How to Lube a Motorcycle Chain Like a Pro

Whether you’re buying your first motorcycle or already own one, the chain on your bike is a crucial component that needs to be appropriately maintained for a smooth ride, and even more so for safety.

A chain that is kept in proper condition is vital to staying safe on the road, the longevity, and how well your motorcycle rides.

Time Involved

The positive news is that especially once you get the hang of the process, oiling your motorcycle chain is relatively inexpensive and can take as little as 30 minutes. If it is your first time cleaning and oiling your bike chain or the chain is exceptionally dirty, set aside at least an hour, just in case part of the process takes longer than you initially expected.

Otherwise, the process is relatively quick and straightforward compared to other maintenance items on your bike.

1. Get Your Supplies

You’ll need to make sure that you have all of the proper tools before beginning. You do not want to lubricate your motorcycle chain without it being cleaned, as removing dirt, mud, and other debris is a crucial step. So you will need a chain cleaner to start. Also, be sure you have chain lubricant or oil, and a chain wax to help protect the oil from wearing off quickly.

There are several options available for these products, and some come in three packs for convenience. The prices of motorcycle chain cleaners, oil or lubricant, and wax should not be much more than $45 to $50, and many are available for under $30.

Then be sure you have some old rags, a decent chain brush (or an old toothbrush if you don’t want to buy a brush), and a wrench for the proper size to remove bolts on the rear fender and chain guard. Removing these are not 100 percent necessary, but it makes the process far more comfortable to do so. If you can manage it, having a swingarm lift or stand can make working on your bike a breeze, as well.

2. Find a Spot

Establish a space to clean and lubricate your motorcycle chain. Cleaners and lubricants can have fumes, so be sure you are in a well-ventilated area with plenty of air flow. Set up your swingarm lift and make sure you have enough room to move around your motorcycle comfortably while working.

3. Prep Yourself

Put on a dust mask if you are using spray solvents or oil. It is also a good idea to strap on some disposable gloves when using harsh chemicals to clean your chain. Naturally, if you are wearing anything you would not want to get oil on, change into clothes suitable for working with solvents, oil, and wax.

4. Prep Your Space

Put down a drop cloth, old rags, or newspaper to protect from overspray or oil drips to be sure to keep your garage or driveway floor clean from debris and lubricant spray. Make sure you have plenty of old rags on hand to wipe up any spills, help clean off the chain, and potentially clean off spray if any makes its way onto your tires.

5. Removing the Fender

Locate the bolts for both your rear fender as well as your chain guard and remove them. Some bikes will have two bolts per side. Again, it is possible to skip the step, but it helps to make things much more thorough. Set the fender aside and be sure to put the bolts in a baggy or somewhere you will be able to find them again once the process is complete.


6. Clean the Chain

Clean the chain as well as the surrounding areas. You can use clean water to get rid of the dirt initially. Now is an excellent time to clean your fender, as well.

If you have an especially dirty chain, using a chain cleaner or solvent can be helpful. Get a cleanser that is safe for an O-ring chain. If you are in doubt about whether you have an O ring, assume that you do.

Saturate your chain with either a cleaning oil or chain cleaner. Continue to rotate your rear tire to move the chain and clean the entire length of it thoroughly. If you’re using a chain cleaner, allow it to soak into the dirt for a few minutes.

A chain brush or old toothbrush can then be used to scrub your chain clean. All the sides will need to be scoured. Then rinse your chain with water until it runs completely clear. Be exceptionally careful not to get solvents onto your tires.

You can use an old toothbrush or the chain brush to get in between the plates of your chain very thoroughly. Dirt on the inside is a significant problem, but you also need to make sure all of the grime on both the inside and outside are removed.

7. Lubricate the Chain

Again, prepare your area with your drop cloths or fresh newspaper. You’ll want to take extreme caution not to get spray lubricants or MPPL lubricant on your tires. If this happens, thoroughly clean your tires to be sure it is removed. Otherwise, it can lead to slippage when riding.

Apply your oil or lubricant as the instructions dictate, thoroughly covering your chain while rotating the rear tire. You will need to be sure that all areas of the chain are coated, so continue to turn the wheel while applying the lubricant.

8. Take a Quick Spin

Let your oil or lubricant set for 15 to 20 minutes before you ride the bike. After allowing it to sit, take your bike out for a quick spin (just a mile will do the trick) to help move the oil or lubricant around the chain. Your motorcycle chain will be lubricated at this point.

9. Wax the Chain

Once again, prepare your area with drop cloths or fresh newspaper if necessary. You can now apply chain wax. Again, use the same rotating procedure with your rear tire to thoroughly coat the chain. This will help protect the lubricant on your chain from wearing off too quickly. Allow the wax to set 10 to 20 before riding again.

10. Replace the Fender and Clean Up

You can now put your fender and chain guard back on. Reinstall the bolts in their proper location. Take one more look to make sure no solvent, oil, or wax got onto your tires. This can damage the rubber or cause accidents because of the extreme slippery quality of the products. Clean up your area, and your motorcycle chain is now cleaned, well-oiled, and protected with wax.

How Often?

Cleaning and oiling your chain should be done roughly every 300 to 600 miles, depending on how much grime it accumulates and the type of driving you do. If you take your bike out for excessive city riding or activities such as off-road dirt biking, you will want to lubricate the chain more frequently.

Care for Your Motorcycle Chain

Regardless of whether your taste is that of expensive bikes or used motorcycle values that are only a couple thousand, you should never neglect this aspect of maintenance.

Cleaning and oiling it allows you to check it for damage thoroughly. Not to mention, you don’t want a chain locking up on you or undergoing unnecessary friction from lack of oil or too much dirt and grime. Take excellent care of your bike chain, and it will last you far longer than a neglected one.