Essential Motorcycle Chain Maintenance

Essential Motorcycle Chain Maintenance
Essential Motorcycle Chain Maintenance

Learning to look after your chain, for most, is one of the first jobs you will grasp when owning a motorcycle. The majority of bikes now are driven by a chain and sprockets, with the exception of a few which feature belts or shafts but we will save those for another day. The chain and sprockets only job is to send the power created at the engine to the back wheel, with anything above 600cc that is a serious amount of work. Putting a dry, dirty chain through that kind of stress isn’t going to end well…a snapped chain will not only leave you stranded but could result in you coming off the bike or cause significant damage to your engine casings, swing arm or yourself. Read on as we delve into essential motorcycle chain maintenance.

How do I clean my chain?

There are a few variants of bike chains, though the cleaning procedure is mostly the same. All metal chains (or plain chains) can be cleaned quite aggressively while sealed chains (Often referred to as X, O or Z Ring) have a rubber seal packed with grease in-between the pins. Though the rubber is very durable, you’ll want to make sure you’re not using anything too corrosive. 

You will find it very helpful if you can raise the back wheel from the ground, with either a centre stand or a paddock stand. If you don’t have either available then don’t worry, you’ll just have to work in stages as you wheel the bike around to gain access to more of the chain.

You’ll want to invest in a motorcycle chain cleaner, something like Maxima’s Chain Cleaner will work wonders but there are lots of options for you to choose from. A cheap hack is to simply use Kerosene. You’ll want to spray your cleaner all over your chain and over both the front and rear sprockets. Once your chain has soaked it’s time to agitate the cleaner. We would recommend using a special chain cleaning tool to ensure nothing is missed. Don’t be tempted to use anything harsh such as a wire brush as it will damage the seals of the chain. 

What is the best chain lubricant?

There is no definitive right or wrong answer to this question, it mostly boils down to preference. Some people prefer a wax, paste, wet or dry lube. All we would suggest is to ensure you a using a lube formulated especially for motorcycle chains. Greases or oils not for chains may have elements that will damage the seals of the chain. 

Take a look at this list and make your own decision on which brand you would like to go with.

Once equipped with your choice of lube, get the bikes rear wheel raised and spray the lube generously across the top of the chain while slowly rotating the rear wheel, aim for two or three full revolutions of the wheel.

If your chain is a plain metal chain then you will need to be very generous with your lubricant, where as a sealed chain already contains its own grease so the lube you apply will just be used to protect the chain from rust so you won’t need as much. 

Once your lube is applied, mop up any excess from around your swing arm, sprocket and rear wheel. It’s best to apply your lube after you’ve been riding rather than before, this allows time for proper penetration and evaporation.

How often should I clean and lube my chain?

You should aim to apply fresh lubricant to your chain every 300-600 miles to ensure peak performance and longevity of your chain and sprocket. In an ideal world, the chain would be cleaned each time before lubricant is applied but to be realistic a thorough chain cleaning every 1000 miles would be sufficient. 

When do I need a new chain?

Like many parts of your bike, your chain and sprockets have a lifespan. Both the chain and sprockets should be replaced together. Each time you clean and lube your chain you should be checking for any of the following:

-Excessive slack on the chain, can you pull it away from the rear sprocket by hand? (Your chain may need adjusting and aligning, this is an art form in itself and something we will cover in a dedicated article). 

-Obvious signs of rust or damage

-Any damage or obvious wear of the teeth on your sprockets, they should be well formed and look like slightly blunt shark fins.

Any of the above would likely indicate its time to renew. We would recommend looking at offerings from D.I.D

If you look after your chain and sprockets, they should last you a good 20,000 – 30,000 miles. Of course, this is dependent upon how and where you ride, and how often you do your essential motorcycle chain maintenance.

Be sure to check out our super fast, daily safety checks while your here.

Essential Motorcycle Chain Maintenance