Chain Maintenance

I remember how confusing this topic was when I was considering buying a bike with chain drive, I wanted to know what I was getting myself into and did some research. However, the ways people clean chains — what they use to do it with, and how often they do it — are quite numerous. I gave up and just started doing it. And the regimen I came up with for myself seems to work, because my chain and sprockets are still in awesome condition after 13K. A lady, GoGreen, on one of the forums asked the following: “One topic that I struggle with is how often to lube that chain and what is a good product to use? Checked other sites and the opinions are numerous, very confusing!” I figured I’d help a sister out. Here we go:

ChainWax (or PJ1 Blue Label) and every time the thing gets wet (rain riding or washing the bike) or every 500 miles. The 500 miles is what the MoM (Motorcycle Owner Manual) says, I don’t stick to it that rigorously, but when it gets rained on (I commute, happens quite a lot) then it needs to be cleaned (with Kerosene) and lubed as soon as possible or it will start rusting. Check it as part of your pre-ride inspection, it’ll start looking dry and/or cruddy, then go ahead and Kerosene and lube… I don’t heat the chain up (with a hair dryer or by going on a 5-minute ride), even though they recommend it on the lubricant cans, so the lube has a better chance to penetrate the links… however, since I lube fairly often (most sportbike riders do this like twice a year) I’m not worried about it. I’m still on my first set of chain and sprocket (the ‘Busa has almost 13K on it) and they look brand new. No visible wear and tear. So I know I’m doing something right. The thing about ChainWax, you can clean and lube in one step. However, I still clean with Kerosene anyway. I also clean the black gunk out of the rear sprocket…. however, I’m anal (it takes me 45 minutes to clean and lube my chain). It’s probably not necessary, but I am not about to change things up, since the hardware is still looking awesome after all these miles.

Chain lubricant comes in different viscosities… from thin and clear to thick and white (no matter, it all turns to black thick grease eventually, you’ll notice that on the sprocket the most)…. I like thin and clear (the two I recommend and mentioned above are thin/clear)… less mess on your undertail, swingarm, rear wheel’s rim, due to less fling-off, however the trade off is that it isn’t as greasy (tends to not last as long, so has to be renewed more to keep friction between links to a minimum and keep 0-rings nice and lubed). Some of the stuff flings off more than other stuff. Some stuff attracts more road grime… experiment… see what you like the best. I’m sticking to PJ1 Blue Label or ChainWax, because it works for me and what I find important in trade-offs vs. ease of use and how I do stuff. And I have a white bike!

EDIT: Oh, and I do two rotations each, when cleaning with Kerosene and when lubing with my stuff of choice. I start with the master link (to mark the spot, mine’s blue) and go around twice. And I use paper towels to do it. I fold them into quarters, soak them in Kerosene for cleaning. Then, when lubing I just basically use them as a shield for overspray and to wipe off excess as I go around. I don’t like the rag idea… it seems like mopping with a dirty mop… it just seems like you would spread the gunk around more rather than cleaning it off.

How many sprockets does it take?
Now as far as sprockets go, I’ve heard that you’ll need to replace the sprockets every other chain. But this is my first chain drive (the Harley was belt driven). I’m going to cross that bridge when I get to it. Damage/wear to sprockets is obvious, pretty much, so we shall see. However, I’m not running a hack, so I can see where that would be tough on a bike and wear drive components out quicker.

GoGreen: “Miss Busa, you must live and breathe for your bike, talk about care and devotion that’s what I like!”

Umm… yes, busted. Some would call it pathological. I think I’m getting on people’s nerves. The guys at work have threatened to take up a collection to buy me a car, because I’m so hardcore that it possibly can’t be healthy. I just laugh at them. I have a reputation… I’m lovin’ it!

GoGreen: “Oh, one other thing..I may need to get a track stand for this bike as it has no center stand..makes it a bit difficult to lube the chain, guess I just have to roll it back and forth for now! Anyone else lubing this way?”

Holy Helena, girl! If I had to roll my bike back and forth to do chain maintenance it would NOT get done, and it would take me 4 hours, I’m sure. Get yourself a rear stand, heck, while you’re at it get a set. Just don’t make the mistake and buy cheap, like I did. A stand is a stand is a stand. NOT! If you have any questions about those, let me know… I did some research back in the day, BEFORE I got my ‘Busa, just to pass the time until I actually had her. LOL I actually can’t put the Fat Lady on her rear stand by myself… I don’t weigh enough. So I have to get a diff stand now anyway, one with a longish handle (in reverse) so I can do it by myself. Fortunately, I have my one-man pit crew (read: hubby).

I also have a little pocket rear stand for roadside chain maintenance. It looks like a little kickstand, attaches to the swingarm spool, then you pull up on the rear and kick it under to raise the rear wheel off the ground just enough to be able to freely rotate the wheel. That’s better than rolling it, too. Here’s the linky to the Quick Stand. It is Miss Busa tried and approved. 🙂

Spools are always a good idea even if you can’t think of a use for them. Just one more option you never know when it might come in handy. And if you color coordinate them with your bike it’s a touch of inexpensive bling. Mine are blue and they were $15. I can’t see the need for a set of track stands if you have a lift. However would the lift be portable? If not then you would still want track stands if you’re planning to do track days.

What in the world are spools?
Almost all sportbikes have little threaded holes on the swingarm. On the bottom, right before the chain adjuster block. Into those you can screw little spools… They kind of look like the ones with the thread on them… Which then accept the little U-shaped hooks on a rear stand so you can lift the back end off the ground for tire changing, chain maintenance, etc. You can also lift by the swingarm itself with the approropriate rubberized L-shaped attachments on a rear stand. However, swingarm spools are deemed safer.

And since a picture is worth 1,000 words, here’s a pic of my swingarm spools (she is dirty and I apologize ):

Swingarm Spools

Swingarm Spool (left side)


Swingarm Spools

Swingarm Spool (right side)


6 Comments on “Chain Maintenance”

  1. EEEEEEEE says:

    hectors too old and ghetto to have spools. 😦 At least shes got herself a bonafide centerstand!
    im so bad with cleaning and lubing my chain. I ride in the rain, you know, all the time. This is Oregon, after all. And yet I still don’t even usually get around to lubing it every 500 miles.
    I just ordered a new chain and sprockets. Im going to try to take much better care of these ones. Maybe I wont have to replace them before I see her! Wouldn’t that be nice!
    Everything on your bike looks so new and clean. Even tho its got 1300 miles. I suppose thats what I get for having a 96 thats been thru 6 owners and gets cleaned about twice a winter and 5 times a summer. 😛

  2. MissBusa says:

    Try 13800 😉 My bike looks like shite right now. Too damn cold to play with the hose. I don’t clean it every 500 religiously, but I do try to do it after each rain. I ride in crappy weather, too. She is my way to work, after all. But it’s hard to keep up with all the TLC if you don’t have a garage. 😦 Last time I did my chain it was rusty and so dry it was actually easier to clean. Shame on me! And she’s so freaking dirty you could write ‘wash me’ on her. She’s in Combat ‘Busa mode. LOL

    • EEEEEEEE says:

      mhm.. i know the feeling. no point in washing if she’s just going to get dirty again. How many days of rain do you get per month there in GA, on average, in the winter?

  3. MissBusa says:

    It rains a lot in the spring and fall. In the winter not so much. But I couldn’t tell ya the average. I would have to google that. It rarely snows here and when it does it’s very light and doesn’t stick long. How in the hell do you get around in the snow? Tire studs? I saw the pics of you and a friend rolling that big ass snowball around. I cringed! LOL

    • EEEEEEEE says:

      lol.. it barely ever snows here. That was a freak accident which came totally unpredicted. I don’t ride in the snow.. but I do have a friend who went around nailing a bunch of screws in his tires. It worked ok for a little while for him. Last year we had a 2 week freak snow/ice storm thing that put Hector on the fritz. It sucked. I’m hoping for no more snowfall this year.. but we may end up with another day or too in Jan or Feb. Keeping my fingers crossed, tho. Its mostly just rain around here.

  4. MissBusa says:

    LOL I lived in Idaho for a year and it snowed there a lot! Figured Oregon can’t be that much different. Boy, do I feel stupid. What’s the average temps there? Low 30s here. But it’s been way colder so far this year.


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