Chain maintenance the Tarsnakes way

When I was in Melbourne at Pete’s place last Monday, he showed me what appeared to be an O-ring that he’d found adhered to the wheel rim on his ZX14. It was obviously flung from the chain. He then showed me his chain and it had lots of pieces of O-ring rubber ‘tails’ coming out of the side plates of the links. Pretty obviously his chain is now damn near useless! As the bike has only done 8,000 kms (5K miles) he was taking it back to the shop where he purchased for a warranty claim.

This led me to clean and inspect my chain yesterday as my ZX14 has roughly the same kilometres on it. Mrs T came out with the camera for another purpose, so I got her to hang about and take some shots as a bit of a pictorial on how I give my chain a good clean every now and again. Most of you will know how to do this and will have your own routine and favored products, so this is just my approach. “Your mileage may vary” as they say! Probably about now the folk with shaft & belt drive motorcycles are having a bit of a snigger!

OK, so first up, I have the motorcycle on a rear stand with a big piece of cardboard underneath and an big rag under the chain to soak up the slops – this is going to get messy. I also place some cardboard as a shield between the chain and the rear tyre so as to limit the kerosene splatter onto the tyre. I use kerosene as the internet tells me it does not damage O-rings when used as a cleanser (and I’ve used it without a problem for around 35 years).

Gloves on, (chain lube gunk is ‘the enemy’ on your skin in my book – as is grease) I then use a dish washing brush, dip it into the kero and start cleaning the chain from the inside. Rotate the back wheel by hand.

I’m using the small red bristles on this brush to clean the chain, not the larger bristles that are facing upwards.

You can see my cardboard shield in this pic

After I’ve gone around the chain, I clean the rear sprocket. When I’m happy with it all, I then wipe the chain thoroughly with a rag and then use my compressor to air blast all of the kero off the chain until it is dry. This of course will spray a whole lot more gunge on to the rear wheel rim so that it needs to be cleaned as well.  In my pre-compressor ownership days I used to take the bike for a run around the block and let centrifugal force do the same thing – keeping in mind that kero on the tyre is very slippery.

It’s then time to lube the chain. Which chain lube is the best is a question that has as many answers as there are products available – a lot like engine oil and tyre choice – it’s rare to get a consensus! A brief diversion if I may, some of you may be old enough to remember an Aussie chain lube commonly used in the 1970’s, I think that it was called “Wear Pruf” – a mate of ours named it “Pink Cat” and that name stuck amongst the Procrastinators for many years. Anyway, its anti-fling properties were laughable by the standard of any of today’s products. Currently I’m using a Du Pont product that Geoff from Confessions of an Ageing Motorcyclist put me on to – I’m very satisfied so far thanks Geoff. With this Teflon based product it’s a long time between full chain cleaning ‘birthdays’ and chain fling is virtually non-existent.

I usually don’t spray near the rear tyre like this, but Mrs T couldn’t get a pic when I moved further forward along the chain. I spray from the inside of the chain and rotate the tyre by hand, though the temptation to have the engine running and the bike in 1st gear is great.

Theoretically I will now have more horsepower at the back wheel– like I need that. All that needs to be done is to pack up all the kero & chain gunk soaked rag and cardboard and dispose of it in an environmentally friendly manner.

So all of this came about because of Pete’s chain issue being on my mind and the pics resulted from Mrs T sneaked attempt at an opportunistic shot of my rear end as I was bent over to embarrass me with – “you’re on crack” she said! That pic has been deleted I can assure you!!

I don’t commute on my motorcycle, it’s used purely as a recreational vehicle. I lube the chain after each ride, preferably while the chain is still warm, and give it a full clean like this maybe once or twice a year.

What’s your routine for chain care?

8 thoughts on “Chain maintenance the Tarsnakes way

    • Chillertek, you’re making me look bad if you do this every 3 or 4 rides! I suspect that you must get pretty good lifespan out of your chain then. Have you seen one of those simple folding props that gets hooked under a rear axle nut while the bike is on the side stand to tilt the bike over a bit and lift the rear, for chain lubing when you’re touring? (For bikes with no centrestand) A mate has one, it’s compact and works pretty well, even on these heavy motorcycles.

      Here’s some video of one being used

      Another one is called the Pack Jack – I don’t know if they are sold in Australia though

      • Don’t feel too bad. He only rides his bike 3 or 4 times a year !
        Out on the road with a sports bike you just pull it over on the stand towards you and get a (good) mate to duck down and lube the chain while he spins the back wheel by hand. Don’t need any doo dads that way.
        To get rid of that kero, just hose it off the metal and use bike wash while washing your bike to wash the tyre. Chiller and I have used this method for years after being shown by our Dad, who was a mechanic all his life.

          • I thinks degreaser is ok, but it may remove lube from between the links and damage the O rings, where kerosene is easy on the components and easy to wash away. Think Parafin , the English word for kerosene and it makes sense.

  1. Jules , nice post, one Question and one comment .If you only use the red bristles to clean the chain is that so the white ones can be reserved for the Mrs Tarsnakes silverware ? and I do think that you have understated the properties of Wear Pruf Chain Lube , with a pic of a friendly pink cat on the bottle do you not rember the smell of that stuff ? it just had to be good ! Oh and I thought I’d mention that on E bay UK parts and accessories you can buy a special brush that has bristles on three sides ,if I recall it has a red handle , the Irish are developing an even better one with bristles on all four sides .
    Cheers Steve K
    ps I think I have a bottle of Pink Cat lying around in one of the sheds if I find it I’ll stick it on the blog or send it to you .

    • Steve, you are in good form this morning! I certainly have been known to steal kitchen utensils and toothbrushes for motorcycle cleaning duties.

      I think the smell of Pink Cat actually WAS its best property. I have visions of splatter all over the wheel, under the mudguards and everywhere else. I recalled Burnsy used to love to break out the Pink Cat to lube the chain just as C was about to hop on the Z1R for them to go somewhere – he’d be there grinning from ear to ear as she fumed and complained that “.. you do this every bloody time…”. I’d love to take a pic of the container next time I’m down.

      The Grunge brush is actually a 3 sided chain cleaning brush – imagine a tool with an end like the C shape of a shifting spanner, with bristles on 3 inner faces, better still look it up here:

      I’ve wondered if there’s any reason not to just spray pressure pack degreaser onto the chain to clean it, rather than mucking about with kero.

      Cheers Jules.

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