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Cleaning chains does nothing useful at all and I believe in some cases can harm the chain. Certainly cleaning chains has no (positive) effect on chain life.

I now replace my chains over 50,000 miles / 80,000 km. (sprockets same time as Chain and also front sprocket somewhere around 30,000 to 40,000 miles)

I have built my confidence in this over more than 300,000 miles / 500,000 km. I never waste time "cleaning" the chain. I lube the chain every time I fill the tank and after every ride in the rain. This literally takes 10 to 20 seconds at the gas station or at home. I use Wurth HHS 2000, also called Wurth HHS-K in the USA.

..Tom
 

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If you choose to clean your chain, I would avoid using anything citrus based. I did that for a while when I was racing mountain bikes, the citrus based cleaners significantly reduced the life of the bicycle chains, and bicycle chains don't have any rubber rings in them.
 

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"To Each Their Own"
IMHO - ATF on a rag works well as a chain cleaner and lubricant at the same time. :thumbup:
There lies the 2 camps - those who think that having sticky crap on the outside of a sealed chain helps and those who don't. It is interesting that on the vstrom board the pendulum swings towards sliming chains and on the FZ1 board it swings towards keeping them clean. There is not any benefit I can think of to having lube on the outside of a sealed chain (other than to collect dirt) - but as you say, to each their own. The previous owner of my vstrom was definitely a chain slimer.
 

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There lies the 2 camps - those who think that having sticky crap on the outside of a sealed chain helps and those who don't. It is interesting that on the vstrom board the pendulum swings towards sliming chains and on the FZ1 board it swings towards keeping them clean. There is not any benefit I can think of to having lube on the outside of a sealed chain (other than to collect dirt) - but as you say, to each their own. The previous owner of my vstrom was definitely a chain slimer.
I say to all: Use Whatever Trips Your Trigger

It's like "The Official Oil Thread". There are as many opinions as motorcycle riders :thumbup:
 

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Summary

There's always a lot of talk in these types of threads about "lubing" v. "cleaning". I think "lube" vs. "clean" are ultimately different forms of the same thing (chain maintenance), albeit with different products and via different mechanisms (e.g. spraying vs. wiping). It seems to me they both provide similar, if not the same, benefits.

I think the real question is "Do / Should I care for my chain (whatever form that takes), or not?" I don't see many people taking the position that no chain care at all is appropriate, though occasionally someone with that perspective pops up.

Detail (TLDR)

By "lube" here and below, I mean that I apply to my chain a product marketed and labelled as a lubricant (currently Dupont Chain Saver). Whether or not it actually and meaningfully "lubricates" the chain, I'll leave to the reader. In my experience, at minimum chain "lube" helps the chain self-clean (e.g. with more oily products) and / or protects against rust (which I find the case for both oily or waxy "lubes").

It appears others -- for example those who prefer to keep the chain "clean" -- may apply different oily-ish products to the chain via different mechanisms which may provide the same or similar benefits. (I've never heard of anyone cleaning their chain with a bone-dry rag or paper towel, or with water and / or detergent or some such.)

Bottom line for me: I find "taking care of the chain" worthwhile, whether one "lubes" or "cleans".

My choice is clear based on about as close as I personally can (or am willing to) get to an A/B test...

My two brothers and I all ride ~2015 DL650s, in the same environment, generally the same riding style, year-round except when the roads are snowed / iced over.


  • I "lube" my chain regularly -- targeting every fill-up and after every ride in the rain, but missing here and there -- and am approaching 20k miles with no issues.
  • One brother didn't "lube" his chain very often at all (I don't recall his interval, if any), and replaced the chain some time ago with significantly fewer miles than mine.
  • The other brother forewent "lube" outright for a long while (< a year, I think) on a newly installed chain and ended up having to replace his chain in far fewer miles (rusty and sticky links, if I recall).
Sure, I could nitpick differences to try to account for why my chain has lasted longer. But to me, it's clear "lubing"* the chain is worth doing.

At a minimum, if I don't "lube"* my chain, it starts to rust fairly quickly (within a couple / few weeks, if not shorter, depending on weather). Rusty chain seems like a bad idea. Lubing it also keeps it running significantly quieter (though I wear earplugs, so don't really notice). And I also notice the it's a bit smoother when lubed, too.
 

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Cleaning chains does nothing useful at all and I believe in some cases can harm the chain. Certainly cleaning chains has no (positive) effect on chain life.

I now replace my chains over 50,000 miles / 80,000 km. (sprockets same time as Chain and also front sprocket somewhere around 30,000 to 40,000 miles)

I have built my confidence in this over more than 300,000 miles / 500,000 km. I never waste time "cleaning" the chain. I lube the chain every time I fill the tank and after every ride in the rain. This literally takes 10 to 20 seconds at the gas station or at home. I use Wurth HHS 2000, also called Wurth HHS-K in the USA.

..Tom

I'll agree actively cleaning the chain can do more harm than good but passively cleaning the chain via the use of a continuous oiler can only benefit a chain.

When using a Scott oiler my chain was cleaner than new. It was protected from rusting and never needed adjusting in the 12,000 miles I had the bike. Rear sprocket was also like new at 20,000 miles when I sold it. Counter sprocket was like new with 12,000 miles on it.


That the beauty of the continuous oiler. It doesn't lube so much as clean and protect the chain lessening the wear and extending the life.
 

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I'll agree actively cleaning the chain can do more harm than good but passively cleaning the chain via the use of a continuous oiler can only benefit a chain.

When using a Scott oiler my chain was cleaner than new. It was protected from rusting and never needed adjusting in the 12,000 miles I had the bike. Rear sprocket was also like new at 20,000 miles when I sold it. Counter sprocket was like new with 12,000 miles on it.


That the beauty of the continuous oiler. It doesn't lube so much as clean and protect the chain lessening the wear and extending the life.
If I wasn't having such great success with my chain life (last chain replaced at 87,237km / 54,206 miles) I would be using an automatic chain oiler.

As far as keeping the chain clean keep in mind this is how my chain typically looks:



(Yes I have shown this before.)

I am of the opinion keeping the chain clean isn't really relevant. Just keep it lubed.

..Tom

..Tom
 

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I'm in the oil and not clean camp. Using a Tutoro oiler the original chain was still fine at 30,000 miles when I changed the chain and sprockets after a friend more experienced with chains freaked out at my mileage. Could have kept going but wanted a 16t front sprocket, so I changed everything.
 

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There lies the 2 camps - those who think that having sticky crap on the outside of a sealed chain helps and those who don't. It is interesting that on the vstrom board the pendulum swings towards sliming chains and on the FZ1 board it swings towards keeping them clean. There is not any benefit I can think of to having lube on the outside of a sealed chain (other than to collect dirt) - but as you say, to each their own. The previous owner of my vstrom was definitely a chain slimer.
The sealed lube on a chain is between the pin and the bushing. It also lubes the O ring where it slides on the side plates as the chain moves around the sprockets. Once the factory applied grease on the out side is gone there is no lubricant between the rollers and the bushings. Or the rollers and the sprockets. Every other moving part on the bike has some amount of lube to prevent wear and keep things quiet. I think V Tom has it right with a small amount of lube applied often works best. I agree with your point on not sliming the chain with lube. Too much is not better. But some lube is necessary or wear happens. The rollers move slightly on the bushings when they contact the sprockets.
 
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