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Chain life

Discussion in 'Equipment' started by inquiring mind, Jun 27, 2020.

  1. inquiring mind

    inquiring mind n00b

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2020
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    This is my first post here-- to ask a question about chain life on these adventure bikes-- I am a street rider only on a bike with chain drive. I obsess about chain lubrication. I watch these videos of adventure riders riding through mud holes, sand dunes, grimy dirt-- and I can't imagine that a chain under those conditions could possibly last more than a couple thousand miles. I would think the grit and grime would literally chew up a chain in no time. What do adventure riders do about chain lubrication? Do they use some type of chain oiling system? I know a Scottoiler is considered the best, but I'm not paying that kind of money (I'm cheap). What do you consider the best chain oiling system? Or is just using aerosol spray the best?
    #1
  2. shrederscott

    shrederscott Long timer

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    denver

    Hi

    Most of us run O-ring chains.

    The O-ring seals all that grime and yuck out of the chain.

    They do not require lube.

    I have thousands of un lube miles on my o-ring chain and chain rings and there all happy

    Scott
    #2
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  3. Boricua

    Boricua Long timer

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    People obsesses too much about chain lube. Modern chains require very little maintenance. If you worry too much get a big bike with a shaft. Just ride.
    #3
  4. dddd

    dddd Long timer

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    (another debated chain thread, I fear...)

    I don't think o-rings are so popular anymore. I mostly see x-rings and z-rings.

    They do require lube (should that be just for the rollers, regardless of rings).

    If water can get past the rings (and cause rust on pins thus kinks), so can lube.
    Regular lubing is indicated, certainly for the rollers, but also that the rings don't dry out, rub harshly, wear and fail/snap, but also to minimally inject some beind the ring, finally to generally protect against rust.

    You can wipe the chain with a rag to minimize dust sticking to it, but that's for looks.

    You may want to try lubes said to be for dirt bikes chains... but is that snake oil? I supposed they are more wax than lubes to be less sticky. I use chain wax and it makes a huge difference on the mess (less goo).

    As for oilers, that's a whole different angle: they will usually make a mess flinging the oil away but taking the dirt away with it, so the chains with oilers are often much cleaner (but not the wheel or bike!) and are supposedly lasting longer too.

    Hope this helps.
    #4
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  5. Donkey Hotey

    Donkey Hotey De Jo Momma

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    #1 contributor to chain life: a premium (top of the line) o-ring or x-ring chain.
    #2 contributor to chain life: premium, steel sprockets.

    Cleaning is 3rd and lubrication is a distant 4th after that. My experience is purely anecdotal but, a premium chain is made to very precise tolerances, using premium materials that hold those tolerances for a longer time. Mating it to a premium (tight tolerance) sprocket means the chain has the best chance of maintaining precise, low-load contact. Both of those contribute to low wear and long-life.
    #5
  6. jfauerba

    jfauerba Been here awhile

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    Asheville, NC
    have dual sport and auto chain oiler. left side of back wheel and signal light is a little oily due to it but the chain stays clean in mud and dust roads.
    #6
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  7. ricksax

    ricksax Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2013
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    77
    My buddy introduced me to this routine riding KTMs, presuming a quality o-ring or x-ring chain. After a ride, wash the bike with a standard hose and studs. Put the bike on a stand. Put old newspapers down. Rotate and flow chain with WD-40 to remove grit and water. Wipe chain. Spray chain with a PFE Teflon spray such as Tri-flow or Slick 50 while rotating. Wipe down side plates. Throw newspaper away. No oily mess, chains last a long, long time.
    #7
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  8. Some_Dude

    Some_Dude Been here awhile

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    On a modern chain you’re mostly just cleaning/lubricating where the rollers contact the sprocket teeth.

    Wax sprays work better on road as they don’t wash off in the rain and don’t make as much of a mess, but dirt sticks to it and it can become a grinding paste.

    Oil sprays work better offroad because they collect less dirt and it flings off, but it’s messy, doesn’t last as long and washes off in the rain.

    if you’re cheap, use gear oil and rub it on with a toothbrush.

    My x ring chain says to oil it every 500km, which for me is once a week or at the end of a long day. I don’t clean it as periodic oiling is a form of self cleaning.

    I think the solvent cleaners are more useful if you’re using a wax lube. It’ll strip the old wax off before you apply new wax.
    #8
  9. RonKZ650

    RonKZ650 Been here awhile

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    Don't let anyone tell you chains don't need lube because they are sealed. Lube is sealed inside, that keeps lube in, and dirt out, that much is true, but the rollers rolling over the sprocket teeth when dry wear the teeth off the sprockets and ruin the chain. Depends what a guy expects in chain life I guess. If you are happy with 5,000 miles, maybe 10,000 then chain lube may not be that necessary. I gave up chain drive, but when I did ride long distance on chain drive motorcycles, I would constantly look at the chain, and if it looks dry and shiney, that means it needs lube. That can be 500 miles in dry conditions, or 20 miles in wet or dusty conditions. I got 60,000 miles out of a chain/sprocket set regularly by lubing often.
    #9
  10. markk53

    markk53 jack of all trades... Super Supporter

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    Worst thing to do with an O-ring chain is to do any spraying of water directly on the chain. You can blow water past the O-ring displacing the grease, pushing it out the other side. Can you say kinked chain due to rusted pins? I thought you could. The pin wear is what results in the chain lengthening - aka chain "stretch" and pins running in water don't promote good wear.

    I seldom cleaned the chain on my 650 dual sport which I rode a lot on dirt/gravel roads, and I was negligent when it comes to lubing too. Still I'd see 15,000 miles on the chain before it was needing replaced and the sprockets were showing wear to a point where they needed to go too. I usually worked it out so I was replacing the chain /sprockets when I was changing a rear tire too, why do work twice?
    #10
  11. Emmett

    Emmett Been here awhile Supporter

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2017
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    Location:
    New Orleans
    I'm getting 20,000 to 25,000 miles out of a chain and sprocket set. What seems to kill the chains more than the miles is the location of those miles. East of the Mississippi an xring will last longer, but west, especially if I'm in the southwest where it's dusty and sandy my chains die sooner.

    I've traveled roads in the southwest where dust/sand was blowing across the road like drifting snow.

    Same thing would happen with my climbing gear. If I took a trip out west my camming devices would be sticking when I got back, but I could go an entire season climbing in the east and never have a sticky cam.

    Yes, lube you chain, but clean it first. Let whatever you used to clean it with dry before lubing it otherwise the solvent you used to clean the chain will just keep your lube from adhering to the chain. Also, run the chain a few minutes dry before applying the lube so as to heat it up, the lube will spread better and get into places you want it to be in.

    Try to clean it and lube it every 350 to 500 miles. If you're taking a multi-week lengthy road trip figure out how you're going to do chain maintenance at periodic intervals on your trip. You don't want to be 400 miles from home and suddenly discover two kinks in your chain that won't come out.
    #11
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  12. White mt guy

    White mt guy Long timer

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    Who are you weirdos who get high mileage? I don't see any real baseline for chains after thirty five years of street and dirt riding. Sometimes they last six thousand miles sometimes they've gone fifteen thousand. To me they are consumables, much like tires and breaks. Yes I maintain them, clean them , and oil them but, in the end it's about how you use them and what quality they are.
    #12
  13. BMW-K

    BMW-K F800GS FTW!

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    I baseline roughly 18k Miles on a fresh chain/sprockets with proper care.

    I’ve had them go 12k (over torqued the master link...) and 24k (factory linkless on a ZX11). I run a chain oiler on my F800GS and just plain decent maintenance on my 765RS Triple. I expect to get get roughly the same mileage. It’s an interesting experiment.

    Regardless, my general routine is WD40 Specialist and a rag. Spray it on, wipe it off. Nice clean chain, call it good.

    Now, where Oilers shine is in nasty wet dirty touring. It’s a no brainer. A chain in the wet is not good (rust). A chain bathed lightly in oil in the wet: no problem.

    Good luck!
    #13
  14. webnetxpress

    webnetxpress Been here awhile

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    let me be the opposite end of the longevity spectrum. I get about 40-50 hours out of my chains. X ring, O ring all the same. It is totally a consumable and I treat it as such. When it has stretched too much or shows a kink, time to change it. I usually get front sprocket at the same interval, rear one 4 times that.
    This is offroad race pace riding on my KTM. Not an "adventure bike" type of weekend ride.
    90% of all riding is in deep sand. So basically running your chain through a sandpaper wash.

    My street bikes are different, much longer lifespans!
    #14
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  15. Donkey Hotey

    Donkey Hotey De Jo Momma

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    And probably running aluminum on the rear too? If anything, the rear is the one you want to replace often. Try running a good steel sprocket and the chain life will probably go up. Worn sprocket teeth beat the heck out of the chain. As the pockets wear, the rollers start wanting to roll out of the sprocket under load. That means each roller goes POP-POP-POP-POP as it disengages from the sprocket.
    #15
  16. webnetxpress

    webnetxpress Been here awhile

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    Nope, steel front and back.
    Front gets changed/worn out quicker because it spins 4x more than the rear. So wears 4x faster.
    #16
  17. dddd

    dddd Long timer

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    Actually, the biggest variable on life chain is the tolerance and judgment of the owner...

    I'm sure what's toast for one is half life for another.
    #17
  18. webnetxpress

    webnetxpress Been here awhile

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    Up until you break the chain in the middle of nowhere. And hopefully you have a spare masterlink or two in your pack to get you to the nearest place for a new one. Been there, done that, several times. Never my own chain. But I've used 4 masterlinks of my own on 4 of my friends bikes in the past 3 years alone...
    #18
  19. jonz

    jonz Miles are my mantra Supporter

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    I'm not obsessive about cleaning and lubing my chains but I do occasionally do it. I bought the red plastic brush with a "U" shaped channel that allows cleaning 3 sides every pass and I use WD40 (oh the horror) for cleaning. I also clean most of the clinging grit off the sprockets a few times a year. When I buy a chain and sprocket set, I always buy 2 countershaft sprockets and change that sprocket at the first visible sign of wear as per the Supersprox recommendations in the attached photo. If I ride in the rain, I try to lube or at least spray with WD40 before it sits for any amount of time. On my big bikes (950 and above) I get 15,000+ miles from my chain and sprocket sets. Never had a motorcycle chain failure but I'm pretty conservative and change my chain and sprockets when there is almost certainly several more thousands I could eek out of them.
    [​IMG]
    #19
  20. Motomantra

    Motomantra Registered Lurker

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    Cleaning is overrated.
    #20
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