Motul Chain shaft belt
Chains require frequent maintenance

How to lengthen motorcycle chain life

Your motorcycle chain is a vital ingredient in making your bike smooth, quiet and efficient, so to prolong its life, it’s important to perform regular checks and maintenance.

French motorcycle lubricant company Motul, distributed in Australia by Link International, sent us a check list and technical details for lubricating your chain.

We’ve integrated their comments with our own experiences to provide you with a thorough guide to maintaining your motorcycle chain which will ensure a longer life.


Motul Chain
Check tension

You should check your chain every 500-1000km for correct tension, adequate lubrication, and signs of wear such as blunt sprockets and scoured links.


You may want to check your chain more frequently if you’ve been doing stunts (clutch wheelies will put a lot of strain on a chain!), riding on dirt roads, doing track days, or riding in the rain.

In fact, you should regrease your chain after every extended journey in the rain which tends to wash a lot of the lubrication off the chain.


Motul Chain
Clean chain with degreaser

Before greasing the chain, you should remove any heavy grime. Over time, oil, dust and worn materials form pasty clumps which are abrasive and shorten the life of the chain.

We’ve used all sorts of spray-on degreasers to clean chains. Obviously Motul recommends their Chain Clean.

You’ll need to get the back wheel off the ground, either by the centre stand, paddock stand or some other arrangement.

Place a piece of cardboard or old rags on the floor under the chain or you may get grease all over your garage floor.

To apply the degreaser, turn the rear wheel by hand. Don’t turn on the engine and put it in gear as it will spin too fast and you could get your hand caught. It could also fall off the stand and end up on Funniest Home Videos!

Spray the links on all sides with the degreasing solution until completely covered and leave it to soak in for a couple of minutes.

Clean the chain with a soft brush to get into all the links. Don’t use a metal brush as they can scour and damage the chain. Rub the chain dry with a soft cloth that won’t leave behind any fluff. You may have to repeat the process if there is stubborn grime.

Motul Chain
Wipe chain dry


What product you use to regrease your chain may depend on what sort of riding you do. Motorcycle chain lubricants can consist of wax, lanolin, synthetic oils or mineral oils which have various advantages and disadvantages.

People who travel big distances prefer to avoid the hassle of constant maintenance by using an automatic chain oiler such as the Cameleon.

Motul recommends its Chain Lube Road for road-use motorcycles.chain lube

If you have a bike with chrome spoked wheels, you may prefer a wax or a paste such as Motul Chain Paste which doesn’t fling off and spoil your wheels. It comes with a brush integrated into the tube.

Apply paste to the inside
Apply paste to the inside

Whatever lube you use, make sure it is designed for a motorcycle chain.

When you apply lube, you should spray it on to the inside of the chain as it comes out from the sprocket. This will avoid getting lubricant on your wheel or tyre which can be dangerous and damage chrome and paint surfaces.

For safety, don’t switch on the engine and put the bike in gear to apply the lube. Turn the wheel by hand, making sure to keep a constant speed so you apply the lubricant evenly.

You only need a thin layer of lube. It will gradually seep into the rest of the chain. If it’s dripping, you’ve applied too much!

Do not ride off immediately after lubricating the chain as the grease will simply fling off.

Allow about 10-15 minutes for the solvents to air and achieve maximum adhesion.

The best time to lubricate a chain is when it is warm such as after you’ve been out for a ride as the lube or paste will soak in better.

It doesn’t need to be a long ride. Five minutes riding around your neighbourhood will get the chain warm enough.

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  1. It’s virtually impossible to go through the process of cleaning and lubricating a chain without then having to clean the rear rim and tire. There’s nothing more guaranteed to get the heart rate going than a tyre with some chain lube attached.
    To protect the wheel and tyre I use a piece of coreflute that slides between the rear sprocket and the wheel. It has a slot cut to allow it to slide over the hub and the outer edge is shaped to shield all the tyre from any splash or spray. The bottom is cut flat so that it sits just off the floor and doesn’t rotate with the wheel. I catch the cleaner in a tray so it doesn’t splash off the floor.
    It only takes a few seconds to slide it on and off and saves me having to clean when I’d rather be riding.
    I use kero with a chain cleaning brush and spray wax.

  2. put a chain tensioner on your bike i put one on my harley
    i bought one to fit straight off the net. helps stop lash and
    cuts down the number of chain adjustments, Fit a scottoiler or similar
    for constant oiling a few bucks to set up, but you will be rewarded in chain
    and sprocket life and a lot of fiddly adjustments and maintenance

  3. I’ve been using the Kettenmax chain kit now for the last 3 years.
    I use kerosene once a month to clean all the gunk and a synthetic diff oil as a lubricant. The chain gets oiled every fortnight, or weekly in the winter.
    My 2012 Honda NC700SA has 65k on the clock now and is serviced every 6k at the local dealership. Still has the original chain and sprockets on the third set of Pirelli Angel GT’s and averages 3.2ltrs / 100kms. I haven’t yet drained the 500ml bottle of Penrite diff oil bought in 2012.
    Never have to worry about fling off as the Kettenmax kit ensures the chain is lubricated evenly. Best $75 investment ever.

  4. A couple of other things worth noting about the cleaning process.

    If you’re doing it right you’re spending a bit of time close to the back end of the bike.

    While you’re there:

    * Check your tyre wear and give the tyre a bit of a once over inspection for damage as you turn it.
    * Check air pressures and tyre valve condition(not hard, but at least look at it)
    * Check out other nearby items such as pannier mounts, chain guard and other bolt-on bits for damage, cleanliness and proper fitting.
    * Take a look at sprocket wear – maybe you need to replace the chain and sprockets rather than cleaning?

    As for “soft brush” and degreaser…..I tend to be a bit agricultural, but kero works fine and doesn’t affect the rubber O-rings, cheap toothbrushes can be found in your local $2 shop……..


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