Saturday, 10 February 2018

Do you take your Motorcycle Chain for granted?

Do you take your Motorcycle Chain for granted
Unless you are a motorcycle enthusiast you wouldn't have landed on this page. Tell me, do you take your motorbike's chain for granted? I'd like to assume that you are one of those caring motorcycle owners who enjoy periodic cleaning and lubricating their drive chains. If you do not belong to this category then it is high time to engage in some soul searching to find out why did you invest money on a two-wheeler in the first place. Depending on the rider's approach, motorcycling can thrill as well as kill. Your motorcycle is like a growing child. Being with it cocoons you with a sense of fulfilment. But, neither you can be too harsh on it, nor too loose. The machine doesn't expect you to be always on your toes. She can sportingly swallow your happy-go-lucky attitude as long as you respectfully maintain the base level involvement with her.

Well, we'll talk about fascist motorcycle owners some other day. Today let's just focus on the drive chain issue. It is recommended to inspect, adjust and maintain the chain properly before any long ride. You know your machine quite well and obviously familiar with its drive chain too, at least that's what most of us love to think. The boomerang returns: Having gained a fair bit of experience in the alluring field of motorcycling, are you bold enough to keep the engine switched on while cleaning or lubing the motorcycle chain? Clearly it saves a lot of time and effort when you wipe dirt out of a moving chain. Ever wondered why few bikers are still so dumb to switch off the engine before fiddling with their motorcycle chains? 

Do you take your Motorcycle Chain for granted
The reason is simpler than you probably anticipated: Those motorcycle enthusiasts do not take their drive chains for granted and they value their fingers. Man and machine can be friends. But you really do not need to drink an ounce of engine oil, or pour a cup of instant noodles into your vehicle's fuel tank to revitalise that sweet relationship. About two weeks back, one of my motorcyclist friends got his fingers badly injured while cleaning his bike chain. He is an experienced rider who often ventures out for solo motorcycle tours with his gorgeous yellow Royal Enfield Continental GT. There is no doubt about his technical skills related to the maintenance of his machine. So where did he go wrong?

It's a pity that over-familiarity, overconfidence and impatience join hands at times to overpower our good wits. My friend was cleaning a moving chain. It is not the first time he was cleaning a chain in motion. It is just that, fortune didn't favour the gutsy this time. Four of his fingers took the bad blow. There is a silver lining to every murky cloud. His fingers could even get chopped off. The mishap was limited to multiple cut injuries and bruises. Lucky fellow didn't end up losing his digits. He got timely emergency medical treatment in a nearby clinic. Cut injuries were dressed, sutured and bandaged. These photos had been taken on the tenth day of his recovery period. Hope you are smart enough to visualise the gravity of his miscalculation. So, are you also in the habit of cleaning a moving drive chain? You do not have to answer me.

Do you take your Motorcycle Chain for granted
When I shared this story in various motorcycling and travelling groups I came to know that such accidents are not uncommon among motorcycle lovers. Few community members shared photos which looked scarier and much more heart breaking. Yes, many riders till date have lost skin, blood, flesh and bone while babysitting a moving motorcycle chain. Take it as their unwanted bravado or the inability to live with practicality. Either way, they ended up paying a ridiculously high price for their imprudence. You can afford to lose time and money, but not fingers. Get it very straight, you are no starfish. Few motorcyclists had commented negatively about the injured rider. For a moment I was upset with their apparent lack of empathy. Later I realised that they were angry. Their anger was born out of the frustration. Most of them are tired of warning their fellow riders not to work on a moving motorbike chain. Still such mistakes are being repeated.

You can't give the excuse of human errors while playing Russian roulette. These injuries are totally preventable. Yet, we riders are so indifferent in correcting our wrong practices. Strange and sad indeed! According to Dr. Binoy Sayoojianadhan, a reconstructive surgeon at St. James Hospital, Chalakudy, he has encountered about 245 patients who got their hands sliced (to different degrees) while cleaning their motorbike chains less carefully. A lazy web-search can fetch you hundreds of well made tutorials showing how to safely clean and lubricate your motorcycle drive chain. As a continued effort in spreading this awareness Kochumvk has uploaded an easy to understand video tutorial on how to clean and lube bike chain without sacrificing your fingers:

Your motorcycle drive chain may require more frequent maintenance than advised in the owner's manual. This depends on your riding style, road conditions, lubricant quality and the season. Unlike me, if you do not pet the OCD of touching the sticky chain every time you park your beauty into the garage it is perfectly okay to check the chain every 500-600 kilometres. Riding with the chain in poor condition or improperly adjusted can lead to an accident. So, inspect, adjust and maintain the chain carefully before every long ride. When inspecting the chain, look for any- loose pin, damaged roller, rusted link, missing 'O' ring seal, kinked link, excessive wear or improper chain adjustment. Inspect the sprockets for excessively worn teeth, broken teeth and loose sprocket mounting nuts. If you find any of those it's highly recommended to seek for your mechanic's opinion. Adjust the drive chain slackness to the proper specification. Excessive chain slack could cause the chain to come off the sprockets and result in something totally unwanted. Cleaning and lubricating aspects have already been discussed.

My friend committed the blunder of taking his motorcycle chain for granted and he was taught in a harsh way. He needs at least another few weeks of healing before he can sit on the saddle again. So, are you doing it the right way? It is never too late to part with our bad habits. Ponder over it. In the coming week I'll reveal my upcoming riding plan. It'll be over 6,000 kilometres of poetry of roads. See you soon.


  1. Oops! That looks pretty bad. Not quite a motorbike enthusiast, but it's a common sense not to take any machine for granted.

    1. Please spread the awareness to your motorcyclist buddies :-)

  2. I really appreciate your professional approach. These are pieces of very useful information that will be of great use for me in future.

  3. True I lost my thumb upto nail while cleaning the I have to live with a nub thumb for rest of my life


I really appreciate your efforts in exploring my poetry of roads. Thank You!