The majority of motorcycles use a chain to take drive from the output of the gearbox to the rear wheel - some use a belt and comparatively more use a shaft but a chain is by far the most common. However, it has two main disadvantages over a belt or shaft; over time it will wear and stretch and require its tension adjusting (as will a belt) and it will also wear with the sprockets and potentially corrode, meaning it will need to be lubricated and protected.
This is where chain lube comes in. It has a dual purpose of helping to eliminate friction and hence, wear and keep the chain working smoothly while preventing it from picking up damage from dirt or moisture and shortening its life.
Are there different types of chains?
There are two types of chain; an open-chain which is typically used on lower-capacity bikes or off-roaders and needs cleaning and lubricating frequently while O-Ring or X-Ring chains use sealed rollers to keep lubricant in place. However, the latter still requires lubricant where the rollers act on the sprockets, for example as well as protection from corrosion.
In addition to different types of chain, there are also different kinds of lubricant available, depending on the time of year, the use of the bike, and the anticipated time between cleans and reapplications. For example, dry lubes will generally be a fine spray as opposed to a liquid (wet) lube while a wax will go on thicker and leave a residue, typically white.
Our recommended chain lubes:
Tru-Tension BananaSlip Dry Chain Lube
Number 1 Best Seller
Tested by Justin Hayzelden for 18 months. Quality 5/5 Value 5/5
"BananaSlip is a dry lube that goes on wet – very wet. The incredibly thin consistency enables it to run right in to exactly where it’s needed and it only takes a short blast with a light finger to dispense the necessary amount. It dries very quickly, leaving little trace other than a clear coating on the links which is slightly waxy to the touch. Its anti-fling capabilities are extremely good, especially if left overnight before you ride."
"Used in conjunction with Tru-Tension's PrimeShine Cleaner, it’s proven itself to offer genuine all-season protection, with the added bonus of a strangely more-ish banana fragrance during application that disappears once dry.
Wurth High Performance 2x 500ml Double Pack
For performance bikes
One of the products from Wurth's motorcycle division, this dry lube is designed to find its way into the tightest gaps and lubricate all areas of the chain. It's suitable for all chains and has a waxy finish for longevity and protection and once dry, isn't tacky so doesn't attract dirt or fling onto the frame or rear wheel. A good performer and received a Best Buy award from our sister title RiDE.
Interflon Fin Super 300ml
This spray from Dutch company Interflon is a genuine all-rounder that can be used for a variety of uses, including cleaning and lubricating your bike's chain. It's a dry-film lubricant so it goes on dry and doesn't leave any residue to be flung off onto the wheel, for example. It also shouldn't pick up debris and cause it to stick.
MCN Editor Richard Newland has been using this for a while, and said: “There’s one trait that I’m particularly impressed by. Most sprays are oily and leave a wet residue that stays there until it’s washed away with detergent, but when you spray Fin Super on, it goes dry and looks like it’s simply evaporated.”
Dry-film so no chain fling
Cleans and lubricates chain
Castrol Racing Chain Lube
Fully synthetic option
Castrol knows a thing or two about lubrication and this chain spray is based on a fully synthetic formula and is suitable for road and off-road bikes. It reduces friction and protects the chain against outside attack while helping prevent corrosion. It is resistant to fling and water attack and dries to give a lasting protective film on the chain.
Dr. Wack S100 White Chain Lube 2.0
For visible coverage
The manufacturer quotes four times the wear protection from its white chain spray, for both the chain and the sprockets. The spray is formulated to penetrate into the chain and resist washing off and fling and is suitable for all chain types. It goes on with a white finish, enabling you to see where you've applied it and make sure you haven't missed any areas. Part of the S100 range of products from Dr. Wack.
Motul C4 Factory Line Chain Lube
For track use
This spray from Motul is designed for road bikes and is, according to the manufacturer, "Specially recommended for very fast motorcycles". So if you're into track days or racing, then it might be worth considering this one. It sticks to the chain even at high speed and contains a solvent component to work its way into the chain's links. Works on all types of chain.
WD-40 Chain Lube
A dependable option
This lube from lubricant specialist WD-40 is also available as a longer-lasting wax which, the company says, should be applied after the lube. Suitable for all chains, the lube penetrates into all areas that require lubrication and helps protect the chain from wear and water damage, as well as corrosion. It dries quickly, has what the manufacturer describes as excellent anti-fling characteristics and works in all conditions.
Tru-Tension BananaSlip Chain Wax
Perfect wax option
Another lubricant with a banana smell, this one is a wax as opposed to a lube (though the company also produces one), meaning it goes on, and stays on, slightly thicker, resisting both friction and corrosion. The manufacturer also states that this spray, which is suitable for all chain types, will improve performance (presumably by reducing friction) and optimise power delivery while giving a smoother ride. Sounds impressive.
Muc-Off All-Weather Lube
Like the wet version of its chain lube, this all-weather product from Muc-Off contains the UV dye to identify where it is applied but unlike it and the dry variant, has been designed as a year-round lubricant. Suitable for all chains, it is also good for shorter journeys as well as longer ones and will repel water while reducing friction, wear and fling. The manufacturer says it's good for everything from tourers to sports bikes to off-roaders.
Muc-Off Wet Lube
Great wet lube
This lube for wet use helps to create a hydrophobic layer on the chain links to repel water while reducing friction and wear. It also contains a UV dye so that, when used with a UV light, you can see that it has been applied properly to the chain and there is no over-application. A nice idea and the company also produces a UV torch.
Muc-Off Dry Lube
Great for dry use
Designed for use on bikes in dry conditions, this provides a protective layer in dusty conditions too. According to the manufacturer, it's appropriate for all kinds of chains; open, O-ring and X-Ring and contains PTFE to help reduce friction as the chain is used as well as prevent corrosion. It comes with a sweet banana smell.
Muc-Off Clean, Protect & Lube Kit
Brilliant gift set for a pristine bike
If you know a mate with a filthy bike, this gift set from Muc-Off could be a subtle reminder to take better care of their wheels. The set contains three items, one for cleaning, one for protection and some all-important chain lube. It comes with a bottle of Nano Tech Bike Cleaner, Muc-Off Bike Protect and the brand's highly-rated Wet Lube.