Motorcycle Chain Care Essentials

Your chain is the link between going anywhere and going nowhere at all. Take care of it.

We are going to assume that our reader base knows the basics of how to properly tighten their motorcycle chain, how to inspect it for wear and tear, and, of course, how to keep it in good working order. Over the years, we have found a variety of chain care products ranging from chain lube to alignment tools that are designed to keep your chain working properly and getting the most miles from it as well.

Chain Lube

There are so many chain lubes on the market that it comes down to your personal preference and budget when you buy a can of it. The key is to remember that a little goes a long way. Don't just saturate your chain so lube flies off and gets all over your bike and gear when you ride. Instead, lube it after you return from a ride so that the chain and O-rings are warm, allowing them to absorb the lube better. Over the years, I seem to be drawn to Maxima Chain Wax and it has served its purpose well for my fleet of bikes. As a general rule, chain wax is more water resistant so it tends to be good for ADV, dual-sport, and dirt bikes, while chain lube is more for streetbikes. But wax builds up quicker and requires my dutiful maintenance.

Get your bike on a stand so you can slowly turn the rear wheel while applying the lube. Never, ever, ever, ever do this while the engine is on or the chain is spinning fast. It can rip a finger off quicker than you can imagine.

Chain lube
Maxima 74920 Chain WaxCourtesy of the manufacturer
Chain lube
PJ1 1-06A Black Label Heavy Duty Chain LubeCourtesy of the manufacturer

Chain Brush

Removing the gunk and grime from your streetbike chain is not as common as the need to scrub the dirt, mud, and debris that are often embedded in the links of your dirt bike chain. The Muc-Off Claw Brush is a great way to remove this harmful stuff without damaging your chain's O-rings, X-rings, or whatever rings it's equipped with. Make sure to lubricate your chain with some type of degreaser prior to scrubbing and be gentle with it.

Chain brush
Muc Off 204 Claw BrushCourtesy of the manufacturer
Chain cleaner
Maxima 75920 Clean-Up Chain CleanerCourtesy of the manufacturer

Chain Alignment

All motorcycles are equipped with alignment marks but most motorcycle riders have a tough time getting this right. Not to mention the castings and machining of those marks might not always be perfect. You can always feel when you get it wrong. Motion Pro developed its Chain Alignment Tool to get it right every time.

Chain aligner
Motion Pro 08-0048Courtesy of the manufacturer

Chain Slack

You thought we were done at alignment, didn't you? Chain slack is another one of those adjustments that gets easier with experience. Having the chain properly adjusted will extend its life considerably, while running a chain too tight will stretch it to worthlessness in no time. Plus, a tight chain will adversely affect your bike's suspension performance. Too loose can cause slap and noise and in the worst case scenario, the can come off the rear sprocket with dire consequences. Once again, the folks at Motion Pro bring another great device to help simplify this routine. The Slack Setter Tension Tool is worth every bit of the 20 bucks it costs.

Chain tension tool
Motion Pro SlackSetter ProCourtesy of the manufacturer


It is impossible to talk about chains without pointing out that the sprockets are equally important. Make sure your sprockets are in good shape with no missing, bent, or rounded-off teeth. If your chain needs replacement, then swap sprockets at the same time. There are great chain-sprocket kits available from all the major brands making it simple to change gearing, reduce chain size, or whatever your heart desires. Remember that there are great gains to be made by manipulating your gearing by swapping sprocket sizes, so don't discount that advantage when you are trying to scrape an extra second off your lap times on street or dirt.

RK Racing Chain 2108-048RG Silver Aluminum Rear Sprocket and GB520GXW Chain 520 Race Conversion KitCourtesy of the manufacturer
RK kit
RK quick acceleration dirt chain and sprocket kitCourtesy of the manufacturer

Chain Breaker

When the time comes to remove your chain, a good chain breaker will be invaluable. Sure, you can grab an el-cheapo version for 20 bucks, but you get what you pay for. We recommend quality chain breaker and rivet tools like this one from D.I.D because they will last longer than your toolbox and easy to use. Some of these chain tools are a nightmare and other are fragile. Just trust us and stick with a proven product.

Chain breaker
D.I.D KM500R Chain Cut and Rivet ToolCourtesy of the manufacturer

Chain care is critical to the performance of your motorcycle, so don’t let it slip your mind. A properly adjusted chain will last thousands of miles and provide the peace of mind that comes from knowing you have cared for your chain properly. Now get out there and ride your bike. Summer is almost over.