The whole of a motorcycle engine’s output is to rotate the chain and, of course, the rear wheel. That’s a lot of power and stress against a relatively small surface area of moving metals.
Under such pressure, the chain should always be kept in its best condition.
When you consider the components of a chain, it’s easy to see how dirt, grime or rust can interfere with links and o-rings.
Excessive build-up can lower performance and effectiveness.
Get Your Hands Dirty?
Call me mad but I actually like cleaning a motorcycle chain (kind of!) It’s just that I prefer to see what’s going on down there.
Therefore, I’d grab a small can of Kerosene and give the chain a good clean with this cleverly designed brush.
Let’s have a look at our top five options
Scottoiler E System – Digital Display
The Scottoiler eSystem works by delivering tiny drops of oil to the chain at pre-set intervals while the bike is in operation.
Installation is not a quick add-on, nor is it full-blown mechanical work. The entire unit can be installed and ready to go in less than an hour.
The digital display can be mounted near the handlebars, similarly to GPS devices.
A cable runs to the small oil reservoir, activated by a simple connection to the bike’s battery.
Information shown includes oil levels, temperature and, of course, the all-important rate of flow that the rider can set.
- Can increase the life of your chain and sprockets by up to 7 times
- Multi-functional digital display included
- Fully maintains the chain and sprockets
- An effective but very expensive lubrication method
Wurth Brake & Chain Cleaner – 500ml
Wurth Brake and Chain Cleaner is a dual-purpose cleaning spray for motorcycle brakes and chains. It washes away the dirt, grime and brake dust leaving no residue.
The cleaning spray contains no CFCs, hydrochloric acid or aromatics.
Usually, brake and chain cleaners are separate items, but the Wurth cleaner works on discs, drums, callipers and all the links and components of a motorcycle chain.
Riders often apply this product before using the Wurth Dry Chain Lube (see review 6)
- Easy to apply
- Low cost
- May not last too long if used generously
SDoc100 White Chain Spray 300 ml
SDoc100 White Chain Spray may be the answer to cleaning wastage.
It achieves this through its adhesive properties allowing it to remain on the chain’s surface longer than more runny alternatives.
The spray has lubrication additives allowing greater penetration to all the links and components.
The manufacturers claim a higher performance and longer chain life by up to double that of competing products.
- Longer application intervals, up to double
- Significantly extended chain life
- Excellent penetration properties
- A little more expensive than some products
Oxford Chain Brush
Cleaning the individual links of a motorcycle chain with a toothbrush is probably the more traditional method. However, it’s time-consuming and very tedious.
The Oxford Chain Brush has three sides and makes the job much easier.
The exposed side can be reached by rotating the head or using the other end to brush out the dirt. It is best used with a reliable chain cleaner or kerosene.
- Far-reaching action
- More effective than other methods
- Two-headed brush
- May not reach everywhere
Wurth – High-Performance Dry Chain Lube
Wurth High-Performance Dry Chain Lube is transparent and highly adhesive compared to other types.
Its protective properties reduce noise and extend chain life, and with chains costing around £120, that’s not a bad thing.
The application is rapid-drying, leaving the surface with a tough and protected lubricated film, causing no damage to O-rings.
The spray also shields against water, acids, steam and corrosion.
The wax-based chain lube can reach and attack deep into the chain by reducing run-off. It can be used with Wurth Brake and chain cleaner.
- Adhesive properties reduce wastage (spin-off)
- Low cost lubrication option
- Spray may not last long with heavy use
Scottoiler X System
The Scottoiler X System begins with a small oil reservoir. It is electronically activated and has an accelerometer that detects when the bike is moving.
An electronic pump delivers oil flow along the tubing to the delivery system mounted above the rear sprocket on your bike.
This feeds the oil onto the sprocket, and the flow rate can be adjusted to suit your setup.
Topping up oil is simple. Just remove a small top cover, add the oil via a thin tube until full and then you’re ready to go again.
Installation is simple using the included high-quality adhesive tape and brackets.
Read more about automatic chain oilers.
- Electrocically operated chain lubrication system
- Easy installation and fits most bikes
- Cheaper than digital display models
- Requires some installation work
- Levels must be monitored
Expected chain life
A well-maintained, properly adjusted, and lubricated motorcycle chain can last up to 30,000 miles.
A neglected chain frequently subjected to rain can become problematic after only 3,000 miles.
So how often should we clean and lubricate them?
- Every time you wash the bike
- Every 300 miles or so
- Always after a rain shower
Motorcycle chain care
Chain care is a multi-stage affair.
First clean, then lubricate.
#1 How to clean
Chains accumulate gunk and grime. Very light coatings of rust may also appear after exposure to water.
Firstly, spray the chain thoroughly with kerosene to dissolve the existing lubricant and flush out the dirt particles.
After leaving to soak in and take effect for a while, it’s time to brush out any stubborn particles or rust.
Stiff metal brushes may be too abrasive for some chains; however, a lighter brush or all-encasing ‘grunge’ brush should do the trick.
Once you’ve given the chain a good brush out, reapply some kerosene to flush it away. The dirt and muck attack the o-rings and shorten chain life.
You might also want to check around the sprockets, especially the front one which may be hidden by a protective cover. Here is where excessive grime may accumulate.
#2 How to lubricate
For the lubricant to be effective, you must dry off the chain after brushing and spraying kerosene.
Chain lubricant is best applied with a spray tin by directing the thin nozzle tube onto the base of the rear sprocket, where the liquid can drop onto the top of the chain and penetrate the parts.
Both the outside surfaces of the chain should be sprayed directly, even though the liquid is a little messier to apply here.
Riding a bike to warm up the chain and allow the lubricant to sink in is arguable. It may work but avoid riding too soon in case too much liquid runs away before taking effect.
Now you should have a dirt-free and well-lubricated motorcycle chain.
It has been claimed that fuel consumption and performance improve with a well-maintained chain.
No longer will you hear that dusty, grinding sound as you free-wheel or slow to a stop.
For a more visual and practical look at cleaning and lubricating a motorcycle chain, here are a couple of handy videos:
Never run the engine with the rear wheel jacked up on the centre stand and spinning.
This method of providing motion to clean a chain has cost many riders their fingers. It doesn’t save much time, and why take the chance?
We have seen that chain care and maintenance improve your motorcycle chain’s safety, operation and life. Scottoiler options reduce the use of sprays, brushes and cloths, often prolonging chain life several times.
They are expensive but very effective; the rider has to do their bit too by visual inspection, monitoring fluid levels and correct installation of the unit.
For those that prefer the more hands-on approach, I hope the selection of products above featuring cleaning sprays, brushes and lubricants will give you peace of mind.
Safe and happy riding to all.