With the rainy season now in full swing, it can be particularly challenging for motorcyclists, especially those who rely on their motorcycles to transport them from point A to B on a daily basis. While it may not seem like it, not cleaning your motorcycle after a heavy downpour can have quite a few detrimental effects to your steed's service life. Unfortunately, the old saying of "nothing comes free" applies even to those looking to get a free bike wash out of a heavt downpour.
While not cleaning your bike after it's been rained on and ridden on wet, grime-covered streets can damage its paint, finish, bearings, and even electrical components in the long run, it takes a particularly heavy toll on your bike's drivetrain. This rings especially true for those who own and ride motorcycles with a chain-drive system–the most common drivetrain type next to the CVT found on scooters. That being said, cleaning your bike's chain and sprockets after a rainy ride is extremely easy, and is definitely worth the few minutes it takes in doing so. Here are some quick and easy steps to cleaning your bike's chain and sprocket set after a rainy ride.
Degreaser is your best friend
The first step in cleaining your motorcycle's drivetrain after a rainy ride is, of course, to remove as much dirt and grime as you can. Now this takes quite a bit of elbow grease, and is by far the most time-consuming part of the job. So the first thing you're going to want to do is to lift your bike up on a paddock stand, if you have one; or the center-stand, if your bike is equipped with one. If you don't have either of these, that's alright, but your job just got a bit harder. This means you're going to need to roll the bike back and forth in order to make sure you thoroughly clean the entire chain.
Start off by hosing down your chain and sprockets with moderate pressure. We advise against using a power washer for this, as it could potentially do some damage to the more sensitive electronic components of your bike, some of which in close proximity to your drivetrain (i.e., voltage regulator, ECU, and other sensors). Once you're done hosing it down, grab a chain brush (an old toothbrush will suffice, if you don't have a chain brush), and generously apply a mild engine degreaser to the chain and sprockets. Make sure you brush it down thoroughly and get all remaining gunk and road grime off you drivetrain.
Dry it up
Skipping this step is a mistake all too commonly seen, especially among beginners. Applying chain lube on a soaking wet chain is probably as effective as asking your significant other to buy you a motorcycle right in the thick of an argument—it won't provide you with any benefits, and it even has the potential to make things worse. That said, it pays to exercise just a little bit of patience on this one. Once youve applied the degreaser and hosed down your chain thoroughly, you should now have a clean, albeit soaking wet chain and sprocket.
The next step would be to dry it off as best as you can. Now, it's always a good idea to have a dedicated rag for drying your chain—ideally one that's highly absorbent like a terry cloth or microfiber towel. Make sure to wipe the entire chain, as well as the front and rear sprockets in order to ensure that the chain lube is able to stick really well onto all the moving parts. We advise against using a heat gun to accelerate the drying process of your drivetrain, as the intense heat may cause the o-rings in your chain to deform and perform poorly resulting in stuck links. The heat may also damage parts in close proximity such as your rubber chain guide and even your tires. Do note that most motorcycles will require you to remove the front sprocket cover for this, so be sure to check your owner's manual if for some reason you're struggling to get your front sprocket cover off.
Lube your chain
Now, assuming you've been able to follow the previous steps, you're now really close to the finish line, and almost ready to go out and hit the open road. Assuming your chain is completely dry by now, you can now proceed to lubricate it. We recommend using motorcycle-specific chain lubricants such as the product pictured above. However, using motor oil, transmission oil, and even your off-the-shelf lubricating oil should do you no harm. Apply a liberal amount of lube onto the chain, making sure that each and every link gets a dab of lube. Inspect to make sure that the lubricant has made its way into the rollers and onto the teeth of your sprockets.
Once you've lubed up your chain and sprockets, grab a separate rag from the one you used to dry it a while ago, and wipe off the excess oil or lubricant. It's particularly important to use a different rag as the rag you used to dry off your chain is likely soaked in water, and won't really do a good job of wiping off the excess lube on your chain. Additionally, wiping off the excess lube will prevent it from flinging all over your bike's wheel, or worse, onto your rear brake. Now that you've cleaned and lubed your chain, you can hit the road knowing full well you're keeping your bike's drivetrain in good shape.