We know that when it comes to chain maintenance there’s a lot of information out there that could be categorized as religion. Some people insist that final-drive chains don’t ever need to be cleaned, while some people travel with chain cleaner and lube, and give that chain some love at every other gas stop.
For those of you who are of the opinion that the chain on your motorcycle should be regularly cleaned and properly lubricated and definitely not ignored (I’m with you, here), you may find this video informative. Note that we at RideApart have not independently verified any of his testing techniques or results, but they look good to us, and any attention paid to chain maintenance is a good thing.
Some people only lube their chains, some clean them first, some take everything apart to clean and lube and reassemble. To clean, some folks swear by kerosene, some WD-40. Some riders use a dedicated branded chain cleaner. Some use a grunge brush and some simply spray the chain down. As far as lubrication goes, some prefer a drier wax lube, some prefer to use the sticky blue stuff, and yet others use gear oil in a squirt bottle.
No matter what your feelings are when it comes to regular chain maintenance, keep an eye and an ear on that chain, and if it starts to sound squeaky or jangly, park your bike and try to pull the chain away from the sprocket on your rear wheel. If you can grab links of the chain at the back of that sprocket, pull it off the teeth and see daylight between the chain and sprocket, it’s time for a new chain and sprocket set.
Common wisdom says, always replace your chain and sprockets as a set; this cuts down on wear everywhere, and it is cheap insurance. Very old and poorly maintained chains can snap; if you are lucky the bike will spit the chain out behind you on the road. If you are unlucky the chain will bunch up in front and damage your transmission, or hole your engine case.
I should not need to tell you this, but I am going to anyway: Never do any chain maintenance with the motorcycle running. Never put the bike into gear and let the rear wheel spin while your hands are anywhere even remotely near that chain. This is how people lose fingers though really gruesome accidents and it is common enough that there are pictures all over the internet. Turn the bike off, and learn to love your center stand or rear stand.