How to... Clean and lube your chain

Keeping it spinning smoothly through winter

How to... Clean and lube your chain

A BASIC one this week – but one that covers a lot of territory. Here's the basics on looking after your final drive chain, with a clean and lube. Oh, and for the veterans out there, we know you all have your own special tricks to do the job – so don't keep them to yourselves! Give us your techniques and tricks in the comments and on Facebook, and we'll pick out our favourites.

1. Chain better?

To paraphrase Winston Churchill on democracy, it's fair to say that a final drive chain is the worst possible way to transmit drive to a motorcycle's rear wheel. Except for all the other ways. An engineer would quail at the sight of all those little roller bearing surfaces, rivetted links and tiny O-rings, spinning at hundreds of rpm, in the rain, snow, salt, grit and other road debris. It's a miracle they work at all, never mind last for 10,000 miles. Compared with a heavy expensive shaft/gear drive, or fragile belt though, the light, strong, simple chain is king of the bike final drive game.

SO, we should give it all the TLC we can. Cleaning and lubing is the prescription, and it's all straightforward enough. You can make it easier with some gadgetry and special products though. Today, we've got a handy little 360-degree cleaning brush from Bike-It, and some chain cleaner and lube by Liqui-Moly, again, from Bike-It (

FIRST top tip is never do any cleaning with the engine running to drive the chain. It's just too risky – you only need to cut off all your fingers on one hand once, and you'll not be playing the piano again. Spraying lube from a distance onto a running chain seems less risky, but we'd avoid having the motor running full-stop. Use your free hand to spin the wheel, with the bike up on a paddock stand or centre stand.

USE the little 360-degree brush to clean the chain: it untwists to go round the chain, and you twist it back round again so the bristles are rubbing onto the links. Give it a good soak with chain cleaner, and work it back and forth to remove the grime. Any stiff cleaning brush will do much the same job, but the 360-degree one works all round at once. Do the whole chain till you can eat your dinner off it. Then use a normal brush to do the rear sprocket too. If you're doing a full spring clean, remove the front sprocket cover, and get all the collected grime and gunge out of there too.

LET the chain dry off so there's no cleaning solvent left. Now, apply a light coating of proper motorcycle chain lube. All the big brands make a version of this, and they all claim to be suitable for O-ring chains (there was a brief panic in the 1990s that aerosol propellants would degrade the rubber in the rings).

There are differences between the different products of course, and you'll find your favourite. We like the SDOC100 white chain spray, and the Liqui-Moly preparation seems good too. Using some sort of lube little and often is probably the important thing here though: the most basic of chain lubes, used properly, will beat a six-monthly blast of the best lube, over-applied on top of a dirty chain…