How to Choose Motorcycle Chain Cleaners and Lube

Cleaning and lubricating the chain on a motorcycle or ATV is an easy, yet often overlooked maintenance task, and there are countless products available for the job. 

How to choose chain cleaners and lube

Regularly cleaning and lubing the chain enhances the performance of your machine and gets more life out of the chain itself, but finding the right products can take time. Here's a guide on how to choose chain cleaners and lube.

Buy motorcycle chain cleaners

Buy motorcycle chain lube

Why Clean Drive Chains

A clean chain prevents heat build-up. As dirt and road grime build up on a drive chain, it creates resistance to movement that leads to friction, which in turn creates heat that leads to wear. 

ATV chain cleaning

Cleaning and oiling the chain reduces friction from movement. Friction makes it more difficult for the plates and rollers to interact, leading to subtle power loss. A clean chain interacts smoothly with sprocket teeth, reducing wear on both the drive and driven end of the drivetrain. Less sprocket wear means fewer sprocket replacements, which is money saved.

How Often Should You Clean Drive Chains?

How often you should clean the chain on a powersports vehicle depends on where and how it's ridden. For example, dirt bikes and ATVs require more chain cleaning and lube by nature than a street motorcycle would because of the harsh enviroments they're ridden on.

Motorcycle chain cleaning

  • For a street bike, clean and lube the chain every 300-500 miles.
  • For a dirt bike or ATV, clean and re-lube the chain after every ride.

Offroad chains pick up a lot of stuff on the trail or in the woods, and water exposure breaks down chain lubricants over time.

How to Choose a Chain Cleaner

To know which chain cleaner to get, you need to know what kind of chain your machine uses. If it has an O-ring, X-ring or Z-ring chain, make sure the cleaner is safe for that type of chain. 

O-ring chain vs non O-ring chain

Those types of chains have small O-rings between the inner and outer links that seal in grease for the chain pins and bushings. The wrong type of cleaner can damage those O-rings, break down the grease inside, and then wear down the chain. Look for something thick like a foam. A thin cleaner will run off the chain and not loosen up as much dirt. 

Choosing motorcycle chain cleaner

How to Choose a Chain Lube: Wax and Paste vs. Lube

There are several different lubricants on the market, with a range of refinements to suit specific applications. Lubes and paste or wax each have their advantages. 

Motorcycle chain lube

  • A chain paste or wax is far more robust, and is better at sticking to the chain and resisting dirt and grime since it’s a dryer application. The catch is that it takes longer to apply, and you need to be more meticulous about getting the paste into all of the crevices on the chain. 
  • A lube from an aerosol will get into all those crevices, but it’ll pick up more dust and grime. Lubes offer the ease and convenience of being applied in seconds, but they can be messy, while waxes and pastes offer better protection but require extra care to apply. 

Water-Resistant, Dust-Resistant and Fling-Resistant Chain Lubes

A water-resistant chain lube might be perfect for off-road use, and some even come with a dye so you can see how well you’ve applied it.  If you ride in dry, dusty conditions, a dry chain lube might be better for your machine. It features additives to reduce chain wear; is compatible with O-ring chains; and it won’t attract dust. You also want to find a thicker lube that’s resistant to fling, since the chain moves fast, and a lube that doesn’t stick well will just fly off at speed.