How to clean and maintain motorcycle chain

2 April 2022

Long story short – Cleaning the bike chain is an essential part of motorcycle maintenance and should be done between 500-600 km.

Importance of Motorcycle chain

Cleaning motorcycle chains is what owners take less care of, and needs at least lubrication every 500 km. Chain maintenance is so simple that it is a DIY thing with only a few tools needed. 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 either loose or 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 motorcycle chain

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 longer 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 placed 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

  1. Two wheeler chain cleaning brush
  2. Bike chain cleanser
  3. Motorcycle chain lube
  4. Micro fiber cloth

How to clean a two-wheeler 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 a motorcycle chain?

  1. Clean and lubricate chain every 500-600kms
  2. Check for chain slack by referring owner’s manual and adjust 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.

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 tooths 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

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 motorcycle chains the same?

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

Are all motorcycles chain driven?

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

Does motorcycle chain lube expire?

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

Can a motorcycle 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 better use a dedicated 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 side stand?

Never adjust the motorcycle chain on the side stand as there are chances for a motorcycle to fall and cause injuries to you and damage to the bike. Also, chain adjustment will be challenging in the side stand. Instead, use a center stand.

How to clean a 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 motorcycle 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.


In-depth, we have discussed the critical aspects of motorcycle chain maintenance 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 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 and lubricate chain every 500-600kms
  9. If replacing chain or chain sprocket, do both together and not as separately

If you have any other doubts or queries related to the same topic, email us at Also, there are several social media platforms of Bikeleague India to raise your suspicions.