Author Topic: Wheel alignment the Motorcyclist magazine way  (Read 3249 times)

Offline Chris

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Wheel alignment the Motorcyclist magazine way
« on: January 07, 2015, 04:30:19 pm »
I found this on the Motorcyclist magazine online source at http://www.motorcyclistonline.com/how-to/how-to-check-front-and-rear-motorcycle-wheel-alignment-mc-garage-tech-tips

It’s well written by Motorcyclist staffer Marc Cook and, even better, works like a champ.  The only thing I’d point out is that anything that holds your bike vertical would work.  So if you don’t have a track stand a front wheel chock or your bike’s center stand would do the job.

HOW TO CHECK FRONT AND REAR MOTORCYCLE WHEEL ALIGNMENT | MC GARAGE
A simple do-it-yourself method for accurately lining up your bike’s wheels.

by Marc Cook

Intro Photo


Is your bike handling strangely? Tires wearing out asymmetrically? Chain making funny sounds? Believe it or not, a serious misalignment of the front and rear wheels can be the cause of all these maladies.
Now, you’re probably thinking that you’ve already checked the alignment marks on the swingarm so the wheels must be aligned. Not so fast. While these alignment marks are better than they used to be, there’s no guarantee they’re right, considering the inherent variations in manufacturing and the often prodigious amount of slop in the axle blocks.

But there is an easy way to check alignment that needs no special tools beyond a track stand—assuming your bike doesn’t have a centerstand—and a length of lightweight rope.


Photo 1



STEP 1 Start by putting the bike on the track stand and wrapping the center of the length of rope around the front of the tire as shown. You want it placed so the lengths of rope heading rearward are as high as they can be without hitting the brake discs or bodywork.

Photo 2

STEP 2 Pull the loose ends of the rope toward the rear wheel, trying to keep the line taut enough that it won’t slip down the front tire. A piece of duct tape will hold the string onto the front tire if you’re having trouble.

Photo 3


STEP 3 Draw the free ends of the string back until they just touch the tread at the front of the rear wheel. From this angle, look at the front wheel again. There should be a small gap between the rope and the trailing edge of the front tire; that gap should be equal on both sides. Sight down the bike from one side then the other. It will be obvious when the front tire is not pointing straight. Turn the handlebars until it is.


Photo 4

STEP 4 With the front wheel aligned, once again bring the rope to the leading edge of the rear tire. Draw the ends inward until the rope just touches the leading edge. Be careful that you don’t pull it so far that the rope bends. Again, if you look at a low angle, it’s very obvious.

Photo 5

STEP 5 Now look at the gap from the rope to the trailing-edge tread. It should be the same left and right. If the gaps are different, the rear wheel is not tracking the front. If the rope touches the rear of the tire before the front, it’s way out of whack.


Photo 6

STEP 6 If the wheel is perfectly aligned, this gap will be the same on both sides. If the gap is larger on the left and smaller on the right, the rear wheel is cocked in the swingarm with the front of the tire to the left of center. If the larger gap is on the right, the tire is “facing” slightly right.

Photo 7

STEP 7 If you’re smart, you’ll mark the axle blocks when the wheel is properly aligned for quick reference later. Or you can maintain alignment by turning the adjusters the exact same amount each time you set the chain.

Photo 8

STEP 8 Your tools for the job: lightweight rope, a track stand, and a positive attitude.



« Last Edit: January 07, 2015, 04:50:46 pm by Chris »
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Offline El Borrego

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Re: Wheel alignment the Motorcyclist magazine way
« Reply #1 on: January 07, 2015, 05:54:04 pm »
That's pretty simple yet does the trick.  Good to pass along, so thank you.

Years ago it was difficult to find a place that could align the front wheels of a semi truck.  I use to help my Dad by measuring from center of tire tread in front and then check the rear to see if it was the same.  This was for toe-in.  If out, he would put a pipe wrench on the draglink and give it a turn or partial turn.  We also balanced the front tires on his rig also by jacking the front wheel up and spinning the wheel to see where the high spot was, then add a little weight to the opposite side and spin again.  Some old tricks still work today.

Offline PAULRIDES

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Re: Wheel alignment the Motorcyclist magazine way
« Reply #2 on: January 08, 2015, 09:55:48 am »
Good post Chris. Mayube, I should fool with it on this cold day (too cold even for me to want to ride).  :groan I saw one method using a long steel rod (something straight and long enough to reach from rear tire to front tire).

A poster called "Fog" on NINJA 500 Forum advocates the string method. I need to add Fog is knowledgeable (was on a NINJA 500 Race Team at one time) ad gives good advice, but is a bit sarcastic "Know It All".

He also came up with a FOG Airbox Mod for the 500 (an extra one square inch hole drilled in the Airbox and K&N Filter vs OEM filter, apparently gives better mid range power).

I have never taken the trouble to apply either (probably should have when I had things apart doing my valve adjustment). 

1) Airbox Mod, not that the NINJA 500 is a real Hot Rod, but I have enough power now to get me killed  :(.

2) Alignment is a concern because the alignment marks on the NINJA 500 or nearly worthless. The axle goes thru the part with the alingment marks and there are marks on the swing arm to align, but there is not a tight fit between the part and the axle. The part that has the marks on it slides over the swing arm and can move front to back due to the play between it and the axle that goes thru it (guess 1/16 inch or at least 1/32 inch).

So, I just do the best I can (look at the alignment marks and try to push the alignment marked piece to same edge of axle, and somewhat used the chain as a guide by spinning the wheel by hand while on center stand and attempting to get the chain to come onto the rear sprocket evenly).

Don't think I am seeing any real bad tire wear (scuffing or whatever). FOG attributes Front Wheel Wobble to misalignment and I have had that on the NINJA 500 since beginning (seems to be an issue with that model). Last front tire change reduced the wobble a lot when I first installed. (seeing some wobble now - front tire nearly worn out).
« Last Edit: January 08, 2015, 10:07:05 am by PAULRIDES »
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Offline PAULRIDES

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Re: Wheel alignment the Motorcyclist magazine way
« Reply #3 on: January 08, 2015, 01:35:46 pm »
Not riding today (unless a neighborhood ride just to say I did at below 20s HA!), so thought I would give string alignment a TRY.

Had some old pieces of scrap 'something' that Betty passed to me (use it to tie stuff up sometimes). So, used that - shows the setup, but decided it was too stringy to use. Hard to tell when the front tire was set straight ahead or judge the clearance on the front edge of the rear tire.

Then remembered I had some string and started over.

First thing I noticed is apparently things were not aligned last tire replacement or chain replacement. There is obviously less wear on one side (left) of the sprocket vs the other side (right) from the chain running on the sprocket.  (3 Pictures - Left side first, then two on Right side).  

The NINJA Alignment marks are near worthless because of the play between the slide "Thingy"  (shown in picture #1 with the Axle going thru it and fits over the swing arm). There is play where the axle goes thru it. I would say (guess) 1/32 or 1/16 inch. So, depending on where that "Thingy" is in relation to the axle -- alignment can be off.  I try to force it against the axle when aligning, and try to make sure the chain is coming onto the sprocket evenly.  

Conclusion: The string check shows some misalignment, but this is all new to me and I am not an expert. So, I am not sure the little bit of misalignment is causing the chain wear or if the front and rear sprockets are just not aligned exactly. I am also not sure if the front wheel wobble I have is due to this or just tires. I had less wobble, almost none, with the new tire I put on 16000 miles ago than in the past. I just figured it was due to tires and there is more wobble now with the front tire nearly wore out. Wear on the rear tire looks about even to me (not scrubbing down the road like if it was offset at an angle).    

Pictures:

Sprocket wear - some on both sides, but left side (first picture) is less than the right side (next two pictures).

The next two pictures show string set up using the 'stringy' cord Betty had. Too stringy as hard to tell when front wheel is aligned and when reark wheel is even on front side of rear wheel. (fringe on the rcord rubs everything).

New string. Picture from rear of front wheel looking Forward.  Does not show that string is same distance from side of rear of front wheel as I hoped it would. However, they are same as near as I could see.

Looking toward rear of the bike. Just clears the exhaust crossover pipe (pipe becomes the limiting factor as to how high the string can be - higher the better as far as accuracy of the procedure). Also, just clears the center stand.  

Picture looking rear at the rear wheel. Again, does not show the string clearance of string from the wheel as I had hoped. However it is tighter against the right side of the wheel (left side of this picture). It rubs or is up against the right side of the wheel (left side of picture), and has a little bit of clearance on the left side of the wheel (right side of the picture).  

So, I would say the axle needs to go forward on the right side of the bike (left side of picture) or rearward on left side of bike (right side of the picture). NOT MUCH DIFFERENCE. Kind of goes along with the chain coming onto the sprocket tighter on the right side than the left side (talking right and left as you sit on the bike).


 



« Last Edit: January 09, 2015, 09:20:36 am by PAULRIDES »
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Offline Deuce

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Re: Wheel alignment the Motorcyclist magazine way
« Reply #4 on: January 08, 2015, 03:22:15 pm »
Awesome! Thanks for posting this Chris.
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Offline Sarge

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Re: Wheel alignment the Motorcyclist magazine way
« Reply #5 on: January 08, 2015, 08:16:21 pm »
Good idea. I am going to try this.
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Offline PAULRIDES

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Re: Wheel alignment the Motorcyclist magazine way
« Reply #6 on: February 03, 2015, 10:11:10 am »
This stuff is a bit confusing.

Here is another that seems different. Be sure and watch the Video part of it as well as FOG's Setup (and if that does not confuse you, read thru all the other replys.  :groan

http://www.ex-500.com/index.php/topic,148.0.html
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Offline BudLong

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Re: Wheel alignment the Motorcyclist magazine way
« Reply #7 on: February 04, 2015, 08:09:41 am »
nice

Offline Marid2apterbilt

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Re: Wheel alignment the Motorcyclist magazine way
« Reply #8 on: February 04, 2015, 08:30:10 pm »
I use a laser line that goes on the rear sprocket with magnets,  Shoots a strait line with sprocket,  Align wheel so laser travels strait down center of chain from sprocket to sprocket with a slight rotation of the wheel.   Yall making something simple complicated.
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Offline PAULRIDES

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Re: Wheel alignment the Motorcyclist magazine way
« Reply #9 on: February 04, 2015, 10:50:58 pm »
I use a laser line that goes on the rear sprocket with magnets,  Shoots a strait line with sprocket,  Align wheel so laser travels strait down center of chain from sprocket to sprocket with a slight rotation of the wheel.   Yall making something simple complicated.

Align Sprocket. OK. Maybe, not that simple, as some think there is more to it than that.

Align Sprockets does not necessarilly align rear wheel with front wheel which is what the string method is about.

I am not defending or saying the rear wheel needs to be aligned to the front wheel. I do not know how important that is. I mostly just ride.  ;D

I never have worried about it before. I just use the marks on swing arm and look at how the chain comes on the sprocket (best I can look at it).

HOWEVER, the guy, FOG on NINJA 500 Site FORUM was on a NINJA 500 Race Team or a Racer (I am not sure) and according to him it is necessary (at least for top performance and handling). Apparently, they even have some fancy machine to do it (then they mark the frame so the use of marks will be adequate as use of the specail machine is expensive).  

So, maybe they end up with the rear and front wheel aligned and the sprocket off). I never thought about that.  ::)

« Last Edit: February 06, 2015, 10:42:37 am by PAULRIDES »
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Offline PAULRIDES

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Re: Wheel alignment the Motorcyclist magazine way
« Reply #10 on: February 04, 2015, 10:58:43 pm »
I copied one of FOG's Posts here regarding need for rear to front wheel alignment. I ain't into arguing about it as I don't know enough to have an opinion (but it makes sense the rear tire should be in alingnment with the front (or vice versa). 

FOG's Post:
For those who think wheel alignment is not necessary . I would refer you to GMD Computrack. A national co the does complete chassis alignment for which they charge upwards of 300 bucks. The racers swear by them.  They use a sophisticated method of a laser transit and complicated math formula to find what they call the sweet numbers.
 
Now this racer was a bit of a tight wad and being a engineer decided to devise a method that I could do myself .

Reasoning that the wheels have to point in the same direction and lean the same way I devised the "String Thing"  to check those things.

It is simple and accurate and most of all free. Please read my piece in the how too section.

It is pared to the cheapest possible level to do the job. No you shouldn't delete any steps or change any tools. Read it carefully and do it completel and you will have the best handling MC the alignment will produce.
DIsclamer: If you have bad tires or incorrect inflation your results may vary.

Here it is I found it for you, No excuses.

http://www.ex-500.com/index.php/topic,148.0.html


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Offline PAULRIDES

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Re: Wheel alignment the Motorcyclist magazine way
« Reply #11 on: February 06, 2015, 10:49:22 am »
FOG's Procedure from NINJA 500 FORUM. I understand his Rear to Front Wheel Alingmnet and measurements may be more accurate that the other method in Chri's Post. (don't know never treid it).

But my confusion really sets in when FOG gets into the Fork Alingnment. I don't understand much of that ???  ???

Seems to me if axle goes thru the fork holes - it is aligned. I can undestand how the handle bars might not be aligned to the fork (like on a bicycle when you had to loosen the goose neck and twist the bars while holding the wheel with your legs).

Here is a link to NINJA Forum and FOG's whole thing. He is way over my head on most things (lot of expereince racing, etc.)  :o

http://www.ex-500.com/index.php/topic,148.0.html
 
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Offline Marid2apterbilt

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Re: Wheel alignment the Motorcyclist magazine way
« Reply #12 on: February 06, 2015, 01:22:56 pm »
If you have 2 wheels running in line and they don't line up after aligning the chain/ sprockets you have more serious issues and s visit to computrack is more in line with your needs.   As your most likely issue is a bent frame/forks/swingarm
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