Cleaning and Lubing Motorcycle Chain and Sprockets
Keeping the chain and sprockets clean is one of the most important basic maintenance tasks you can do for your motorcycle.
Clean chains and sprockets offer far smoother transfer of power from your motorcycle’s engine to its rear wheel. This means a smoother ride under everyday riding conditions, plus more predictable power delivery, and an increase in performance when competing. Chains and sprockets that are regularly cleaned and lubed also last longer, which of course saves you money.
How Often Should I Clean my Motorcycle’s Chain and Sprockets?
Your motorcycle’s owner manual will tell you the manufacturer’s recommendations, but for general guidelines:
Standard / Cruiser Bikes
Chains and sprockets should be cleaned and lubed once every 500 miles or every two weeks.
Performance / Sport Bikes
Chains and sprockets should be cleaned and lubed once every 300 miles or every two weeks.
Off-Road / Dirt Bikes
Chains and sprockets should be cleaned and lubed after every ride.
These are just guidelines, but if you ride often in dirty or dusty conditions, you may have to clean and lube your bike’s chain more frequently.
O-Ring Motorcycle Chains
If your bike has an O-ring chain instead of a standard chain, only use a chain cleaner compatible with that type of chain. (X-ring and Z-ring chains are classified as O-ring chains.)
- Nylon motorcycle chain brushes
- Water-based chain cleaners
- O-ring compatible chain cleaners
- Wire brushes
- Solvent-based chain cleaners
- Kerosene or contact cleaner
- Pressure washers
Standard chains can be cleaned with solvent-based and petroleum-based chain cleaners, as well as contact cleaners. You can also clean standard chains with pressure washers, but remove the chain from the motorcycle first to avoid damaging other parts.
How Often You Should Lube Chain and Sprockets
You should lube your motorcycle’s chain immediately after cleaning it.
Additionally, you should lube your motorcycle’s chain as soon as the links feel dry and don’t move against one another freely, or if your motorcycle’s chain starts getting noisy.
Provides good protection but is more labor-intensive to apply. However, some riders swear by them.
Provides good protection against water and dirt, but is more prone to being flung off the chain.
Provides excellent penetration, clings well and is resistant to flinging off.
PRO TIP: Never use lubricants like WD-40 or oils that aren’t specially formulated to clean motorcycle chains. Also, think about using different chain lubes for different riding conditions. For example, many riders use drier, waxier chain lubes for dusty summer riding and wetter, oilier chain lubes for muddy winter riding.
Cleaning Motorcycle Chains and Sprockets
Water-based chain cleaner
Spray it onto the chain as you rotate it so you can cover it completely. Leave the cleaner to penetrate the dirt for a few minutes, then scrub the chain with a motorcycle chain brush and rinse off the cleaner with water.
Solvent-based chain cleaner
Spray it on while scrubbing the chain with a motorcycle chain brush. Continue spraying the chain until it’s clean.
Watch the video below to see how to clean and adjust the chain on a dirt bike.
After cleaning a motorcycle chain, it’s very important to lube it and its sprockets to protect them against water and dirt. Watch the video below for some quick motorcycle chain maintenance tips.