I will admit that one of my least favorite things having to do with motorcycling is cleaning and lubricating the final drive chain and sprockets. But, if you ride a chain-driven motorcycle, it is a necessary task to keep the chain from wearing out prematurely, failing unexpectedly, and from potentially causing an accident.It can be a grimy job—nothing I will say here will change that. However, the right products can make cleaning your motorcycle’s chain easier and the results more effective.We have covered the basics of chain types, technology, and terminology before, so we won’t repeat all that stuff now.
O-ring, X-ring, and Z-ring sealed chains have different approaches for cleaning and lubricating than conventional non-sealed roller chains. My 1976 Honda CJ360T is fitted with a traditional roller chain, and my 1984 Honda V30 Magna (VF500C) is fitted with an O-ring chain. We’ll examine cleaning and lubing both.First, let’s look at cleaning and lubing the non-sealed chain on the Honda CJ360T. Its non-sealed chain has no non-metallic seals that can be damaged by certain solvents or other chemicals in a degreaser, so the cleaner need not necessarily be safe for seals. However, a cleaner that is safe for sealed chains won’t do any harm, and I used Pro Honda Chain Cleaner, which is also acceptable for use on sealed chains.Because cleaning and lubricating products may be skin and eye irritants, remember to wear gloves and eye protection for both processes. In addition, vapors may be harmful, so do the work in a well-ventilated area.To do the cleaning and loosen caked-on crud, I use an old toothbrush. I spray a little cleaner on the toothbrush and scour the top, bottom, and both sides of the chain. I attack one small (3-4 inches) section of chain at a time, adding more cleaner to the brush for each section. There are specialty brushes designed to get at three sides of the chain at once, and I have one of those. Still, for some of my bikes, I’ve found a toothbrush is easier to use in tight spaces.Although the Pro Honda Chain Cleaner directions suggest a “spray-on, rinse-off” approach, I’ve found using a brush for the application helps loosen caked-on crud, improving results.It’s handy to start and end at the master link to help ensure you don’t miss any part of the chain. An applicator tube to allow accurate application is provided with the Pro Honda Chain Cleaner if you prefer to apply the cleaner without using a brush. Once the entire chain is treated, let the cleaner soak in for a few minutes.After rinsing the excess off, confirming a complete cleaning, and drying with a towel, it’s a perfect time to slowly turn the rear wheel and inspect the links and sprockets. Look for excessive wear, loose or damaged side plates, broken or missing rollers, kinks, corrosion, or other damage. Inspection is best done with a clean chain because dirt and grime build-up can conceal problems such as cracked side plates and rollers, corrosion, or rivet hole elongation.If you have dimensional specifications from the chain’s manufacturer for assessing wear by measuring from pin-to-pin across a specified number of links, or another form of chain wear indicator, now is a good time to measure and replace the chain if indicated. There are a variety of chain wear indicator devices, but they are chain size and type-specific. Scrutinize the sprockets for signs of excess wear, as well.If the chain is okay, but slack is excessive (check your bike’s manual), adjust the chain tension to specification. Now, you’re ready to move on to lubrication.For this review, we are maintaining both sealed and non-sealed chains, making Lucas Oil Chain Lube a logical choice. It is advertised as safe for use on sealed and non-sealed roller chains. The Chain Lube is part of a range of Lucas Oil products designed for motorcycle use.According to Lucas Oil data, the product contains organic molybdenum, which has corrosion-inhibiting and anti-friction/anti-wear lubrication properties. It also contains Dec-1-ene (aka 1-Decene), an alpha olefin intermediate in synthetic lubricants.Lucas Oil Chain Lube initially foams up and then liquefies when applying when using the dispensing tube provided, dispersing over the chain surface. A small amount of spatter overspray occurred doing that.Depending on the situation, it may be helpful to keep a piece of cardboard handy to place between the chain and tire to keep overspray or spatter from getting on the tire and rim. Another piece of cardboard on the ground or shop floor is a good way to keep any excess that drips off from leaving a mess.Using an old toothbrush minimizes product loss and mess. Spray a small quantity of lube on the brush and apply it, instead of spraying directly on the chain. For this review, I used both for applying the cleaner and lube to check out the precision applicator spray, but most applications were made with a brush.As with the application of the chain cleaning agent, I start and end with the master link and work my way around in short segments to ensure no links are missed. After the whole chain is done, I let the lube set in for a while. I slowly spin the wheel by hand or walk the bike around (if there’s no centerstand) to help work the lubricant into the chain.After I clean and lube a chain this thoroughly, I notice that there is nearly no sound from the chain traveling over the sprockets when pushing the motorcycle. There is only a soft tapping sound as the rollers engage the sprockets. Before the cleaning, the sound is more of an audible clicking metal-on-metal sound.If you hear other distinctive sharp “krinking” sounds, particularly non-uniform sounds, it may be worth giving the chain a closer look for kinked links or other damage. Strange noises can tell a lot, and I’ve talked about the Top 6 Strange Noises.The process is much the same for a sealed chain, such as on my 1984 Honda V30 Magna. For cleaning a sealed chain, the cleaner must be designed to be safe for use on the seals—one that will not dissolve, harden or degrade them. As noted earlier, using a sealed-chain-safe agent for both is fine. I used the Pro Honda Chain Cleaner for both—applied the same way, followed by rinse, dry, inspection, and adjustment.Application of the Lucas Oil Chain Lube for the V30 Magna sealed chain was done the same way as for the CJ360T—the lubricant was sprayed on a clean old toothbrush to minimize excess and overspray, though spraying directly on the chain is fine. Again, start and end at the master link, so you do a complete job.I let the lube soak in for about an hour after hand-turning the rear wheel to help work the lube in. I also cleaned the rear rim thoroughly to test the lube’s claim to resist slinging off. After a 70-mile ride on Wisconsin’s beautiful back roads, an inspection of the chain-side of the rim revealed fine black lines of lubricant that did sling off the chain.“Sling-off” is a minor drawback, but keep in mind that it is possible to get the lube on surfaces that could be damaged by it. Blotting excess lube off the chain with a shop towel after allowing time for it to soak is a good preventative measure. The Lucas Oil Chain Lube is easily wiped off the rim.Keeping your final drive chain as clean and well-lubricated as possible, as recommended by the manufacturer, is a solid investment in safety, reliability, and mileage. At $13 for a 11-ounce can, Lucas Oil Chain Lube keeps things rolling smoothly
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This week, in the first segment Editor Don Williams talks to us about the new Kawasaki Versys 650 LT. It’s the middleweight ADV style machine that uses the same 650 parallel twin motor as the Ninja 650, so it’s an excellent performer in a user-friendly, good looking package.
In the second segment, I chat with one of my dearest industry friends—now retired Honda PR executive, Jon Seidel. Jon’s fascinating career spans some 30 years with Big Red, and gave him some great experiences with some incredible machines. I was fortunate enough to be invited on many of the press launches that he organized. His new project is documenting and saving many of the old archives from years gone by—and incidentally, if you have anything that may be of value to the project, please contact us by email at email@example.com and we’ll pass it all on to Jon.
So on that note, from all of us here at Ultimate Motorcycling, we hope you enjoy this episode!