How To Clean A Motorcycle Chain | Best Kits Of 2020

The Polybolos was an ancient Greek machine. A type of ballista- a catapult-like weapon that was capable of firing bolt after bolt without having to reload- it was way, way ahead of its time.

Because the prototype was the first in (recorded) history to employ the use of the chain drive mechanism. The chain drive mechanism has since been modified and replicated throughout history and has been used in various forms.

And today’s article is about allowing this mechanism to work better in your motorcycle.

The chain drive mechanism works by transmitting mechanical power from one place to another. In motorcycles, this is done with the help of a “roller chain” which passes over a sprocket.

The sprocket comes with “teeth” that mesh with the holes between the chain links. So when the sprocket turns, it pulls the chain and releases mechanical force back into the system. The mechanical power produced is used to rotate the rear wheel.

This loop of transmission and release is what allows for the smooth functioning of your front and rear wheels- and consequently, your motorcycle. All due to the chain and its accompanying parts.

As you can tell, the chain is a pretty big deal. It’s actually central to the functioning of your motorcycle.

So why this article?

Although most of our riding is done on asphalt, this asphalt runs along with a wide variety of terrains. Due to which a lot of dirt, grime and other particles end up accumulating on the chain due to its layout.

This eventually piles up and causes issues to the system so crucial to the vital functioning of your wheels.

This is why having a clean motorcycle chain is so important. And why this article was curated to tell you how to go about it best.

Step-by-step Guide To Cleaning Your Chain

Gray motorcycle on a white background
Photo by Henry Dick on Unsplash

1. Identify what type of chain your motorcycle has

There are two kinds of chains: the standard, non-sealed chains, and O-ring chains.

Standard chains are what first come to mind when you hear “motorcycle chains”.

While these require a lot more upkeep (due to the absence of self-lubrication present in O-ring chains), they are a lot more versatile and have less friction.

O-ring chains are named so because they have little o-rings between the link plates and chain rollers. This segregation keeps the grease and lube inside the chain.

Which is also why these chains generally require less upkeep.

That being said, you still need a little upkeep, lest the rings lose lubrication and go on to develop cracks.  Although the required chain maintenance is less, these chains are less versatile.

2. Set The Bike Up On A Stand

Put your bike up on the paddock stand, such that the rear wheel is above the ground (so that it rotates freely). This is to make sure that you can rotate the rear wheel to see all of the chain. This will also loosen the gunk and grime that has piled up.

3. Decide whether you need to replace the chain

Some chains have a “replace-chain” marking for the rear-axle adjusters to reach. 

If your chain doesn’t, look for the obvious signs of wear and tear. If not, consult a verified manual (ones like Haynes).

For sprockets, check for gaps in between teeth. The valleys will be rounded out and the teeth hooked. Apart from this, shortened/ broken/ worn-down teeth are also a sign that your chain needs replacement.

If you’re sure the chain and sprockets don’t need replacement, proceed with the motorcycle chain maintenance.

Cleaning your chain

Motorcycle chain close-up
Photo by Conor Luddy on Unsplash

Grab a chain cleaner (for O-rings, get specialized O-ring cleaner) and spray the whole chain down.

Rotate the wheel and keep spraying until you make sure the entirety of the chain and sprockets have been sprayed. Let the it soak into and loosen up the grime for a while.

1. Scrub your chain

Start with something a little more robust like an old toothbrush or chain brush. 

After this, wipe the dirt and grease away with a clean cloth.

For smaller areas/ crevices, use a WD-40 spray.

2. Lube your chain

Be careful to clean and lubricate your chain such that you get the lube completely between the pins and rollers, with the motorcycle still mounted on the center stand.

With the rear wheel elevated, apply chain lube to the lower chain and keep spinning the rear wheel forward, allowing the lube from the chain to reach into the sprocket.

Keep spinning the real wheel until all of the chain is soaked in lube.

After this, wipe it dry the chain with a cloth.

3. Wax the chain

In the same way you applied chain lubricant, spray the chain with wax, rotating the rear tire such that the wax reaches each and every link in the chain.

Allow the chain wax to set for 10 – 15 minutes.

What A Motorcycle Cleaning Kit Should Contain

Cleaning spray

You need to douse your chain (by rolling it along your rear wheel) with the spray until you’re sure that all of the chain and sprockets are sprayed.

You can use a specialized chain cleaner or an apt cleaning liquid like kerosene.

Motorcycle chain brush

While regular cleaning brushes also suffice, specialized chain brushes get the job done a lot easier. Especially when you want the brush to scrub a well lubricated chain.

Dry cloth

A dry cloth will help soak up all the remnant cleaning liquid after you’re done wiping it. Specialized drying cloth makes sure that moisture from the smallest of crevices gets absorbed.

Specialized motorcycle chain lubricant

After the chain has dried, use the lube and make sure it reaches into all the gaps and crevices of the chain.

Wax

While not completely necessary, waxing your chain after the lube dries off will ensure a good finish. 

The Best Motorcycle Cleaning Kits

Maxima 70-749203-3PK Combo Kit

Maxima Combo kit

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Contains

Maxima Clean Up 15.5 ounce

The Maxima Clean Up comes with an aerosol container that allows you to spray it on and settle.

This is an emulsion type cleansing liquid, that works particularly fantastic on metal surfaces. Rubber O-rings too.

Intended for heavy duty use, the method of action works by quickly dissolving and then removing dirt and grime the chain has accumulated.

Maxima Multi-Purpose Penetrant Lube 14.5 ounce

This all purpose penetrating lube does a fantastic job at displacing water/cleaning material stuck in between the crevices after the chain is cleaned. 

Forming a protective film upon application almost immediately, the lube provides excellent protection against rusting and corrosion.

Bonus: No CFCs.

Maxima Chain Wax 13.5 ounce

The special PARAFILM formula present in the wax is a tough deterrent to moisture, for long periods of time after application. It helps especially if the environment you live in is humid.

Most Comprehensive Chain Cleaning Kit: Moto Chain-Mate 

Moto chain mate

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Contains

Chain Cleaning and Lubrication Kit

The kit comes with adjustable telescopic rods that align with the geometry of your bike chain.

It also comes with an overspray bath & reservoir used to catch the over spay and channel it into the reservoir.

Crud Brush

This grunge brush is fantastic to work wonders from the length of your chain to the pockets.

Overspray Cap 

Protecting the rear tire (and the rest of the bike), the overspray cap prevents solvents and lube from getting all over them.

BOBILIFE Bicycle & Motorcycle Chain Cleaner Tool

Bobilife Bicycle and Motorcycle chain cleaner

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Contains

Extremely durable chains & gears maintenance cleaning brushes.

The material is high quality and is of appropriate hardness.

The three-sided brushes allow you to clean all the sides of your chains and work great on the chains, sprockets and pedals of the motorcycle.

The long bristle side allows you to clean all the other parts of your bike’s sprockets and wheels.

A chain gear cleaner that gets the job done and then some.

A one-sided brush that applies to the dental plate, chains, flywheels and other more narrow bike space.

The toothed cleaner allows for the scraping of the larger, dirtier grime in hard to reach places (such as the corner of the gear plate).

Draper 30834 Motorcycle Chain Cleaning Kit

Draper 30834 Motorcycle Chain Cleaning Kit

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Contains

Bottle for holding cleaning fluid

A plastic tube

A Y piece adaptor and chain bath with cleaning brushes

The bath must be clamped over the chain while the bottle is connected to it via plastic tubes, this is how the chain is cleaned. Waste fluid is then drained away. 

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