Why do we lube our chains, and how often should we do it?

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Why do we lube our chains, and how often should we do it?

We all know we should lube our motorcycle chain often, however, how clear are we on the reason why we need to? And exactly how often should we actually do it?

If the answer to the first question will require further reading, to the latter we can summarise a quick answer.

As rule of thumb, you will be more than fine performing the following:

 

Road use in dry weather - lube it once every two fuel tanks
Road use in wet weather - lube it every time you refuel your tank
Off-road use - Regardless of the weather, lube it every time you refuel your tank

NOTE: For all cases shown above, cleaning the chain regularly is also important.

 

Now, for those of you that want more detailed explanations for both questions, let's dive a bit deeper into the chain lubing world!

Let's start with the big question, why do you need to lube your chain in the first place?

Some say we are lubing it to increase the smoothness between the chain and the sprockets.

However, considering that the chain/sprocket contact is achieved via the rollers in the chain, and that keeping lube on the outside of a roller is next to impossible, this statement is invalid, but more on the rollers later on.

It is also common to hear that we lube our chains to keep them bendable and usable, again this is incorrect.

All chains come greased from the factory, and the lube they need to keep their manoeuvrability is sealed inside of the chain by the o-rings, x-rings or any other variation you may find. 

 

 

Reference: Image from www.bestbeginnermotorcycles.com

 

That means that when we lube our chain, we are only lubing the outside, and not the inside.

If any of our lube actually gets inside, it means we have an o-ring failure, and in that case, we should be discussing chain replacement, and not chain lubing.

This being said, what we achieve when lubing our chains is preventing rust from settling in, which on its own will increase durability.

As oil also reaches the outside part of the o-rings, it re-hydrates them from the outside, helping to prevent failure, and obviously, increase durability.

Now, if we are preventing rust, that means that to know how often we should lube our chain, we need to pay attention to the weather, and to the use we give to our bikes, meaning, factors that promote and accelerate rust.

 

Reference: Image from millennialdiyer.com the yellow is the grease

 

Remember the rollers?

As explained before, lubing the outside produces little to no lubrication, however, the gap between the roller and the bushing is not sealed, therefore, when we are lubing the chain, we do get some penetration there, thus, actually using some of the lube as, well, lube.

 

 

Reference: Image from http://pardo.net and modified by Braaaaaapp for this explanation

 

However, not all lubes penetrate and/or gather dirt in the same way, so even though we are in fact lubricating that tinny space, depending on the lube, we may not be helping as much as we are lead to believe.

If we choose a lube that grabs every little bit of dust in existence, we will be far from achieving a good lubrication, or rust prevention for that matter.

 

Reference: Image from www.sedis.com

 

NOTE: If you are using a standard chain without o-rings, this explanation does not apply as there are no rings to keep the factory grease inside.

 

Now that you understand why you need to lube your chain, you should adjust this knowledge to your reality.

 

- Do you live close to the ocean, in a place where they salt the roads, in a place where it rains a lot, or you run off-road, amongst other hazardous scenarios?

    You should probably clean and lube your chain every fuel tank for extra longevity.

     

    - Do you only ride in dry weather, and on clean roads away from the salty ocean breeze?

      If you lube it every two tanks, you will be more than ok. 

       

      Still, depending on the type of lube you use, it's debatable if you need more or less lubing, but if you do regular maintenance and inspections, as you should, you will be able to spot if your lubing schedule is on point or if it needs adjusting.

      Now that you understand what is at play, how should you lube and clean your chain?

      This is what I advise:

      Reference: Image from Braaaaaapp’s Pinterest

       

      Why do we lube our chains, and how often should we do it?


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