Fitting a motorcycle O-ring chain

Posted by jerry on August 20th, 2006 — Posted in Journal, Motorcycling

Last year when I last replaced my motorcycle drive chain it came with a spring-clip split link – which I have found quite safe for the past thirty years of riding. This time the new chain came with a rivet link.

Sure it seemed like a good idea, until I realised that I would require a new $200 tool to fit it. Moreover, I found that very few bike shops sold such a tool. The obvious inference is that replacing a bike chain has now become a specialist job.

Of course my bike was already at home, and I don’t have a bike trailer, and I had already removed the old chain in anticipation of fitting the new one.

Finally, I went to a bike shop that did sell the tool – but the mechanic said ‘of course that’s not how we fit them…’ My curiosity was aroused – could there be a simple solution? Sure – it just requires two hammers – one to brace behind the link, the other to pein it home.

So how does it work in practice? With the chain guard removed and the axle nut loosened and the chain tensioners slackened off I lined up the chain on the rear sprocket (having already fed it over the front sprocket). Having found the amount of overlap (about ten links) I used a dremel-like tool with a grinding wheel to grind down the rivets on the crossover link, then used a chain breaker to drive out the pins.

Now here’s the trick – I found that by then I had some grease on my hands and that when I fed the joining link through, I kept losing the side plate because it would stick to the grease on my hand. The answer was a small rubber band fed around the link to act as the third hand – one to support a small lump hammer behind the sprocket (an anvil) and a small ball-pein hammer in the other. I first drove the side plate on by peining in the centre of the plate with the ball end of the hammer.

o-ring chain

Then, once the rivet heads protruded, I peined the rivet heads until they expanded over the plate to hold it in place. Remember there will be no side force on the plate, so you just need enough to ensure the plate won’t come off.

o-ring chain

And within minutes I had the chain fitted and the bike ready to ride (after ensuring the wheel was straight and the chain had the correct play, and the axle tightened and a new split pin through the nut, and the chain guard re-fitted.
The result? a nice quiet chain, and no chain snatch 🙂

And the tools? Two hammers and one chain breaker!

chain tools



Comment by Terry Dickinson

Very clever way to eliminate the requirement for the chain riveting tool. Another technique is to use a strong C clamp and a small ball bearing. Place the ball bearing on the rivet end and squeeze the rivet and ball bearing with the C clamp. Check the end of the rivet from time to time. You want to end up with the end flared 5-8 mm.

Posted on December 20, 2006 at 7:09 am

Comment by james kelday

in exact same situation off to try it now lol 🙂

Posted on November 9, 2007 at 9:09 pm

Comment by ken mcgregor

Thanks for the tip. I was surprised when the new chain did not use a clip. Your post has saved me both time and money. Ken London

Posted on December 25, 2007 at 8:43 am

Comment by Brent Boner

Thanks so much for the tip! I was stuck without a rivet tool and no $$$ to buy one after spending $150 on new sprockets and chain. I used the ball bearing and c clamp method, and it works great!

Posted on July 2, 2008 at 2:52 pm

Comment by David Mills

I’m there now…. However, I not sure that I have the rivet flared enough. Is the 5-7mm flare pretty much standard?

Posted on August 20, 2008 at 8:19 pm

Comment by jerry

Yes that’s pretty much standard – as long as there’s enough to stop the plate coming off it should be fine. If it’s not there yet, you may want to lightly tap the centre of the plate to make sure it is really seated on then pein it a bit further if it is only just flared slightly. If you really blow it, most bike shops have spare rivet links.

Posted on August 20, 2008 at 9:53 pm

Comment by glenn socia

I used the ball peen method with very
good results. Actually it was easy.
Thanks for the info.

Posted on September 7, 2008 at 6:26 am

Comment by Motorbike Jackets

Although the tools are made for a specific task, the ingenious will always find a way to make do with the tools at hand.

Posted on May 20, 2009 at 5:43 am

Comment by Joseph Volpe

After waiting for a week for my new sprockets and chain I spent an afternoon putting the parts on only to be thwarted at the end with the small print that said I had to use a special tool to rivet the master link. I’m in the same shi**y spot. no $$ for a $200 tool that I will only use once or twice. I love getting around their money grubbin ways! Thanks!

Posted on September 24, 2009 at 11:13 am

Comment by Barry

Thanks for the tip .I,m golng to try it.I,m just wondering what size ball bearing? Also I split my old chain with a large screwdriver (flat)and hammer.With the chain on the back of the cog I forced the screwdriver in the side of the old master link and prized the side plate off,then prised the other side off with the pins.Dont know if this will work with any link on a big chain,mine,s a 530 x ring but if you,re chucking the chain and cog damage doesn,t matter ,thanks Barry

Posted on March 5, 2010 at 7:32 am

Comment by Ian

Thanks just confirmed what I had done was safe. I took the swinging arm off though and did the chain on an anvil back with a punch, worked well and I got to clean the whole back end up… Always worth it.

Posted on March 8, 2010 at 4:14 am

Comment by Isa Stoeger

You made it look simple!

Posted on October 5, 2010 at 9:25 pm

Comment by Brian aka Motopsychonightmare

Hey Jerry was passing through as ive just had the same shitty experience with a DID 530 Gold i purchased last friday for ZAR 1015:00 (Im in Springs South Africa ) to fit on my 2008 CB1000R

Just another way to remove and fit a rivet chain…
1. Baby grinder with 60 grit disc sand of rivet heads flush with chain link and knock out with a center punch ( so easy )
2. Buy second center punch and flatten point to match new rivet hole and peen..
works like a charm as the taper of the center punch widens as it goes back pass the flat spot you made of the sharp point…
Wish i could post some pix here… ???
Just finished turning my vomit green CB 1000R into a single seater Street fighter with all the goodies and a custom paint job with Chameleon powders from the USA…
Bought most all the kit from Honda Bournmouth & carbon kit coming from Slovenia…
What do you ride… ???

Posted on October 28, 2010 at 4:46 am

Comment by jerry

Mine’s a 1981 Honda Bol d’Or CB900F – gloss black and re-upholstered seat and completely redone suspension – new fork kit and new rear shocks – handles brilliantly now 🙂


Posted on October 28, 2010 at 12:46 pm

Comment by Brian

Jerry Nothing wrong with the 900F ~ I know them well < Bullet Proof…
I went from a Suzuki 750GT Waterbus to a VF750F,had a bit of cam chain trouble
but after i fitted a set of Wildcat pipes it could kick a Suzuki Katana's ass…
Do me the favour of popping in to my FaceBook < have a look at the albums & enjoy the vid's

Good to make your aquaintance…

Brian van Malsen

Posted on October 28, 2010 at 9:11 pm

Comment by jerry

Thanks – I also had a Suzuki 750GT waterbottle – before migrating to a Guzzi 850T.

Yes the CB900F is pretty bullet-proof – and it will still keep most modern thrusters in sight 🙂


Posted on October 28, 2010 at 9:15 pm

Comment by Brian

Jerry you aint gonna smell the CB1000R fumes for long, it goes like the clappers from 0-100 kph < its a definate
pisser offer of other superbikes…
And i so love a naked bike…
Sold my custom 2007 Triumph Bonnni to get it ( sob ) You should have a look at the CB1000R < you will be impressed…
Im so happy im doing all the single seater mods & some Now… My CB1000R is a second hand 2008 demo with 2800 kms on the clock , had to fix some of the neglect but saved 25 grand on a new one…

Shopping from Honda Bournmouth is an absolute pleasure < stuff arrives at my door in SA in 4 days and the pricess arn't bad at all…

Posted on October 29, 2010 at 12:01 am

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