Gen4 ZX-10R Gearing

EDIT: 10/19/15 Over the last few track events I tested a 16/43 Gearing with a couple links added to the overall chain length and was not happy with the way the Traction Control kept activating nor the changes it made to the handling by extending the wheelbase and forcing me to use extra effort in just steering the bike regardless of my geometry settings so I went back to the shorter chain and used a 16/41 combination and funny enough I found it a better combination for than the 16/40 I had been running. Probably more about shortening the wheelbase than actually making the gearing lower, but whatever works... so 16/41 is what I am sticking with now.

Unlike my past bikes I did not have a stack of different sprockets to test on this new bike so I went with the old standard of one down in the front & one up in the back. With the stock gearing being 17/39 that makes my new gearing choice a 16/40

I really haven't found the need to alter it any more as it already has the wheelie control working overtime and killing my drive more times per lap than I can count and not knowing any differently I will just continue to use this combination as is. I will say that I have used this 16/40 on the street & the track and it is equally at home on both.

What is written below is not specific to the ZX-10R. It is merely a collection of thoughts and experiences I have gathered over the years that I like to include on these gearing pages.

Aluminum sprockets: Never buy an aluminum sprocket that is not Hard Anodized. The Hard Anodizing process greatly extends the life of the sprocket & is easily worth the extra $10 or so it costs for them. The OEM rear sprockets are steel & are built for durability, but the extra weight of the streel versus a lighter aluminum sprocket makes the bike harder to stop, steer & accelerate due to the additional rotating mass on the wheels. I mean you bought a top of the line high performance sportbike you might as well do all you can to get the most out of it & aluminum sprockets, even though they are going to wear out faster than steel they are still pretty damn cheap mods in the scope of things. If you can buy an $12,000+ bike you oughta be able to spend $60-$80 on a sprocket every now & then plus if you keep you chain maintenance done properly especially proper chain slack then you can get some incredible mileage out of them.

I have tried just about every single brand of sprocket known to man, even used to pay big bucks (about $90 each & waited forever to get them) for the Renthal's cause I figured if the Factory HONDA team used them they must be good (WRONG!) the hard anodized Renthals wear very quickly compared to other brands. The real truth is that companies GIVE parts away to race teams by the bucketfulls so they can say that a Pro Race team uses their products and gain market exposure. In all the years I have been testing & selling sprockets I will rest my reputation every single time on the AFAM brand followed very closely by Drive Systems (not to be confused with the Driven brand) as they are the best I have used. They don't advertise their process, but I used to have aluminum fittings & bungs hard anodized when I was in the rotational molding business & the grey coloration of the AFAM sprockets looks just like they have impregnated their hard anodizing process with teflon. This would go a long way towards explaining why their sprockets last so long, but again they don't make any claims to this at all it is just something I have observed. UPDATE: In recent years the grey AFAM sprockets have been increasing difficult to find, but the Drive Systems sprockets even though they are black in color now have the teflon impregnation and are carrying the longevity torch for me which is also why I sell those brands currently.

I can also throw my opinion out for 3 more things with great certainty:

1. DID chains are the best period.

2. RK chains used to be great, but suck ever since they got bought out back in about 2000

3. Vortex sprockets wear out way way way too fast...

SuperSprox: Everytime I turn around on a message forum someone brings up the issue of SuperSprox sprockets. This is where they take an aluminum hub and rivet a steel out ring of teeth to it to give the user the best of both worlds etc... As far as I am concerned nothing could be further from the truth. The cost of the Supersprox sprockets is much higher than the cost of a quality aftermarket hard anodized aluminum sprocket and WAY higher than an OEM style steel rear sprocket. Here is the real kicker for me though as I had to order one of these for a very insistent customer not too long ago and when I weighed the 530 Supersprox sprocket it actually weighed MORE than the OEM steel sprocket it was replacing. Seems ridiculous to me to spend more money for less performance...

530 vs 520 Conversion

Ok this question comes up a lot. The difference between a 530 & a 520 is that the 520 chain is slightly smaller in width & of course with that it weighs less. Less weight means you can spin up the rotating mass faster (better acceleration). People incorrectly get the idea that the 520 chain being lighter & smaller is inferior to all 530 or even 525 chains and that is simply not the case when the quality of the chain is taken into consideration. A high quality 520 Chain like the DID ERV-II stuff is just as strong as the OEM 530 chains they are replacing or at least close enough that the issue of accelerated wear is just not an issue. Now if you are buying cheap 520 chains from lesser brands then yea you may very well have longevity problems, but stick to the DID brand and you need not worry about the quality. I have personally used DID ERV3 chains for almost 2 decades now on everything from RC51's to GSXR1000's to my new ZX-10R and we recently used the same DID ERV3 520 chain with Alloy sprockets for an entire race season on our 205rwhp BWM S1000RR race bike and had zero problems so I know damn good and well they work and the newer DID ZVM-X chain is rated even higher than the ERV3.

Longevity (chain and sprocket life):

Chain wear all depends on how well you keep up with your chain maintenance. A chain needs to be kept clean, lubed and have properly adjusted chain slack at all times. If you meet those conditions an OEM chain will easily net you 10,000 or more miles. I've seen some guys get 25000+ out of them (more info below).

I have also routinely seen riders get 20,000+ miles out of DID 520 chain kits, but these are the same owners that are meticulous with their chain maintenance. I personally had 15,000+ grueling, merciless, track only miles out of my last set on my 1000RR and it still had life in it when I finally changed it to a new set and I while I am very good at keeping my chain maintenance up I can tell you I was never what anyone would consider easy on my chains

Additional key points:

If you are switching to a 520 chain you must buy 520 sprockets to go with it! You cannot use the OEM 530 sprockets with your new 520 chain nor can you use 520 sprockets with a 530 chain (yes people have asked this)

Typically if you are racing the bike & need every ounce of help you can get go ahead & switch to the 520 conversion now (new chain & sprockets).

If your bike is new (chain & sprockets are in good condition) & primarily a streetbike or just an occasional trackday machine then I suggest just swapping out the sprockets in the same 530 pitch & leaving the OEM 530 chain on the bike. When the time comes that you do finally wear out the OEM 530 chain then you can decide at that time if you want to do the 520 conversion (I would) since you generally have to replace both the chain & sprockets together anyway.

It is also important to remember that a chain that is a little too loose is ALWAYS better than one that is too tight. A chain that is too tight can limit the proper movement of the suspension stroke and cause greatly accelerated wear on the sprockets. I've even seen them pull the countershaft out of the engine case and destroy the bearings/seals from extreme cases of having a chain that is too tight.

Also important to know is that if you increase the rear ride height of the shock to alter the geometry of the bike that you need to add additional chain slack to compensate for that.

Lets Talk Chain Life
This subject comes up so frequently on the web forums I figured it was time to give it some attention here

Improper slack is the number one reason for poor chain/sprocket life. It is also dependent on several things not the least of which is knowing how to measure the slack which quite frankly many riders simply do not. Many riders also do not realize that if they add ride height to the rear of the bike via an adjustable shock or a longer shock or a different linkage etc that they have to add more chain slack to compensate for that additional ride height.

Next on the list would be mismatching new & old parts. When you install a chain & sprocket kit all 3 items (the chain, the countershaft sprocket and the rear sprocket) should be new. Those items bed in together with wear and conform to each other. If you replace any one of those 3 items with a new piece then it is no longer matched to the wear of the other two items and overall wear is accelerated as the parts start to bed in again, but at different rates now. Not such a big deal for a track only or race bike that we swap the rear sprockets on to match every track we ride with no concern with longevity of the parts involved, but it will drastically reduce the life of a streetbike chain kit.

After that I will simply cite lack of maintenance. In addition to proper chain slack you also have to keep the chain clean and lubricated. Overhyped chain wax that just puts a coating over the chain might keep it clean under that protective coating, but provides very little lubrication. Sticky, gunky lubes like PJ1 are slightly better for lubrication initially, but attract tons of dirt & debris which eventually works its way in between the o-rings and starts destroying the chain. Water is the chains worst enemy as rust particles form and work their way past the o-rings then start destroying the chain from the inside out and once it starts there is really no stopping it. Rain moisture can do it, but you would be amazed at how many times I have seen guys use a pressure washer on their chain or scrub the chain with a stiff bristle brush and water which allows the bristles to gap the o-rings and allow moisture to start causing rust behind the scenes were you cannot stop it.

The last killer is nothing more than inferior materials. People buy cheap shitty sprockets like Vortex or expensive shitty sprockets like Renthal and then complain that they don't hold up... Those cheap chain kits usually contain low end sprockets and poor quality chains and you get what you pay for in terms of usable service life.


This just recently came up in conversation on another message forum where a couple riders had complained about their fairly new X-Ring high end chain had the x-rings literally falling apart. Many years ago I had personally experienced a similar issue with an OEM o-ring chain and what had happened is I had used a very stiff plastic bristle brush to clean the chain and the bristles actually started to tear at the rubber o-rings and cause them to fall apart. In this recently reported incident though the owners were stating that they did not use stiff bristle brushes etc, but there was a common denominator in that they were all using Motul Chain Cleaner. Now while the ingredients in the chain cleaner might not be caustic to the rubber o-rings or x-rings that does not mean that the propellant inside the can to get that detergent to the chain isn't. When I pulled the MSDS sheet on the chain cleaner it showed Butane & Propane as ingredients and both of those are deemed unsatisfactory for use with EPDM rubber. It was also stated in the Motul literature that the product was supposed to be applied in short bursts whereas the users were simply spraying it out of the can in long durations and rotating the wheel slowly by hand to coat the chain with the cleaner. This prolonged spraying allows the propellant in the can to saturate the rubber o-rings and start to deteorate them instead of evaporating quickly. Don't misconstrue I am not opposed to using Motul Chain Cleaner I am simply saying that if you do not use it correctly you may be subjecting your o-ring chain to premature failure. Additionally it is highly likely that it is not just Motul Chain Cleaner that this would be an issue with. I am reasonably sure other cleaners and even other brands of aerosol chain lubrication also contain propellants that are harmful to the rubber o-rings so too much of a good thing can easily become a bad problem.

I was asked about my own chain maintenance and what I recommend. The short answer is I use WD-40 for cleaning and light lube at all times.    When I take the time to actually lube the chain properly it is usually Repsol Chain Lube.  For the sake of clarification I am not a fan of Repsol products as I find their engine oils to be very inferior, but their chain lube product is excellent. It sprays out of the can in a very fine, atomized and controlled mist and is easy to clean up if you get any overspray.

I never use any type of chain wax which is absoutely worthless as mentioned above or any of the lubricants that are sticky/tacky.   Anything that attracts dirt and debris is the exact opposite of what you want on your chain and can lead to some of that debris making contact with the rubber o-rings (x-rings) and damaging them.