Chain Maintenance - Niranjan Vaidya
How to get more out of your bike ? How to extract the most of its performance ? Often people are left thinking about performance mods and aftermarket products but tend to ignore the fact that a well maintained chain can make a world of difference to your bikes performance.
The bike's chain is probably one the most important parts on a bike. The kind of acceleration and deceleration forces that the chain handles is immense.
In the course of normal riding, the chain probably goes through the most wear and tear as compared to any engine component; remember, almost all engine components are almost always lubed by the engine oil whereas the chain is mostly exposed to the elements of nature.
The chain's exposure to natural elements make it age rapidly unless cared for. The performance differential between a non lubed chain and a properly maintained one is huge and can be felt almost immediately.
In this article, we shall see how ten simple steps once a week can eliminate chain wear and keep your bike performing better. We will be talking most about the exposed 'O' ring chains as found on most modern bikes today.
The O ring chain gets its name from the rubber o rings that are built into the metal rollers of the links in the chain. The O rings occupy the space between the rollers and links. These rubber rings also hold the lubricating grease inside the roller and also prevent dirt/mud from entering the chain linkage. This significantly increases the chain life and reduces the wear and tear.
HINT: Always plan your chain lube session such that the bike will be parked overnight after the lube is sprayed on. I shall disclose the reason for this later in the article.
Most chain manufacturers will ask you to stay away from corrosive/abrasive cleaning fluids like Petrol, Diesel and Kerosene. Some of these fuels react with the rubber linkages and destroy the lubricating grease within the linkage. This affects performance and the life of your chain. A chain is pretty easy to clean provided it has not rusted or worn out. Most wash centres apply kerosene or diesel and wash the chain with a jet of water. Though this practice is not recommended, it is effective especially if your chain is heavily soiled (post monsoon washes). Even if this is done, one has to ensure that the pressure of the water jet isn't too strong.
The method of chain cleaning that works really effectively for me starts with a small ride for about 10 minutes. I usually accelerate hard in the lower gears (not to the redline though) and shift down keeping the rev range higher. The idea is to build some temperature in the chain. Many tuners/mechanics disagree of the warm up principle but it has never failed me nor has it caused any harm. If at all, the slight movement helps to dislodge some of the grime and gets washed away easily.
Park your bike on a stand and switch off the engine. As a precautionary measure, I remove the key from the ignition. Remember that you are dealing with a potential risk to your fingers. There have been cases where people have had their fingers caught between the chain and sprocket; save your digits.
Mask the rear wheel and tyre so that the chemicals are not sprayed on to the tyre or the wheels or worse, the brakes. You can use a large plastic sheet for this. To attach the sheet, one can use sticking plaster/tape at proper places. Using newspaper may seem like an alternative but the newspaper absorbs spray and lubricant, making it more tear prone.
Shake the can of chain cleaner. I use the Motul Chain Cleaner as it is safe on the O rings. It is pretty effective too. Spray the cleaner on the chain. The spray should be on the inner surface of the chain on the lower side; preferably, a few inches away from the place where the chain interfaces with the rear sprocket on the lower side. Also spray on top of the chain, preferable where the chain leaves the rear sprocket on the top.
As you spray on, all the while, use the other hand to rotate the wheel. It is easy to get tempted to start the bike and engage the gear but I would not advise it. Rotating the chain yourself allows you to inspect the chain closely. Look for worn out linkages and rollers. Check for uneven wear of the sprocket too.
You will need two brushes, a hard one and a soft bristle brush. If the chain is typically heavily soiled, the hard brush can be used to brush away the stubborn dirt. The soft brush should be used on the rollers and links. The brush stroke should be along the chain length, on both the sides, inner and outer. If you feel that the chain is drying up, a small burst of chain cleaner should be enough to set it right. Brush the chain, section by section, starting from the master link or a reference on your chain. This will ensure that you cover the entire chain.
If the chain looks clean, proceed to STEP 7 else repeat STEP 4. The intention here is to rinse away the dirt left behind by the brushing activity. Dirt monsters may need more attention and a repeat of the above two steps.
Use a dry soft cotton rag or old tee to wipe dry the chain. Run the cloth on the rollers by pinching the cloth softly between your first finger and the thumb. Once cleaned properly, let it rest for a few minutes. The chain cleaner is quite volatile. The time that you let it stand alone ensures that the chain cleaner evaporates completely.
Shake the can of your preferred chain lube. This can be MOTUL, OKS, Paras or the new TVS Chain Spray. One can also use SAE 90 grade oil using an oiling can. In a similar way to the one used in step 4, spray the chain lube in short bursts. It is essential to spray on the inner surface as the centrifugal forces on the chain will ensure that the lube sprayed on the inner side is propagated to the outer side. Once the inner and outer sides have been sprayed, rotate the wheel a few times to even out the lube.
Before starting the process, I had advised lubing at night. The lubes that are sprayed are penetrative by nature. The treatment of lube on the inner and outer surface ensures that overnight, the lubes penetrate the hard to reach places and proper lubrication is achieved. The standing time (as I call it) allows lube to stick better to the chain.
This step is easier to execute If one has a centre stand on the bike or one can use a paddock stand too. In the morning, when you start the bike, once warmed up, engage first gear and drop the clutch. Let the wheel rotate freely for a few seconds. You are ready to roll now.
As we have seen, 10 easy steps towards improved performance. Wasn't hard...was it?
Tuesday, 10 January 2012 10:52
Love the tag :)
Monday, 09 January 2012 11:48
Really amazing to learn that there are so many steps to cleaning a chain. I used to just lube it. Today cleaned it (not actually followed all 10 steps) still the bikes feels as if new.
Sunday, 08 January 2012 18:37
thnk u for the info abt "Chain Maintenance".Its very easily described too to be understood by all & the step by step shown with pictures is creditable indeed.
keep it up. :)