Chain lube: Make your chain last longer with these products

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There are several reasons that a motorbike chain can wear prematurely, but there’s no need to let poor maintenance be one of them. Keeping your chain clean lubricated will help it to perform better and last longer.

Open to rain, road spray and dirt, chain drive systems suffer from natural abuse just as much as human and mechanical abuse. Regardless of the bike’s performance level, life isn’t easy for your chain and sprockets.

There are two basic types of motorbike chain. Open chains are cheap and simple and tend to be used on low-capacity motorbikes or off-roaders. Contain no lubricant of their own and can be cleaned down after each use and sprayed with a water disperser like WD-40 to prevent rust.

O-ring or X-ring chains use small seals around the chain’s rollers to hold lubricant in place. These kinds of heavy-duty chains are more expensive than open chains but last much longer and stretch more slowly.

O-ring and X-ring chains should be cleaned with a specific product for the job, as petroleum-based cleaners will push past the seals and dissolve the grease.

Here are some of the best motorbike chain lubes on the market right now:

1. Wurth High Performance

Wurth High Performance

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  • Transparent, high-pressure resistant, highly adhesive lubricant
  • Prevents running noise and wear
  • Forms a quick-drying, tough-elastic lubricating and protective film
  • Does not attack O-rings
  • Resistant to water, steam, acids and bases
  • Protects against corrosion

Based on a wax formula, this dry Wurth lube promises not to fling off, or attract dirt and grit from the road surface, which helps increase chain life. Buyers agree, with reviewers commending it for its no mess, no fuss properties.

2. Castrol Racing chain lube

Castrol racing chain lube

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  • Suitable for standard, O-Ring & X-Ring chains
  • Forms a long lasting, dry-type semi-transparent lubricating
  • High resistance to speed fling
  • Low friction coating for reduced operating temperature & prolonged chain life
  • Superior protection against metal corrosion resulting from exposure to humidity & salt

This fully synthetic lube features a unique chemical composition to help combat corrosion, as well as helping to prevent the lube being washed away in wet conditions. It’s suitable for all chain types, and dries to a colourless finish. 

3. SDoc100 White Chain Lube

SDoc White Chain Lube

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  • New Formula containing ultra-adhesive additives
  • Longer application intervals, up to double
  • Significantly extended chain life, up to double
  • Practically impossible to throw off
  • Excellent penetration properties
  • Optimum lubricating properties from -30

Chain sprays either work, or they don’t. Actually, there is a third common option, where they sort of do work, but they also drive you mad. This SDoc100 stuff simply falls into the ‘works’ category.

There’s a conspicuous lack of fling, leaving your chain coated in a rust-and-grime-repelling coating, whilst your back wheel, tail unit and leg remain as clean as they were. It can easily be removed by SDoc’s chain cleaner, too, for easy maintenance.

This spray also fails to create the paste-like sludge of lube and road grit that infests many a sprocket housing, and keeps all grime well away from the chain itself. When you remove the protection with chain cleaner you have a clean chain – not a well-lubricated rusty and dirty one.

4. Motul C4 Factory Line chain lube

Motul C4 Factory Line chain lube

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  • Spray-based, water and rust resistant chain lube
  • A highly sticky lubricant for motorcycle chains
  • Does not harm O-ring seals
  • Recommended for high performance motorcycles

This lube is recommended for high-performance bikes because of its highly sticky, fling-resistant properties. Sold as being safe for O-ring chains, it’s actually a water-based lube.

5. XCP Professional Chain Lube

XCP Professional Chain Lube

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  • Ultra-thin, non-sticky film
  • Penetrates links and sprockets
  • Withstands extreme pressure
  • Resists high speed fling off

This XCP chain lube leaves a thin film, which neither attracts dirt onto the chain nor flings off all over the wheels and bodywork; a neater result in our book than chain wax type sprays.

Apply a dosage once a week during normal commuting/weekend riding and that will do the trick. One thing to watch out for is that the spray comes out quite quickly. When it first came on the market XCP used a long nozzle straw and if you weren’t careful the delivery to the chain could be difficult to control.

They’ve now opted for a shorter nozzle which works better (you can just modify the older one with a pair of scissors). Also, note that if you are generous with the spray you can see a few spots of oil on the garage floor afterwards.

6. WD-40 Specialist Motorbike Chain Wax

WD-40 Specialist Motorbike Chain Wax

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  • O & X Ring Compatible
  • Specialist Motorcycle Spray
  • Added PTFE
  • Provides lasting lubrication and protection for your chain
  • Suitable for wet conditions
  • Anti-fling properties
  • Maintains the performance and life of your chain

MCN's former BSB Reporter, Oli Rushby, used the WD-40 Chain Wax on his Suzuki V-Strom 650 GT for twelve months and he gave it a 5-star rating, saying:

"WD-40’s chain wax has become a go-to product for winter chain lubrication for me, a coating every week or so has resulted in zero corrosion on the chain of my Suzuki V-Strom 650 and best of all, the ‘outstanding anti-fling properties’ WD-40 claim, seem to ring true – it doesn’t fling off at all!

"A 400ml can lasted me the best part of a year, which I was really impressed with. I used to go through chain lube like nothing else, but even in the harshest and wettest conditions, it’s still lasting. With a normal lube, I’d find myself having to re-apply after every few rides. Not anymore!"

Lubricating a motorcycle chain

Motorcycle chain lube FAQ:

Q. How often should I lubricate my motorcycle chain?

A. You should aim to lubricate you motorbike chain every 300-600 miles. In an ideal world, you would clean the chain before each lubrication, but that isn’t always practical. Lubricate your chain after riding to give the lubricant time to dry (so it doesn’t end up all over your wheels.

Q. How much motorcycle chain lube should I use?

A. You need to ensure an even coating along the length of the chain. If you apply too much some of it will end up flinging off the next time you ride and you’ll end up cleaning it off your rear wheel-rim.

Q. Do I need a paddock stand to lubricate my motorcycle chain?

A. No. Although it makes the job much easier, you can lubricate your chain in sections, moving the bike backwards and forwards as necessary to ensure you get it all.

Q. What is the best lube for a motorcycle chain?

A. A dedicated chain lube is recommended, especially on sealed (O and X-ring) chains where using the wrong thing will cause the grease to disintegrate. Whether you prefer a wax, dry lube, wet lube or paste is up to you.

Q. Can I use WD-40 to lube a bike chain?

A. No. Standard WD-40 is a water dispersant, not a lubricant and will cause the grease in your O or X-ring chain to disintegrate. If you have an open chain, WD-40 can be used after cleaning to prevent rust but will not work as a lubricant.

WD-40 produce specific chain lubricants (see above) which can be used on your chain.

Q. Can I use engine oil to lubricate a motorcycle chain?

A. No. While engine oil is designed to lubricate moving parts, it is intended to be used in a contained system (an engine). It will not stay put on your chain and will wash off quickly in the rain.

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Bruce Dunn

By Bruce Dunn

Datalogger, professionally testing bikes for over 25 years.