Motorcycle Maintenance – Cleaning and Lubing Your Chain

Cleaning A Motorcycle Chain

For optimal chain life, clean and lube the chain every 500 miles or so

If your motorcycle isn’t blessed with shaft or belt drive then you will have a chain connecting the engine to the rear wheel. The chain is completely exposed and as such picks up all sorts of dirt, grime, grit and dust when riding. It’s especially bad in the wet as the water also tends to strip any lubrication that’s on there.

Cleaning the chain used to be a lengthy and laborious exercise. Often the chain had to be taken off the bike, soaked in paraffin or kerosene and then put back on the bike before applying oil or other lubrication. With advances in aerosol-based chain cleaning products, cleaning and lubing the chain these days is extremely easy, can be done in around 20 minutes with no special tools at all other than a brush and a garden hose and you don’t have to take the chain off the bike. I thought I’d share the method and products I use for a quick and thorough strip and lube of any motorcycle chain.

How often should I clean my chain?
The general rule of thumb here is every 500 miles. For some riders this will mean doing it once every couple of months. If you commute to work it will be far more frequently. My daily ride to work is a 100-mile round trip so I’m do my chain every weekend. Because I do it so frequently, I use products and methods that do a great job of cleaning and lubing a chain extremely quickly. Looking after your chain will extend its life considerably which means less time and money putting new ones on.

What tools do I need?

A rear stand is a useful piece of eqipment

A rear stand makes chain cleaning easy

It’s easier to apply cleaners and lubricants to the chain if you can freely rotate the rear wheel, so either pop the bike up on its center stand if it has one, or purchase a rear wheel motorcycle stand. This also allows you to quickly and thoroughly inspect the rear tire for any damage, cuts or any embedded metal. In order to put the rear stand on, you will need rear spools. These screw in either side of the swingarm and are easily found on Amazon. Just make sure the ones you buy are the correct fit for your particular bike.

The other two things I use is a large-ish soft brush and a piece of cardboard with a large ‘C’ cut into it that I can place around the rear axle between the chain and the wheel. This protects the wheel and the tire from the cleaners and lubricants that are going to be applied.

What is the best product to use?Maxima's Chain Care Kit is an excellent all-in-one chain care solution
There are plenty of decent chain cleaning / lubing products on the market. The one I use for a complete, all-in-one solution is Maxima’s excellent Ultimate Chain Care Aerosol Kit.

The kit comprises of three large aerosol cans: a powerful, water-based cleaner, a multi-purpose lubricant (similar to WD-40) and a can of Chain Wax. You use each of these three in that order to first clean, lube and then finally wax your chain. The wax is a minimal “fling”, heavy duty chain lubricant, especially formulated for powersports use.

Using The Chain Care Kit

STEP ONE: Cleaning (Blue Can)

  • A piece of cardboard cut so it fits around the rear axle keeps the worst of the spray off

    A piece of cardboard round the rear axle keeps the worst off

    Put the bike up on the rear stand and hose the chain down while rotating the rear wheel to get the worst of the dirt and grime off.

  • Put a cardboard protector (pictured right) around the rear axle and then spray the cleaner (blue can) liberally onto the chain while rotating the rear wheel.
  • I use the master link in the chain as a reference point. Start with this and rotate and spray the chain until the master link comes back round again. This will cover the entire chain with one even layer of cleaner.
  • The master link is a useful reference point

    The master link is a useful reference point

    The cleaner does an amazing job of dissolving all the dirt and grime so give it a couple of minutes to soak in and then grab your brush and gently scrub the chain. Scrub the outside, the sides and the inside.

  • Use a garden hose to hose down the entire chain. The cleaner is water-based so will wash off very easily.
  • Use some paper towels to dry the chain off. For extremely dirty chains you can repeat the above step. Otherwise you can move onto Step 2 (yellow can)


STEP TWO: Lubing (Yellow Can)

  • It’s really important to understand the job that the MPPL does. Similar to WD-40, this is a very thin, penetrating lubricant that displaces water and provides excellent rust and corrosion protection.
  • Since you have just hosed down your chain, your chain will still have water deep within it’s links and parts that can’t be reached by drying it off with paper towel. This is where MPPL comes in.
  • Still with the bike on its rear stand, apply an even amount of MPPL to the entire chain by rotating the rear wheel. Leave it for at least 15 minutes to thoroughly soak in and penetrate the chain.
  • Once the 15 mins are up, take the bike off its stand and out for a short, 5-minute ride. This will warm the chain up and drive all the water and remaining dirt particles to the outside of the chain.
  • When you come back, put the bike back on its stand and run the chain through a good amount of paper towel to clean off the remaining water and dirt. You’ll be surprised at how much dirt comes off here – that shows you how deeply MPPL penetrates to drive out deep water and dirt.
  • The chain is now thoroughly and deeply cleaned and is ready for the final step.

STEP THREE: Waxing (Brown Can)

  • Put the bike up on its stand and the cardboard protector around the rear axle.
  • Spray a good amount of chain wax evenly onto the chain. Do the outside and then a light coating inside.
  • The wax comes out very thin and a very light brown color. As it dries it turns slightly darker and very sticky.
  • Take the bike off its stand and remove the cardboard. Let the wax dry for at least 15 minutes.

This completes the job. The chain has been fully cleaned, lubed and waxed and is ready to ride for the next 500 miles.

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