Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: Kamloops, BC, Canada
Rep Power: 1
I used to be an obsessive chain cleaner but I stopped about 4 years ago (on my dirtbike, my 919, and my girlfriend's 1988 CB450) and I don't think it makes a difference. Almost anything you can do that will get rid of crud on your chain will also damage the O-rings: pressure washing drives water behind the o-rings; WD-40 displaces the grease, giving a really smooth chain motion for about an hour and then you have bare metal running against bare metal because there's no grease; a wire brush can damage the o-rings and force crud behind the o-rings. I worked in a bike shop for a couple of years and we followed this chain care routine on big dualsports (KTM Adventure 950s and 990s) and never had a problem.
Honestly, if you are running an o-ring (or x-ring) chain, what can you gain by cleaning it? I wipe mine down with a rag if there is actual mud on it, but otherwise, I just lube it (weekly) and check the tension and leave it. I can see how regular cleaning of a non-o-ring chain might be useful, but there are about 440 separate o-rings on an o-ring chain: do you really think you can get all the old lube out from each 0-ring, then get rid of the solvent (water or WD-40) you used to clean it, then cram lube behind each o-ring?
Incidentally, those of you who are still using motor oil are living in the past. There are some really nice, sticky clear or white chain lubes that are much less messy and much more likely to stay on your chain than 90W motor oil.
The 'easy rolling' feeling you feel after cleaning a chain with WD-40 is not a good thing; it's the equivalent of cleaning all the grease out of a grease fitting. The grease fitting will feel really loose and easy to move in your hands, but it won't last a week under load.
The chain on the 919 is vastly over-engineered; it could handle twice the horsepower and I don't think I will ever need to replace the chain on my bike, unless I stop lubing it for a couple of years. Chain tension is very important, too.