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I owned my first motorcycle in high school, and back then I knew nothing about regular maintenance of my two-wheeled transportation. So, when my chain snapped and left me stranded in Manhattan Beach — which wasn’t the worst place to be stranded — I learned from my mechanic that my chain snapped because it had been severely neglected. Lesson learned. Now I know well that motorcycle chains require a little love and care.
Lubricating and keeping your motorcycle chain clean prevents corrosion, reduces wear on interacting components by reducing heat and friction for the chain and sprockets, and enables a smoother and quieter ride. Most motorcycle manufacturers and chain suppliers recommend cleaning the chain on road bikes every 300-800 miles. I do it every 500 miles and after any long motorcycle trip or track day because that’s an easy rule to remember.
It is important to know what kind of chain you are running on your motorcycle. Modern motorcycles use O-ring or X-ring chains with a row of small rubber seals between the outer and inner side plates. Each of these rings come from the manufacturer with grease sealed in them. Using the correct lubrication helps to coat the metal components and prevents degradation of the seals.
Bel-Ray Super Clean
- Dries white for visual confirmation that the chain is coated
- Deflects moisture and debris and prevents corrosion
Muc-Off All-Weather Chain Lube
- Versatile in all climates.
- Contains a hydrophobic ceramic formula to resist flinging
- Safe and effective on O- and X-ring chains
- Smells like bananas
Motul Chain Paste
- Great to keep in your tool bag and for use on long trips
- Good adhesiveness to rollers and sprockets
- Time consuming to apply
I have used each of these lubricants over the course of a couple years in off- and on-road environments across California. The motorcycle used is a 2014 Triumph Tiger 800 XC with a 525 DID X-ring chain. The chain was inspected every 1,000 miles for wear and corrosion. The products were applied every 400 to 600 miles in rotation over the course of 6,000 miles.
The lubricants were selected based on my access to each of them and on the recommendations of colleagues, friends, fellow riders in the motorcycle industry. Each of these brands are dedicated to the research and development of high-quality lubricants specific to the maintenance of motorcycles. Most importantly, each was selected because it was designed to be used on O-ring and X-ring chains.
The tested lubes are by no means the only good products out there. Ultimately, it comes down doing your research, and checking out this list of great lubricants goes a long way in that respect.
Best Motorcycle Chain Lube Reviews & Recommendations
Our Verdict on the Best Motorcycle Chain Lube
My top pick for the best motorcycle chain lube is Bel-Ray Super Clean because it is designed to work with a broad range of riding conditions and is specially formulated for adherence.
The Muc-Off All-Weather Chain Lube is a good budget alternative because it contains a hydrophobic ceramic additive that helps it to be extra protective.
Things to Consider Before Buying Motorcycle Chain Lube
There are three types of motorcycle chain lubes, liquid, wax, and paste. Then within the liquid category, there are dry and semi-dry varieties. The lubricant will come out of the can like liquid when you first apply it. Then a drying agent in the lube kicks in and allows the liquid to dry to a non-stick coating. These lubricants are better at repelling dirt and grime than wax formulas. Liquid lubricants that do not contain a drying agent are a traditional form of chain lube. They are the traditional form of lubricant and are the most prone to flinging or washing off. A wax formula applies like a liquid but dries to a thin waxy film. They are ideal in humid or wet riding conditions because they are effective at water repelling. The final type of lubricant, paste, is a thick grease that you brush on. The process is more tedious and time consuming because you have to work it into the crevices, but you have less waste.
Motorcycle chain lubricant is there to help your bike run better and reduce wear and tear. However, you can’t use just any lubricant on your chain. WD-40 is a popular go-to lubricant in practically everyone’s garage, but it isn’t the right choice because it isn’t designed to protect your chain. The same argument applies to bike chain lubricants, they won’t perform well. Look for a motorcycle chain lubricant that can help minimize heat buildup to reduce the risk of warping. Corrosion prevention helps to reduce the risk of rust or other corrosion that can weaken the integrity of your chain. Dirt repelling qualities help keep your chain clean and reduce the risk of friction that can increase heat or wear your chain faster than normal.
What type of riding do you regularly do? If you mainly ride on the street, then a road lubricant will serve your needs just fine. If you prefer to spend your time on the track pushing your bike to its limits, you need a lubricant to keep up. These are lubricants that can withstand higher heat. They can also provide you with better movement for smoother shifting and increased performance. If you love to get out there and explore the world unpaved, then you need a durable lubricant that will stick with you through it all.
Motorcycle Chain Lube Pricing
The majority of motorcycle chain lubes are under $20 and come in a can large enough for many applications. You can feel confident buying a chain lube in the $10 to $20 range. However, some quality lubricants come in under $10, so don’t discount a product based solely on price. Some specialty chain lubricants can cost over $20, but these lubricants typically have a specific purpose. There are also chain care kits that can cost $20 to $50. These kits will come with lubricant, cleaner, and regular motorcycle chain maintenance tools. Look for one with a brush that will help you get dirt and grit out from the individual links.
You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers.
Q: Should I clean a motorcycle chain before applying lubricant?
A: A good cleaning will remove dirt, grime, and road oil. Preparing and cleaning the surface plates and rollers to accept the new lubricant is critical before applying a new coating of chain lubricant.
Q: How do I clean a motorcycle chain before applying lubricant?
A: Begin with a prescribed chain cleaner or kerosene and use a chain cleaning brush. Both can be picked up at your local motorcycle retailer.
Q: How much motorcycle chain lube is enough?
A: A good general rule is to note where the motorcycle-chain master link is and begin applying lubrication two inches away from the interior of the chain. Spin the rear tire at a moderate pace and allow for the master link to pass by three or four times under constant spray.
Q: Can you over lubricate a chain?
A: Yes, you can. Using too much lube on a chain is just a waste of lubricant. Excess lubricant will often be thrown off the chain and end up on the chain guard or on the back of your pant leg.
Q: Should I wait for lubrication or set after application?
A: After applying chain lubricant, it’s wise to wait an hour or less, depending on the properties of a lube. Give the lubricant time to fully permeate into parts of the chain and set before riding. Adhere to the lube manufacturer's recommended application wait times.
Q: Can I use a bicycle chain lube on my motorcycle chain?
A: My general advice is to say no. Most motorcycle chains have the aforementioned X-ring or O-ring components, and traditional bicycle chains do not. While some chain lubes are OK for bicycles, electric gates, ATVs, or anything with a standard chain, it is best practice to use the right lubrication for the given application.
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