The why behind motorcycle maintenance and its importance!

Proper, timely maintenance is key to keeping a motorcycle performing the way it should. It will also help the longevity of the motorcycle, keep the resale value higher, and ensure the safety of the rider.

In this article, I will discuss certain aspects of motorcycle maintenance and why it is important.

Why is a chain adjustment on a motorcycle necessary?

A chain adjustment on a motorcycle is necessary because, as the chain gets used the rollers, pins, and sprockets wear down.

This causes a gap between sprocket teeth, chain rollers, and pins to increase allowing the chain to extend or “stretch”.

This means the rear sprocket must move away from the front one to decrease this distance or “slack” in the chain.

What is chain stretch on a motorcycle?

Chain stretch on a motorcycle is when the parts of the chain wear, causing more distance between pins of each segment or link, which creates slack in the chain and sprocket system.

This slack makes the chain appear to be stretching, hence the term. This requires you to adjust the rear tire to put more tension on the chain to reduce this slack, also known as a chain adjustment on a motorcycle.

What is chain slack on a motorcycle?

Chain slack on a motorcycle is the lack of tension on a motorcycle’s chain and sprocket drive system.

The amount of chain slack required varies depending on the motorcycle but generally, it is set to have enough slack to allow full movement of the suspension but tight enough to keep the power transfer to the wheel smooth.

How often does a chain need to be adjusted on a motorcycle?

How often a chain needs to be adjusted on a motorcycle depends on many factors such as the type of motorcycle, amount and type of use, and even external conditions like dust or rain.

On dirt bikes, the chain should be adjusted approximately every 30 minutes of riding, sportbikes at every 500 miles, and a dual-sport bike coming in at every 600 miles.

What happens if you do not adjust the chain on a motorcycle?

Many things can happen if you do not adjust the chain on a motorcycle. First, the throttle will seem jerky or delayed, next you might notice the chain skipping on the sprocket.

After that point, 1 of 2 scenarios is likely to play out. 1 the teeth on the sprocket will become so worn that the chain does not turn the sprocket.

2 the chain will break causing damage to the engine, frame, rider, or lodge itself in the rear sprocket and chain guide locking the rear wheel!

Why does a motorcycle chain need to be lubricated?

Motorcycle chains need to be lubricated to fight against heat, keep the chain moving smoothly, and in the case of O-ring chains, the lubrication also helps keep the O-rings from drying out and cracking.

The constant motion of the chain and its proximity to the dirt and grime from the road makes motorcycle chains very susceptible to wear. Lubrication helps keep this dirt and grime from reaching the essential parts of the chain.

What is a motorcycle chain lubricated with?

Most modern motorcycle chains are lubricated with a sticky oil that usually contains anti-friction elements such as ceramics and Teflon.

Some older models still call for the use of engine oil, gear oil, or automatic transmission fluid but these are few and far between.

The newest technology in chains has self-sealed rollers on pins leading to debates everywhere on the correct way to lubricate a motorcycle chain or if it even needs it at all.

How often does a chain need to be lubricated on a motorcycle?

How often a chain on a motorcycle needs to be lubricated varies based on the type of motorcycle, type of chain, external conditions such as dirt, rain, or mud, and amount of use.

Most dirt bikes say every ride or 30 minutes of riding while sportbikes every 500 miles or after riding in wet or rainy conditions and dual-sport every 400 miles or after riding in rainy or dusty conditions.

What happens if you do not lubricate a motorcycle chain?

If a motorcycle chain is not lubricated it will cause excessive wear on not only the parts of the chain but the sprockets as well.

This wear will lead to the need for more frequent chain adjustments and cause damage to the chain.

Despite recent advances in motorcycle chain technology towards a more self-sealed nature, it is still recommended by motorcycle manufacturers to keep a motorcycle chain lubricated.

Why does a motorcycle need maintenance?

Motorcycles need maintenance mostly because of the short lifespan of fluids, lubricants, rubber, and gasoline.

Oil, coolant, and brake fluid are probably the most common reason for maintenance as they absorb contaminants through use and over time as these fluids also take in contaminants from their environment.

There are other reasons, perhaps the most obvious are components such as chains, sprockets, and tires but also engine and transmission components all wear out with use.

What is motorcycle maintenance?

Motorcycle maintenance is the replacing of fluids and filters, adjustment of controls, belts, or chains, and the servicing of engine components.

Most motorcycle maintenance is done at specific intervals indicated by the manufacturer but may also need additional maintenance due to ridings conditions, external environment, or even preventative reasons.

How often does a motorcycle need maintenance?

This is a difficult question because of the wide range of motorcycles available, each with specific needs.

Most use mileage and/or time to determine the maintenance intervals. To keep it simple, I broke this down to sport, dual-sport, cruiser, and dirt bikes however keep in mind when generalizing there are always exceptions.

Sport motorcycle maintenance intervals

Most sport-type motorcycles use an inline 4-cylinder engine.

The maintenance intervals are typically every 4,000 miles or every 6 months after the initial service at 600 miles or 1 month whichever comes first but always consult the service manual.

Sport-type motorcycles maintenance involves things such as the replacements of fluids, filters, spark plugs, and throttle synchronization. Also, the valves require inspection every 26,000 miles.

Dual-sport motorcycle maintenance intervals

Most dual sport motorcycles use a big single-cylinder engine more similar to a dirt bike than a sport-bike or even a cruiser motorcycle.

The maintenance for these is usually every 3,500 miles after the initial service at 600 miles and involves for example fluid and filter changes, chain maintenance, and valve inspection.

Cruiser motorcycle maintenance intervals

Most cruiser-style motorcycles use a V-type engine meaning the cylinders come off the engine at an angle shaped like a V.

The maintenance for this type of motorcycle is after the initial service at 600 miles is every 4,000 miles similar to a sport motorcycle.

Cruiser-type motorcycles maintenance involves things such as the replacements of fluids, filters, spark plugs, throttle synchronization, and valve inspection.

Dirt-bike maintenance intervals

Dirt bikes sold now are single-cylinder 4-stroke engines although you can still find a few 2-stroke models in use today.

The maintenance on these are every race or 2 hours of riding, clean the air filter, cable and chain adjustments, lubrication, and a check over.

Every 3 races or 6 hours replace the engine oil and coolant, chain, and front fork oil. Every 6 races or 12 hours of riding a valve clearance inspection and piston and ring replacement are required.

What happens if you do not perform maintenance on a motorcycle?

The list of issues that could happen if maintenance is not performed on a motorcycle is long and ranges from minor annoyances to catastrophic damage.

For example, a rider may not notice the clutch engaging quicker as the clutch lever is released, however, if the timing chain skips a few teeth from this lack of maintenance and the piston hits the valves the rider will certainly take notice.

Final thoughts

Any way you look at it, maintenance is key to a healthy motorcycle.

Making sure this maintenance is performed on time will make the difference between a safe well kept motorcycle and one that may leave you stranded, underperform, or be unsafe to ride.

As always feel free to contact me with any questions, concerns, or topics you want to be covered. Until next time.