Hands-On Review: The Best Motorcycle Chain Lubes to Keep Your Bike Rolling Strong
Get the most out of your bike and ride longer with the right motorcycle chain lube
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BY Mike Bumbeck / LAST UPDATED ON March 18, 2021
Among motorcyclists, the age-old "chain vs. shaft" argument is one that will likely never truly be resolved. Each has its pros and cons, each has backers and detractors. But if you're on the "chain" side of that discussion, then you know how important chain lube is. We're here to help you choose the right motorcycle chain lube for your bike.
Regular lubrication and maintenance will help your motorcycle chain and sprockets ride smoother and last longer. But not all chain lubes are made for all bikes and all conditions. The best chain lube for your motorcycle depends on where you ride it and what kind of chain it has.
We chose our best chain lube picks based on ease of application, bench testing, and a few hundred miles of on-road riding experience. Read on to find the best motorcycle chain lube for your bike.
An innovative formula that strikes a balance between sticky semi-drying and wax-based dry chain lubes.
- Easy to apply
- Dries quickly
- Sticks to the chain but not sticky
- Deflects moisture, grime, and corrosion
- Premium performance demands a premium price.
- Dries translucent white
This easy to use, quick-drying wax-based motorcycle chain lube features molybdenum and Teflon fluoropolymers.
- Cleans and lubricates at the same time
- Safe and effective on O-ring and unsealed motorcycle chains
- Requires more frequent application than other heavy-duty chain lubes
A thick paste that stands apart from the typical spray can chain lube status quo, with race-proven performance.
- Easy to apply an even coating with minimal waste or overspray
- Sticks to the chain and rollers with minimal fling
- Time-consuming application compared to spray lubes
- Tough in tight spaces
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.
How to Choose Motorcycle Chain Lube
Older motorcycles used standard (or unsealed) chains with rollers, bushings, and pins joined by linked side plates, much like a high-strength bicycle chain. Modern motorcycles use O-ring (sealed) chains, with a row of tiny circular seals between the outer and inner side plates.
These different types of chains require different kinds of chain lube. Standard motorcycle chains need a lube that creeps in between the sideplates rollers and pins, but those same properties can help it get past O-rings and ruin the sealed-in grease. O-ring chain lubes need to protect the O-rings and outside of the chain. Some O-ring chain lubes work on standard chains, but it usually doesn't go the other way. Standard unsealed chains need a good soaking. O-ring sealed chains need a good coating.
Since most of today’s motorcycles run with sealed O-ring chains, we rounded up and tested ten O-ring safe motorcycle chain lubes on a 1982 Honda CB900F Super Sport.
About Our Testing
All chain lubes have lubricating properties, but the best chain lube in the world does no good stuck to the bottom of your seat pan. Our motorcycle chain lube test’s primary goal was to see how well each lube stuck to the chain without flinging it all back off on the first high RPM pull. We tested each chain lube’s ease of application in the shop followed up with individual road tests.
Bench Test: Application and Dry Time
For the application and coverage bench test, we prepared a piece of sheet metal using 60-grit sandpaper in a crosshatch pattern to give the metal some texture. Then, we taped off the panel into sections to define each product’s fling.
After laying down each lube, the chain width sections were allowed to dry. We did not pour handfuls of sand across the test panel like some sort of open-face hourglass; sand and dirt will stick to sticky stuff and slide off the dry stuff, making a gritty mess of things.
Road Test: Fling Resistance
We followed the same application and road test procedure for each chain lube:
- Clean the chain and allow it to dry
- Apply chain lube
- Clean off the excess, and allow it to dry
- Head out for a 20-something mile ride
The Honda’s factory issue chainguard turned out to be a great O-ring chain lube fling-tester. Before each run, we installed a new length of masking tape to the chain guard’s underside. After each 20-something mile blast, we mounted the tape in its respective spot on the test panel to record the fling.
Which motorcycle chain lube performed the best? Read on to find out the verdict.
Motorcycle Chain Lube Benefits
- Longevity. Dry and dirty chains will wear out and chew through sprockets faster. High-quality O-ring chain and sprocket setups cost a lot more than chain lube.
- Water resistance. Motorcycle chain lube repels water and helps prevent corrosion, rust, and premature chain wear.
- Performance. A small increase in performance is possible, but the real performance improvement comes from preventing chain stretch and sprocket wear.
- Safety. Motorcycle inspection and maintenance before and after your ride can help maintain body and mind.
Types of Motorcycle Chain Lube
This chain lube type goes on wet in spray or liquid form and dries to a waxy, non-stick coating that repels water and grime. The thin protective layer helps keep O-rings clean and supple for longer chain life, and some wax-based products can be used on standard chains.
Unlike wax-based chain lube, this type goes on wet and cures to a thicker tacky or semi-tacky layer. This type of lube creeps in between side plates and rollers while wet and then thickens up in place to go the distance.
Paste chain lubes are similar in consistency to the factory-installed grease that the O-rings keep inside the rollers and pins. There is no waste or drying time, but brushing on the paste by hand can take longer than spray or liquid forms of other chain lubes.
With no drying or thickening agents, this type of chain lube goes on wet and stays wet. Gear oil and motor oil fall into this category. Fact is, gear oil was a typical manufacturer’s recommended standard motorcycle chain lube for decades until sealed O-ring chains became the status quo.
Motul has stood for innovation and performance from its founding in 1853 to the present. The company developed the first semi-synthetic motor oil in 1966 and bested its achievement in 1971 with Motul 300V — a market first ester-based fully synthetic motor oil. Motul has long been a driving force in motorsports, and their consumer product line covers the full spectrum of the automotive and powersports market.
DuPont Lubricants and Greases is a division of the global chemical giant DuPont de Nemours, formed in 2017 by the merger of Dupont and DOW Chemicals. The division offers a comprehensive range of lubricants, greases, and oils with Dupont Teflon for everything from automobiles and motorcycles to power tools and lawn equipment. DuPont Teflon Chain Saver is a proven performer for just about anything with a chain and sprocket drive.
Maxima Racing Oils is a Southern California-based company inspired by racing and driven by innovation. Maxima manufactures a range of oils, lubricants, filters, suspension filters, and maintenance products for everything from bicycles and motorcycles to snowmobiles and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. Maxima has got your chain maintenance program covered with the Ultimate Chain Care Aerosol Combo Kit.
William “Bill” Kiefer founded Bel-Ray in his New Jersey home garage, where he developed the company’s first product: a high-temperature lubricant for massive baking ovens at Nabisco. The industrial division branched out into the consumer market, and today the company manufactures a full range of oils and lubricants from non-toxic food grade greases to high-performance automotive and powersports products like Bel-Ray Super Clean.
Founded in 1973 by dedicated motorcycle enthusiasts, PJ1 products are synonymous with high quality and maximum performance. The enthusiasm continues almost 50 years later. PJ1 offers a comprehensive range of powersports and automotive products from cleaners, motor oils, and specialty paints to fork oils and its world-renowned PJ1 Blue Label and PJ1 Black Label motorcycle chain lubricants.
Best Motorcycle Chain Lube Pricing
- Under $20: Most spray, liquid, and paste chain lube products fall into this category, with a few even making it in under $10.
- $20 and up: Some highly specialized chain lubes might crest the $20 mark, but you’re more likely to find complete chain care kits in this category.
This is the big one. Standard or unsealed roller chains have different lubrication requirements and service intervals than O-ring sealed roller chains. Look at the side plates to determine which type you have. Sealed chains have tiny O-rings in between the outer and inner side plates.
Where and how you ride and determines what kind of chain lube works best. Wax-based dry chain lubes that work great for occasional fair-weather street riding might not be the best choice for heavy-duty hauling in extreme temperatures or off-road punishment.
Motorcycle Chain Lube DIY Tips
- Ten fingers. It might seem like a good idea, but never, ever apply chain lube with the engine running. Gnashing metal always wins against flesh and bones.
- Warm chain. The best time to apply chain lube is after a ride when the chain is warm. Low temperatures and a cold chain can result in excessive fling.
- Cardboard guard. A few pieces of cardboard keeps the chain lube off the rear tire, swingarm, frame, suspension, and floor.
- Center stand. A center stand or lift is an excellent investment for motorcycle care and maintenance. Applying chain lube with the wheels on the ground is no fun.
- Revolutions. Put a dab of grease on one outer side plate or master link to keep track of how many times the chain makes a full revolution while spraying on chain lube.
- Less is more. Go easy on quantity and clean off excess chain lube before you ride. Smaller cans or bottles are great for getting chain lube into tight spots.
Best Motorcycle Chain Lube Reviews & Recommendations 2021
We experienced a small amount of fling but might have left too much product on the outer sideplates. Excellent coverage and quick dry time into a tough non-stick lubricating layer makes Super Clean a great option if you want more than wax-based dry film but not as much as heavy-duty viscous type lube. Super Clean is a hybrid of sorts that combines the best aspects of wax-based films and heavy-duty sticky, viscous chain lubes.
Dupont Chain Saver is safe for all O-ring, X-ring, and Z-ring chains, as well as bicycles, ATVs, go-carts, or any chain-driven vehicle. The thin, dry wax film might require more frequent application than a heavy-duty chain lube, but Chain Saver’s chain-cleaning capability more than makes up for it. Spray on a few rotations after a ride, and you’re ready for the next time out.
It only took a few toothpaste-on-a-toothbrush-sized gobs of the opaque white grease to coat the entire inside run of the chain, so even this small tube is an excellent value. There was no overspray or self-launching red tubes to deal with, and nothing was wasted. The grease held up on the road with minimal fling. The only disadvantage to the chain paste was dabbing it on link by link took a lot longer than using the wheel turn and spray method.
Other Motorcycle Chain Lube Contenders
Our entirely unscientific approach is not without personal preference or unforeseen bias, so here are the rest of the observations and fling test results from our close contenders from The Drive’s motorcycle chain lube road test review.
Maxima Chain Wax with Parafilm went on wet and dried to a smooth and flexible fling-resistant coating. The translucent amber color made it easy to guide the spray stream, see any missed spots, and made the gold side plates stand out.
PJ1 Blue Label is nice stuff with more forgiving characteristics compared to its heavy-duty Black Label brand-mate. The easily controllable spray stream went down even and dried quickly to a semi-sticky film that stayed on the chain with minimal fling.
Motul Factory Line spray cures into a semi-tacky coating with minimal to moderate fling. The dual sprayer cap features one long and one short flexible spout. Our ham-fisted swap attempts broke the latter, so two was better than one. Factory Line dries tough, so be sure to remove excess quickly.
PJ1 Black Label comes out of the spray tube like those classic Magic Snake fireworks, creeps in deep, and dries with a tenacious grip. Cold weather resulted in some significant fling, but that was on us. PJ1 recommends a temperature range of 75-90 degrees Fahrenheit for Black Label.
Maxima Synthetic Chain Guard sprayed on consistently with minimal overspray and dried into a transparent semi-sticky film. The chain was warm when we applied this clear chain lube, but the night air was not. The temperature drop may have caused this excessive fling.
Q: How often should I lubricate my motorcycle chain?
Overdoing it can cause more harm than good, but frequent application of small amounts is better than emptying an entire can on the chain once every few months. Check with your motorcycle or chain manufacturer first, but every 300 miles for O-ring chains and every 100 miles for standard chains is a general guideline.
Q: Can I use gear oil as a substitute to chain lube?
That depends on what kind of chain you run on your motorcycle. Factory service manuals for older motorcycles originally equipped with standard roller chains, including the 1982 Honda shown here, often recommend SAE 80W or 90W gear oil as a chain lube. Using gear oil or motor oil on O-ring or X-ring chains is not recommended.
Q: Where is the best place to spray the lube on the chain?
Apply chain lube to the inside run of the chain and use a rag to remove any excess that makes it through to the outside of the chain. Find a place where you can spray downward through the inside of the chain while hand turning the rear wheel. Aim for the rows of O-rings between the side plates. Once around each side. Once down the middle, if you’re feeling it.
Q: Can I use a bicycle chain lube on a motorcycle?
Generally, no. Some chain lubes are okay for bicycles, motorcycles, electric gates, ATVs, or anything with a chain. Take your chain into account. Bicycle chains do not have O-rings. Conversely, heavy-duty, sticky motorcycle chain lubes would make a hairy mess of bicycle chainrings, cartridges, and derailleurs.
Despite being plenty slippery, Lucas Chain Lube and Liquid Wrench Chain and Cable Lube were disqualified from fling testing after neither dried to a waxy film or sticky layer even after days on the test panel. Full disclosure: Motul sent along a complete motorcycle chain care kit for testing, and we used their Motul Chain Clean, a three-sided brush, and some rags to clean the chain in between test rides.
Chain lubes are a contentious topic among motorcyclists. Some argue that chain lube is unnecessary on O-ring sealed chains and can do more harm than good. Others shout expensive chain lubes are a scam, and a tub of Crisco gets the job done all the same. The bottom line is that sealed O-ring chains require a different kind of lubrication than unsealed chains.
A standard unsealed chain needs an internal soaking lube that creeps in between the side plates and rollers. An O-ring chain needs an external lube that protects the sealed internal grease and fights against friction and corrosion outside. Using the wrong chain lube on an O-ring chain can cause damage. Running an O-ring chain dry invites premature chain and sprocket wear.
Look at it this way: The costliest motorcycle chain lube is far less expensive than a new chain and sprockets — or a complete replacement engine after that dried-out chain snaps and takes out the crankcase. Save a few dollars and slather on the Crisco if you must, but a little bit of the right chain lube goes a long way.