RK 530LFO Chain and Vortex Sprockets

story by Kerry Ward, Created Mar. 12, 1999
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There is an old maxim: "Always change the sprockets whenever you replace your chain." This is good, solid advice -- heed it. That is also why we are presenting this product review as a doubleheader featuring both an RK chain and a set of Vortex sprockets. To add frosting to this review, we decided to include before and after performance figures, since worn drivetrain components can rob your bike of power. Our test bike was an 1986 Suzuki GSXR1100 with a highly modified motor. After 16,000 miles of use the old chain was stretched unevenly and had several tight spots, though it still moved freely and there were no kinks in it. The old sprockets had worn teeth that looked pointy and ugly. This is not good. Considering the power of the bike, new components were necessary, but not before we dyno'd the bike to get a baseline for our RK and Vortex test. Would we see a difference in power changing nothing but the chain and sprockets? Indeed we did?

Let's take a look at the Vortex sprockets. The steel countershaft sprocket has been machined with a diamond cutter, which work-hardens the steel and enhances durability. The 530 unit we used was black and had a nice, smooth surface on one side of the sprocket teeth, while the other side had slight ridges on the edge where it contacts with the chain rollers. The countershaft sprocket is made to spin one direction. We installed it with the smooth surface of the teeth bearing the load under acceleration. The rear Vortex sprocket is CNC machined out of 7075 aerospace aluminum.

Some manufacturers stack blank sprockets and cut the teeth into them all at once, then later cutting out the hub holes and bolt holes. The peril of this approach is that the teeth might not be concentric with the hub, which leads to a sprocket with an offset center. Vortex avoids this hazard by CNC machining each sprocket individually. The machining marks are not polished off, giving the rear sprocket a burly, high-tech look. Adding to that effect are the dramatic accents machined into the aluminum between the bolt holes and between each of the teeth. In a word, it looks trick. A special coating is added to the rear sprockets to make the aluminum brighter. Both front and rear sprockets bolted on with no fuss.

Retail price for the Vortex sprockets is on the high side, running from $52 to $56 for the rear and $11 to $22 for the countershaft.

RK's new XW-ring 530LFO chain is an "extreme high-performance" chain. Innovation in the o-ring department has brought to market three sealing ridges on each flat, wide rubber o-ring that separate the inner and outer sideplates of the chain. Picture the ramparts on a castle and this is what the three lubricant-trapping ridges look like. RK states the XW ring setup leads to 50 percent longer chain life. The theory behind using fancy o-rings with multiple lube-sealing surfaces is that the lubricant sealed inside the rollers by the manufacturer is trapped by more than one seal. Because it is harder for the lubricant trapped in the chain to escape, the chain lasts longer. The LFO chain we used was a 530 gauge rated to 10,000 lbs/ft tensile strength. It is recommended for bikes up to 1000cc. Though our chain had a simple, rivet-style master link, a clip-style master link is also available. Installation of the new RK chain was uneventful. The master link worked perfectly with the rivets flaring out 15/1000ths of an inch on the outside of the sideplate after being pressed out with the appropriate chain-rivet installing tool. The chain has a heavy appearance and a plain steel color. Retail cost for the LFO chain runs from $170 to $188, depending on the number of pins needed.
  How did our new drivetrain fare on the dyno? Pretty darn well. Our test bike first put out 149.6 horsepower with the old components in place. Check out huge dip in power and torque at between 3500 and 4000 rpms on the first dyno run, along with the more uneven increase in power in low and mid-range. The stretched chain, flying around the sprockets, tightening up then loosening causes this rough pattern. It may not look evident from the seat of a bike, but a stretched chain or a chain with tight spots puts uneven stresses on a motor and sprockets and causes frictional power loss. So, how much power, if any, did the bike gain with the new RK chain and Vortex sprockets in place? The bike put out a healthy 157.6 ponies, a full five percent increase in power. Take that into consideration when you decide whether to replace your old chain and sprockets.

Contact information: Vortex: 800-440-3559 RK Chains: See your local dealer or call 760-732-3161

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