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Chain Maintenance

pvanryn

New Member
Oct 29, 2016
16
2
1
Colorado
#1
It has been about 30 years since I owned a motorcycle with a chain drive, and I am wondering what you all do as far as daily maintenance. The manual doesn't say much about it.

I lubricate the chain if it looks "dry", or if I have been out in the dirt with it, but how often do you perform a thorough cleaning with kerosene or other cleaner? Do I need to lubricate the chain every time I ride in wet weather?
 

Graves

Moderator
Staff member
Aug 14, 2016
929
295
123
So. Cal.
#2
First and foremost find the correct chain adjustment measurement. The factory spec is way too tight, at least on my bike, and I find that 2.125” is the ideal spec. To find the correct measurement on your bike lift the rear tire off the ground and remove the lower shock and swing arm linkage bolts, this will allow you to lift the rear wheel/swing arm to the point that the rear sprocket is at the greatest distance from the counter sprocket. This distance can be identified by checking the chain tension as you lift the rear wheel through the stroke of the suspension. Once you find where the chain is the tightest, support the wheel at that height and adjust the chain to 0.750” slack. I will usually make sure that the rear wheel is aligned with the front before doing all of this so that once I set the chain tension, I’m done. Then reinstall the linkage and shock bolts, let the suspension hang and re-measure the chain slack, this is what the chain slack spec should be. It is important to note that if the counter sprocket has a rubber chain cushion, which my manual trans AT does have, that this measurement should be done only after a number of miles have been put on the bike to ensure that the cushion is broken down enough to not interfere with the measurement process. Chains ban be killed real quickly when adjusted to tight, if set properly then the chains should last just about forever.


As for lube and maintenance: I lube my chains every 100 miles with Maxima Chain Wax. This stuff doesn’t fling off and stays fairly clean, more so if used a lot off road. Street use tends to build up and need more cleaning, I guess that dirt gets on the chain and sprockets and scrubs the lube off. For cleaning I use WD-40 and a tooth brush, it makes a hell of a mess but rinses clean with soap and water. After cleaning and washing, I immediately ride the bike a few miles to fling the water off, blow with compressed are, and re-lube.


This definitely adds to the maintenance routines, but once accustomed to doing it, it becomes rather easy and less time consuming. Kind of like cable and control pivot lubing.

It has been about 30 years since I owned a motorcycle with a chain drive, and I am wondering what you all do as far as daily maintenance. The manual doesn't say much about it.

I lubricate the chain if it looks "dry", or if I have been out in the dirt with it, but how often do you perform a thorough cleaning with kerosene or other cleaner? Do I need to lubricate the chain every time I ride in wet weather?
 

pvanryn

New Member
Oct 29, 2016
16
2
1
Colorado
#3
So is it fair to say that you stick with your routine irrespective of the type of riding you are doing? If you are out riding in the dirt do you just wash the wheels and chain off with soap and water right after and then re-lube?

I'm a little unclear on how often I need to do the full WD-40 and brush cleaning as opposed to a simple clean and lubrication.
 

Graves

Moderator
Staff member
Aug 14, 2016
929
295
123
So. Cal.
#4
I clean only when the chain gets too dirty, it tends to stay cleaner with more off road riding because the dirt mixes with the lube scrubbing the surfaces before falling off, on road this doesn’t happen and the lube tends to build up. On my dirt bikes I generally only clean a couple times a year. The cleaning, in my opinion, isn’t the most important part of it, proper adjustment is the most important, followed by lube and finally cleaning.

BTW, I’m one that actually washes my bike with soap and water regularly. I don’t just wash the wheels I wash the whole thing after every dirt ride, which is the goal of every ride, except for commuting to work.

So is it fair to say that you stick with your routine irrespective of the type of riding you are doing? If you are out riding in the dirt do you just wash the wheels and chain off with soap and water right after and then re-lube?

I'm a little unclear on how often I need to do the full WD-40 and brush cleaning as opposed to a simple clean and lubrication.
 

Rulle

Well-Known Member
Sep 10, 2016
6
2
63
Thailand
#5
Theres a lot of ways to take care of your chain, it depends of who you ask.

My way: first I always clean it with WD 40, dry it clean and lubricate chain with some wellknown chainspray, I use Putoline. After lubricating it I use a chainwax to protect the chain from corrosion. Thats the main purpose of chainwax. From my opinion chainwax doesnt lubricate the chain, it only protects it.

This is my way, right or wrong I dont know but my chains and sprocktes lasts for more then 30000 km.
 

jimbo

Active Member
Mar 2, 2016
122
21
28
stanthorpe qld
#6
i love my scottoiler! best thing ever
id replace a broken one of them before id replace a broken mirror!
13000k and only 2 rear wheel adjustments, one of them was done before I fitted the scottoiler at about 2000k
every thing still nice and tight sprockets good
plenty offroad too
good investment
 

jimbo

Active Member
Mar 2, 2016
122
21
28
stanthorpe qld
#8
yes and I figure a clean back sprocket works better too so a quick swipe with the finger every now and then
they are so simple and so effective
my missus is Scottish and her practicality and simplistic approach to life amazes me sometimes
yes and I even tell her
 

jimbo

Active Member
Mar 2, 2016
122
21
28
stanthorpe qld
#9
the scottoiler does surprise me sometimes how much lube I have gone through but if I see it flicking around which isn't very often I turn it down a bit
only to turn it up again later though
I then realise that's what it takes to keep your final drive healthy
 

Bolzen

New Member
Sep 5, 2017
9
1
3
Earth
#11
Thorough clean & wash not recommended. WD 40 can wash out grease from areas difficult to reach for heavier lubricants, i.e. they might stay dry enough to cause damage after lubrication. Automatic oilers are best as they clean and lubricate simultaneously, but they can be messy.. Very much so.
 

Graves

Moderator
Staff member
Aug 14, 2016
929
295
123
So. Cal.
#12
Like so many things... everybody has their own opinion. One thing I do know is that a high quality chain is tough to kill, no matter what you do to it. I have had real good luck with the high end DID chains and steel sprockets, I used this setup on my XR650R, adjusted it once and never touched it again.

Thorough clean & wash not recommended. WD 40 can wash out grease from areas difficult to reach for heavier lubricants, i.e. they might stay dry enough to cause damage after lubrication. Automatic oilers are best as they clean and lubricate simultaneously, but they can be messy.. Very much so.
 

Bolzen

New Member
Sep 5, 2017
9
1
3
Earth
#13
Like so many things... everybody has their own opinion.
That's why everyone has a name, isn't it. :) However there's a little physics there also. WD40 is a better penetrant than much heavier oils used for lubrication. So it takes a bit more time to reach everything WD had previously worked on.

Agreed that quality chain are better, but they could be hard to find sometimes, and they still benefit from good oiling and encapsulating in particular.
 

Graves

Moderator
Staff member
Aug 14, 2016
929
295
123
So. Cal.
#14
Good parts aren't as hard to find these days with Amazon, you just can't cheap out on important items like drive chains and sprockets.

That's why everyone has a name, isn't it. :) However there's a little physics there also. WD40 is a better penetrant than much heavier oils used for lubrication. So it takes a bit more time to reach everything WD had previously worked on.

Agreed that quality chain are better, but they could be hard to find sometimes, and they still benefit from good oiling and encapsulating in particular.
 

Posiden

Well-Known Member
May 25, 2015
240
76
118
48
The English Lake District
#15
I thought WD40 was petrol based and could damage the O rings in the chain.
I’ve been using S doc chain cleaner which is very good, and then a chain wax, as I’ve never had an oil not go onto the back wheel.
Personally I think correct tensioning is even more important than lubrication, you don’t want the chain dry and rusty or dripping oil but you don’t want it too tight that it strains the gearbox shaft especially when loaded up with gear & a pillion.
 

Graves

Moderator
Staff member
Aug 14, 2016
929
295
123
So. Cal.
#16
Ding din ding ding... we have a winner! A chain that’s too tight is a chain not long for this world.

As for WD40, I believe its lubricant is fish based, or was at one time. Formulated by Rocket Chemical Company in San Diego, it was their 40th attempt to get their water displacing solvent how they wanted it, hence the name WD40. It’s more a solvent than a lube, fairly mild stuff, shouldn’t hurt synthetic o-rings, never hurt my chains.

I thought WD40 was petrol based and could damage the O rings in the chain.
I’ve been using S doc chain cleaner which is very good, and then a chain wax, as I’ve never had an oil not go onto the back wheel.
Personally I think correct tensioning is even more important than lubrication, you don’t want the chain dry and rusty or dripping oil but you don’t want it too tight that it strains the gearbox shaft especially when loaded up with gear & a pillion.
 

Bolzen

New Member
Sep 5, 2017
9
1
3
Earth
#17
Yup, the main part of this solution is low aromatic white spirits -- a pretty mild solvent which should not by any means harm the O-rings. It has similar properties to kerosene. However it does wash out heavy lubricants leaving only thin film of paraffinic lube and a wee bit of corrosion inhibitor. All of that will be gone after first chain runs, so it's not recommended for cleaning.
 

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