Motorcycle Chain Maintenance

It is the motorcycle chain that literally keeps the wheels turning. Regular motorcycle chain maintenance including adjustment and lubrication is critical to ensure that your chain lives a long and effective live, as well as being a measure to reduce the chance of any chain slips.

In this article there are a few key tasks that we are going to be looking at which can be completed by you, even if you are brand new to motorcycle riding.

When your chain is properly adjusted to the correct tension you are ensuring that it has the highest possibility of consistent power delivery, as well as reducing any unnecessary wear on the front and rear sprockets.

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motorcycle chain maintenance -

How to adjust a motorcycle chain

The vast majority of road motorcycles have one or two bolt located on the swing-arm that can be turned in order to increase the space between the front and rear sprockets. When the gap is increased the result is that the tension on the motorcycle chain is increased. When you are performing your regular chain maintenance checks it is important that this tension allows for around 20-30mm of play in the chain. Ensure that the bike is standing upright when you check this tension, all you will need to do is attempt to move the slack section of the chain up and down by hand.

The motorcycle chain needs some play in the tension in order for the swing-arm to effectively move under normal riding conditions, if the tension is too high then this is not possible and there is the possibility of the chain snapping, which is not fun at all, especially if you are several hundred miles from the nearest town!

If the motorcycle chain has too much play then there is the possibility of the chain slipping on the sprocket. This will cause excessive wear to the sprockets as well as the possibility of the chain coming off the sprocket completely, in which case there will be no power at all to the rear wheel.

motorcycle chain maintenance - chain lube -
chain lube in a can


How to lubricate a motorcycle chain

There are many different chain lubricants available on the market. The ones that I use are in an aerosol can for easy application. This is best completed when the chain is warm from a ride, even a couple of laps of the block will do the trick to get the chain temperature where we need it.

If your bike has a center stand:

  1. Place the bike on the center stand
  2. Turn the rear wheel by hand
  3. Spray the chain the whole way around


If your motorcycle does not have a center stand (method 1):

  1. Walk the bike along
  2. Spray a small section of the chain
  3. Walk another foot and spray
  4. Repeat until complete

Note: Having a friend spray while you walk the bike is the easiest option


If your motorcycle does not have a center stand (method 2):

  1. Place the side stand down and use it is a pivot so that the rear wheel is in the air
  2. Turn the rear wheel and have a friend spray
  3. Note: This method can be risky depending on the motorcycle that you have


For safety reasons we recommend that chain lubrication is completed by hand with the motorcycle switched off.

motorcycle chain maintenance - chain lube application -

How often should I lubricate my chain?

Regular motorcycle chain maintenance is a simple and effective method of improving the life of your motorcycle chain, we suggest whichever of the following comes first:

  • Once a fortnight
  • Every 500 miles
  • After any ride in wet weather (as wet weather removes chain lubricant)



You should now know the key tasks that need to be completed to perform regular motorcycle chain maintenance. Leave your questions and comments in the section below!


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