Cleaning Your Motorcycle Chain: A Step By Step Guide

Cleaning Your Motorcycle Chain: A Step By Step Guide

Before we get started…

Before you get ahead of yourself and put your nose to the grindstone, we want to make sure that a cleaning is what your motorcycle needs, and not a replacement. If your chain has become loose and has too much give, it might be time for a new one. If your sprocket has been worn down to round little nubs or is shaped like a wave, you probably need a new one. If you are going to be replacing either of these parts, there is no reason to clean them first. So, assuming that you’ve got that checked and you still plan on cleaning your current chain and sprocket, we’ll continue.


Step 1: Grab your Tools

When we say tools, we mean your chain cleaner, a brush, chain lubricant, and a towel. A couple points to consider: make sure that you have the right kind of chain lubricant and cleaner. If you have an O-ring chain or an X-ring chain, you’ll want to make sure that your cleaner and lubricant are compatible. When it comes to a brush, you can buy specialized brushes that are crafted specifically for your chain. Of course, this isn’t actually necessary! You can use your toothbrush too, but you might want to buy a new one when your finished. A towel is on the list because they’re nice to have when things start to get a bit messy, and if you’re anything like us, it probably will be.


A few of our favorite tools For chain cleaning


Step 2: Position your Bike

Putting your bike up on its center stand can make things pretty easy, as you can spin the rear tire by hand to move the chain as you work on it. If you don’t have a center stand, don’t worry about it. You can manage without, just roll your bike around the garage and clean the chain section by section.


Step 3: Soak the Chain

Finally, we can get into the cleaning. Grab your chain cleaner and soak down your chain. Wait… We are worried that what you got from that was “Spray the chain a bit.”.  But, what we said was “SOAK the chain.” Cleaner is cheap, chains are not. Don’t get stingy at the expense of your chain!


Step 4: Scrub-A-Dub-Dub

Grab your chain brush or your toothbrush and get scrubbing!  You should be able to see the dirt and grime build-up coming free right before your eyes. Don’t put that toothbrush back in your mouth; we shouldn’t have to say that, but just in case.

Step 5: Repeat Steps 3 and 4 as needed

Do we really need to elaborate?


Step 6: Time to Dry, an Excuse to Ride

Now that your chain is squeaky clean, it needs to dry! The lubricant won’t stick well if the chain is still wet with cleaner. One way to dry it is to go on a five to ten minute ride. The heat generated on the chain from that ride will also help work the lubricant into the cracks and crevasses on the chain. But, driving it isn’t necessary, a towel and a little time would also do just fine.


Step 7: Lube it up

Now that you have cleaned your chain, you get to make a mess of it again! Take the lube and spray it on the chain as you slowly rotate the tire, moving the chain. Repeat the process as you cover each of the four sides of the chain. After you have finished, you can gently wipe off any dripping excess. Some lubricants will ask you to wait a minute as they settle. If yours doesn’t then you are ready to ride my friend!

A true work of art. Don’t be disappointed if your chain doesn’t look quite this clean. 


This process should be repeated every 300-600 miles. It might seem often, but this process shouldn’t take you long. 15-20 minutes and your ready to ride again, it’s worth the effort. If your memory is lacking and you need to research this again, you know where to find us. Unless, of course, you forget that too… Maybe just bookmark the page if you have to.  Any questions or tips you might have can be left in the comments below. Thanks for reading!

1 comment

Nice information! I had purchased a Cleaner Degreaser Formula 88 from the market. And I applied it to my motorcycle chain according to your instruction. It worked very effectively. Thanks a ton!!!

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