Thursday, September 10, 2009

What you can do to help a Royal Enfield

Name one good thing you could do to your Royal Enfield motorcycle.

That is the challenge posed by reader Bob Slovey, who himself suggested three good things. It was his idea that I ask all of you out there to each suggest one good thing that would benefit your motorcycle. Please email your ideas to

I'll print the best tips and treats for Royal Enfields in a future blog item.

Meantime, here's my own one suggestion: oil the final drive chain.

Most modern motorcycles, and recent Royal Enfield Bullets, come with O-ring chain, so called because o-rings seal lubricant inside the chain rollers, where it does the most good. Older Royal Enfield motorcycles and most vintage motorcycles are propelled by plain old industrial chain, just like the stuff of on your bicycle, but heavier.

The rollers of this chain are not sealed; they have no permanent way to retain oil and they can leak whatever lubricant they have. Many fancy chain waxes and penetrating oils exist that claim to do a no-muss, no-fuss job of getting goo into the rollers and keeping them healthy.

Or you can do what I do: wipe the chain clean with old rags and dribble used motor oil on the rollers with an eyedropper. I use the top cut from a plastic water bottle as a "stand" for the eyedropper when I'm not holding it. A rag under the bottle catches any stray drips. A hunk of cardboard under the motorcycle protects the garage floor.

My method is slow, tedious and not guaranteed to get much oil inside the rollers, where it's needed. I wipe excess oil off when I'm finished, but some still will be flung off to decorate the rim of the rear wheel.

My method has only one advantage: it's cheap (free, really). It has the satisfaction of being the method employed by motorcyclists probably since motorcycles were invented. I suppose it also keeps the rear wheel rim rust free.

The penalty for letting your chain run dry is not just fast wear on the chain. Chains are cheap and easy to replace, but a worn chain will quickly wear out your front and rear sprockets. Replacing sprockets is not easy or cheap.

I also like to think that a well oiled chain improves performance. Let me explain: as a boy I rode an old Schwinn bicycle. I repacked the bearings, pumped up the tires, and exchanged the front sprocket for one that provided more speed (or so I calculated).

When I was done, the bicycle was as slow as ever.

Then I dunked the drive chain in old motor oil over night, hung it up to drip dry, and reinstalled it on the bike. The ease of pedaling was immediately apparent. It is the only "hop up" thing I did that made any difference. I've been a believer ever since, and you can see oil stains on all my pants cuffs.


  1. Good grief David, as long as you are going to all that trouble at least use new 90# gear oil. It will stay on a little longer. Better yet check out DuPont Teflon Chain-Saver. It's cheap, goes on clear, drys quick and stays on. Get it at ACE or True Value.

  2. Anonymous9/11/2009

    My 2002 350 came equipped with an O-ring chain. When this production feature was initiated with the 350, I do not know.

    The chain has just under 20k miles and has not been given any special attention other than to have a duck-bill deposit oil vapor from the crankcase on it. Chain stretch has been minimal.

    Al in Philadelphia


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