Motorcycle chain maintenance guide

Below is a chain maintenance guide sent to us by Motul and we thought it too good not to share as a handy guide for newcomers to motorcycling, or long time riders who have always been too scared to do any of the maintenance tasks on their own machines.

Predictably, as this guide is produced by a lubricant company, it recommends the use of their products, which are designed for purpose and are likely the best solutions for the job. Be that from Motul, Ipone, Shell, or one of the other companies that produces specialist motorcycle products.

Generally, I have used an old toothbrush and kero to clean a chain if it was really caked in crap, then a good tacky spray wax on the chain.

Another piece of advice that will save you money in the long run is to buy a high quality chain when it comes time for replacement. Cheap sprockets can be got by with, but, for a roadbike, always count on spending upwards of $200 to $350 on a good quality chain.

Buying a cheap chain is a false economy, they stretch at a ridiculous rate thus always need adjustment, and wear out very quickly. Buy a decent chain, and after the initial break-in period it is highly unlikely it will need to have the tension adjusted between services or rear tyre changes. Seriously, a good $300 chain can last 3-4 times longer than a $100 chain, and unless you really do ride in a lot of rain and pick up lots of road grime, the best modern chains last 20,000km or more without ever cleaning or lubricating them.  Some bikes are harder on chains than others, singles and twins can wear them out quicker than four-cylinder machines. The first sign that your chain may not be in the best state is that your gearshifts start to feel a lot less fluid than they once did. Sometimes a new chain and sprockets can make it feel like you have a whole new slicker shifting gearbox.

Some of you might be thinking, ‘well I am glad I have a shaft drive’. And yes, of course, shafts do have their advantages, but there are also disadvantages, like a friend of mine just found when the final drive failed on their shaft drive machine at 90,000km, and is now up for a $4000 bill for replacement.  $4000 could keep you in new chains and sprockets for about 250,000km, with no chain maintenance at all.

The guide below has some handy pointers, but, personally, I think you would have to be one seriously anal retentive motorcyclist to be taking chain maintenance to this level when modern high quality chains offer such long and hassle free service lifes these days.

Motul guide to motorcycle chain maintenance

Depending on your individual style of riding, weather conditions and load, please check the chain every 500-1000 km for signs of wear, correct level of tension and, of course, sufficient lubrication.

The chain should also be regreased after every extended journey in the rain.

Motul Motorcycle Chain Maintenance Guide - Check drive chain for tension
Motul Motorcycle Chain Maintenance Guide – Check drive chain for tension
Motul Motorcycle Chain Maintenance Guide - Clean chain with MOTUL Chain Clean
Motul Motorcycle Chain Maintenance Guide – Clean chain with MOTUL Chain Clean

Before greasing the chain, remove and heavy grime with the effective MOTUL Chain Clean.  Over time, oil, dust and worn materials clog together to form pasty clumps.  These abrasive clumps shorten the service life of the entire chain kit through increased wear.  A dry and clean chain is more desirable for quality effectiveness of the chain spray.

Place the motorcycle on the main stand.  Please use an assembly stand if your machine only has a side stand.  Wheel-turning aids are available from motorcycle specialists which make it possible to move the rear wheel of a motorcycle even when it is parked in the side stand.  Turn the rear wheel by hand to set the chain in motion, then spray the links on all sides with the special MOTUL Chain Clean.  Keep the chain running until all the links have been covered with the cleaner.  Leave the cleaner to soak in briefly, then clean the links on all sides using a brush.

Motul Motorcycle Chain Maintenance Guide - Spray on MOTUL Chain Clean and leave it to soak
Motul Motorcycle Chain Maintenance Guide – Spray on MOTUL Chain Clean and leave it to soak
Motul Motorcycle Chain Maintenance Guide - Rub chain dry
Motul Motorcycle Chain Maintenance Guide – Rub chain dry

Never use a brush made of steel wire or similar material, as this could damage the ring seal between the link, causing the grease to leak.  The chain would then also wear out very quickly.

To protect the environment and to avoid any stains, please use an oil pan or place a large piece of cardboard under the chain.

After cleaning the chain, rub it dry with a lint-free cloth.  This should also remove any remaining grime.  Please repeat the process if the grime persists, or pay special attention to affected points.

Once the chain is clean and dry, you can start to regrease it.  MOTUL Chain Lube Road is ideal for road-use motorcycles.  The high performance MOTUL Chain Paste also offers extremely high adhesion so that no chain grease is thrown off, even at high speeds.  Apply a thin even layer of MOTUL Chain Paste with the brush integrated in the tube.

Motul Motorcycle Chain Maintenance Guide - Always apply MOTUL chain spray to the inside
Motul Motorcycle Chain Maintenance Guide – Always apply MOTUL chain spray to the inside
Motul Motorcycle Chain Maintenance Guide - Use MOTUL Chain Paste for really good adhesion
Motul Motorcycle Chain Maintenance Guide – Use MOTUL Chain Paste for really good adhesion

The spray head including capillary tube lets you apply the spray with great precision.  Turn the rear wheel to move the chain and apply a thin even layer of MOTUL chain spray.  Only apply the spray to the inside of the chain to distribute the chain grease in the best possible way, ensuring that all links are covered.  If any chain spray should land on the wheelm this can be removed easily with a soft cloth and MOTUL Chain Clean.

Do not drive off immediately after spraying the chain.  The grease contains solvents for excellent flow characteristics and optimum distribution.  Excellent adhesion is achieved after an airing time of only 10-15 minutes.

If you’d rather not wait, you could lubricate the chain immediately after parking the bike in the evening, while the chain is still warm.

For more information on the MOTUL Chain range, click here.