Maintaining Your Motorcycle's Drive Chain

Maintaining Your Motorcycle's Drive Chain

Drive Chain - How To Maintain It


BSA Rear Wheel Chain Adjustment

 Loosen your axle nut on the left hand and right hand side. Use the adjuster bolt to add or decrease chain tension. Use the nut to lock the bolt into place.


Drive chains are probably one of the most abused components on any motorcycle, ATV, scooter, or any vehicle that uses a drive chain. Not only do chains get abused, but they also suffer from a lack of maintenance and attention which causes premature wear and ultimately chain failure. Chain failure could be dangerous and also leave you stranded if ignored.

Chain's are almost forgotten... You change your oil, check your tire pressure, but why do so many fail to check your drive chain? To be honest, most think that once the chain is installed that you will never have to service it. Have you ever head the term "fit and forget"? If a component is in motion, it will fail, that's all there is to it. Chains should be checked and adjusted (if needed) every 500 miles.

Most chains today are expensive. With I, coming from a motocross background, I understand that motorcycle chains can get pricey. So that's why its imperative to check your chain every time you go out for a ride. A properly adjusted and well lubricated chain should last you anywhere from 5,000 miles up to 30,000 miles. Of course, each application and specific use will vary. Not sure what to look for when inspecting your chain? Keep reading.


Inspecting Your Chain - What To Look For


Everyone has there own rituals when it comes to inspecting and adjusting a chain. Below are some tips which we live by when its time to make an adjustment to a chain.
Before we adjust any chain, we always inspect the chain for any rust or "kinks".
Make sure that the chain is clean and free from debris. This will allow the chain lube to properly works its way into the links. Using a steel brush, brass brush or a tooth brush to clean works well.
Check to see if your chain is not worn. You will find that if you are adjusting your chain more then usual after every ride, your chain could be worn out. Start by checking the vertical amount of play and the side-to-side movement. If the chain is worn, replace it as soon as possible. Also check for wear on your front and rear sprockets.
Once you have ruled out that your chain is / or is not worn, you can proceed with the adjustment.
Maxima Chain Lube Wax
Our favorite chain wax we like to use is made by Maxima. This lube will not fly off of your rear sprocket and chain causing unwanted oil spots all over your motorcycle. Maxima Chain Wax can be found at most local motorcycle shops and dealers.


Additional Information

Chains that where fitted to vintage British motorcycles should be the correct 5/8" X 3/8" size for "heavyweight" models. Today's metric equivalent is the 530 chain. Although the 530 chain will work, 530 chains happen to have a wider side plate thickness that can cause rubbing on your engine case near the front drive sprocket. For smaller British models such as the BSA B25 Starfire or the Triumph TR25W Trophy, the correct chain size is 5/8" X 1/4". The modern chain replacement is a 520 chain. Again, a 520 chain will work, but it's not the "best".

The 400-600 series chains are not imperial but instead metric. Vintage Triumph, BSA, Norton, and other models used the inch or imperial chain. Many use metric chains today due to cost and availability. The correct Renold chains today are are expensive and readily available.



Modern 530 Chain

Renold X-Ring Gold Chain

Above is a modern 530 motorcycle chain. You can see that the outer and inner link plates are very thick, which could cause an interference problems when used on most vintage British motorcycles.



Renold 5/8" X 3/8" Chain

Renold Motorcycle Chain

 Above is a Renold motorcycle chain. This chain is the 5/8" X 3/8" type. Notice that the inner and outer link plates are much narrower from that of the standard 530 chain? This is exactly why we recommend using a Renold chain on vintage Triumph's, BSA, and Norton motorcycles. (We happen to carry a Renold alternative chain if you are interested)



I do not recommend using a 530 o-ring chain on any British motorcycle. Although o-ring chains are usually a marvelous upgrade, the extra strength, width, weight, and o-rings, cause to much resistance. You would be surprised how much power is robbed from your rear wheel by using an o-ring chain.

1 comment

  • Steve

    What do you use when cleaning the chain before applying chain wax?

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