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How to align a chain on a single speed

Bicycles Asked on April 21, 2021

My bicycle currently has poor chainring/rear sprocket alignment (as in the chain at the front is more than a chain’s width from the chain at the rear). I’m wondering what the procedure is to correct this alignment, because currently riding the bike damages the chain. (I have already moved the wheel as far across as i can using washers)

7 Answers

To adjust chainline, you can:

At the back

  • use spacers between the hub and cog

At the front

  • use a longer/shorter bb spindle (as Kibbee says)
  • use spacers on the bb cups (as Mark W says)
  • use chainring washers (and likely different bolts) to adjust the position of the chainring on the crank

I'm struggling to think of any more options.

The only other thing I could think of is that if you do end up with an imperfect chainline, despite your every effort, then a 3/32" chain will be more forgiving than a 1/8" chain. 3/32" chains are designed to be able to traverse cassettes so have a little more flexibility in them.

Answered by PeteH on April 21, 2021

You won't like the price tag on this solution, but to get my single speed bike with a perfect chainline, I used the Surly Single-Speed Kit which has 6 spacers of different widths that let you get things exactly right. The kits run about $40, but you also need a rear hub with the Shimano style cassette mount, such as for a 5-cog cassette on a 10-speed bike.

Answered by Mark on April 21, 2021

Based on my experience, determining the chainline based on specifications of the components (BB and Crankset) and a simple math calculation is the best approach.

I was having a hard time ballparking the chainline; I then found out that the manufacturer of the crankset I use provides a specification document that describes the recommended spindle length of the BB and the chain line measurement.

To get the spacer adjustment correct, I use a table provided by Surly, The table isn't really specific for Surly spacers but it only works with Shimano hubs. Surly SS kits are expensive, so I recommend purchasing ones from a Taiwanese company that can be found on eBay.

Answered by azer89 on April 21, 2021

Rather than eyeballing, ballparking, or relying on tables, I have found that a ruler is the simplest and most accurate tool for this job. Put the ruler with the zero mark in the middle of the seat tube, and measure the distance to the teeth on the chainring. Then measure the inside diameter of the frame at the rear dropouts where the rear axle goes. Divide that by two, and put a piece of tape on the rear hub right at that distance from the inside of the rear drop out. That's the midline. Now measure from that line to the chain on the rear cog. That's how I used the Single Speed Kit to get the rear cog right on the chain line.

Answered by Mark on April 21, 2021

You can not. The real problem is the hub being not wide enough. You would need to get a wider hub. Single speed systems have wider hubs.

Answered by mrbb on April 21, 2021

If you are trying to use a multi-speed hub for a single-speed application (out of necessity), you will probably need (in order of correcting the problem):

  1. A freewheel spacer for the freewheel/cog to move it out
  2. Adjusting the axel within the rear hub (where best to put the spacers)

As mentioned, track/single hubs generally have different dimensions than 'road' hubs. Track hubs with a track crankset on a track bike, should all line up closely.

It is just when you are trying to mix one or more of these, that you have to deal with it.

Assuming you are using a multi-speed wheel to fit a single-speed bike:

  1. Adjust the rear wheel axle by moving washers/spacers as much as possible
  2. Use a spacer on the fixed bottom bracket side to move the chainring out. Those will typically be 1/16" or 1/8".
  3. Find a different BB axel.

-Ed

Answered by user55621 on April 21, 2021

Slight misalignment is nothing to worry about - bikes with multiple chainrings and sprockets spend a significant part of their lives misaligned, particularly with the modern trend to 1x12 transmissions and we don't worry about it; chains are designed to cope with this. The slight misalignment that you have is more an aesthetic than mechanical issue.

It's not easy to suggest a solution without knowing your current setup - particularly the type of hub you're using. For example, is it a screw-on freewheel or a freehub, what is the current axle spacing, what type of bottom bracket do you have?

Answered by bertie on April 21, 2021

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