Motorcycles, Travel & Adventure


Motorcycle TourMagazine

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Chain Maintenance

For some it is almost a psychological disorder – this need to spotlessly clean and lube the chain after each ride. But for others they are shocked that they need to do anything at all. The truth lies somewhere in the middle.

Chains need attention, like every other part of your machine, and regular chain maintenance such as cleaning and proper lubrication is key to this task for the chain-gang motorcycles to operate smoothly and correctly.

Prepare to get dirty. This is not for the Felix Unger’ish.

Chain life usually will run about 20,000 miles… more with better maintenance.

Figure if you are a really active rider every two or three years you are going to be changing your chain and sprockets.


Change everything.

But, with a little bit of effort and the willingness to get dirty, you can give your chain thousands of more miles of life.

Okay, we are not riding MotoGP – but weekly inspection is a must.

Sunday morning ride? Why not make Saturday night a bit more fun. A cup of coffee or glass of wine and go out and REALLY look at your motorcycle. I am not talking “Wow – I really love this bike,” sort of stuff. But, get down and look at what could possibly go wrong- or what has already gone wrong.

The chain and sprockets are easy. You should be checking your chain and sprockets for damage, wear and free-play in adjustment.

Check for tight spots by rotating the rear wheel. If it will not rotate freely then a new chain may be required. Tight spots are the death knell of chain drives.

Inspect the rear drive sprocket for wear, making sure that the apexes of the teeth are not curved. Shark teeth do not work.

Check for any rust spots. They are an indication for insufficient lubrication or poor corrosion protection of your chain spray. In our case, where we live, just a very high humidity some evenings that really play havoc on metal. It is an on-going battle.

JungleGrungeBrushThere are a few chain cleaning products, but I keep going back to the tried & true WD-40. Created in San Diego by a company actually called Rocket Chemical – this stuff works. BUT- doing what it does means a quick and serious lubrication after your chain cleaning is done.

WD-40 is primarily a solvent, which means that it dissolves contaminates so parts get nice and clean. As a solvent, WD-40 will strip away any existing lubricant, leaving your chain and drivetrain dryer than the Sahara desert. This means that using WD-40 as a chain lubricant is worse than using no lube at all.

So…Clean cold, lube hot.

Many manufacturers call for simple Gear Oil. Who’d have thunk? Solid, strong and just a bit of a devil to apply.

On the easier side there is Chain Wax from Maxima. Solid product.

While the majority of the chain lube should be on the inside of the chain, you should also give a good spray at the rear sprocket, to make sure of getting the O-rings saturated.

So, we think, no matter what your thoughts are on lube, and no matter how modern your chain is, keeping the driving force of your machine in awesome shape is a good thing.

Spend some time. Get dirty. It’s okay.