It’s no secret that the chains on your motorcycle are subject to extreme conditions. Learn how to keep your chains clean here.

Chain Drives are the most common final drive systems on motorcycles. From little pocket bikes to high horsepower sports bikes, motorcycle chains deliver power from the transmission to the rear wheel.

Chains are subjected to extreme conditions and will require regular maintenance in order to provide reliability and reduce wear over their lifespan. Motorcycle chains come in two basic designs, plain/unsealed chains, and sealed chains consisting of O, X and Z ring chains.

Unsealed chains are common on vintage, smaller displacement or economy motorcycles. These chains consist of metal links riveted together to form the chain. These metal links will require regular lubricating to prevent the chain from excessive wear. Maintaining good lubrication on unsealed chains can become a difficult task, thus resulting in these types of chains wearing down sooner than sealed chains, ultimately resulting in frequent readjustment and replacement.

Sealed chains use small O-rings in between the outer plates and inner links which seal in factory grease between the pins and rollers. This grease reduces the potential wear on a chain and extends the life of the motorcycle chain. This lubrication is only present on the internal parts of the chain and will still need light oiling and cleaning on the exterior of the chain.

Cleaning and lubricating your motorcycle chain is a skill that every motorcycle owner should acquire and requires basic tools and products to complete. Let’s take a look at how to clean and lubricate your motorcycle chain.


Step one:

Identify the type of chain your motorcycle uses. Plain/unsealed chains have the outer plates seated directly against the inner links. Sealed chains will usually have a gap between the outer plates and inner links. In most cases, you will be able to see a thin rubber seal between the two plates. Unsealed chains can be cleaned more aggressively, whereas sealed chains may require more gentle care in order not to damage these seals.

Step two:

Use a paddock stand if your motorcycle does not come fitted with a centre stand to get the rear wheel off the ground. This makes it easy to rotate the wheel freely in order to work on the entire chain.

Step three:

Once your motorcycle has been secured on the stand, inspect your chain and sprockets for any wear. Check the tension on your chain and make any adjustments where necessary. Chain cleaner can be purchased online and at most bike shops, however, some paraffin in a spray bottle works just as well to loosen up dirt and grime from your chain.

Spray your chain with whichever chain cleaner you decide to use, and use a hard bristle brush to scrub the dirt off the chain. Muc-Off makes a fantastic chain brush made of nylon bristles and allows you to clean three sides in one motion. For around £11 you’ll save a massive amount of time and effort getting those chains clean.

Step four:

Once you have scrubbed your chain, use the chain cleaner to remove any remaining dirt and allow the chain to drip dry for a few minutes. Use a clean cloth and dry off the excess chain cleaner.

Final step:

With unsealed chains, you will need to ensure that the entire chain is well lubricated. Apply lube and go over the entire chain another time to ensure no spots are missed.

Spray lubrication into the internal links as well as on the outer plates. With sealed chains, most of the lubrication comes from the sealed grease inside the chain, so apply your chain lubrication sparingly on the outside to help prevent rust from building on the exterior of the chain.

Allow the chain lube to soak into the chain before riding, and make sure to clean off any excess lube or cleaner from the tyre and swingarm.




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