motorcycle chain

How to adjust and lube motorcycle chain

motorcycle chain

A well adjusted motorcycle chain makes gear changes smoother and sends more of your engine’s power to the wheel. Too tight and you’ll have stiff, whip cracking gear changes. Too slack and you’ll have sloppy gear shifts and, at worst, a hole in your engine casings where the chain comes off at 70mph, narrowly misses slicing through your leg and tears a hole in the engine.

Adjusting chain tension

There is usually a sticker near the chain that gives the correct amount of slack. Here’s how to get it right:


1. Loosen the rear wheel spindle nut

2. Loosen the lock nuts on the adjusters

3. Turn the adjusting nuts on either side clockwise, no more than a quarter turn


4. Check the tension

5. If it’s okay check the position of the chain adjusters with the marks on the swing arm to make sure the spindle is the same distance along on both sides (which means the back wheel is in line with the frame). If both are equal, tighten the lock nuts and spindle nut and you’re done.

6. If the chain is still slack turn the adjusters another quarter turn. Check again and repeat until tight enough


7. If the wheel is out of line, back off the adjusters to bring both into line and then tighten the chain again. Tighten the spindle nut and check the tension again (some swing arms bow when the nut is done up, tightening the chain).

Lubing your chain

chain lube

Your motorcycle chain has hundreds of moving parts spinning at speed bombarded by grit, salt and rain. Run it dry and it’ll be scrap in 3000 miles, but keep it lubricated (once a week is fine) and you’ll get up to 20,000 miles from a chain.


Sticky chain lube and road filth turn into a nasty grinding paste that wrecks chains, so use paraffin or degreaser in order to get the filth off first. Only use motorcycle chain lube approved for O-ring chains and spray it liberally on the inside and outside run of the chain as you spin the wheel.

Keep the lube away from the tyre and once applied leave for a few minutes for the carrier propellant to evaporate – otherwise the lube flings off all over your bike and your tyre.