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US Flag Wednesday, November 13, 2019
Welcome to the British Motorcycle Chain Helper

When Vintage British Motorcycles were originally built, they typically used chain from a British company named Renold.  That chain was British Standard (sometimes called metric) 10B-1 rather than the "530" chain that is much more common today.  BTW, I'm not sure if it is Europen Standard or British Standard - depend on where you look or who you ask! 

In chains, links and pitches mean different things, but US and UK meanings and simply people interchanging them cause them to both mean the distance between the pins.  I'll use links from here on.

Motorcycle chain has several components:
  • The main portion of the chain, usually around 100 links long
    • Outer Plates
    • Inner Plates
    • Pins
    • Rollers
  • Master Link - These are used to connect the two ends of a chain together and include one outer plate with two pins permanently attached, a removable outer plate and a retainer.
  • Half Link - chains are always an even number of links without these.  Sometimes, chains can be purchased with a built-in half link, but they can be hard to find.  A removable half link lets you add one link to a chain so it has an odd number of links.
Motorcycles usually use 530 chain and sometimes 520.
  • 530
  • (also 10B-1)
    • 5/8" links/pitches/distance between pins (the 5)
    • 3/8" roller width (actually slightly wider than 3/8" and 530 is slightly wider than 10B-1)
  • 520
    • 5/8" links/pitches/distance between pins (the 5)
    • 2/8" (1/4") roller width (actually slightly wider than 1/4")
If your sprockets are made for 10B-1, 530 chain will work with them; but, if they are made for 530 chain, 10B-1 might not work.  The length of the chain links is the same and the roller sizes are the same, but the width is slightly different.

530 chains come in Standard Duty, Heavy Duty, O-Ring, X-Ring and others.  Modern motorcycles use O-Ring or X-Ring chains as they require little to no maintenance.  Vintage British Motorcycles often cannot use anything but standard duty due to clearance issues and and even ISO standard duty chains can be a problem, especially with the master link.

A common standard chain with the brand name Elite (and most others as well) measures 0.820" at the widest point and its master link measures 0.870" at its widest.  The chain itself is OK on a Norton but the master link can cause severe damage to a Norton 850 Commando as the pins will hit the inner chaincase sealing plates.  If the master link is installed from the outside in, its pins will hit the gearbox but probably cause no real damage.  Installing two gaskets between the engine and inner chaincase will sometimes let the master link barely clear the plates, but it's still quite dangerous.  The Norton 750 Commando with one gasket has about the same clearance as the 850 with two so it has an issue as well.

Triumph Tridents, and probably other Triumphs have barely enough clearance with standard chain and not enough with heavy duty chain.

The British Standard 10B-1 chain I bought has master links that are 0.824" at their widest.  This resolves all clearance issues and as I understand it, is what the bikes were designed to use.  I bought 50' so if you need chain, email me.

If you would like to study this subject in more depth, try these links:
https://www.renold.com/media/228840/renold-brand-chain-tables.pdf
https://www.chainsupply.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Roller-Chain-Comparison.pdf



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