How Long Does A Motorcycle Chain And Sprocket Last?

Your pricey motorcycle needs care just as your body does. The chain and sprocket are crucial for power transmission from the gearbox to the rear wheel. Just like any other machine component, these two wear out with time and need replacement.

Generally, a well-cared-for bike will do 20,000 to 30,000 miles with a single chain-sprocket set. However, depending on the chain type, quality, and how you hold your bike can sometimes need replacement after just 5,000 miles.

It’s highly advised that you change both the chain and sprocket at the same time for reasons you will find out from reading this post.

What's In This Guide?

      Signs that your chain needs changing

      Unlike the fuel that you just can’t ride without, your chain could be worn out, but you still ride with it. The ride will obviously be different from what you’re used to. Here are some indicators that will tell you when it’s time for a replacement:

      Rust

      If your bike runs for a while without proper lubrication, rust will form rapidly on the chain. This is mainly due to exposure to moisture and the high temperatures (due to increased friction) that catalyse the oxidation process.

      Scanty rust on the surface may not mean a big deal, but if it’s present on the pins and rollers, it’s an indication that the seals are damaged. In this case, it’s time to change your chain and sprockets.

      Overstretch

      Technically, this is usually a result of the widening of the holes where one link attaches to the next one. After a while, it is therefore normal for your chain to elongate. One way to tell if your bike’s chain has stretched is if you have already adjusted the chain fully, but it still sags.

      Another way is by having your bike in an upright position and pushing down the top part of the chain. With your finger pressing down the chain, observe the way the rear sprocket meshes with the chain. Should you find non-uniformity in the tautness of the chain around the sprocket, then it’s time to retire your chain.

      Still, if you press down your chain as described above, or pull it up and note that it deflects by more than an inch, adjust it immediately (or change it if you’ve already adjusted the rear wheel distance fully).

      Noise

      A chain in good condition does not make any alarming noise. A shattering and rattling noise from the chain despite being well-lubricated means you should change the chain.

      Kinks and stuck links

      Have you ever been on a ride and you experience sudden kinks and loose shifting? That might have been the earliest sign demanding your attention. Lubrication should come into your mind after such but if it doesn’t help, then change the chain.

      Should you replace sprockets with the chain too?

      You have just rewarded yourself with your first bike- that’s fancy enough- but have you ever wondered if changing one part affects another part?

      Certainly not! As you will find out with other bikers or from your service guy, it’s best to change both your front and rear sprockets once you change the drive chain. This is for the simple reason that these are complementary parts. The drive chain and the sprockets are meant to synchronise.

      A new chain and a worn sprocket won’t do you any good. In fact, if either the chain or the sprocket is new and the other is worn, it shouldn’t shock you that the newer part will wear out prematurely.

      What are O ring chains and how long do they last?

      You most probably have heard about these if you’ve done some research on chains. O’ ring chains derive their name from some modification on them. They usually have rubber O-rings placed between the inner and the outer links.

      The purpose of the rubber rings is to seal in grease to keep the inner chain components lubricated. The O-rings hem in the pin bushings. This modification makes this chain type last up to twice the lifespan of standard non-O-ring chains.

      oiling the dirtbike chain

      Best products to lubricate my motorcycle chain?

      With the increased number of bikers comes an increased demand for parts and consumables (this is the basic law of demand and supply, by the way). Apart from gas, the other highly demanded product is the lubricants category.

      As a result of this, many lubricants have been developed. Some of these promise to get more power out of your engine, while others are advertised as providing all that you need for a smoother ride.

      Whether true or just a manufacturer’s hyped advert- it’s up to you to test it. Below is a list of the most popular motorcycle chain lubricants that you’ll find almost everywhere where bikers are.

      1. DuPont Teflon Chain Saver Lubricant

      The most striking feature of this product is that it can withstand high temperatures of up to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. It is enhanced with Teflon which reduces wear and tears considerably.

      For details to buy this DuPont chain saver, you can check it out listing on Amazon here.

      2. Maxima 74920 Chain Wax Aerosol

      This is arguably one of the best lubricants that provides protection against water and dirt due to its suitability for humid environments. It’s also great with O-ring chains.

      For details to buy Maxima wax, you can check it out the listing on Amazon here.

      3. PJ1 Blue Label Motorcycle Chain Lube

      This lubricant has been developed with the performance of your bike in mind. It is petroleum-based. This means that it’s water-resistant and will protect against dirt and other foreign solid particles.

      For details to buy PJ1 Blue Label, you can check it out the listing on Amazon here.

      4. Motul M/C Care Factory Line Chain Lube

      Even though it was specifically developed for road racing, this lube product is certainly great for you. The majority of the bikers will go for that product aimed at racers, so be sure to test it. It’s however not recommended that you use it in dusty or dirty surroundings.

      For details to buy Motul M/C Care, you can check it out the listing on Amazon here.

      5. Lucas Oil 10393 Chain Lube

      This is a special one here. It’s a foam type lubricant. The dominant side of this one is that it’s a deep penetration lube. Additionally, it forms a rigid protective layer on the chain, protecting against the effects of water.

      For details to buy Lucas Oil, you can check it out the listing on Amazon here.

      6. Bel-Ray Super Clean Chain Lube

      This is the lube for an everyday biker. It is suitable for all chain types. It has an added wear protection ability. This product comes from the USA.

      For details to buy Bel-Ray Lube, you can check it out the listing on Amazon here.

      7. DuPont Teflon Multi-Use Lubricant

      This is a multipurpose one. It comes in a spray can. It protects from corrosion as it is enhanced with Teflon.

      For details to buy DuPont Teflon Multi-Use Lube, you can check it out the listing on Amazon here.

      8. Liquid Wrench L711 Chain & Cable Lube

      This is another special lubricant. This particular one dries up after it has penetrated. Another thing about it is that it has both anti-corrosion and anti-sling properties.

      For details to buy L711 Lube, you can check it out the listing on Amazon here.

      Application

      After looking at the range of lubricants available, you notice that its paramount to first figure out the type of your chain. After that, you should get your bike into the best position. This is usually by engaging the paddock stand so that the rear wheel can rotate candidly.

      Cleaning the chain should come next. You can choose to clean the entire chain, and then lubricate or just clean in sections as you apply the lube. Be sure to use a suitable chain cleanser such as WD40 (Link to Amazon).

      Tips for maintaining your chain and sprocket

      As a meticulous rider, you want to get the most (and the best) out of your bike. Below are some tips to keep your chain and sprockets spinning smoothly for longer;

      1. Always clean and lubricate your chain and sprocket. After an adventurous ride, do your bike some justice by cleaning the chain, and adjusting the tension appropriately.

      2. Always have your chain warm before applying lube. This helps in the penetration of the lubricant.

      3. Every time you ride in the rain, rust might just be around the corner. Clean of the lube and the dirt, and apply fresh lube.

      4. Once your chain or the sprockets pair is worn, be sure to change both to be on the safe side.

      To find out more about maintaining your bike’s sprockets, you can read a full guide here.

      How to replace your chain and Sprocket

      You have decided that you need a change of both the chain and the sprocket- here is how to do it;

      1. Engage the paddock/kickstand to remove the rear wheel.
      2. Take off the front sprocket cover and remove your gear lever if need be.
      3. Next, remove the nut and place a sizeable plank of wood through the rear wheel to keep it stationary
      4. Use a right-sized spanner to remove the front sprocket nut but don’t take the sprocket out yet.
      5. Remove the rear wheel and carefully place it somewhere where the brake disk won’t be bent.
      6. Remove the rear wheel sprocket (after removing the nut locking it in position) and remove the front sprocket too.
      7. Mount the rear and the front sprockets. Wrap the worn chain around the front sprocket.
      8. Ease the chain tuner (adjuster) at the swingarm.
      9. Mount back the wheel but don’t tighten the spindle nut.
      10. Break the old chain with a chain breaker tool. Attach the new one to it. Pull the new chain around the sprockets by the aid of the old one. Detach the old chain from the new one.
      11. With your riveting tool, join the ends of the new chain.
      12. Screw back the front sprocket nut while still restraining the wheel from rotating.
      13. Tune the chain and the rear wheel axle to the required tension.
      14. Take back the front sprocket cover and perform a test drive to ensure it is installed perfectly. You are good to go!

      FAQs

      How often should I lubricate my bike?

      You should apply lube to the chain after every 300-600 miles.

      Can I use the engine oil on my chain?

      Yes, but your chain will get dirty faster due to the high engine oil viscosity

      Can I use WD40 on my bike chain?

      Yes, but as a cleanser and not a lubricant.

      4. Should I lubricate the chain on my new bike chain?

      The factory lube is usually enough for a hundred or so miles. Apply lube only when there’s a need to.

      Conclusion

      As you’ve seen, the care and maintenance of a bike should include even the most overlooked aspects of the whole thing. Chain and sprocket maintenance, coupled with all other maintenance activities, should guarantee you a smooth experience every time you ride.

      Leon Angus

      Leon Angus

      I'm a 28-year-old train driver based in London UK. In my free time, I love riding off-road dirtbikes locally on track. I've always wanted to have a community of people that share the same love for bikes that I do. Which is why I put this site together, so people like you (and I) can connect and learn from one another.

      1 thought on “How Long Does A Motorcycle Chain And Sprocket Last?”

      1. Any idea what type of chain you have on your bike? Most modern bikes have an O-ring, X-ring or Z-ring chain. These have internal lubrication applied in the factory and sealed in by an O, X or Z- ring hence the names and is supposed to stay there for its life for the life of the chain.

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      Leon Angus

      Leon Angus

      I'm a 28-year-old train driver based in London UK. In my free time, I love riding off-road dirtbikes locally on track. I've always wanted to have a community of people that share the same love for bikes that I do. Which is why I put this site together, so people like you (and I) can connect and learn from one another.

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