Volaro Motorcycle Chain

I thought I would add some general bike info to the blog this year.

Being a guy who likes a bargain, I am always looking for a good deal, but it’s not easy finding info on non-name brand gear, honest evaluations of items you might find on eBay.  All the info either comes from the people selling it or is feedback on how well the sale went, but not on the item itself. So I thought I would add some posts about things like that on the site.

We will start with chains. I have two motorcycles, a 2002 Kawasaki ZZR1200 and a 2006 Suzuki V-Strom 1000, both of which have chain drives. Over the years, I have changed my fair share of motorcycle chains, but I still find the subject daunting. There are so many choices that it was difficult to get enough information.

Right now, I find myself with a lack of funds and in need a new chain for my 06 V-Strom 1000.  I have wondered the net lately,  looking for cheap motorcycle chains.

Finding cheap chains is easy on eBay. Trying to figure out if one is any good is the hard part. Good information on the longevity of a chain is even more confusing, so I am going to do a test. Buy a cheap chain and keep track of the service life and report back here on this post.

Right now the bike has 34,850 miles on it and is on its third chain. The first chain lasted just 13,391 miles. I was a little disappointed at that mileage, thinking it should have lasted twice as long. Hell, the original chain on my ZZR 1200 lasted about 30,000 miles, but I do some dirt road riding with the V-Strom, so that could have contributed to the low mileage.

My first replacement chain was an EK MVXZ chain that lasted a little under 15,000 miles. Better, but not by much. I then replaced it with what is on the bike now; a JT chain and sprocket set purchased on Ebay. The cost for that chain alone is about half of the EK ($66.00), and it lasted less than half of that chain life, just shy of 7000 miles. In fact, it’s been toast for about 1000 miles or more. I need to adjust it every 300 miles or less: ouch.

Before you begin to wonder if I cared for the chain, yes, I did lube the chain with spray on chain lube, I cleaned it just once, but toast in 6000 miles! I think it’s simply a piece of shit chain.

So what am I doing going and getting another cheap chain again?  This one makes some claims that it is better than the JT.  With a Tensile strength of 9,850 lbs, about a thousand lbs over the JT chain, it should be. We shall see. In this little test, I am going to lube it well and keep a record of that lubing, to see what kind of mileage I can get out of this chain.

How hard do I ride?  That can have a bearing on the life of a chain. If I rode the bike hard and put her up wet as they say, then the chain would last significantly less than if I was a more sedate rider. It’s hard to put into words, but I would say that on a somewhere in the middle between sedate and hooligan. I am not the kind of guy who pulls wheelies and acts as if every stop light is a Christmas tree, but I’m not timid when it comes to speed and acceleration.

The chain I am buying is a Volar from a company called D2Moto, selling on eBay. One advantage, other than the price of $55.99 with shipping,  is that it is already the correct amount of links for the bike. I won’t need to cut the chain to fit like I do most of the time.

Most chains come in fixed lengths, and you need to cut them to fit your setup. Getting one already cut to the 112 links that I need saves that step.

1-7-15 Update: Received the chain today, three-day shipping, not bad. I live in central California, and it came from Southern California via USPS standard shipping.

1-10-15  Mileage 34,977  0 Miles on the chain

Update: Installed the chain today. I found that the Volar came with two master links, a clip type, and a press type. I used the press type because, from what I have read, it is stronger than the clip. A bike as powerful as the V-Strom 1000 should never have a clip link.  The eBay write-up never mentioned that it came with both. Nice touch, even though I didn’t need it.

I set the slack and went for a short ride and re-checked it, just to make sure. I should have 20-30 mm of slack, and it’s at 25 mm now, so it’s perfect.

A quick note. I used a Motion Pro PBR tool to removal and install the chain. I got it a year ago after messing around trying to flair the master link with a cheap tool that I had bought at harbor freight. I was not confident at how safe the chain was after using that tool.  It’s the second time I have used the PBR, which stands for Punch, Break, Rivet, and I am impressed just how easy it is to use. The instructions are easy to follow and when I finished I am satisfied that I had a safe and secure chain.

1-12-15 Milage 35,093   116 Miles on the chain

First ride, up into the Sierra Foothills today. Checked the chain slack after returning home and it’s just about the same, maybe its 26mm slack, so it only stretched about 1mm in this first 100+ miles, not bad. The chain was still warm from the ride.

1-17-15 Milage 35,294  317 Miles 

Road to work two days this week. I just checked chain slack again today, and it’s at 32 mm, so it’s stretched 7mm in the 317 miles that I have put on it. It’s now 2mm out tolerance so I will tighten it again today. I have never checked new chains like this before. When I have put new ones on in the past, I have forgotten about them for a couple of months before I would check the slack, so I don’t know if this is normal or not. I would expect that a new chain would stretch more in the beginning, and then settle in. We shall see how that works out.

2-15-15 Milage 36,152 

Adjustment, checked and the chain was out of adjustment, 35mm where it should have been a max of 30mm, went out of adjustment about 10mm in a little over a thousand miles.

5-4-125Milage  38,353

Cleaned chain for the first time, and adjusted again. slack was about 35 mm again, after 3,376 miles the chan has needed three adjustments.

7-18-15 Milage 40,107 

Cleaned chain again and it needed another adjustment. this time, it was about 37mm, getting worse.

8-10-15  Milage: 40,528   5551 Miles

This is the sixth adjustment on the chain since installing it, (I didn’t note a couple of them on this thread) and this time it’s just a little over 400 miles since the last adjustment. The chain is also getting a tight spot in it that is becoming noticeable when I am riding, so it’s about at the end of its life.  We will see how it goes, but I can’t see this chain lasting to 7000 miles. Just about like the last cheap chain I bought. You do get what you pay for.

9-5-15 Replaced after just 6346 Miles
(replaced with a DID 525VX)

No real difference from the old JT chain, and by the end of its life I had to adjust it after every couple of hundred miles. You do get what you pay for. This chain is just a piece of junk chain. Adjustment is not a hard process, but it gets to be tedious if you need to do it every couple hundred miles.  In my opinion, spend a little more, get a named brand chain and you won’t need to keep adjusting it after every ride.

11-29-15 Update on the DID chain @2,451 Miles

Thought I would post an update on the new DID chain. I just adjusted the chain for the first time today, and with putting 2,451 miles on it I just needed to adjust it about 5-6 mm, just a single turn of the adjustment screw was all that was needed. I learned my lesson, and will get brand named chains from now on.