Choosing the best motorcycle oil for your needs can be a tricky business. Naturally, you have to take your manufacturer’s advice seriously, but once you know what oil weight you’re looking for, what other factors should you take into account?
Many motorcyclists consider their engine to be the beating heart of their motorcycle. If that’s true, then oil is undoubtedly the blood. Like a human body, a motorcycle needs blood to function, and not just any old blood either. For the best riding experience and improved performance, the right oil goes a long, long way.
Your motorcycle’s oil is there to keep the engine running efficiently, and keep the internals friction-free and clean. A properly lubricated engine won’t seize, overheat, or make any worrying noises. That’s why choosing the right motorcycle oil is an absolute essential. But it’s not a straightforward task.
What does weight mean? What’s the difference between a mineral oil and a synthetic one? What’s the difference between a Castrol product and a Motul one? Can an oil change really alter the overall performance of your motorcycle? We’ll cover those topics below and try and answer those questions as best we can. But before we discuss the ins and outs of engine lubricants, here are the top 10 best motorcycle oil products on the market, in our humble opinion.
If you’re looking for a motorcycle oil that’s an excellent all ‘rounder that comes in at a reasonable price, then consider the Motul 7100 Synthetic Oil 4T. It’s a synthetic oil that has been specially formulated to increase the longevity and improve the response of all four stroke engines and motorcycle that are equipped with a catalytic converter.
Motul’s 7100 synthetic motorcycle oil is a well-formulated oil that protects, cleans, and maintains your engine. It’s perfect for riders who are looking for silky smooth gear changes, improved engine response, and longer intervals between oil changes. It’s a low sulfur and low phosphorus 10W-40 synthetic oil formula that meets JASO MA 2, API SL standards, with added ester technology for an sharper ride experience.
One of the most curious things about this oil is that it genuinely does make your engine run quieter. You’ll read this in reviews and you’ll doubt the claims but it really will make your engine a touch quieter, which is a nice bonus. An even better bonus is the fact that it smells pretty nice too!
Next, we have another excellent engine lubricant from a world famous manufacturer. This is the Castrol POWER1 4T, a special synthetic formula designed to do much more than simply maintain your engine. It improves acceleration and engine response by reducing internal engine friction thanks to its fast flowing nature. If you’re looking for oil from a name you can trust, then give this Castrol product a go.
Castrol’s POWER1 4T oil is a 10W-40 synthetic blend that has been formulated with Trizone technology, which improves protection across three very important areas: the engine, the clutch, and the motorcycle’s gearbox. The special formula prevents viscosity breakdown, helping you extend your oil change intervals. Since Castrol is one of the biggest lubricant names in the racing industry, you can rely on the brand’s quality.
This premium quality oil exceeds both API SL and JASO MA-2 specifications, and works well at extremely high temperatures on both air-cooled and water-cooled engines. What’s more, the oil is readily available and can be bought at stores or online for a reasonable price. If you want race-derived technology at a cost that won’t bankrupt you, consider this oil.
Ideal for motorcycles with wet clutches
Compatible with fuel-injected and carbureted motorcycles
Trizone technology thoroughly lubricates engine
Can make engines run louder
Although a good price, it’s not a budget product
Gear shifting may not be as smooth as you’d hope
3. Lucas Oil 10702-PK6 High Performance Synthetic 20W-50 Motorcycle Oil
This Lucas motorcycle oil is a specially formulated and full-synthetic motorcycle oil that has a longer life and a higher resistance to temperatures compared with others on the market. It’s a full-synthetic oil, so it hasn’t been manufactured from conventional crude oil. This synthetic nature of this oil makes it excellent for high-performance engines, reducing engine wear, improving component life spans, and improving gas mileage.
The weight of this oil is rated at SAW 20W-50, which means that it has a rating of 20 for when it’s operating at cold temperatures, with a viscosity rating of 50 for when it’s operating at a normal temperature. Make sure you check with your motorcycle’s manufacturer guidelines to make sure that this oil is the right viscosity for you ride.
After topping up with this oil, riders have noted silkier gear changes, a more responsive engine, and less noise. It’s developed to be used in the engine, clutch, and gearbox, so if you’re looking for a versatile lubricant that you can use for a variety of applications, then this worth considering.
This high-performance Lucas Oil meets and exceeds API SM, SL, SJ, CM, specifications, as well as JASO MA-02, and ACEA A3.
Cost effective and versatile oil
Noticeably reduces engine noise
Smoothens gear changes
May not reduce engine noise for all motorcycles
Aimed mainly at larger capacity bikes
Some leakages reported, but probably not the oils fault
Mobil is another brand name that you can trust. Mobil is an all-American company that has been in the business since 1911, so the folks there know a thing or two about mixing up a performance-delivering lubricant for your motorcycle. This particular oil is a 10W-40 weight lubricant that has been formulated for performance motorcycles.
It’s 100% fully synthetic and offers lubrication to the three main areas of your motorcycle: the engine, the clutch, and the gearbox. It’s a great all-around oil. If you’re looking for a noticeable improvement to your motorcycle’s performance, try this one out. It promises to make your engine rev faster, improve your gear changes, and make your motorcycle run quieter. While those promises won’t be made for every rider, you can guarantee that you’ll at least get a good lifespan out of this oil, and for a very reasonable price too.
This motorcycle oil meets or exceeds the requirements for API SN, JASO MA, and JASO MA2. While this oil is only good for engines that require 10W-40 viscosity, and while we’re talking about Mobile, if you need something for your V-twin cruiser, the Mobile 20W-50 motorcycle oil is a worthy choice. We just couldn’t justify another Mobil entry on this list! But do keep it in mind. Just always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations before pouring!
Meets API SN, JASO MA, and JASO MA2 requirements
Outstanding engine cleanliness
Exceptional wear protection
Some motorcycles may run hot with this oil
Might not be ideal for use during the break-in period
Not great for older motorcycles
5. Shell Rotella T6 5W-40 Full Synthetic Heavy Duty Engine Oil
For years, motorcyclists have come to rely on Shell’s Rotella T6 full-synthetic oil. However, recent formulation changes may not make it suitable for your motorcycle anymore, so you really want to do your research before investing in this one and pouring it into your engine. Since it’s a JASO MA approved, it should work for most motorcycles, but still, we recommend doing your research first.
This oil from Shell is quite a thin oil when compared to others with a 5W-40 rating. It’s incredibly cheap, can be used for the engine, clutch, and gearbox, and will have your machine running smoothly. Some riders have experienced improved fuel economy using this oil, to the tune of 1.5%, with other reported improvements being better engine protection, a smoother transmission, and a reduced engine noise.
Again, it’s a great lubricant but do make sure that you read up-to-date information about it, and disregard all reviews that are more than a couple of years old. The formula has changed, so take that into account when shopping. If it still satisfies your requirements, you’re going to get a high-performing and versatile motorcycle oil for a very small price.
Very economical product
Reduces engine noise
May improve fuel economy
May shear easily in wet clutch applications
New formulation may make it unsuitable for your motorcycle
Thinner viscosity may not make it suitable for some oil pumps
If you ride a v-twin, then this oil could be the perfect choice for you. This 2W-50 synthetic oil from Amsoil has been specially formulated for V-twin engines of both domestic American and foreign motorcycles. It’s ideal for air-cooled motorcycles, and can be used for engine, engine parts, transmissions, and primary chain cases.
This oil is known to provide improved pressure quality protection for gears, chains, and other components, at extreme pressures. It’s also designed to drastically reduce engine friction, reduce the operating temperature, and reduce wear. Naturally, it’s also excellent for rust protection too. If you’re looking to reduce your engine temperature by a noticeable margin, reduce the volume of your valve train, and improve your wet clutch performance, then this could be worth investing in.
One of the most interesting claims that Amsoil makes about this product is that it boasts that it can double the length of the manufacturer’s recommended oil change interval, or once every year, depending on what comes first. We haven’t had the opportunity to test that out, but we’re curious to know how it goes. If you want to test those claims, order yourself a bottle right this minute.
Ideal for air-cooled V-twin engines
Engine, transmission, and chain case compatible
Noticeably lowers head operating temperatures
Not suitable on motorcycle that require API GL-4 or GL-5 gear oil
Honda’s Pro GN4 motorcycle oil is the perfect choice for Honda motorcycle owners. It’s an OEM product, so you really can’t go wrong with it. It was first developed back in 1975, and while the formula has been refined and improved over the years, the motorcycle riding community’s love for Honda’s oil products hasn’t change in the slightest. It always gets a unanimous thumbs up.
This GN4 oil is built on top of a high-quality base stock, with a specifically formulated additive package mixed in to meet all of the requirements for motorcycles and ATVs. Since 1975, this motor oil has continuously been tested and developed, evolving into the high-quality product that we have today.
The result is a lubricant that last a long time that provides top notch wear resistance, and improves shear resistance. It also has better viscosity stability than other branded products. Plus, it can be used for the clutch, gearbox, and engine too. If you’ve got a Honda motorcycle but don’t claim to be a petrochemical scientist, then putting Honda juice in a Honda engine should make sense. Or rather, it’s a great “if in doubt, use this,” product. It’s an affordably-priced OEM product, after all.
Next up, we have this excellent 10W-40 oil from Red Line. Red Line is another well-established brand names that motorcyclists have come to rely on over the years. They develop a wide range of oil products for a variety of motors and other applications. This particular model is a 10W-40 formula that has been specifically developed for four-stroke engines, and particularly suited to motocross bikes, sports bikes, and ATVs.
The 42404 blend has been formulated using ester base stocks, which results in a superior film strength, with improved protection. It has also been blended with friction modifiers that are specifically compatible with wet clutches, improving your clutch life and reducing it from slipping. Anti-wear chemistry, quality dispersants, and viscosity controllers are also blended into the final mix.
The chemical make-up of this oil results in a quieter valve train operation, with improved cold starts, smoother gear changes and transmission, and a noticeably more receptive engine response. Longer oil change intervals have also been reported by long-term users of this oil. What’s more, it’s actually a very high-quality motorcycle oil for a very reasonable price. It’s one of the best motorcycle oil products out there for riders on a tighter budget.
Competitively priced motorcycle engine oil
Ideal for a wide range of four-stroke motors
Available to buy pretty much anywhere
Idle may need adjustment after swapping to this oil
You can probably tell by the name that Royal Purple is a member of the motorcycle lubricant royal family. It’s a brand that’s synonymous with quality, high-performance, and longevity. It’s also known to be a little expensive too. But if you’re looking for a dependable manufacturer of 10W-40 engine oil for motorcycle and ATV engines, then this is a brand to investigate.
The Max-Cycle formula was developed to improve the performance of four-stroke engines with wet-clutches, in both air- and liquid-cooled configurations. It’s formulated on top of high-quality synthetic base oils, with Royal Purple’s own additives to provide greater film strength than other manufacturer’s products—by up to 400% if the brand’s claims are to be believed. This formula also improves ring, cylinder, and bearing wear, offers greater shear stability and oxidization resistance, and excellent adherence too.
The Max-Cycle oil from Royal Purple meets and exceeds both API and JASO requirements. IT’s also compatible with other engine oils, synthetic or mineral, so you don’t have to flush out your old oil before use—though it’s always recommended. If you need an oil that will protect, clean, and increase the performance of your engine while improving your fuel economy at the same time, we recommend this product.
Excellent wear protection
Synerlec Additive technology
May make your engine operate louder
Much more expensive than other oils
Some reviewers noted clutch slipping
10. Spectro Golden 4 Synthetic Blend Lubricant 10w40
Last on our list, we have this Spectro Golden 4 Synthetic Blend motorcycle over. Now, unlike other brands on the list, Spectro isn’t as well known, but don’t let that put you off—it’s been in the business for over 50 years, but it’s just not as well-known as some others for reasons unknown.
Sometimes you end up paying more for a big brand name, because you’re paying for a logo. We think that this semi-synthetic motorcycle oil from Spectro is well worth a go, especially if you’re curious about what semi-synthetic oil even is.
This is a blend of mineral and synthetic oils, which takes the best elements from 100% synthetic oil and mixes it with the best qualities of conventional mineral oil. It has also been formulated with special anti-wear additives to boost the lifespan of your engine’s components. This blend has been specifically developed for high-performance engines, with high viscosity, guaranteed internal engine protection, and improved performance being on the list of benefits of this product.
The Spectro Golden 4 Synthetic Blend oil has been formulated to exceed all known motorcycle manufacturer’s warranty requirements. It also meets all JASO MA, JASO MA2, and API SL requirements. If you want to take a chance on a semi-synthetic oil that will smooth out your gear shifts, give you high shear stability, prolongs the life of your engine and transmission, and is fully compatible with wet-clutch applications, then this may very well be the product to try.
Very well priced and durable motorcycle oil
Specially formulated anti-wear additives
High-performance motorcycle oil
It’s a semi-synthetic oil, which may not suit everyone
Not ideal for smaller engines
Check compatibility with your motorcycle before buying
Motorcycle Oil: Buying Guide
Now that you’ve seen our favorite products, it’s time to get into what all of those numbers and names really mean. You’ve seen things like 10W40 motorcycle oil, or 20W50 motorcycle oil, but what does that actually mean? What’s the real difference between synthetic and mineral motorcycle oils? And why is it so important to regularly change your oil and replace it with the right stuff for you motorcycle?
What Does Motorcycle Oil Do?
First things first: let’s have a quick look at what motorcycle oil actually does. It’s a lubricant. We all know that. And while most of us know what oil does and what it’s good for, there might be a few things even old hands don’t know about the stuff. Here’s a quick overview of what oil actually does.
It’s A Lubricant: This one is obvious, or at least it should be! Oil is there to lubricate your engine, minimizing friction between moving components and preventing wear. It does this my coating the internals with a thin film of oil, allowing parts to move freely. Oil lubricates more than just the engine: the clutch and gearbox also require lubrication.
It’s A Cleaner: When oil moves through your motorcycle’s system, it doesn’t just lubricate and protect your parts—it also cleans them. Most oils have additives that remove carbon build-ups, and filter any debris and move it away from your engine’s moving parts. A clean engine is an efficient engine!
It’s A Coolant: Motorcycle oil also removes heat as well as dirt. As it moves around your motorcycle system, it takes heat with it, cooling lubricated parts and stopping components from overheating. A good quality oil will never go above their flash point, and will keep your engine cool.
It Improves Life-span: A clean engine that doesn’t have any unnecessary signs of wear and tear will last longer than an engine filled with waste carbon and using damaged components. Regular oil changes, used with the right motorcycle oil filer, will maximize your engine’s life. That’s beyond doubt.
It’s A Performance Booster: A properly lubricated engine will improve your engine’s efficiency and overall performance. An engine with components that can move freely without resistance or excess friction will naturally perform better than a dirty engine. A clean engine will also be more fuel efficient than one that’s clogged up with dirty oil and sludge.
Types Of Oil Available
Now that you know what oil does, here are the three types that you’ll find on sale. Each type has its own strengths and weaknesses, better suitability to different engines types and of course, they all come with different price tags. Here’s an overview of each type available.
Mineral oil is a product that’s mainly made up from crude oil. The crude oil base is modified and formulated with a wide range of additives that help to neutralize acids and reduce friction, resulting in superior lubrication than you’d get with plain crude oil. Mineral oils offer excellent protection when breaking in new engines, and they’re also great for simpler, small-capacity engines, or low pressure classic motorcycle engines. Unfortunately, these natural oils require changing more often than newer, synthetic oils, but they’re generally very affordable so it balances out.
100% Synthetic Oil
Synthetic oil, as its name suggests, is an artificial oil that doesn’t contain any natural minerals or products. Instead, it’s made from chemically altered petroleum-based materials, with additives and modifiers mixed in. Synthetic oils are generally have a lower viscosity compared with natural oils, allowing them to move through engines and coat components with ease. This low viscosity makes synthetic oils ideal for high-performance engines that are constantly under stress. Synthetic oils last a long time, improve performance, and don’t degrade in a hurry. Unfortunately, synthetic oil is more expensive than mineral oil.
Lastly, there’s semi-synthetic oil. This is exactly what it sounds like: it’s a fusion of both synthetic and natural mineral oils. A semi-synthetic oil offers the best of both worlds. It’s a great oil for smaller-capacity or lower performance motorcycles that aren’t put under high-stress. Think of it as a good oil for your daily commute, but a bad choice for the race track. These semi-synthetic oils are higher priced than mineral oils, but they’re not as expensive as fully synthetic oils either.
Features To Look Out For
Knowing what type of motorcycle oil to look for will greatly help your search. So, you’ve probably got a good idea of whether you’re looking for a mineral, synthetic, or semi-synthetic oil for your bike. But there’s more to it than just that. Here are some other crucial features to keep in mind and other things to look out for when you’re hunting for some new motor oil.
Compatibility is one of the most important things to keep in mind. Not all oils are compatible with every kind of motorcycle, and every kind of engine type. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions here. If your motorcycle is designed specifically for synthetic oil, only use synthetic oil. The right type of oil will help keep your motorcycle in top working order and keep it performing just how the manufacturer intended. Of course, there are times when you can change oil types, just make sure you do your research before taking any unnecessary risks.
Viscosity is one of the main features to look out for. Again, follow your manufacturer’s instructions. Viscosity is designated by a rating that looks something like this: 10W-40, or 20W-50. This number gives away two important pieces of information: the oil’s SAE viscosity when it’s cold, and the oil’s SAE viscosity when the engine is hot.
The W stands for Winter, and cold. So, for 10W-40 oil, it has a cold viscosity of 10, and a running viscosity of 40. Lower viscosity oils allow your engine components to move faster, while higher viscosity oils move slower. It’s essential that you put the correct product in your engine to avoid huge problems later on.
Some oils are blended with special additives and modifiers that have beneficial effects on your engine. Some are formulated to promote cleanliness, breaking down corrosion, and removing debris. Others are formulated to neutralize acidity. Most of them have additives that actively cool your engine as they lubricate it. Be on the lookout for oils that have additives that do what you most need them to do. If your engine runs a little hot, look for an oil with a special coolant additive, for example.
An oil’s working life is a very important factor to consider. Do you want to be changing your oil regularly, or would you prefer change intervals to be as far apart as possible? While some manufacturers will recommend an oil change after ever so-thousand miles, that figure can be extended with the right product. Unfortunately, oils with a longer working life are much more expensive than shorter life spanned products. The flip side is that you don’t have to buy it as regularly, so you keep that in mind when you’re looking for the best motorcycle oil for your needs and budget.
Another very important thing to look out for is the oil’s compliance standard. If you’re attempting a motorcycle oil change, you’re going to want to replace the oil with an approved, high-quality product. The symbols that you should be looking for will have SAE, JASO, or API written somewhere on the bottle. Make sure that they’re in-line with what your motorcycle manufacturer recommends. Buying an oil without these designations can be risky, and since oil is the life-blood of your motorcycle, it really isn’t worth taking a risk with a sub-par product.
The price of a product can be a deal breaker. But it’s better to spend money on oil than not, and be left with a broken engine instead, right? Luckily, thanks to the rise of online retailers it’s not possible to bulk buy bottles of motorcycle oil. This can lead to bigger savings. It’s also possible to buy full kits, with a new motorcycle oil filter, with oil, and other necessary products. Whether you’re buying WalMart motorcycle oil or top shelf, track-ready performance oil, always buy the best product for your motorcycle, rather than simply the best you can afford. The best isn’t always the most expensive.
Lastly, always read the reviews. Always! You can usually find some very useful information in the reviews section—along with a load of nonsense too. However, you can be lucky and find a review of a product from a rider who has the same motorcycle as you. They might shed light on the sort of performance benefits they gained from one brand when compared with another. It’s always useful information and could help you make an informed decision about which product will work best for your motorcycle.
Frequently Asked Questions
How often to change motorcycle oil?
Motorcycle oils are being manufactured with longer change intervals than ever before. Despite advances in technology, there’s still no right or wrong answer when it comes to change intervals. Mineral oils may require changing every 2,000 miles. Semi-synthetics: every 5,000 miles. Some fully synthetics even boast up to 10,000 miles. Follow the manufacturer’s advice, and take note: mileage isn’t the only criteria for oil change intervals. Time also plays an important role.
How to check motorcycle oil?
To check you oil level, warm your engine to operating temperature, and then turn it off to allow it to cool. With your motorcycle balanced upright and level, you can read the sight glass on the side of your engine case. The oil level (and the state of the oil) will be visible.
If your motorcycle uses a dipstick, simply wipe the stick clean, insert the stick into the oil reservoir as per the manufacturer’s instructions, and remove it reveal your oil reading. Following your manufacturer’s advice is the best way to understand your oil level and the state of it. Inaccurate readings aren’t uncommon—that’s why you should always follow the handbook’s advice.
Can I use car oil in a motorcycle?
It’s not recommended. Car oil and motorcycle oil may share viscosity ratings but they’re formulated to do different things. Cars have separate fluids for different things, while motorcycle parts try and share as much oil as they can. Car oil generally has additives that reduce friction by a great deal and while motorcycle engines like less friction, wet clutches generally need some friction to work.
In short: you could and it wouldn’t be the end of the world if you had to put something in there in a pinch, but it’s definitely not for long term use.
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.