Step-by-Step: How to clean & maintain motorcycle chain

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17 November 2023

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Long story short – A clean motorcycle chain is an essential part of motorcycle maintenance and should be done between 500-600 km. Along with that, maintain the motorcycle chain in the same intervals also.

Importance of Motorcycle chain

Cleaning motorcycle chains is what owners take less care of, and needs at least lubrication every 500 km. Maintain motorcycle chain is so simple that it is a DIY thing with only a few tools required. The basic principle behind the power transfer of a two-wheeler is the transmission of power from the engine to the rear wheel via a chain with the help of a sprocket. This applies to all motorcycles; some models might have different chains.

Suppose a chain play is loose, too tight, or dirty. In that case, it affects the smooth transfer of power and performance. The chain is the primary device that transfers power from the engine to the rear wheel. If the motorcycle chain is poorly maintained, the bike’s performance can take a toll. You can now realize the importance of two-wheeler chain maintenance in a motorcycle.

Types of two-wheeler chain

We must observe the three types of drive chains to understand their differences.

  1. Roller chain: There is no extra ring between the outer and inner roller link plates. The standard non-O-Ring chains are the drive chains in older motorcycles and some of our latest small-capacity motorbikes. The standard roller chains are also non-self-lubricating and need to be lubricated regularly.
  2. O-ring chain: An extra ring in the shape of an o is between the outer and inner roller link plate. These O-rings are between chain plates to seal the already vacuum-filled grease between the rollers and the other internal components of the chain. This mechanism of O-Ring type chains makes them self-lubricated. Hence, they require less maintenance and have a longer life and better performance in the long run.
  3. X-ring chain: An extra ring in the shape of an x is present between the outer roller link plate and the inner roller link plate. The X-ring type chains are more modern chains with X-shaped rubber rings between the chain plates to seal the grease-filled inside the chain components. These types of rings come in contact with lesser surface area upon pressing. Hence, less drag coefficient is generated with the same efficient sealing property as O-Ring chains provide.

Tools needed for cleaning the chain

Tools needed for cleaning the motorcycle chain
Tools needed for cleaning the motorcycle chain
  1. Two wheeler chain cleaning brush
  2. Bike chain cleanser
  3. Motorcycle chain lube
  4. Micro fiber cloth

How to clean motorcycle chain?

  1. First things first – Do not start the engine at any time while cleaning the chain, and never put the finger anywhere near the chain.
  2. Keep the motorcycle on a center stand and make sure it is stable. If no center stand is available, use a paddock stand. Keep the vehicle off the side stand.
  3. Overall, clean the motorcycle with water and ensure the surrounding area is clean.
  4. Now use a chain cleanser and allow it to soak in for 10 minutes. Please note that while using a chain cleaner, rotate the chain continuously.
  5. Use a chain cleaning brush and repeatedly clean until the chain is silver. Next, use a microfibre cloth to remove the remaining dirt from the chain.
  6. Start rotating the rear wheel, take the chain lubricant, keep the nozzle close to the chain, and start spraying. Make sure each chain link is lubed.
  7. Do not overuse the lubricant or wash the motorcycle after lubrication.

Source: Royal Enfield Youtube

How to maintain motorcycle chain?

  1. Clean and lubricate chain every 500-600kms
  2. Check for chain slack by referring to the owner’s manual and adjusting as per instructions given in the manual.
  3. The chain should be tight enough, as this will result in improper power transmission from the engine.
  4. Use grease instead of chain lube spray for long rides, as the grease stays longer.
Table summarizing the different types of motorcycle chains
Table summarizing the different types of motorcycle chains

When should we replace the motorcycle chain and chain sprocket?

First, tension the chain properly according to your owner’s manual. Pinch the chain with your thumb and forefinger at about 2–3 o’clock on the rear drive sprocket of the rear wheel. Pull the chain in the rearward direction. If the chain pulls off the chain sprocket significantly and quickly, it’s time to change the chain and sprockets. Regarding the chain sprocket, if the teeth are not parallel and pointed, it will cause damage and wear to the chain, so replace the chain sprocket immediately. One thing to note is to replace the chain and chain sprocket together, not as separate.

Benefits of cleaning and maintaining motorcycle chain

  1. Longer chain life
  2. Improve gear shift performance
  3. Prevents corrosion and reduces friction
  4. Improves mileage

FAQ about motorcycle chain

Types of motorcycle chain
Types of motorcycle chains

Are motorcycle chain guards necessary?

Motorcycle chain guards extend the cleaning period of a chain. If the chain is naked, the cleaning interval is much less and needs more frequent maintenance. When the bike chain guard is there, it protects from debris, sand, and dirt and increases the cleaning interval.

Are all bike chains the same?

No, there are several motorcycle chains according to ring type: X-ring chain, O-ring chain, and roller chain.

Are all bike chain driven?

No, there are also belts used instead of chains by some motorcycle companies like Harley Davidson.

Does motorcycle chain lube expire?

Typically, most motorcycle chain lube can last up to 500 km in normal conditions. When conditions are extreme, 200-250 km chain lubing is recommended.

Can a two-wheeler chain be loose or tight?

No, motorcycle chains cannot be loose or tight, and the chain slack should be as mentioned in the service manual.

Can I clean the motorcycle chain with wd 40?

Yes. But it is recommended to use chain cleaner first and chain lube afterward. There are dedicated products for chain cleaning, and WD 40 is an all-purpose product. So, it is better to use a reliable chain cleaner.

Can you clean the motorcycle chain with kerosene?

Kerosene can be used to remove hard grease stains. But we recommend using a professional chain cleaner instead of kerosene.

Can I adjust the motorcycle chain on the sidestand?

Changing a motorcycle chain when the bike is on the side stand is generally not recommended. This is because the bike’s weight is not evenly distributed on the side stand, which can affect the accuracy of the chain slack measurement.

Additionally, adjusting the chain on the side stand can stress the chain and sprockets more, leading to premature wear and tear. Changing the motorcycle chain while on a center stand or lift is best. This will ensure that the chain is evenly tensioned and that the measurement is accurate.

How to clean motorcycle chain without a stand?

Use a paddock stand in case the motorcycle does not have a center stand. Never clean the bike chain on a side stand.

How to lube a bike chain without a stand?

Use a paddock stand in case the motorcycle does not have a center stand. Never lube the bike chain on a side stand.

Where to apply two-wheeler chain lube?

Motorcycle chain lube should be applied to all four sides of the chain and the sprockets. The best way to do this is to hold a piece of cardboard behind the chain as you rotate the wheel, spraying lubricant onto the chain as it moves.

Will a new bike chain stretch?

Yes, a new motorcycle chain will stretch slightly over time. This is due to the wear and tear of the pins and rollers that make up the chain. The amount of stretch will vary depending on the type of chain, the riding conditions, and the chain maintenance. However, replacing the chain after stretching it by about 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch is generally recommended.

Can a bike chain be too tight?

If the chain slack is too tight, it can wear out prematurely and cause other problems with the drivetrain.

Can a bike chain be too loose?

The chain slack can jump off the sprockets if it is too loose.

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In-depth, we have discussed the critical aspects of how to clean motorcycle chain and also maintain motorcycle chain in this article. So let’s summarise the essential points in this article in a nutshell, and they are

  1. There are three types of bike chain – X ring, O ring, and roller chain
  2. Keep the motorcycle in the center stand while doing cleaning and maintenance work on the bike chain
  3. Donot overuse the lubricant
  4. Use chain cleaner spray and clean before applying chain lubricant.
  5. Check for chain slack in regular intervals by referring to the owner manual
  6. The chain should be tight enough, as this will result in improper power transmission from the engine.
  7. Use grease instead of chain lube spray for long rides, as the grease stays longer.
  8. Clean, lubricate, and maintain motorcycle chain every 500-600kms
  9. If replacing chain or chain sprocket, do both together and not separately

If you have any other doubts or queries about the same, email us at We are always eager to help and assist you. Also, here are several social media platforms of Bikeleague India to raise your suspicions.

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