Do you know your OXZs? These essential motorcycle chain maintenance tips will save you thousands

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A chain tensioner on a motorcycle. Most motorcycles produce […]


A chain tensioner on a motorcycle.

Most motorcycles produce massive amounts of power nowadays, and in chain-driven bikes, all of this power is transferred from the engine to the rear wheel through the chain and sprockets.

This puts extreme pressure and load on the chain, and it stands to reason that despite the immense strength of modern motorcycle chains, they need a bit of attention.

Check your chain, every time 

We asked Taki Bogiages, a well-known off-road racer and technical manager at Motul South Africa, to give us the low-down on chain maintenance.

Bogiages says that your bike’s chain and sprockets should be inspected before every ride. Firstly, to check that the chain tension is correct (see your owner’s manual for adjustment procedure and recommended tension), and secondly, to ensure that there is no severe wear or visible damage to any of the components.

Cleaning the chain on a motorcycle.

Cleaning the chain on a motorcycle.

Also, check that there aren’t any tight joints between the chain links and that the sprocket teeth don’t show signs of wear (a worn tooth has a sharkfin-like curve). Another thing to check for is rust or corrosion, which results from poor maintenance and can cause premature chain wear or failure.

If you don’t maintain your chain regularly, it can lead to unnecessary wear and may force you to replace these components prematurely. And with the high cost of replacing your chain and sprockets, it’s easy to see how much money regular maintenance can save you.

Know what chain type is fitted to your bike 

Make sure you know what chain type is fitted to your bike (O-ring, X-ring or Z-ring). Some chains are sealed with a lubricant inside the links, which makes it essential to ensure the chain care products you are using are compatible with the chain type and won’t corrode seals, which can shorten chain life dramatically.

Chain paste is an alternative to aerosol lubricant

Chain paste is an alternative to aerosol lubricant.

Also, ensure the chain care products won’t affect any material around the chain; Bogiages advises, for example, painted surfaces or aluminium wheels. During the chain lubrication and cleaning process, the residual product may splatter onto various bike components, which may be expensive to repair.

But just lubricating your chain isn’t enough – cleaning it is an essential part of maintenance. Suppose you do a lot of off-road or soft-road riding. In that case, Bogiages recommends cleaning your chain after every ride –dust and sand that collects on the chain surfaces can become a grinding paste when it mixes with chain lubricant, which can severely shorten the life of your chain.

A good practice 

A good practice, Bogiages says, is cleaning and lubricating the chain after each ride, and not necessarily right before the ride. This allows the chain lube to act over a more extended period while also protecting the chain during storage, allowing the lube to penetrate the chain links as well.

Lubricating a bike’s chain is relatively easy. If fitted with one, place your bike on its centre stand, or if not, invest in a paddock or workshop stand to ensure the back wheel can spin freely and safely. The alternative, if you don’t have access to any of these, is to have someone push the bike forward while you spray lubricant onto the chain.

Apply a thin layer of lubricant to the inside of your chain while spinning the wheel in the forward direction or pushing the bike forward. This ensures you apply lube to the point under load between your chain and sprockets.

Choosing the right products

Choose a specialised lubricant product for your specific application – these products are designed with a particular use in mind: riding predominantly at higher or lower speeds, on dirt roads, tar roads or on a racetrack – these are all factors that should inform your choice. Bogiages says that Motul has various chain lubes for specific applications:

  • Motul C2 Chain Lube Road for road bikes – it’s colourless and designed to adhere to chains at higher speeds experienced on the road.
  • Motul C3 Chain Lube Off road for off-road bikes – specifically designed for motocross, cross country, enduro or any other dirt application. Designed to minimise the “caking” of dust and dirt onto your chain while maximising lubrication and water resistance in various conditions.
  • Motul C4 Chain Lube Factory line for race bikes – this is developed explicitly for high-power race bikes and contains solid anti-wear and extreme pressure additives.
  • Motul C5 Chain Paste – this is a road-based chain paste in a tube with a brush tip applicator for ease of application and a means to minimise waste while lubricating the chain. It is small and very convenient to carry with you on longer rides.

So don’t skimp on chain maintenance – regular attention and maintenance will not just ensure that your chain will last as long as it is designed to; it will also save you the cost of having to replace your chain and sprockets more often and reduce the risk of unexpected (and likely costly) chain failure.

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