Chain tension... Whats the proper amount?- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Chain tension... Whats the proper amount?

    Hey all, I've got a few SS bikes in the stable - well all of them actually. lol I gotta say that each one of them "likes" their different amounts of tension on the chain. The question that's always lurked in the back of my mind, "is this chain tension right?". My newest bike is a 2017 SC Chameleon. The dropouts are built amazingly well and look burly enough to take some abuse however, the chain seems to always find a way to slacken up on my out on the trails. Moreso than the other bikes I'm used to. I'm starting to wonder if it just naturally sneaks into a sweet spot. The chain has stretched a bit and I don't have any chain jumps (thankfully) and only minor pops/noises from the chain maybe only a couple of times on each ride (nothing too concerning). My chain line feels dialed pretty well dialed in too. holding a ruler up to it at rest and then pressing with my finger, the chain deflects about 5mm under some good pressure. For those of you veteran Singlespeeders... Does that sound ok? Is there a proper amount?

    Any help is appreciated. Thanks!
    2019 Evil Offering (150/140 29")
    2017 Santa Cruz Chameleon (SS 29")
    2015 Salsa Blackborrow (Fatty)
    2009 Redline Monocog 29er Flight (SS 29" Commuter)

  2. #2
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    somewhere between tight enough that it cannot fall off on its own and loose enough that it does not stress the hub/ bottom bracket bearings is all you need to know.

  3. #3
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    It's critical to get it right if you're riding fixed wheel, but singlespeed can tolerate an amazing amount of slack, provided you use a singlespeed chain.

    I work on the principle of the chain not looking slack but not tight to the feel.
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  4. #4
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    I think it's best to set the tension as tight as possible without any restriction or binding throughout the pedal stroke, you should be able to backspin the cranks freely. There's usually spots that will be tighter of looser while pedaling, how much depends on component quality.
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  5. #5
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    Thanks for the responses. I've noticed over the last few bikes that the drive train feels best when there's little to no slack, but still able to spin freely. The issue I have seems to be with this Chameleon and how the chain loosens up on the trail and settles into a spot where the chain is able to jiggle slightly and I start to notice a slight vibration. I don't think its causing any undue stress on the system, but when the ride quality goes from solid to there being something feeling loose, I tend to back off and ride conservative... Just trying to see if there is something measurable to work towards.
    2019 Evil Offering (150/140 29")
    2017 Santa Cruz Chameleon (SS 29")
    2015 Salsa Blackborrow (Fatty)
    2009 Redline Monocog 29er Flight (SS 29" Commuter)

  6. #6
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    Questions about your adjustment process on your Chameleon.
    1 Loosen the 4 allen bolts on the sides of the dropouts
    2 Turn the 2 backward facing slide adjust bolts counter clockwise to make the dropouts longer/ tighten chain
    3 Tighten the 4 allen bolts on the sides

    Then what are you doing with the backward facing slide adjust bolts? If you snug them back clockwise you are allowing some slack in the adjuster system that will possibly allow the slideouts to slide forward which would then allow some chain slack. I snug mine back counterclockwise putting a little pressure against the nut in the frame which shouldn't allow them to slide forward and loosen up while riding. Sort of using the adjust bolt like a reverse tugnut bolt. Pushing instead of pulling though if that makes any sense. I haven't had the issue with mine that you're having. I hope you get yours sorted, such a fun bike to push to the limits. Good luck!!!

  7. #7
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    A bit of slack in the chain works for me. I have no issues with loosening up from anything other than long term chain wear on either SS in my stable (Paragon sliders on one, and rockers on the other).

    I can tell it is too loose if the chain grinds on the cog excessively when pedaling hard (particularly on climbs).

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  8. #8
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    I've read about those chameleon dropouts slipping, I think loctite had best success but don't quote me on it.

  9. #9
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    I have found that there seems to always be loose and tight tension spots when spinning the crank. I look for the tight spot and adjust accordingly.

    My SC Highball has similar dropouts as yours. After locking down the adjusters to spec, I increase tension on the adjuster screw to eliminate any 'slip'.

  10. #10
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    When I was learning about set-up for the Karate Monkey I built, the guru Sheldon Brown had stated a very simple criteria. To paraphrase, it was something like somewhere between loose but not loose enough to fall off and not tight enough to cause binding. There's simply no exact science as I was hoping to find. Binding is pretty easy to identify quickly. Loose could be trial and error but I have tended to run mine on the 'loose' end of the spectrum with both a RF N/W & now currently, a Wolf Tooth oval. I have never dropped a chain in any instance on my gnarliest chunky trails.

  11. #11
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    More tension = more efficient. A floppy vibrating chain is wasteful. This is according to the human powered vehicle science research done.

    Just make sure you're not so tight that the tighter spots you get when you run microdrive* gears don't bind up your pedaling. *ex. 32x18 micro, more polygon shaped sprockets vs 39x22 rounder and more efficient
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  12. #12
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    About a 1/4" deflection of the chain.

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