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Best Motorcycle Oils: Keep Your Motorcycle Running at Peak Performance

It’s time to find your favorite motorcycle oil that you can claim is the best.

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BYAndra DelMonico/ LAST UPDATED ON September 15, 2022

Ask any motorcycle owner what the best motorcycle oil is, and they will have an answer for you. Don't argue; they all know they are right. Talking about the best oil for bike engines is like dropping a small bomb in the middle of a conversation. 


Let's be real, though. There are many different types of bikes out there. We all have different riding styles, and the level of maintenance care taken varies wildly from one owner to the next. Motorcycle oil gets all of the credit—or blame—for performance but several other factors are at play in how a motorcycle performs. Instead of making a definitive statement, let's talk about some favorites and front runners and how they could benefit you. Whether you are riding long miles in high heat, hitting the track, or commuting in the cold, let's find the best motorcycle oil for you.

Best Overall

Castrol Power1 V-Twin Synthetic

Summary
This dependable oil is suitable for large V-twin engines that run hot. Its stable formulation will make for smoother and better shifting.
Pros
  • Works great at hot temperatures
  • Best suited for four-stroke V-twin engines
Cons
  • Excessive oil burns off
  • Creates ping chatter
Best Value

Honda Pro GN4 Motorcycle Oil

Summary
This affordable oil comes in a large container and is formulated to last longer by resisting breakdown and shearing.
Pros
  • Smooth clutch shifting
  • Holds up dirt and remains clean
Cons
  • Not suitable for high heat air-cooled racing motorcycles
  • Creates stickiness around the filter
Honorable Mention

Motul 300 V2 Competition Synthetic Engine Oil

Summary
This competition-quality oil is designed for high pressure and high temperatures. Use it in your performance sport bike on the street or track.
Pros
  • Zero percent shear loss in Bosch ASTM D6278 testing
  • Safe for bikes with and without catalytic converters
Cons
  • Lacks dirt and contaminant trapping ability
Best Motorcycle Oils: Keep Your Motorcycle Running at Peak Performance
Get a reliable motorcycle oil that will keep your bike running for a longer time. Deposit Photos

Summary List 

Best for Cold Weather: K&N 10W-40 Synthetic Motor Oil

Why Trust Us

Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.

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Our Methodology

While I have many years of experience riding, working, repairing, and maintaining different kinds of motorcycles, I would never presume to claim I know more about motorcycle oil than someone else. However, I do have the life experience to give my two cents on the matter. 

Here at The Drive, we understand that you want to get the most out of your bike, and cheap oil costs you more in the long run, so I didn’t consider any discount or low-budget general use oil. I stuck with well-known, trusted brands. From there, I looked for unique qualities and a proven track record of performance. It seems like all oil companies boast about additives, but I drilled down beyond this generalized claim to consider what those additives actually were and how they would help the performance of your bike engine. 

Best Motorcycle Oil Reviews & Recommendations

Specs

  • Type: Synthetic
  • Rating: 20W-50
  • Size: 1 quart

Pros

  • Works great at hot temperatures
  • Delivers good quality and good performance
  • Best suited for four-stroke V-twin engines
  • Engine runs smoothly

Cons

  • Excessive oil burns off
  • Creates ping chatter

This heavy-duty oil is specifically designed for super-sized bikes with big engines like Harley V-twins. The synthetic formula will help your engine run smoother by creating an even and protective coating. In addition, it is designed to work with air-cooled engines, so you will experience more consistent performance throughout the course of your ride. So confidently take that long ride, knowing that this oil will keep up. This oil is also stable, making it ideal for those casual riders who tend to let their bike sit for longer periods of time between rides. Its formulation also helps to make it last longer, enabling you to ride for longer between oil changes. Unfortunately, some bikes experience excessive burn-off with this oil, which means you'll need to keep an eye on your oil levels. You can also experience a harder start in colder weather when there is more stress put on the engine. In addition, some Harleys experience a pinging with this oil.

Specs

  • Type: Synthetic
  • Rating: 5W-30, 10W-30, 10W-40, 20W-50
  • Size: 1 quart, 1 gallon

Pros

  • Easy to use and great value for money
  • Holds up dirt and remains clean
  • Engine runs smoother
  • Smooth clutch shifting

Cons

  • Not suitable for high heat, air-cooled, racing motorcycles
  • Creates stickiness around the filter

If you ride a liquid-cooled bike and are a casual rider, this budget-friendly oil may be perfect for your needs. It is readily available and comes in a large one-gallon container. Despite the large volume at an affordable price, it is also designed to last longer. It is developed to be more stable and maintain viscosity consistency better. It also has greater shear resistance than other oils. This helps to prevent the oil from breaking down, allowing you to ride longer between oil changes. In addition, the increased stability traps dirt and contaminants better, suspending them and preventing them from causing damage to your engine. One drawback of this oil is that it is unsuitable for high-heat, air-cooled, and racing motorcycles. These conditions are too demanding for this oil. You may also notice a stickiness developing around the filter. This doesn't negatively impact the performance of your bike; it just makes the filter messy.

Specs

  • Type: Synthetic
  • Rating: 10W-50
  • Size: 1 liter, 4 liters

Pros

  • Double ester technology
  • For use in all-high performance, 4-stroke engines
  • Zero percent shear loss in Bosch ASTM D6278 testing
  • Safe for bikes with and without catalytic converters
  • Exceeds JASO T904 wet clutch compatibility

Cons

  • Lacks dirt and contaminant trapping ability

This oil's claim to fame is its double Ester Core Technology, which is supposed to have better than the average lubricating ability. Motul claims this technology will help you get better engine RPM performance and response time, which makes the oil best suited for those on four-stroke high-performance engines. In addition, there was zero percent shear loss in Bosch ASTM D6278 testing. This means the oil won't lose its viscosity quality with use, which is a testament to this oil's stability and long-term performance. It is also safe for bikes with wet clutches and those without catalytic converters. One downside of this oil is that it tends to lack in the contaminant trapping category. This means it’s not going to be the best choice for someone with an older engine that may need oil to help clean and protect their engine.

Specs

  • Type: Synthetic
  • Rating: 10W-40
  • Size: 1 quart

Pros

  • Primarily for on-road, high-performance
  • Re-engineered for cleaner running engines
  • Optimized for high-temperature durability
  • High-performance additive system

Cons

  • Shifting issues

If you ride a high-performance bike, you need an oil capable of withstanding the extra pressure and heat created. This synthetic racing oil will lubricate to give you smoother and faster shifting. It is re-engineered to keep your engine cleaner, reducing the amount of dirt and debris and keeping your engine running smoother. In addition, the additive formula is specially formulated to work better in high heat so that you don’t compromise performance when you’re riding hard. Unfortunately, some riders have complained about shifting issues. However, this is more of a one-off complaint and bike specific. This also isn't the right oil for you if you expose your bike to high amounts of dirt and grit. This oil is better for on-road applications than off-road.

Specs

  • Type: Synthetic
  • Rating: 20W-50
  • Size: 1 quart

Pros

  • Great for Harleys
  • Smoother engine with less noise
  • Keeps the engine cool in extreme conditions
  • Smooth shifts

Cons

  • Oil pressure is stumpy at low speed
  • Price is higher

This pure synthetic oil contains no crude. Its carefully perfect manufacturing process ensures this oil will stand up to extreme riding temperatures both on and off the track. It’s also great for Harleys that tend to run hot. You will like the lubricating ability of this oil and how smooth and quieter the engine operation is. The formulation actively lowers your engine's temperature, extending its useful life and reducing the risk of warping or damage. If you’re looking for an oil that exceeds OEM standards, you have found it in this oil. My only complaint about this oil is that it can make your engine feel stumpy or slumped at low speeds. In addition, because it is designed to work at peak performance at higher temperatures, it tends to bog down faster when temperatures drop. It is also noticeably more expensive due to the complex and extensive manufacturing process required.

Specs

  • Type: Synthetic
  • Rating: 12W-40
  • Size: 1 quart

Pros

  • Engine, transmission, wet clutch, and primary compatible
  • 3-In-1 advance formula
  • Cold start protection
  • Smoother shifting support

Cons

  • Not as well-known
  • Designed for use with K&N oil filters

You are probably already familiar with K&N as a performance enhancer. Did you know they also make motorcycle oil? It’s a three-in-one formula that's designed to be used with a K&N oil filter. The manufacturer claims it will protect your primary, engine, and transmission. The 10W-40 formulation means your engine will have greater protection during cold starts. This reduces the stress on your starting components, helping them to last longer. Once running, the oil smooths out your shifting for quieter and better performance. Unfortunately, K&N oil isn't one of the well-known brands, which can make people skeptical as to its performance ability. You won't get to see its full potential if you aren't also willing to invest in a K&N oil filter.

Our Verdict

My top pick for the best motorcycle oil is the Castrol Power1 V-Twin Synthetic because it’s a reliable oil that will work well in larger engines to give you smoother performance. 

A more affordable option for those on a budget is the Honda Pro GN4 Motorcycle Oil. You can purchase it in larger quantities, and it’s formulated to last longer between oil changes. 

Things to Consider Before Buying Motorcycle Oil

Semi or Full Synthetic 

Semi-synthetic oils are a mixture of mineral-based and synthetic oils. This type of oil is fine for casual riders and commuters who aren't overly taxing their bikes. Full synthetic oil typically comes with a range of additives to help it perform better and protect your engine. This is the oil used on track day and any other situation where your engine will be under serious stress. It will give you the maximum level of lubrication, which reduces fixture, heat, and the risk of damage. Always check your owner's manual for the manufacturer's recommended type of oil. It is pretty hard to go wrong if you listen to the engineers that designed your bike. 

Viscosity and Grade 

That combination of letters and numbers that you see is actually giving you some important information about the resistance and flow of the oil. You need an oil that flows well enough at cool temperatures to protect your bike when you first start it. It also needs to not evaporate or lose pressure at high temperatures when your bike is running. You'll see a code for classifying oil with a number, a "W", and another number. The W in the code stands for winter. The first number is how viscous the oil is at zero degrees Fahrenheit. It tells you how well the oil flows when it is cold. The second number tells you how well the oil flows at 212 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Your Bike’s Characteristics 

Most modern bikes have an electric start, so they benefit from a thinner oil than older bikes that are kick start. As a result, there is less priming action happening, so the dry-run period where there is no oil flowing is a little longer and a little tougher on the engine. Additionally, air-cooled bikes depend on the oil to also act as a coolant. This means the oil goes through more temperature fluctuations than liquid-cooled bikes. 

Motorcycle Oil Pricing 

Full synthetic oil is more expensive than a blend or mineral oil. It requires the most processing and comes with more additives. Within these three categories, you'll find a range of oil prices. You get what you pay for when it comes to oil, so do not do your bike a disservice by using the cheapest oil you can find. Additionally, it is worth spending a bit more for specialty oil if you are riding in extreme climates or putting your engine under stress like track day or racing. 

FAQs 

You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers.

Q: Is synthetic oil good for motorcycles?

A: Yes, synthetic oil is good for motorcycles. Modern synthetic oils are high quality and come with additives that help your motorcycle to run better and cleaner. Synthetic oil is able to trap and suspend contaminants better. It also flows better in cooler temperatures and breaks down slower in hot temperatures.

Q: How often should I change the oil in my motorcycle?

A: If your motorcycle uses a mineral-based oil, you will need to change it every 2,000-3,200 miles. Semi-synthetic oil requires changing every 5,000-8,000 miles. It’s a good idea to change your oil at least once a year even if you don’t accumulate this many miles.

Q: Can I use car oil for motorcycles?

A: No, you shouldn’t use car engine oil in your motorcycle. One is formulated for vehicle engines, while the other is for motorcycle engines. Vehicle engine oil contains friction modifiers that can have a negative impact on your motorcycle's performance.

Q: How do I check the oil in my motorcycle?

A: Check your owner's manual for the specific setup of your bike. The setup and process can vary slightly from bike to bike. As a general guide, start the bike, let it warm up, and then turn it off. The oil will cool and drain. You can now either use the glass window to view the oil or check the dipstick. Make sure the bike is upright and not leaned over so that you get an accurate reading.

Q: How do I read the motorcycle oil grade numbering?

A: The code for your oil should have a number, a W, and another number. The first number tells you the oil's viscosity in cold temperatures. The second is the oil's viscosity at normal operating temperatures.

Q: Where do I recycle my motorcycle oil?

A: Check with your local municipality if there is a government program for recycling used motor oil. Every community is different, but this is a good place to start because you'll often find a list of places that accept used oil. Alternative places to bring used oil include your local auto parts store, mechanics shop, or quick lube location.

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