Simple Machines [The Throttle Stop – November 2022]

Every now and again, we’ll come across a simplistic solution to fundamental problems that we’ve never thought of before. Well, I suppose it was my turn, and when lounging on the couch engaged in what future researchers will refer to as the Doom Scrolling Period of human history, I stumbled across a video of an ingenious idea, one that I’m somewhat annoyed I didn’t consider prior. As you might have guessed, this video and said revolutionary idea related to chain maintenance because that’s what all well-adjusted adults believe to be life-changing.

Well-adjusted is probably a strong description when talking about motorcyclists, and I won’t belabor the many sermons from those before me who have preached the importance of regularly servicing a motorcycle chain. Depending on who you chat with, you’ll probably get opinions on chain lubrication that devolve into unhinged fanaticism and zealotry, as opposed to a general guideline that can be summed up as, “Yeah, it’s not a bad idea.” On a related note, go to a racetrack and start asking people about tires or oil—it isn’t quite as prickly bringing up religion and politics with strangers, but I’m not here to tell you how to keep your life exciting or judge you for your kinks.

Alas, that’s somewhat beside the point—back to the thing about chains. Anyway, if you’re like me, you have a convoluted “system” of cardboard shoved in the corner of your garage, dedicated to the meticulous art of chain maintenance. My bent pieces of cardboard have been with me for months, seasons, and maybe even years and are routinely shoved into the swingarm, positioned in a perfect way to protect the tires from lube or gunk alike. These bits of cardboard are integral to my track-day/racing Tupperware box. No one can perform this task except me, as I, and I alone, know the mysterious ways of the sullied cardboard menagerie.

Bel-Ray Blue Tac Chain Lubricant

Anyway, I saw a video of some guy taking a square piece of cardboard roughly the same size as his bike’s rear wheel, then slicing a U-shaped slot in it so it’d slip behind the sprocket perfectly and stay in place while spinning the wheel. As a bonus, he even left a flap at the bottom to act as a catch while spritzing the chain with various chemicals that will invariably lead to cancer or a mild contact high.

After watching that 45-second clip, I promptly stormed off my couch and put this man’s design to the test. It worked. It worked far better than the tired cardboard I’d be using that was soaked through with what probably amounts to a gallon of chain lube and cleaner. As someone who operates a racebike occasionally, I tend to clean my chain obsessively when heading to the track and top it off every third session. I have an excuse in that I use non-o-ring chains, which require much more upkeep, though I’m sure the fine people at Whatever-Brand-Chain-Lube-and-Cleaner-I-Buy-At-The-Time are in full support of my habits.

On that note, I have almost no allegiance to chain lubricants, save for whatever is “specifically formulated for high-performance motorcycles,” because that kind of marketing speaks to me on a primal level. While I know there probably isn’t a benefit, there is a chance that there could be, and performance FOMO strikes.

Sometimes there are easier ways to get things done, and while I’m an adult who pays bills and feeds himself, simple tricks like this always impress me. Gimmicks are one thing, and solutions that highlight the path of least resistance live at the opposite end of the spectrum, which we riders would probably prefer to follow. So, it’s fair to say that social media finally taught me something worth learning. All it took was training the algorithm to show motorcycle and cat-related videos ad nauseum. But you can’t have too many cat videos in your life, so there’s always that.