Home > Powersports > Motorcycle Cleaning And Maintenance >  

The 10 Best Motorcycle Chains For 2020

Everything You Need To Know About Buying A Motorcycle Chain – All In One Place!

Best Overall Choice

Renthal C291 R-32 O-Ring 520-Pitch 114 Link Chain

Check Latest Price

Best Budget Choice

JT Sprockets JTC420HDR134SL Steel 134-Link 420 HDR Heavy Duty Drive Chain

Check Latest Price

Best Premium Choice

Vortex V3 WSS Chain And Sprocket Kit

Check Latest Price

DID 520VX2-120 X-Ring Chain with Connecting Link

Your motorcycle chain is a consumable part of your bike, so you’re going to have to replace it sooner or later. But what chain do you choose? What type will suit you best? What’s the difference between an unsealed, O-ring, or X-ring chain anyway? There are lot of chains available on the market, from cheap and cheerful products to incredibly expensive performance parts. They come in different lengths, with different pitches, and a variety of master links. Choosing the right one that suits your needs is a tricky business, but we’ve put together a list of our favorite chains out there to make life a little easier for you. These products have been carefully selected from a wide range of chains that have been designed to offer the best performance for a variety of different motorcycles from different categories. Hopefully, there’s something in here that suits you, or points you in the right direction for your next purchase!

The 10 Best Motorcycle Chains For Your Bike!

Best Overall Choice

1. Renthal C291 R-32 O-Ring 520-Pitch 114 Link Chain

Check Latest Price

In first place, we have the C291 R-32 O-Ring 520-Pitch 114-Links chain from Renthal. Renthal is one of the most well-known brand names in the two-wheeled industry, supplying high-quality parts and accessories to motocross, off-road, and road-racing enthusiasts, as well as professional cycling outfits too. It’s a name you can trust, and the company’s motorcycle chain range has some impressive products. We like this quality O-ring chain a lot. It’s ideal for a wide range of motorcycles but it’s best suited to street bikes, and if it has the right amount of links to fit your motorcycle, then upgrade to one of these as soon as possible. And if not, you can invest in the C294 R3-2 O-Ring 520-Pitch 120-Link version!

The chain is made from a tough shot-peened alloy steel material which works in tandem with high carbon alloy steel bearing pins to provide excellent tensile strength, a high impact load resistance, and excellent wear resistance. The chain’s gold-colored side plates have been treated to provide corrosion resistance and to keep the chain as protected as possible from any unwanted chemical reactions. It’s a great chain as it is, but’s it’s the addition of Nitrile O-rings that make it such a great choice.  The Nitrile O-ring chains feature vacuum-injected grease inside each link and joint to drastically improve the chain’s lifespan. Not only that, it comes pre-stretched for increased performance, and a price point that won’t leave your bank balance in ruins.

Top Features:

  • O-ring motorcycle chain with Nitrile O-rings
  • Vacuum-injected great inside every chain joint
  • Equipped with both types of master lock
  • Suitable for on and off-road motorcycles, and ATVs
  • Tensile strength: 7,644 lbs


2. RK Racing Chain 520-SO-120

Check Latest Price

If you like the sound of the Renthal but want something of equal quality but at a cheaper price point, then this chain from RK Racing is what you’re looking for. RK Racing Chains are a very well-established brand that have been providing top-quality chains to racers and racing teams from the likes of the FIM World Championships and AMA World Superbike and Super Sport for over a quarter of a century – so you can trust the quality of their products, despite the cheaper price tag. It doesn’t come in first place because it has a limited use: it’s only good for street and off-road motorcycles of up to 400cc; but if you happen to have a smaller capacity motorcycle or prefer off-roading, then this could very well be a better choice than the Renthal product above!

Almost every component on this chain is manufactured from high-carbon steel that has been heat-treated for extra strength, and that includes the rollers and bushings. It’s tough and durable, and will last you a long time providing that you maintain it well and that it’s properly lubricated. Like all O-ring chains, it’s equipped with rubber fixtures that keep the moving parts nice and lubricated, making for a longer lasting chain than other conventional chain types. Each chain comes pre-stretched and pre-stressed to enhance performance from the moment it’s installed, and each chain comes with a clip-style master link too.

Top Features:

  • O-ring motorcycle chain
  • Clip-style master link
  • Professional racing-spec design and build quality
  • Pre-stretched and stressed for improved performance
  • Tensile strength: 7,700 lbs

3. EK Chain 525 SRX2 Chain

Check Latest Price

Some riders insist that this particular QX-ring chain from EK Chains is better and more durable than all other O-ring motorcycle chain products on the market. It certainly is an excellent chain, and if you want something for a higher capacity motorcycle that boasts a very high tensile strength, and you prefer something a little more exotic than an o-ring, then this is worth having a look at. A QX-chain means it has Quadra X-rings, or rather, an X-ring chain with four contact patches. These contact patches help to reduce friction by as much as 40% compared to an O-ring, which can allow your chain to last more than 50% longer than O-ring style chains. That’s quite the boast.

If that wasn’t enough to intrigue you, these SRX2 chains also have weight saving “lightning holes” drilled into alternate links to keep the chain’s overall rotating mass as low as possible without compromising the strength and integrity of the whole chain. The reduced friction and lighter weight results in a quicker throttle response and improved power. To make things even cooler, EK Chains have fitted all their products with a screw-type master link that doesn’t need any special tools to help you install your new chain quickly and efficiently. These chains are more expensive than others on the market, but they pack more advanced technology than others can boast. It’s also available in gold or natural finishes.

Top Features:

  • Manufactured from solid, billet steel
  • Ideal for higher capacity motorcycles
  • QX-ring design offering 40% less friction than O-ring chains
  • Patented screw-type master link for easy fitting
  • Tensile strength: 9,000 lbs
Best Budget Choice

4. JT Sprockets JTC420HDR134SL Steel 134-Link 420 HDR Heavy Duty Drive Chain

Check Latest Price

This chain isn’t like O-ring or X-ring chains – it’s an old fashioned, traditional chain without any of those added seals or packing too much in the way of modern technology. This product from JT Sprockets is a heavy duty chain that is tough, durable, and perfect for any dirt bike. It’s suitable for ATVs and street bikes but it really is best for off-road dirt bikes since it can withstand more off-road abuse than fancier motorcycle drive chains on the market.

What makes it so special is the chain’s low weight and high strength combination, which makes it excellent for smaller motorcycles and off-road machines. The chain is made from advanced high-quality steel alloys and is held together by a clip-on master link. The master link could be better and it would be better with something a bit tougher for a connecting link. That being said, it does the job and does it well. And that leads us to our final point about why we like this chain: it’s is incredibly cheap. Even if it breaks, it’s hardly the end of the world because you can easily pick up a new one. To be honest though, it should take a fair few miles to break providing you take care of it, keep it properly lubricated and give it regular maintenance. For best results, pair it with a matching front and rear sprocket from JT Sprockets!

Top Features:

  • Standard chain rather than an O or X-ring motorcycle chain
  • Manufactured from high-grade steel alloys
  • Lightweight without compromising chain strength
  • Incredibly low price
  • Tensile strength: 4,189 lbs

5. Drag Specialties 530 O-Ring Chain

Check Latest Price

This chain is from Drag Specialties, an all-American company based out of Janesville, Wisconsin, which has developed a solid reputation for supplying top quality aftermarket motorcycle parts and a full line of their own branded products too. The company’s 530-series O-ring chain is an excellent product that features a quad pin riveting mechanism with heavy duty O-rings that lock in that much needed factory lubrication whilst simultaneously keeping dirt, grime, mud, moisture, and all that nasty jazz at the same time. The O-rings drastically improve the lifespan of your chain, while the clever quad pin riveting system cuts down on wear and tear, stopping your chain from wearing our before it’s due!

Built with solid bushings and rollers, this chain also comes equipped with 130 links which makes it a great choice for riders in possession of a stretched motorcycle. Luckily, it’s easy to cut down to whatever size you need, in case 130 links is too many for you. Talking of which, you’ll need a rivet tool chain breaker to install the master link on this chain, but the rivet-type master link is included when you buy the product. What’s more, this chain is available in a natural finish or a more exciting chrome finish. The chrome finish has tough chrome plating on the side plates, for added longevity and aesthetic appeal.

Top Features:

  • Made with O-ring chain links
  • Extra long chain which is ideal for stretched motorcycles or long Harley-Davidsons!
  • Rivet-type master link
  • Pre-stretched from the factory
  • Tensile strength: 9,500 lbs


6. RK Racing Chain GB520XSO-120

Check Latest Price

Next up, we’ve got another product from RK Racing Chain. This time, we’re looking at their GB520XSO-120, a 120 link chain with an X-ring configuration. It’s an X-ring chain, but it’s described as a RX-ring chain. The “RX” designation is RK’s own cool take on an X-ring, and the RX refers to the company’s special sealing rings which are designed with two lubrication pools and sealing points, which is double the amount found on conventional O-ring chains. It helps to keep the internal moving parts of the chain as completely lubricated as possible whilst reducing friction resistance. The result is a consistent power delivery, increased chain life, and a nicely sealed chain in general.

Like all of RK Racing Chain’s products, the GB520XSO-120 is built from heat treated, high-carbon alloy steel parts that can withstand an insane amount of punishment. These chains also boast seamless rollers that help to let the chain run smoothly between sprocket teeth, reducing vibration and improving performance. If that wasn’t enough, every chain comes with its own master link, and you can order them in either a gold finish, or a natural steel color option. What’s more, all of RK’s sealed chains come with a pretty attractive 20,000 mile warranty. This is an excellent chain that works for a wide range of motorcycles – and you can’t argue with the price, because it should be priced higher for what it is.

Top Features:

  • Unique X-ring seals made from a Nitrile Butadiene composite
  • Riveting link master link
  • Available in gold or steel finishes
  • 20,000 mile warranty with every chain
  • Tensile strength: 8,500 lbs.

7. Pro Taper Gold Series PT 520 XRC Chain

Check Latest Price

If you take your off-road riding seriously then this may very well be the chain for you. Pro Taper have gone through the efforts of designing, engineering, and testing a product that’s suitable to withstand the immense amount of punishment that’s inflicted on a motorcycle chain. This pretty looking gold chain looks the part, and it performs as good as it looks, boasting superior quality compared with standard chains in the off-road world. This particular model is an X-ring chain that can literally handle anything that’s thrown at it thanks to the quality of the materials used in the manufacturing process, and the amount of skilled design gone into it.

Manufactured from a high-quality chromoly steel alloy, this chain is incredibly lightweight but still offers exceptional durability and performance. The chain is strong enough to handle all the trials and tribulations that go with off-road riding, and the cool X-ring seals have been tested against the toughest conditions to ensure that you can comfortably ride to the maximum without worrying about the effects of extreme temperatures or adverse weather. Each chain features a clip-style master link. According to the manufacturer, this chain is designed for off-road motorcycles of up to 750cc and boasts a tensile strength of 8,800 lbs.

Top Features:

  • X-ring type chain for off-road riding
  • Aesthetically pleasing gold finish
  • All ProTaper products are heat treated to increase durability
  • Manufactured from a high-strength chromoloy steel alloy
  • Tensile strength: 8,800 lbs.


8. DID 520VX2 X-Ring Chain

Check Latest Price

The next entry on our best motorcycle chain list is the DID 520VX2 X-ring chain. This is a great chain that will certainly help to improve your handling, reduce any power loss transferred to the rear wheel, and increase your motorcycle’s throttle response. Like all X-ring chains, it has the edge over conventional O-ring chains and standard chains that aren’t sealed at all, thanks to the use of integrated lubrication which allows the chain to move freely with an increased smoothness, and reduce wear and tear on the chain which results in a longer chain life overall. In fact, the company insists that the 520VX2-X will last up to 35 times longer when compared with other chains out there.

This particular model has excellent rigidity, and thanks to some chain designing wizardry it also has runs much quieter than many other chains on the market. It’s an excellent chain but it’s not ideal for every single motorcycle out there. This one has a maximum CC displacement of 750cc, which makes it ideal for the low to mid-capacity machines, the super sport class and off-road applications, but shouldn’t be used on liter class sports bikes or big touring motorcycles. Still, this chain is rated with a tensile strength of 8,210 lbs, comes complete with a connecting master link, and features that excellent X-ring technology that we love.

Top Features:

  • X-ring type chain design
  • Rigid chain that improves handling, throttle response, and reduces power loss
  • Promises to last 35x longer than other chains
  • Connecting master link included
  • Tensile strength: 8,210 lbs

9. Unibear Gold 120 Link 530 Motorcycle O-Ring Chain

Check Latest Price

Unibear is another brand name that you can depend on. This particular product is their 120 link 530 motorcycle O-ring chain, with a gold finish. Like all O-ring chains, it comes with permanent lubrication injected and sealed between the pin and bushings to help the chain move freely with reduced friction, which also helps prevent wearing, and gives the chain a longer lifespan. The chain links are constructed from a heat treated high-grade steel alloy, with solid bushings and a 4-side riveting assembly. It’s a seriously heavy-duty motorcycle chain, and the overall weight reflects this. It’s one of the heaviest on our list with a weight of around 6 lbs.

The extra weight gives the chain a little bit more durability at the expense of weight saving performance. It has greater resistance to impacts, shocks, and wear, and adds rigidity to help improve handling and reduce power loss. Each chain comes pre-lubricated and pre-stretched from the factory, with a gold finish to help protect against rust and corrosion. A clip style master link is provided with every purchase! It also has a high tensile strength, with a rating of 10,000 lbs which is probably more like 9,600 lbs, but still pretty sturdy. This is a high-quality and durable chain which is more than capable enough for heavyweight motorcycles.

Top Features:

  • O-ring style chain that arrives pre-lubricated
  • Heat treated alloy steel for extra durability and strength
  • Pre-greased and pre-stretched from the factory
  • Equipped with a clip-style master link as standard
  • Tensile strength: 10,000 lbs


Best Premium Choice

10. Vortex V3 WSS Chain And Sprocket Kit

Check Latest Price

The Vortex V3 WSS Chain and Sprocket Kit is a great choice for those looking to upgrade their stock setup without spending too much money, and without skimping out on quality. The price for one of these kits buys you chain and sprocket set specifically for your motorcycle model which has the same original gearing and pitch you’re used to, but made from lighter, stronger, and cheaper materials. The kit includes a nickel plated front sprocket that has been drilled out with weight-reducing holes to reduce the sprocket’s overall rotating mass. The rear sprocket is made from a super-durable laser cut carbon steel alloy, with a cupped down design and big cutouts which reduce the overall rotating mass and keep the sprocket’s un-sprung weight down to the minimum.

Since this chain and kit combination comes in different sizes and styles to fit your motorcycle, it can either come with one of two different chain types. The first is the SX3, an X-ring chain with a special tri-glide seal that keeps friction down and reduces heat, which helps to make the SX3 last up to 10 times longer than a normal O-ring chain. The SX3 has a tensile strength of up to 11,000 lbs. Other kits come with the RX3 chain, which is also an X-ring chain that has the same tri-glide seal, but has a reduced tensile strength of 9,000 lbs and doesn’t boast to last up to 10 times longer than a regular O-ring chain.

Top Features:

  • X-ring chains with matching front and rear sprockets
  • Often superior in quality and cheaper in price than OEM parts
  • Nickel plated front sprockets, laser cut steel alloy rear sprockets
  • Rivet type master link included. Note: you’ll need a rivet tool to install this chain
  • Tensile strength: 9,000 lbs (RX3 chains) / 11,000 lbs (SX3 chains)


Motorcycle Chain Buying Guide & FAQs

While the items listed above are highly recommended by us, motorcycles and riders are different and each rider will need to do a bit of research into what chain will best suit their needs and what kind of chain is best suited to their motorcycle and riding style. Do you need a chain that offers the best performance or lasts the longest? Are you looking for something specifically for off-road purposes? Or do you just need the cheapest thing you can buy that won’t wear out after a hundred miles? You should ask yourself these questions, but you also need to make sure that the chain you’re looking at fits your motorcycle. Here, we’re going to answer a few frequently asked questions and go into detail about some of the specific features of motorcycle chains.

Why You Should Invest In A Good Chain

Despite being made of strong metals and designed to handle serious punishment, motorcycle chains are perishable and will eventually need to be replaced. The stress that they’re put under causes them to stretch, and an over-stretched chain will skip teeth on a sprocket, damage those same sprocket teeth, fall out of line, and eventually snap. A snapped chain isn’t ideal. But there’s more to chain replacement than simple routine maintenance. A new chain can increase performance, offering better throttle response, faster acceleration, and even improve handling. It can also change and streamline your maintenance routine too. The best motorcycle chain that you can drastically improve your motorcycling life. But features should you look out for?

What To Look For In A Motorcycle Chain

Before investing in a chain, you should take the time to learn what all the numbers and words mean in a products description. It’s best to familiarize yourself with the jargon so that you can guarantee that you’re buying the chain for your motorcycle, avoiding an unnecessary headache in future. These features are some of the most important to keep in mind before investing.

Pitch – The pitch of a chain refers to the distance between the chain’s pins. You might have seen numbers like 520, 525, and 530 being advertised. These numbers are the chain’s pitch, and the wrong pitch will drastically decrease the performance of your motorcycle. If the pitch is wrong, then it won’t connect with the sprockets correctly. Make sure you follow your manufacturer’s advice for the ideal pitch, or change your sprockets accordingly.

Size – Even with the correct pitch, you may not have the correct size. A chain’s size is also calculated by length, and the length is designated by the number of links in a chain. Different motorcycles require different chain lengths. Removing links from a chain that’s too long isn’t too much hassle but it’s always better to get a chain that fits perfectly for easier installation.

Connecting Link Type – While it’s not the most obvious thing to be concerned about, the right kind of connecting link or master link is an important thing to pay attention to. Typically, they’ll come with a clip-type link or a rivet-type. Clip links are much easier to use and install but they do have a higher failure rate. Rivet-type motorcycle chain master links are much tougher, but they require a special tool for installation. Some motorcycle chains don’t even come with a master link of any kind attached and you’ll need to buy your own one. Pay attention to whether it comes with one or not to avoid disappointment.

Chain Strength – A chain’s strength, or tensile strength, is a measure of the maximum load of weight that a chain can handle before it stretches, or snap. Chain’s with higher tensile strength ratings can endure more force that those with less. Larger motorcycles generally require a higher tensile strength rating. Tensile strength is measured in pounds.

Pre-stretched & Pre-lubed – You can also buy your chains pre-stretched and pre-lubed. A pre-stretched chain has been stretched at the factory, using tension to simulate real-life riding. This helps to increase the overall lifespan of a chain and increase the length of time between chain replacements. A pre-lubed chain comes from the factory already coated in chain lube, allowing you to install your chain and ride away without having to worry. These chains will still require re-lubing and maintenance in the future though.

Different Types Of Motorcycle Drive Chains

Apart from the above mentioned features to look out for when trying to determine the best motorcycle chain for your needs, there’s also the matter of whether you choose an unsealed chain or a sealed one, and if you choose a sealed one, whether you choose an O-ring or an X-ring chain type! There’s a huge difference between the price, performance, longevity, and level of maintenance between the different chain types, so here’s a quick overview.

Unsealed Motorcycle Chains

An unsealed motorcycle chain is a very basic but very reliable chain. These roller chains don’t feature any fancy seals or hold any interior lubrication. They’re often found on older motorcycles or on smaller-capacity machines. They’re not particularly sophisticated but they do the job, and are very cheap to buy. The problem with an unsealed chain is that it requires more care and maintenance, with cleaning and lubricating becoming a very regular part of your maintenance ritual. On the plus side, since they don’t have any fancy seals in them, you can treat them a little rougher than other types. Just be prepared to replace them fairly regularly.

O-Ring Chains

O-ring chains are just like unsealed chains apart from the fact that they have special O-rings in the chain links that hold lubrication between the pins and plates of each link, allowing the chain to move freely and stay perfectly lubricated. The O-ring seals also keep out dirt, grease, and grime, protecting the chain from unnecessary wear and tear. The lubrication is all done at the factory, so you don’t have to worry about it – but you still need to keep an eye on you chain, adjusting it and cleaning it regularly to keep it rolling smoothly.

One of the downsides to O-ring chains is that you can’t just scrub away at them with a wire crush or use harsh chemicals to clean them, or you’ll risk the integrity of the actual O-rings. These chains also add drag to your motorcycle, so if you’re serious about racing they can affect your performance. But for most riders, the drag-effect won’t be noticeable.

X-Ring Chains

X-ring chains are essentially an evolved version of O-ring type chains. They are an improvement on the O-ring design and do everything an O-ring chain can. The difference is the shape of the seals. Rather than using O-shaped seals, they use clever X-shape seals, which have a smaller surface area. The smaller area reduces drag, which makes X-ring chains a more attractive prospect for high-performance motorcyclists who want all the benefit of O-ring technology without any unnecessary drag. This kind of chain comes at a premium price, but you get an efficient chain that’s almost maintenance free, with a long lifespan without any negative performance-sapping compromises.

There are other types of sealed chains which are essentially further evolutions of the X-ring, or similar. Z-ring chains, for example, are like X-rings with a different profile. There are others too, and no doubt there will be more types to come in the future.

How To Replace A Motorcycle Chain

It’s all very well looking at the best motorcycle chain types and buying the best chain for your motorcycle, but it’s fairly useless to you if you don’t know how to fit it! Even if your chain doesn’t need replacing right now, it will do eventually. Before we tell you how to replace a motorcycle chain, let’s look at the signs that will tell you if your chain is ready for replacement. It’s important to read the signals that your chain might be nearing the end of its life, because if it snaps it could lead to an accident. A snapped chain will cause your motorcycle to de-power at a very inopportune moment. A flailing chain could also cause an injury. More likely, you’ll be left stranded somewhere and have to pay for a recovery vehicle. None of those are great situations to be in.

The signs of a failing chain can include stuck links, rough gear changes, the need for more frequent adjustment, and the need for added lubrication. Plus, it could just be stretched too far and no amount of adjustment will bring it to where it needs to be. If you’re suffering from any of these sign, it could be time to look at your chain properly and consider replacing it.

When you buy a new chain that fits your motorcycle and is the right size and type, it’s also worth buying new sprockets too. The reason for this is that the teeth of a sprocket wear away over time, and while you’re changing your chain, you might as well do your sprockets while you’re there. You don’t have to do this though. However, it’s recommended that you know what a worn sprocket looks like when compared to a brand new one, because it’s not always obvious to the untrained eye. If you’ve put the hours in maintaining and cleaning your chain and sprockets, you may not have to replace those sprockets. If you’re not a maintenance freak, it’s probably best to change the sprockets anyway. Don’t run to a mechanic either – this is a job that you really should be able to do yourself.

Step One: Armed with the correct chain and a safe working area, prop your motorcycle onto a rear stand and gather your tools. You’ll need a breaker bar and a chain tool, as well as whatever tools are required to remove your motorcycle’s rear wheel and access your front sprocket. In short, the order of things is:

  • Gain access to your front sprocket and loosen it
  • Remove the old chain
  • Remove your rear wheel
  • Replace your front and rear sprockets
  • Replace your rear wheel
  • Install your new chain

Step Two: Gain access to your front sprocket and see how the existing sprocket is attached. It will be torqued on tight and may require a friend to help you remove it. Alternatively, you can secure the back wheel with a block of wood, but it’s best to have a friend help instead. Put your bike in gear and let your friend hold down the rear brake pedal. Using a breaker bar and brute strength, undo the nut holding the sprocket.

Step Three: Now the sprocket is loose, return your bike to neutral and remove your old chain by using your chain tool. Follow you chain tool’s instructions to break a link in your existing chain. For best results, break a link on the rear sprocket for added stability while you work. With the pin removed, remove the old chain.

Step Four: Next, remove the rear wheel completely, and remove the old rear sprocket. Tighten the nuts on the new sprocket to the correct torque that your motorcycle manual suggests. Once installed, replace your rear wheel but leave the axle loose. You’ll need to set the tension with it later.

Step Five: Back to the front sprocket, remove the nut that you loosened before and slide on your new sprocket, and torque it accordingly. It may be that it has to be torqued after the new chain is fitted.

Step Six: Unpack your new chain and route it through your bike, leaving the ends to overlap on your rear sprocket. If your chain is too long, you will need to remove links using your chain tool to make it fit. If it fits, unpack your master link and prepare a clean working area.

Step Seven: Grease the pins and O-rings as directed, and assemble the parts. Slide it into place and fit using your chain tool. Using your chain tool, it’s time to rivet your chain. A measuring caliper can be helpful here, but it isn’t essential. Simply use the chain tool to deform the ends of the pins in very small increments. Take extra care with this.

Note: using a clip master link is a much easier process, but clip-type motorcycle chain master links have a much higher rate of failure than a rivet-type.

Step Eight: With your chain properly riveted and attached, all you need to do is tension your chain according to your owner’s manual, and the job is done. Check out our FAQ below for a brief description of how to properly tension a chain.

For a really handy video to help you replace your motorcycle chain, watch this excellent instruction video.


Frequently Asked Questions

How To Clean A Motorcycle Chain?

Cleaning a motorcycle chain is an essential task. A properly cleaned chain will work more effectively, and any lubrication added afterwards will work much better. To start with, you’ll need a specially formulated degreasing agent or good old fashioned kerosene. Spray your agent of choice onto the chain at the rear sprocket. Turning the rear wheel to ensure that the whole chain is covered. This first spray will help flush out grime and road dirt.

If you keep to a strict cleaning and maintenance routing, a wipe over the chain with a cloth might be all you need to do. However, it’s always worth going the extra mile and giving your chain a thorough clean. Using a chain cleaning brush, give the chain a scrub. If you have an O-ring chain, make sure your brush won’t damage the seals. After the scrub, give the chain another round of kerosene or degreaser spray, and wait until it’s completely dry before applying a new coating of lubrication. Buying a proper chain cleaning kit will give you all the tools and chemicals you need.

How Tight Should A Motorcycle Chain Be?

It’s important to keep your chain at the correct tension. If it’s too loose, it could remove itself from the sprocket and end up getting caught up in your rear wheel, causing you to crash. A chain that’s too tight will increase wear to your chain and sprocket, and could cause trouble with your rear suspension. The correct tension of your chain should be written in your owner’s manual, or written on a sticker on your swingarm. Generally, a chain’s tension should be between 30 to 40mm, measured when your bike is on a stand.

You can measure your tension using a special measuring tool, or by using a ruler and taking a measurement from the middle of the swingarm, measuring downwards to the chain’s link pin. For the first measurement, pull the chain as far down as you can. For the second, push it as far up as you can. Calculate the difference, and the result is your chain’s slack or chain tension. If it’s within the suggested parameters, you don’t have to do anything. If you’re too slack or too tight you will need to adjust it. A motorcycle tensioner tool makes this task much easier, but it isn’t necessary.

How To Adjust A Motorcycle Chain?

To adjust your motorcycle chain tension, loosen your rear axle nut. Don’t remove it, just loosen it. You need to adjust the position of your axle to increase or decrease tension on the chain. Different motorcycles have different axle adjusters, but the most common type is a nut on a thread on either side of the swingarm. After undoing a lock nut, all you have to do is turn the adjuster a quarter of a turn at a time. This moves the axle position and increase or decreases tension on the chain depending on how you turn it. It’s important to note that this has to be performed identically on the other side of the swingarm to ensure correct wheel alignment. Most swingarms have markers which allow you to make sure your wheel alignment is correct as you do this. These markers shouldn’t be relied upon completely, but they’ll give you a good indication.

Check the tension again. If you’re satisfied, you need to place a screwdriver or something similar into the teeth of the rear sprocket, and turn the wheel. This pulls the axle against the adjusters. After that, you can tighten everything up to the recommended torque setting, and remove your temporary obstacle. Check your tension a final time, and if it falls within the correct parameters, the job is done. Give it a clean and a fresh lube while you’re there.

How To Lube A Motorcycle Chain?

After you’ve given your chain a thorough clean and left it to dry, you can then start the lubrication process. The process is different depending on the type of motorcycle chain lube that you’re using. If you’re using a simple spray application type lube, all you have to do is spray it directly on the chain. This is best done at the rear sprocket, with gravity helping the spray to find its way to where it needs to be. Spray into the inside of the chain whilst slowly turning the rear wheel. Repeat this process whilst aiming at the side of the chain. Move your spray location to the top of the sprocket, aiming up into the chain links. Finally, give the chain a spray from between the wheel and the chain. It’s an awkward angle, but it’s easily done. Remove any excess with a cloth, and wait 15 minutes or so (depending on the manufacturer’s instructions) for the lube to tack, and you’re good to go. Motorcycle chain wax, or paste applications, can have different application methods. Be sure to follow the instructions on your product to ensure the best results.

Make sure that you also follow strict safety standards while applying lubrication. Always make sure the bike is switched off, and that the bike is firmly secured on a side, center or paddock stand before starting any work.

How Long Does A Motorcycle Chain Last?

The overall lifespan of a motorcycle chain varies greatly thanks to a number of contributing factors. These variables include the type of chain in question, the tensile strength of the chain, the conditions that the chain is used in, and the level of motorcycle chain maintenance undertaken by the owner.

Sealed chains have a much longer lifespan than unsealed roller chains. Stronger chains can withstand more punishment before stretching. Chains used in milder weather conditions don’t suffer from as much corrosion or other chemical interference, and chains used on sealed roads pickup less dirt, grime, and grit than those used on unsealed, gravel roads. And finally, chains that are regularly cleaned, lubricated, and well-maintained will last much longer than neglected chains. These are all facts. However, chains are consumable products that are meant to be replaced – so don’t expect one to last forever.

On average, an OEM chain that has been regularly serviced and maintained every 500 miles or so should last between 15,000 miles and 25,000 miles. Some chains will last up to 30,000 miles if you really take care of them. There’s no fixed number of miles that a chain will last for. Some riders may only get something like 6,000 miles if they ride in off-road, dusty conditions, and neglect their maintenance. There are too many variables for an exact figure, but somewhere between 15,000 and 25,000 is a good ballpark figure.

About Joe Appleton

Joe is a motorcycle industry veteran who has not only been paid for his words on the industry but also to throw a leg over a bike on the track. Besides riding, and occasionally crashing motorcycles, he also likes to build up older bikes in his garage in Germany. He says; "I like what I like but that certainly doesn’t make my opinion any more valid than yours…" We like Joe's educated opinion and hope you do too.

'); } });