With its metallic shine, the chain is one of the most recognisable elements of many motorbikes. But your motorcycle’s chain doesn’t just look cool, it also sets your bike in motion by sending power from the gear drive to the rear wheel. It’s this rear wheel that delivers the power to the road.
The drivetrain on your motorcycle is made up of a chain and sprockets, wheel-like devices with teeth around the outer edges that move the chain along and help it deliver its power. Wedged between your engine and the open road, your chain and sprockets can pick up a lot of different dirt and gunk, leading to inefficiency.
Motorcycle chain maintenance that includes regular cleaning makes for a whole host of benefits, including a smoother ride, higher overall performance and better fuel economy.
But regular motorcycle chain maintenance involves more than just cleaning. You also need to lubricate, inspect and adjust your chain and install a new chain on your motorbike when the time is right. This involves brushing up on a lot of knowledge so you know the answers to queries like how often you should lubricate, what kind of motorcycle chain cleaner you should use and how much slack your chain should have.
It’s not impossible, but it’s easier to turn to Taverner Motorsports and let us take care of your motorcycle chain maintenance as part of our regular servicing. A full motorcycle service at Taverner includes the cleaning and adjusting of your chain, plus a range of other services that help your bike last and keep it running at its best. With 40+ years’ worth of experience working with bikes behind us, the Taverner team knows how to care for chains and sprockets.
If you choose to take motorcycle chain maintenance into your own hands, here’s the rundown on how you can do it right.
How to Check the Chain and Sprockets
It may take some time to get into the habit, but the best time to inspect your chain is before every ride. If you take a few minutes to look out for obvious signs of damage, like rust and link plates that are starting to come apart, it can save you a lot of hassle further down the line.
Every time you clean the chain with a motorcycle chain cleaner (more on that below), check the tension of the chain. Your bike’s manual should contain the specifics of how much slack your chain should have, as well as how to measure it.
Here’s a general guideline for how to measure the level of slack in your chain:
- Put the motorbike on its side stand and ensure the gears are in neutral.
- Find the point of the chain that’s midway between the front and rear sprockets. Push up the chain from the bottom and measure the distance between the fully slack lower position and the slack-free upper position. The ideal amount of slack may vary depending on your bike, but 25-40mm is usually about right.
- If the chain is too tight or too loose, you can loosen the axle nut by a couple of turns. A lot of street bikes and dirt bikes have bolts that you can turn to adjust the chain slack. Make sure you keep it the same on both sides of the swingarm and tighten the axle nut back up when you’re done.
The easiest way to check the state of the sprockets is to look at their teeth. If they’re worn to fine points, hook shapes or rounded off, it’s time to get them replaced.
General Chain and Sprocket Maintenance
It’s best to clean the chain and rear sprocket every 1,000-1,500kms using a motorcycle chain cleaner and a nylon brush, especially a purpose-designed three-sided one. Once you’re done cleaning, use a clean cloth to wipe away the residue and let the chain dry off before you apply chain lube. Make sure the engine is off before you start to lube the chain.
Checking the state of the chain begins with a visual inspection. If you can see rust on your chain rolls, it’s time to replace your chain. If you notice less slack with age rather than more, that can be a sure sign that a tight spot has developed in the chain, and you’ll soon need a new one.
The process for checking on the state of your chain is similar to the one for checking if your chain needs tightening, except that it involves inspecting the entire length of the chain. Use a paddock stand or a similar tool so you can rotate the rear wheel. Measure the slack every 20 centimetres or so until you’ve made your way around the chain completely. If the measurements vary by more than 10mm, you’re due for a new chain to install on your motorbike.
How To Clean and Lube Your Chain
Cleaning and lubing your chain is an essential component of motorcycle chain maintenance and an easy one even for new riders. While it only takes about 15 minutes, it can protect the life of your chain for the long haul. Here’s a short rundown of how to clean and lube your chain–for more basics of motorcycle chain maintenance, get in touch with Taverner.
Figure out what kind of chain is on your motorbike
This will affect how you go about cleaning it. You can clean plain motorcycle chains more aggressively than chains with rubber seals between the links.
Position your bike
Mount your bike on a paddock stand or centre stand to let the rear wheel spin so you can apply your motorcycle chain cleaner more efficiently. You can also use your kickstand.
Spray the chain with cleaner
Use a high-quality motorcycle chain cleaner to remove the grime from your chain. With the chain coated, use a brush to clean off the dirt and grime. After scrubbing, apply another coat of cleaner to the chain.
Dry the chain
The chain needs to be dry for the lube to stick to it. Using a dry cloth, dry off the chain fully and remove the last of the cleaner.
Lubricate the chain
Apply the lube to each side of the clean, dry chain. Wipe away the excess, and you’re ready to ride.
Get Routine Maintenance at Taverner Motorsports
There’s a fair bit involved in motorcycle sprocket and chain maintenance–some of it simple, some of it a little more complicated. If you need a new chain installed on your motorbike or even just a little more information about motorcycle chain maintenance, get in touch with the Taverner team.
We offer a range of workshop services for every motorcycle make and model, everything from a basic oil change to a ground-up complete build. Our regular scheduled servicing, which we generally recommend every six months, includes routine maintenance and care of your motorcycle’s chain and sprockets. This makes for one less consideration for you to worry about and means you can get on with the business of riding.
We’ve been in this industry since 1975, so there’s not a lot we haven’t seen and very few bikes we haven’t worked on. We’ll treat your motorbike like it’s one of our own as we work to maintain its quality and help it reach its highest level of performance.
For chain and sprocket maintenance, from a routine inspection to a new chain installed on your motorbike, contact Taverner Motorsports.