Way back in the early days of Moto Adventurer, I did a “How-to” piece on chain maintenance. Despite my preface, “This is how I do things, not necessarily the right way to do things”, I want to revisit this topic for a couple reasons. One, while my previous method still preserved chains for about 25,000 miles or more, I’ve learned a few things since then; and two, this whole process goes a lot faster now that I have a Tirox Snapjack.
While I admit that brake cleaner does a great job of removing the gunk from your chain, while avoiding the drippy mess; brake cleaner is actually really harsh on those ever so important O-rings. Since the last iteration of chain maintenance how-to advice, I stumbled across a little moto-myth-busting video, and have therefore adopted dedicated motorcycle chain cleaner for this job, and for a really nasty chain, good ol’ WD-40. While I’ve already covered a lot of the nitty-gritty details of cleaning the chain, I want to reiterate some of the highlights, but first I want to talk about making this job a lot faster with the Snapjack.
What’s a Snapjack you ask?
Think of it like a portable motorcycle lift that fits in your tailbag. Way back in the days of Lola the Speedmaster, I was doing the whole “chase you bike around the driveway” maneuver as I cleaned a section of the chain, moved the bike, and then the “repeat as necessary” game until clean. That was a pain, made easier by my buddy’s paddock stand (“rear stand” if you will). While the paddock stand was super convenient for leaving the bike in one place and working over the entire chain at once, I still had to remove the exhaust to use the stand, along with carefully positioning the bike up on the stand without knocking it over. Enter the Snapjack. With the Snapjack, you can lock the front brake, position the Snapjack, and then prop the rear wheel just off the ground for chain or wheel maintenance.
What’s in the box?
When the Snapjack arrived at the house a couple months ago, the box obviously included the Snapjack itself, along with a Velcro strap to lock the front brake in place, and couple rubber pads to place on the ground to give the serrated “foot” better grip on smooth surfaces. At less than two pounds, all of the before mentioned items cinch up in a branded carrying bag that easily packs away into a pocket in your tail-bag or backpack.
Who needs a SnapJack?
Obviously I do… but so does anyone else that doesn’t have a center-stand or paddock stand, and anyone on a long road trip without a fixed center-stand. I will go even further to say that even if you have a paddock stand, which I do (currently on extended loan), the Snapjack is a lot less work, and it’s faster than fussing with the rear stand when you’re working alone. That said, the Snapjack isn’t necessarily meant for most cruisers. I assume this has something to do with weight and side-stand design, considering that the Snapjack relies on the side-stand to help hold up the bike while the rear wheel is lifted off the ground. However (according to their website), the Snapjack works fine on most sport and touring motorcycles.
So how does this thing work?
A couple days back I decided I was overdue for the due diligence on the chain. The manual says every 500 miles, and I agree, that’s a good benchmark, “when it needs it” is probably the correct answer, but in this case, it was mostly that I knew it had been at least 500 miles and it’s not even a 20 minute job at this point. Getting started, I roll the bike to a nice sunny spot on the porch and lay out the Snapjack and accessories on the ground next to the right side of the bike. The next thing I do is to wrap the locking strap around the front brake lever, holding it firm to the handlebar. With the front brake locked, I position the Snapjack on the right side of the swingarm, near the rear axle, using the two rubber pads to keep the Snapjack’s foot from slipping (and scarring up the concrete). It takes a little “finesse” to get used to popping the Snapjack into the up position, meanwhile setting it in the correct position to lift the rear wheel off the ground just enough that that wheel spins freely. Fortunately, with several height adjustment settings, and a little practice, it’s pretty easy. Each bike is obviously different, but you’ll get the hang of it after a few tries.
This is probably a good time to mention that you need to trust your side-stand. When using the Snapjack, the bike is essentially resting on the front wheel, the side-stand, and the Snapjack. If you have a side-stand that is a little gun-shy about staying in the down, locked, position, you may want to “bungie” the side-stand to the frame or front fork to make sure it stays forward. Fortunately, the Scrambler leans way over on the kickstand, and it stays locked down pretty well, so much so it takes a little more of that “finesse” to raise the rear tire high enough to spin the wheel. I suspect that the other Bonnevilles and most sport bikes are quite easy, as the Scrambler side-stand is low enough to use off-road when the “parking” surfaces are less than level.
With the rear wheel off the ground, I’m free to spray down a shop cloth with some chain cleaner and wipe the gunk off the chain. If it’s been a rainy week, or I have an excess amount of dirt and grime, I’ll resort to the trusty 360 degree chain brush (also a Tirox product as it turns out, had no idea until a few months ago). Per my previous comments about nitty-gritty, for the dirtiest chains, like after a long day of off-road riding, I find the best recourse is the liberal application of WD-40 and the chain brush, followed by a good rinse with the hose to really free up the dirt hiding between the rollers.
Once I have the chain cleaned up to my liking, I get the chain dried off well enough to apply a good lubricant (that usually means a quick ride around the block). Per my previous write-up, I really liked Maxima Chain Wax, up until I started riding off-road. After a few trips to Shawnee State Forest, it became obvious that chain wax did nothing but grab a hold of all the dirt and dust, neither of which was going to help prolong O-ring life. In recent days I’ve tried several other commercially available chain lubes. I admit, I was pretty happy with the Bel-Ray “Super Clean Chain Lube” for a while, but I recently got my hands on Tirox “Ultra Chain Lube” and it’s rapidly winning me over. Thus far I’ve been impressed with the Ultra Chain Lube; as you can see from the photos, the chain is relatively clean, despite having not been cleaned for a couple weeks; anyone keeping up with @MotoADVR on Instagram will tell you, those are rain or shine miles. I’m still in the early stages of testing, as I still need to do a good hard day of off-road riding, so stay tuned for more details.
With a fresh coat of lube on the chain, the hard work is done. A firm pull on the lower section of the Snapjack will put the rear wheel back on the ground, and then you can remove the brake locking strap. I use the strap to hold the rubber squares to the Snapjack, and hold the Snapjack closed so everything tucks neatly into the storage sleeve. From there the Snapjack resides in my cleaning “bucket” or my tail-bag depending on where I’m headed next.
If you want to give the Snapjack a shot, it’ll only set you back about $50; which is a pretty good deal when you start looking at the price of a center stand, a dedicated motorcycle jack, or a paddock stand. The Snapjack is available from a few different vendors and I recently found it on Revzilla. While you’re over there, checkout Lemmy’s video on chain maintenance, he really digs into the details in case I breezed over something specific you may have been looking for here.