. Some people tout their additional strength, but this is nonsense because there is no human alive who can break (through normal use) a properly maintained bicycle chain of any size.

If your cog and chain ring are 3/32" thick, you can use pretty much any modern bike chain. 5/6/7 speed chains work. So do 8/9/10 speed. (I'm not sure about 11 or 12 speed.) You can also use a single speed/track chain (1/8") with these narrow sprockets--there are zero problems with this. It really comes down to what you prefer and how much you want to spend. There are dozens of options available.
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Old 09-25-19, 09:20 PM
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All of this talk of dialing in the tension? With a moderate amount of track slack in the chain, center the tire between the chain stays and screw on the wheel. Done!

Now if itís tight-loose-tight-loose as you pedal, thatís for another thread probably.
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Old 10-01-19, 02:23 PM
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Originally Posted by draxz1289 View Post
Thank you everyone and for suggesting how I align the bike. Here is the photo of the screw I mentioned earlier; I have removed it and now use the nut to tighten the wheel.


I guess I didn't put the tube in correctly - here is the video of what I mean when I said it was wobbling https://photos.app.goo.gl/JyRsSH2dP7VAuDdr5



Hope I can ask a couple of more things:

* I am trying to find a single speed chain to replace the one I have. I am only finding 3+ speed chains and I was wondering I can get any chain and size it?
The rim appears to be perfectly round. It is the tire that is not.
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Old 10-03-19, 04:33 AM
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After looking at the video I agree with tugadude. The tire is not round, or is on the wheel wrong. Take the tire off and re-seat it on the rim. You can usually look at the marks on the tire and determine if it is seated properly. You may need a new tire.
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Old 10-03-19, 08:30 AM
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Try releasing air from the tire and working the beads a bit.. looks like it's not seated properly. Might need to over inflate at first to pop the bead onto the rim
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Old 10-03-19, 08:35 AM
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I think bmwjoe's right. Check that the tube is not pinched between the tire and rim. Also inspect the tire to make sure it's not bulging or cut.

When you're installing the tube and tire, it helps to pre-inflate the tube just enough that it holds its shape.
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