Back to Back Issues Page
The Custom Chopper Report, Issue #005 -- Rear Belt and Pulley Maintenance
September 17, 2004

Guest Article And A Quick Update...


We finished a couple of special reports that I know you're going to love, so keep an eye out.

Also, we figured you would appreciate the following article written by Mike Mathews, author of

Custom Bike Building Secrets.

By the way, if you are easily offended by harsh language, consider yourself warned...

Rear Belt and Pulley Maintenance

By Mike Mathews

In this article, we're going to talk about the effects that a defective rear pulley can have on your belt. Before we get into the meat and potatoes of it, let me share a personal story with you that hopefully you can benefit from and not have to learn the hard way like me.

I recently went through a real pain in the ass situation involving the rear belt and pulley on my Road Glide.

First, I've got to make a confession. I've got this fetish about a good-looking set of chrome custom wheels. Seriously, I'm a chromaholic! (is that a word?) With that being said, obviously the stock wheels that came on my "Glide" weren't even coming close to satisfying this passion that's controlling my motorcycle life. So what the hell, I gave in to my weakness and went out and bought a real nice set of those chrome babies to jazz up the old machine. I'm sure you'll agree with me, there's a bunch of companies out there manufacturing some really good looking products all of which are just waiting to be put on your bike.

And of course, when you buy a set of custom wheels, you've got to have the matching rotors. and the matching pulley. and new calipers. and new tires to complete the package. Right? And that's just what I did. bought the whole package.

Let me tell you, when I got all this new stuff the on the bike, man it looked like a million bucks. completely changed the bikes appearance. But I had to really question my judgement in regards to that expensive, shiny pulley I spent big dollars on because you couldn't even see the damn thing with the bags on the bike. what a shame, it looked great up on the lift. But hey, I had the complete package and that's all that matters. Little did I know that high dollar, you can't see it anyway, pulley was going to cause me more shit than I ever thought possible.

Onward. After running the bike for about 5000 miles with all the new components, I started hearing all kinds of weird noises coming from the rear wheel area. At first I thought it was a brake situation but that wasn't it. Could it be a bearing? Maybe the belt needs adjusting? Nope. none of the above.

You know, after paying out the ass for this really cool rear pulley, (the one nobody could even see) and not having run the bike that many miles, that was the last thing I thought would be the problem. But sure as shit, that was it.

But wait, there's more!

While this super deluxe shiny chrome custom pulley (the one that nobody could see) was in the process of self-destructing, it was doing a number on the rear belt as well. I'm talking total and complete wanton slaughter of that puppy. Poor little bastard never had a chance.

I don't know how many of you have replaced a rear belt lately on one of these touring models, or on any model, let me tell you, it's no day at the beach! Don't think this is a repair that's going to have you back out on the road in a couple of hours. And not only that, if you should happen to lose a rear belt on the road somewhere trust me, you're going to find yourself up the proverbial shit creek.

So let's move on and talk about what kinds of things you need to watch for in regards to your rear pulley and how it affects your belt so you can avoid a pile of frustration and lost riding time.

First and most important, if you let your pulley teeth start wearing through their chrome finish, what's going to happen is those teeth are going to deteriorate and then your belt is going to get destroyed.. Plain and simple!

So what causes the accelerated wear of pulley teeth? Well, sand dirt or gravel that gets trapped between the belt and the pulley can, over a period time, erode the hard chrome surface of the teeth which will expose the much softer aluminum. Now once that soft aluminum surface is exposed, not only are the teeth going start wearing down quickly, but your belt is going to start getting impregnated with shrapnel.

The inspection process is really easy. Just look for a ledge that's beginning to form on the teeth near the inside flange of the rear pulley. Remember this, a properly aligned belt will have a tendency to thrust toward the outer flange of the pulley. This is going to leave an unworn section so that you can do a visual comparison.

If you see a ledge starting to build up on the teeth of the pulley, it's time to start thinking about replacing it and believe me it is much easier (and cheaper) to replace a rear pulley than to go through the procedure of installing a new belt.

One more thing. Running your belt loose is going to increase your pulley wear also, so make sure you check your belt adjustment whenever you're doing any service and maintenance work.

Back to my adventure. I was running an aftermarket wheel and pulley setup and the manufacturer of that particular component would not stand behind his product (not that I would even think about installing any of their stuff again). After doing a little research and talking with several people in the industry, I learned that this pulley situation is a big problem with most of the aftermarket manufacturers. But, don't think just because you're running a stock factory pulley you're getting a free pass and it doesn't need attention. it does!

One more thing. Make sure your rear wheel is lined up correctly or you'll end up in another pile of problems. Remember ... it only takes a few minutes to check these components and is well worth the effort.

If you'd like some more info on custom bike building tips, check out ... Mike Mathews website.



Back to Back Issues Page