Everything You Need to Know About Motorcycle Chain Maintenance

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These days motorcycle power outputs rivals those of small cars and SUVs. All of this horsepower has be transferred from the engine to the rear wheel. Many bike utilize chains to do this because motorcycle chains are cheaper and more efficient than shaft drive.

Some motorcycle manufacturers like Harley, have switched to belt drive because of the longer maintenance intervals compared to chains. While other manufacturers such as BMW utilize shaft drive. On motorcycles designed for touring, its unlikely that you’ll find a chain due to the short maintenance intervals. However, for sport bikes, beginner motorcycles, and budget friendly bikes you’ll likely find a chain. Some cruisers such as the Honda Shadow utilize chains.

Lubricating your chain is one of the most important preventative maintenance you can do.

Your chain needs care and lubrication. Left by itself, the chain will get dirty and dry, wearing itself down. Without proper lubrication, even your sprockets could get worn down to nubs and need replacement. A neglected chain can even be a safety risk if it breaks while you’re riding. The chain should be inspected regularly along with your tires and pressure.

When Should You Inspect Your Chain?

So what are the signs that tell you when you should service your chain? The first sign is mileage. The chain should be cleaned and then lubricated every 300 to 600 miles. Its important to regularly inspect your chain’s tension and adjust it if needed. You’ll have to consult your owners manual for the correct level of tension. Street bikes generally have 1.2-1.6 inches of slack while dirt bikes are in the 1.4-2.0 inch range. For more info on how to adjust your chain tension, check out this article by Cycle World.

Proper chain tension will reduce wear prolonging chain life.

Next, inspect your sprocket teeth for wear. If the sprocket is worn down to nubs or looks like a wave, replace it immediately. Riding on a worn sprocket will wear out your chain faster, its inefficient, and it could even be a safety issue.

Motorcycle Chain Maintenance Tools

Its important to have the right tools for the job when maintaining your motorcycle. For the chain maintenance, you will need lubrication, a wire brush, a brush, and a few rags. Make sure that the lubricant that you use is compatible with your bike. There are generally O-ring or X-ring seals in your chain, and your lubricant choice will be dependent on this factor. Click here to check the price and checkout the reviews of wax based lubricant I would recommend.

Although you could get away with an old tooth brush, but a brush specifically designed for a chain will do a better job. You could close this brush and to check reviews.

Chain Maintenance Step by Step

  1. Inspect chain for damage, rust, and dry spots. Check for tight spots while rotating the rear wheel. Check the sprocket for wear and make sure the apexes of the teeth are not rounded.
  2. The chain should be cleaned before applying lubrication. Don’t use petroleum-based cleaners, detergents, or hard wire brushes as these can damage your chain and its seals. Use a soft bristle brush or tooth brush to remove dirt or grime from the chain. After brushing off the chain, rinse it off with water. Don’t use I pressure water as this can damage the X or O-rings in the chain.
  3. After cleaning its time for lubricating the chain. To do this, put your bike on its center stand. If you don’t have a center stand move your bike around the garage while cleaning and lubricating so that you can access the entire chain. Spray the chain with a thin but consistent layer of lubricant. Make sure you spray all four sides of your chain. Spray for multiple revolutions of the chain.
  4. Lastly is important to wait for the lubricant to penetrate the chain link before riding. Check the lubricant that you are using for how long you should let the bike sit. Better yet, perform your chain maintenance after riding so that it can sit over night. After that you are ready to ride again.


Motorcycle chain maintenance is easy and necessary. Its important to clean and lube your chain regularly, inspect sprockets for wear, and check chain tension. Performing these simple maintenance steps can prolong chain life, keep your motorcycle running efficiently, and reduce any safety risks of sudden chain break.