Specialists would tell you that the most abused part of the motorcycle is the chain.
Many bikers see their motorcycle chain as an item that is designed for the hard life and needs little or no care. But the truth is, the chain needs care too—a lot of care. The good news is, caring for your motorcycle chain is not as complicated as it sounds.
Knowing how to lube a motorcycle chain is the first step you should know as a bike owner. As you will soon get to know, taking care of your motorcycle chain is one way to keep your motorcycle working optimally. Apart from keeping the chain clean regularly, lubricating it is the best way to keep it gliding smoothly.
Even when well taken care of, the chain still manages to experience wear and tear. That’s because of the kind of exposure and the work it does. Without the chain, motion is impossible on the bike. It is responsible for perhaps the most rigorous work in the engine compartment.
It is, therefore, ironic that one of the most overlooked parts of the motorcycle is the chain. Even when washing the motorcycle, many owners leave out the chain. This may be due to ignorance of the chain’s role in the motorcycle.
It is worth repeating that it is the chain that keeps the motorcycle’s rear wheel rolling. Because of how the chain operates, it often needs extra lubrication. It is exposed to harsh conditions because of its position and function, needing constant cleaning and oiling.
As you would see later on, when the chain lacks lubrication, it can greatly reduce the efficiency of the bike and risk a complete breakdown eventually. That is why cleaning and lubing your bike is a skill you must master. It is also very easy, convenient and doesn’t take time.
It is one of such tasks that is indeed fun to do. When compared to other types of maintenance procedures on your bike, this one is particularly straightforward, so even if you’re attempting it for the first time, it won’t prove complicated.
So, we’ll be considering a step-by-step guide on how to lube motorcycle chains. But we’ll start by considering why lubing the motorbike chain is important.
Why Do You Need to Lube a Motorbike Chain?
You need to lube your motorcycle chain to prolong its life and improve efficiency.
But, isn’t there a built in internal lubrication for the chain?
There’s a simple answer to that question.
That’s a fantastic question. But your bike chain still needs lubrication. Here’s why.
Although most modern motorbike chains are already sealed with different types of rings (e.g., O-rings, Z-rings, X-rings) and have grease locked in the pins, wear still occurs between the chain and the sprocket (the wheel with sharp teeth that meshes with the chain) causing friction that if left unchecked, can easily lead to corrosion and breakages.
So while the grease in the chain is meant for the chain itself, the lubrication applied on the chain is meant to protect its interaction with other parts of the bike. It’s one thing for the chain particles to be lubricated; it’s another thing for the chain as a whole to be protected from external friction.
The enclosed grease is at risk of being lost when the rings aren’t well lubricated. Moreover, without lubrication, the O-rings are also at risk. So, it would be wrong to assume that lubrication may not be necessary because the bike chain is sealed with greased rings. Just as the grease lubricates the inside, the outside of the chains, including the seals, must be lubricated.
Of course, non-sealed chains need lubrication even more as they have no enclosed grease. Non-sealed chains are, however, not common in modern bikes.
You, therefore, need to lubricate your motorcycle chains for the following reasons:
Lubrication reduces wear of the chain
Lubrication increases the efficiency of the chain
Lubrication prevents corrosion and rust
Lubrication protects the sealed factory grease in the rings
Lubrication prevents moisture from building inside the bushes and pins
Lubrication keeps friction between the chain and sprockets to a minimum
Lubrication reduces chain noise
Lubrication prolongs the chain life if the motorcycle
Once the motorcycle chain begins to show signs of rust, the bike can’t move effectively, becomes noisier, and breaks down more frequently. Once this starts, lubricating the chain may be too late. You may need a replacement. But you can prevent spending scarce money on unnecessary repairs by taking the culture of lubing your motorcycle seriously.
In reality, we lubricate sealed chains to prevent them from rusting, unlike non-sealed chains, which must, as a matter of necessity, be lubricated to function at all. But, preventing rust is equal to preventing the total breakdown of the chain, so, yes, every motorcycle chain requires lubrication.
How to Choose Lube
Two types of lubricants can be used on motorcycle chains, chain lube, and chain wax. Both of them lubricate the chain and protect it from wear and corrosion.
But before choosing a lube, it’s important to know which type of chain your bike has. There are, like we highlighted earlier, two types of chains. They are sealed and non-sealed. Non-sealed or plain chains were the popular types of chains used in the past. Today, sealed chains are more common.
Experts believe chain lube is better for dry conditions, while chain wax is ideal for wet conditions. Chain wax often comes in the form of a paste that is applied to the chain. Chain wax is better at protecting your motorcycle chain if you are in a very dirty environment where the chain can frequently get splashed with mud, debris, and dirt.
Because of this, chain wax is always more long-lasting than chain lube. Chain lube, meanwhile, comes in the form of a spray canister that can be applied to the chain. Some brands also produce the wax in a sprayable form. Both of them offer protection to the chain and can effectively reduce wear and corrosion.
Step by step guide to lubing motorcycle chain
You can lube your chain conveniently if you’ve got 30 minutes to spare. Here’s a step-by-step procedure.
Step 1: Get your motorcycle on a stand such that the rear wheel is comfortably free to roll.
Step 2: Clean the chain with water, preferably from a hose. It is always recommended that you clean your motorcycle chain before lubing. For best results, use a motorcycle chain cleaner. You know you have done a good job when the chain is no longer black but metallic in color.
Step 3: Wipe the chain clean with a towel or dry cloth.
Step 4: Lubricate the chain by applying the canister directly to it. To lubricate, you should aim at the inside of the chain. Also, ensure you are rotating the wheel simultaneously. One cycle may not be enough, so make sure the spray goes roundabout three times, but don’t over-apply the lubricant, so only spray a little at a time.
You also want to prevent the spray from getting onto the rear tire. If you are using a chain wax, you need to apply it step by step. It gives off white color, so you know how you progress in the lubrication process. There are also chain waxes that come in spray canisters as well.
The best time to lubricate your motorcycle chain is after riding it. It allows the spray to permeate the chain very well.
Remember also that cleaning and lubricating your chain should go hand in hand and should be done after about 300-600 miles of use, but if you use your bike more frequently and rigorously, you may want to increase the rate of lubing.
Lubricating your motorcycle chain is one of the most effective maintenance techniques that you can learn.
It is easy to do and is not complicated. If you master how to lubricate your motorcycle chain effectively, you will notice improved performance and reduced repair costs.
Although it is one of the most overlooked parts of the bike, the motorcycle chain is incredibly easy to maintain. All you need is a good lubricant, and you can do it yourself.
Now you know how to lube a motorcycle chain. Get to work, and give your motorcycle a new lease of life!
Jeffrey Bryce is an experienced motorcycle rider with years of experience caring for motorcycles. His natural fondness for motorcycles have made him come up with LetsGoForARide.com, which is dedicated to answering and teaching you how to care for your bike with the care it requires. LetsGoForARide is the one of his important lifework in reaching out to communities of motorcycle enthusiasts on how to take care of their bike and choosing the correct spare part.