Q:I called up the Triumph T120 owner’s manual online and here’s what they say about chain maintenance: “Lubrication is necessary [note the word ‘necessary’] every 200 miles (300km) and also after riding in wet weather, on wet roads, or anytime that the chain appears dry… Apply lubricant to the sides of the rollers then allow the motorcycle to stand unused for at least eight hours (overnight is ideal). This will allow the oil to penetrate to the chain, O-rings, etc.” Eight hours of downtime every 200 miles? I’d never be able to get anywhere I wanted to go, let alone home again; clearly, this is absurd. So here is my question: What are the practical, real-world requirements, limitations, and concerns of modern drive chains on powerful, heavy modern motorcycles?
A:Nobody, except perhaps a lawyer from Triumph corporate HQ, is lubing their chain every 200 miles and letting it soak in for eight hours. Modern “O-ring” chains are so good that it isn’t a big issue anymore. What little lube they require is mostly to lube the sprockets and keep things from getting rusty. The lube doesn’t penetrate down past the seals between the plates on these chains. Whatever grease inside the seals is there from the factory. As soon as the seals get hard and let water in or grease out, the chain is done. Lube every day when on a trip, whenever it looks dry. It only has to sit a minute or two until the spray lube solvent evaporates. With typical around-town use, it may only require a squirt once a month. Something is better than nothing. WD-40 or such will do in a pinch, but the motorcycle-specific spray lubes
are better. Typical life span on these chains is 20K miles. If you're easy on it, it may go farther; if you neglect to lube or clean at all, it could be much less.