One of the most basic, and yet most important forays of motorcycle maintenance is caring for your chain. It’s important to keep your chain in tip-top shape, and always inspect it for any signs of wear. After all, neglecting this could also cause wear on your sprockets which could give you even more trouble by damaging your engine. After all, caring for your chain only involves 5 simple steps and it could only take you about 15 to 20 minutes. That’s far less time spent than the actual hours you spend sitting on the saddle.
The very first step, just as to any form of motorcycle maintenance, is to make sure that your bike is properly mounted. If your bike is equipped with a center stand, or if you have a paddock stand, make use of it. It will make everything so much easier. However, if you don’t have one, there’s no need to rush online to order one. You can simply move the bike forward or backward to work on the chain in sections. If you’re feeling like a true wrench monkey, you may also opt to remove the chain, but this involves a more tedious process. Whatever happens, make sure you don’t leave the engine running while doing all of this.
Place something underneath the rear wheel like a piece of tarp, old newspapers, or cardboard as the whole area will surely be messy as you work on the chain.
After you’ve set up your bike and your working area, the next thing you need to do is to apply the proper chain cleaner to loosen up all the dirt and grime sticking to your chain. There are numerous products that are available in the market or even online. It’s recommended that you use a chain cleaner that’s formulated to dissolve grease and break up the grime surrounding your chain. In the absence thereof, people also use kerosene which is both a cheap and efficient alternative. Some even go as far as using gasoline in cleaning their chains but in doing so, avoid using this if your bike has a sealed chain. Sealed chains are more common with newer bikes but not with older ones. WD-40 could also work up to some extent for cleaning your chain but only use it as a quick-fix until you get a better chain cleaner spray product.
Don’t be cheap with spraying it over the chain. Apply it generously and use a piece of cardboard or plastic behind the chain to keep it from spraying all over the place. After you’ve covered the whole area with the cleaning product, you’re all set for the next step.
Now that you’ve loosened up the stubborn dirt and grime that’s been latching on to your chain, it’s time to give at a good old scrubbing. Use a brush with nylon bristles as brass or steel brushes have the tendency of damaging the seals. Dedicated chain “grunge” brushes can be purchased in shops or online that’s capable of cleaning both sides of the chain at the same time. If you don’t have one, a good old toothbrush would work just fine. You’ll just have to work a little longer.
Just as you sprayed the cleaning product all over the chain, the brush is used to physically take out the softened dirt and grime that was once latching to it. Again, be sure to go over all the sections of the chain leaving nothing behind. After scrubbing all the sections, spray the whole chain once again with a cleaning product to get rid of any remaining stubborn residue before finally rinsing it off with water. Avoid using pressurized washers as this may force water to get inside the chain’s O, or X rings. Last but not least wipe off the excess water from the chain with a dry cloth to dry it up faster before applying lubrication.
Now that you have completely cleaned up your chain of stubborn dirt and grime, it’s time to apply some proper lubrication to almost complete the whole process. Again, as a reminder, it is highly recommended that you use a motorcycle chain lube/grease that is formulated specifically for this purpose. Using other products such as WD-40 is sometimes used as an alternative, but by no means would it be as effective in properly lubricating your chain as it’s more of a water displacement solution rather than a lubricating agent. Lubricating the chain with a dedicated chain lubricant would protect the links from dirt, friction, and oxidation.
Spray the chain with a thin and even coating of the chain lube. Also, be sure to aim the nozzle at the inside of the chain. Rotate the wheel while doing this to make sure you’ve covered at least three full revolutions of the chain. Lubricating a chain is supposed to be done every 500 to 1000 kilometers of use.
For the last step, now that you’ve cleared your chain of dirt and grime, and since you already have your bike properly mounted (unless you don’t have a paddock stand), might as well give your chain a nice visual inspection. Rotate your rear wheel and try to look for any signs of wear such as cracks or unusual creaking. Check the tension of your chain if it needs adjustment as well as the seals if its integrity is still intact. Once you’re satisfied with inspecting it, give yourself a pat in the back as you have just completed one of the most basic but also most important forms of motorcycle maintenance. You’re now officially a beginner grease monkey.