How To Clean A Motorcycle Chain

Suchi Vora
by Suchi Vora

Photo by Rizar el Pixel /

Your motorcycle chain goes through a lot of wear and tear and can get very dirty, very quickly. Cleaning the chain regularly is not just for aesthetics but is also crucial for your bike to function properly. The chain transfers power from the engine to the rear wheel and a grimy or dirty chain can significantly affect the bike's performance and safety. A worn-out chain can also damage the sprockets and engine, potentially requiring costly repairs. Fortunately, it doesn’t take longer than 20 minutes to clean and spruce up your motorcycle chain.

Tools & Materials Required

Before diving into the cleaning process, ensure you have the right tools and materials:

Prepare Your Workspace

Pick a well-ventilated spot with enough room to work on your bike. Use the cardboard, old newspapers, or a drop cloth to cover the surrounding area, in case of any drips or splatters of chain cleaner or lubricant.

Secure the Motorcycle

Park your bike on a flat and stable surface and put it on the rear stand or the center stand to elevate the rear wheel off the ground. This makes it easier to rotate the wheel and access the entire chain. Ensure the engine is not running and the bike is set to neutral. If you don't have a stand, you can also lean the bike against a wall, but make sure that the chain is accessible and the bike is secure. As a last resort, enlist the help of a friend to roll the bike forward as you walk alongside, spraying the cleaner and/or lubricant.

Inspect the Chain

Before cleaning, inspect the chain for any signs of damage or excessive wear. Look for tight spots, loose links, or rust. If you notice any issues beyond regular dirt buildup, it might require attention from a professional or replacement.

Clean the Chain

Spray the chain generously with cleaner or a degreaser. Make sure to spray it on both sides, including the inside and outside of each link. Let it soak for a few minutes to loosen the dirt and grease. You can also use a cloth or paper towel to put on the cleaner or degreaser, but remember to wear gloves and safety glasses so it doesn't touch your skin or eyes.

Use the chain brush or an old toothbrush to scrub the chain thoroughly, working your way around the entire length of the chain. Pay attention to the areas where the chain meets the sprockets, as they tend to accumulate more dirt and grime. Take your time and ensure every part of the chain is properly cleaned.

Photo by Daniel Jedzura /

Rinse and Dry

After scrubbing the chain, use clean rags or microfiber cloths to wipe off the excess cleaner or degreaser. You might need to repeat this step a few times until the cloth comes away relatively clean. You can also wash the chain with a hose or bucket of water but remember to dry it well after. Let the chain air dry completely before proceeding.

Apply Lubricant

Once the chain is dry, apply the lubricant. Choose a high-quality motorcycle chain lubricant, shake it well, and spray it evenly along the entire length of the chain while rotating the rear wheel (or while rolling the bike forward if you don’t have a stand). Try to spray in the middle of the chain, not on either side, to best lubricate the O-rings (if your chain has O-rings) and seals. Do not use too much lubricant or wax, as it can attract more dirt and fling off the chain onto the wheel and the swingarm. You want the chain to look wet – but not dripping wet. Use a clean cloth to get rid of any excessive dirt and debris. Allow the lubricant to set for the recommended time specified by the manufacturer. This allows proper penetration and adherence to the chain, enhancing its longevity and performance.

Recheck and Adjust

Once the lubricant has set, check the chain tension and alignment, according to your bike's manual. You can use a chain alignment tool or a ruler to check the alignment of the chain and the sprockets, ensuring that they are parallel and in line with each other. An improperly adjusted chain can lead to quicker wear or even accidents.

Clean Up

If your bike is on a stand, take it down and go for a short ride to distribute the lubricant or the wax evenly on the chain.

Maintenance Tips:

Regular Cleaning: Aim to clean your motorcycle chain every 500-700 miles, or earlier if you ride in adverse conditions like rain or dusty environments.

Avoid Over-lubricating: Applying too much lubricant can attract more dirt, leading to quicker wear. Follow the manufacturer's guidelines for the right amount.

Inspect Frequently: Routinely inspect the chain for wear, tight spots, or loose links. Address any issues promptly to prevent further damage.

A well-maintained motorcycle chain is vital for optimal performance, safety, and longevity of your bike. Remember, if you're uncertain about any step or notice significant chain wear or damage, it's always wise to consult a professional mechanic for guidance or assistance.

Photo by Velimir Zeland /

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Suchi Vora
Suchi Vora

Suchi is the voice behind the handlebars as's latest addition. By day, she fuels her passion through creative marketing endeavors, and contributes her free time to

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 1 comment
  • Duken4evr Duken4evr on Jan 23, 2024

    On my dirt bikes I hit the chain with an electric pressure washer, leaf blower and have a beer. 😄