Types of Motorcycle Chains

by Amrita Chuasiriporn
itstillruns article image
David: Flickr.com

Chain-driven motorcycles are the most popular type sold today, and with good reason. They're relatively easy to maintain and change by yourself when necessary. With proper maintenance, chains are reliable and function well. Within the realm of chain drives, however, there are some differences to consider. O-ring type chains are considered more advanced than other types.


Three types of motorcycle chain currently exist: O-ring, X-ring and Y-ring. Each type refers to how the seal between the locking pins and plates in that type of chain is shaped. O-rings were specifically designed to retain lubrication and keep away dirt and contaminants. This is a feature lacking in X and Y ring chains. As a result, most modern motorcycles use O-ring chains.


O-rings were specifically designed to retain lubrication and keep away dirt and contaminants. They represent a significant breakthrough over the older X and Y-type chain designs.

Cleaning and Lubing

No matter which type of chain you use, you will need to clean and lubricate it regularly if you want to keep riding. Several cleaning products exist for use on your bike. You can also use kerosene or WD-40 to clean it as long as you are careful. Clean your sprockets at the same time you clean your chain, and dry everything thoroughly before lubricating. Check your bike manufacturer's manual for the suggested interval between chain cleaning and lubing sessions.

Lubrication should always take place after you've taken your bike for a ride, while your chain is still hot. The heat will help to suck your lubricant into your chain, helping it do its job. Check your bike manufacturer's manual to see what type of lubrication they advise. There are several on the market to choose from.

Changing Your Chain

Your chain should be changed whenever it is worn and no longer performing at its best. You'll have to break your old chain to remove it and replace it with a new one. It is possible to migrate from one type of chain to another. All three types of chains perform the same function of getting power from your engine to your rear wheel; it's simply a matter of efficiency that makes the difference between types.


The Department of Mechanical Engineering at Bristol University published a report in 2004 regarding optimal efficiency of chain and sprocket combinations. This report found that smaller is better. While your bike will have certain power and torque requirements, use the smallest-pitch chain possible for optimum efficiency.

More Articles

article divider