Ducati GT 1000 Chain Adjustment
by Rick K. for webBikeWorld.com
Multistrada Chain Adjustment Tips
Adjusting a Ducati GT 1000 chain is a fairly straightforward project and
thankfully there aren't any quirks that might make this job more difficult
than it should be.
However, there are two items that I think the GT 1000 owner will require: a six-point, 30mm socket and a paddock stand.
No, make that three items: it would be nice to have the official Ducati
service manual for the GT 1000, which is still not available at the
publication date of this article.
We've been using the
paddock stand that was specifically designed for the Ducati
SportClassics, and my feeling is that it would be very hard to clean,
lubricate or adjust the chain on the GT 1000 without it, or without a
similar type of rear swingarm stand.
Another tool that is required for this project is the 30mm socket. I have
a 30mm 12-point socket on hand but I didn't want to use it for this job
because I thought that the torque levels required (72Nm, or 53 ft. lbs.)
suggested the use of a 6-point socket instead for its better grip on the big
axle locknut. More on the torque issue later...
The Ducati owner's manual recommends measuring the chain sag with the bike
on its side stand. Motorcycle chains can sometimes bind or become
tight in certain
spots, and the owner's manual also recommends turning the rear wheel until
you can find the tightest spot (e.g., the spot with the least amount of sag
or tension) at the mid-point of the swingarm.
Unfortunately, there isn't much room underneath the GT's upswept muffler on the left-hand
side, unlike our recent Triumph Tiger, which has a much higher suspension
and dual high-mounted mufflers. So it's a bit tricky to get underneath
and measure the chain sag unless the bike is raised up on the Pit Bull or
other paddock stand.
After placing the bike on the stand, I used a low automotive creeper to lay on
next to the chain while I took the measurements, but even then, the
clearance is marginal compared to the Tiger.
Ducati calls for a chain deflection of "approximately" (their words) 27 to
29 mm. Two millimeters isn't much more than a whisker and the short
distance is hard to
measure, especially when the person taking the measurements is crunched up
under the side of the bike.
I tried taking the measurements using a couple of different methods. I
normally use a set of Vernier calipers, which are obviously overkill in
terms of accuracy but which sometimes come in handy because the tips can be
spread apart to the maximum width and the chain can be moved up and down to
see if it's in spec or not.
I found that I didn't really have enough room between the bottom run of the
chain and the floor to fit the calipers, which made it difficult to take the
So I broke out my trusty old Starrett metric rule instead, which fits in the
confined space but is
harder to read because the markings are tiny.
When I use the rule, I usually try to rest my hand
against the tire or something steady and then move the chain up and down
with the other hand and try to eyeball the deflection. It's not as
easy, nor is it as precise as using a set of calipers, but it's close
It would be nice to find some type of chain deflection tool that is
designed for this particular job. I'm not sure if such a thing exists,
but if it does, I'd love nothing more than to add
another specialized tool to the collection!
Addendum: Visitor M.R. (see comments section at the end of
this page) wrote to remind us to check the chain sag with the bike on the
side stand. I wasn't clear about this in the original text, but I did
check the sag initially and after adjustment with the bike on the side
stand, as directed in the Ducati GT 1000 Owner's Manual.
As you can (sort of) see from the two photos above, the middle photo shows
the rule set at approximately 30mm along the lower edge of the bottom run of
the chain. Holding my right hand steady while pushing up on the chain
shows that it is about 2mm over the 29mm recommended maximum deflection, so the
chain needed to be tightened up by about 3mm, which isn't very much but
which would put it about in the middle of the tolerance.
Note that I'm also wearing disposable rubber gloves, which help keep the
chain grime and grit off the hands. Inexpensive disposable rubber
gloves can be purchased at most any local pharmacy (chemist) shop and they
are a near-necessity around the shop or garage.
The first step in adjusting the
chain is to loosen the axle nut on the right-hand
side of the bike. I used a 1/2" breaker bar
with the 30mm, six point, 1/2" drive socket but the
nut was installed so tightly at the factory that I
couldn't budge it without using a pipe over the
breaker bar as a cheater (photo right).
Addendum: This should be
done with the bike on its side stand and not the paddock
It turned and turned and I started
that perhaps it was stripped, but it eventually came
loose. This got me thinking about how much
torque was actually used for this nut. The nut is
very thin at only about 9.5mm wide (3/8")
and the threads on the axle are fine pitch, which
taken together is a recipe for disaster. The
thin nut means there are fewer threads inside,
meaning there is more torque and pressure per thread
on a smaller surface area, which means that the
potential for stripping is high.
The owner's manual calls for 72Nm of torque on the axle nut, which equates to
ft. lbs. This doesn't seem like very much for
a rear axle nut to me -- if the 72 was in foot
pounds rather than Newton-meters, I'd believe it,
because that's about how much torque was required on
the axle nut of most of the other chain-driven
motorcycles I've worked on.
And it sure felt like the nut was
installed with about 72 ft. lbs. when I
loosened it and needed the cheater bar. In the
end, I compromised by tightening it to 65 ft. lbs.
instead of the recommended 53, but I'll have to
investigate this further.
Addendum: Note visitor
M.R.'s comments below regarding the possibility that the
Ducati recommended grease on the threads may effectively
lower the required torque.
Perhaps I should believe the owner's
manual that the nut requires only 53 ft. lbs.?
If anyone can clarify this, perhaps with experience
gathered on one of the other Ducati SportClassics,
please contact me at the email address below.
Hopefully, when the GT 1000 shop manual comes out,
this issue will be cleared up -- but I am interested
in learning how much torque is recommended in the
shop manuals for the other SportClassics?
Anyway, once the axle nut is
loosened (not too loose -- only enough to move the
chain adjuster nuts), the chain can be tightened by
turning the 14mm nuts on the end of the threaded
rods that extend from the back of the swingarm.
Here's the most important lesson
learned on this project which I am passing on to
you: I discovered that it doesn't take
much movement of these nuts to dramatically change
the tightness of the chain, which in hindsight
sense because of the small 27-29mm adjustment range
for the chain sag.
I first tightened the nuts
in one-half turn, which was way too much (tighten
the nuts to tighten the chain; loosen the nuts to
loosen the chain). After measuring the chain and
finding it way too tight, I had to loosen the nuts,
but since the friction on the parts holds the chain
in its new tightened position, I had to take the
bike off the paddock stand and run it forward and
then quickly grab the brake to move the parts back
to their original position.
This is kind of a pain and to be
avoided, so the lesson here is to move the
adjusting nuts in very small increments and creep up
on the correct chain adjustment rather than
overdoing it. In the end, all I needed was a
movement of about a single flat on the nut to take
out about 5mm worth of chain sag.
As a sort of rough double-check on the movement, rather than using the crude
hash marks on the top of the swingarm that are supposed to show the amount
of movement of the axle plate so that both sides of the swingarm can be
adjusted the same amounts (to keep the wheels aligned), I measured from the
end of the cap on the back of the swingarm to the end of the threaded rod,
hoping that if this measurement was even on both sides then I would know
that each side was adjusted the same.
After checking and re-checking the chain sag by moving the rear wheel and
measuring the chain several times, I torqued the adjusting nuts to their
recommended 8Nm (only 6 ft. lbs. or 72 inch pounds using the inch pound
torque wrench shown in the photo directly above).
Here are the verbatim (albeit simple) instructions that were included in my GT
1000's owners manual:
Tensioning the Drive Chain
Turn the rear wheel slowly until you find the
position in which the chain is most taut. With the motorcycle resting on its side stand, push the chain with your finger in correspondence with the mid
point of the swingarm.
The lower run of the chain should deflect by
approximately: 27 to 29 mm. To adjust the tension, loosen the axle nut and screw in the adjuster screws on both sides of the swingarm
by the same amount to tighten the chain or unscrew them to slacken it.
the latter case, you will need to push the wheel forward. Important: An
incorrectly tensioned chain will lead to accelerated wear of the
transmission components. Check that the notches in the sliders
on both sides of the swingarm are lined up with the same positioning marks
to ensure that the wheel is aligned correctly.
Grease the thread of the
axle nut with SHELL Retinax HDX2 and tighten to a torque of 72 Nm. Grease the threads of the adjuster nuts with SHELL Alvania R3 and
tighten to a torque of 8 Nm.
The last step is to tighten and torque the axle nut
and then check everything over again and check the chain
sag to make sure everything is correct. While I
had the bike up on the paddock stand, I cleaned and
lubed the chain; see our
articles on lubricating motorcycle chains listed in the links in the
right-hand column on this page.
►Your Comments and
Please send comments to
Comments are ordered from most recent to oldest.
Not all comments will be published (details
). Comments may be edited for
clarity prior to publication.
From "G.M." (4/09): "I recently
adjusted mine for the first time and found after
carefully measuring the deflection and tightening it to
the correct amount (as best I could measure it given the
difficulties already mentioned), that when properly
tensioned you should be able to push the chain up to
contact the rubber guard on the bottom of the swing arm
with some effort.
If you can contact the guard without any resistance,
it’s probably too loose. If you can’t contact it
at all, or if it takes a lot of effort to do so, it’s
probably too tight.
This is all based on the “better a little loose than
tight” perspective. I checked both pre- and post-
adjustments on the side stand at about a dozen different
points on the chain, always using the same reference
point on the swing arm, by rolling the bike a total of
maybe 15 ft. back and forth."
From "TD": "Also adjusted my chain
while on the side stand. A big crescent wrench
loosened the axle nut. I found that the distance
of the axle on left and right sides were different by
1/8". I confirmed the 1/8" difference by measuring
from the center of the swing arm pivot point (round
plastic piece with a tiny hole in the center) to the
axle. To move the rear wheel forward (after I
over-tightened the chain) I used a hardwood block and a
hammer, placing the block against the aluminum piece
that the axle goes through. Much easier than the
From "D.B.": "Regarding the
torque spec for the rear axle of the Ducati GT1000.
As a engineer that has worked with automotive fasteners,
the torque of any specific fastener is determined by the
material used in the bolt. The optimum torque is
determined by how much the steel stretches at a specific
torque. Over torque = stripped threads Under
torque = loose nut. The application of thread
locker is not recommended nor is it required if the the
torque wrench is used and torqued to what the engineer
From "T.S.": "I have been a
Mercedes-Benz mechanic for 40 years and I own a Paul
Smart. I would add just one thing to your very
good instructions. I remember entering the first
ever AMA "Battle of the Twins" race at Daytona in 1981.
When I went through tech inspection, one of the many
areas they check, is for a cotter pin in the axle nuts.
The safety rules they insisted on have been applied to
every motorcycle I have owned.
Believe it or not, (I know you believe it) it is far
more dangerous riding to work then flying down the back
straight at Daytona. The last thing I want to
happen (well maybe not the "last") is a axle nut coming
off while I'm zipping along in rush hour traffic.
So, the first thing I did to my new Paul Smart was buy a
hand full of 1/8" drill bits and start drilling holes in
all of the nuts & bolts that I would hate to have fall
off while cutting in front of a 18 wheeler.
Motorcycles vibrate, and I forget things. But if I
see a cotter pin in my axle nuts, I know they are not
As for the chain alignment, you absolutely must have
a alignment tool. The marks on the swingarm are
worthless on my bike. Plus, you are better off to
be a bit loose on the chain then to tight. Tight
is not only very hard on the sprockets and chain, but
hard on the axle bearings together with the bearing at
the counter shaft."
From "M.R.": "Dear Editor:
As a fellow GT1000 owner I read with interest your
experience adjusting the chain on your GT1000.
Just a couple of comments --and bear in mind that I am
not a tech:
First, as far as the torque on the rear axle nut,
torque wrench readings result in different actual
clamping pressure depending on whether the fastener
(nut) is dry or lubed. Since the GT1000 manual
specifies that the axle nut be greased the amount of
torque "felt" by the fastener is greater than if you
used the same torque on a dry nut. Therefore the
recommended torque may be more than adequate.
Second, having made the adjustment I think you should
verify the chain sag with the bike on the side stand.
Depending on how the swing arm is set up relative to the
front sprocket, the weight of the bike on the side stand
can give you a different sag reading then when the bike
is suspended on a track stand or center stand.
Therefore, since the manual instructs that sag be
measured with the bike on the side stand I would be
careful to double check the final results with the bike
on the side stand. (For example, In the old days some
manuals recommended checking with the bike on the side
stand while leaning across the seat to load the
Finally, with respect to centering the wheel and
sprocket in the the swing arm -- just be warned that if
the dimensions of the two arms of the swing arm are off,
verifying your results by measuring the adjuster bolts
may not really be that helpful. I think the only
real verification is to run a straight edge or string
along the sides of both tires while compensating for any
difference in tire thickness.
On the other hand the marks on most swing arms are
close enough and I think that sometimes people make too
much of this. In my experience if the adjustment
is off the bike will track funny and you'll will notice
Editor's Note: Thanks for the
excellent feedback M.R.!
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