Motorcycle Chain Noise

Motorcycle Chain Noise: Causes & Remedies (Eliminate the Sound of Metal!)

Let’s admit it. Chain drives aren’t noise-free.

With hundreds of metal parts engaging and disengaging while moving at high speeds, avoiding noise is impossible.

However, if the drive chain is as noisy as a living skeleton having a fit on a metal roof, something is wrong.

And if you pay attention to it, you can take the right steps to fix the issue.

So keep reading and you’ll find out what needs to be done.

Why is my motorcycle chain clunking?

A Man Is Riding A Motorcycle

We all know this. The drive chain plays a vital role in the transmission of power to the rear wheel.

Unfortunately, it’s often the most neglected part of a motorcycle.

So before we discover the causes of motorcycle drive chain noise, let’s take a quick look at the structure of the chain.

A typical roller chain consists of pins arranged at fixed intervals called the pitch. These pins are covered by cylindrical rollers that ensure a smooth fit over the sprocket teeth. In addition, there are plates that hold the pieces together.

Modern motorcycles also come with O-rings between the rollers and plates. In this case, the spaces between the rollers are filled with lubrication and the O-rings act as seals. They not only preserve the lubricant but also keeps the dirt and grime from entering the chain.

4 common causes of bike chain making noise

Now, here are the main causes of drive chain noise that occur naturally.

  1. The metal rollers striking against the sprocket teeth
  2. The vibration of the rollers and plates at high speeds
  3. The vibration of the sprocket
  4. Noise from the movement of the air and lubrication inside the chain components

(Keep going. And remember, with great knowledge comes great confusion.)

Long story short, some amount of noise from the chain is acceptable. But if you find the motorcycle chain knocking noise disturbing you while riding, it’s time to find out if anything else is wrong.

And the noise from a chain is different from engine knocking sounds or whining from the gearbox. You should be able to distinguish it easily.

The good news is, you can take some preliminary steps to fix motorcycle chain noise when accelerating without visiting the mechanic.

But first, here are the main reasons behind abnormal motorcycle drive chain noise.

1. A loose or tight chain

Man Is Adjusting The Motorcycle Chain

If the drive chain has more slack than it needs, there will be a whirring noise. A loose chain will not only affect the power transmission but will also wear out the chain components at a fast rate.

Likewise, if the chain is too tight, it will put stress on the other components of the bike. Such a chain will wear faster and will put more stress on the engine. As a bonus, there will also be spooky noises coming from the chain.

Truth is, noise is the least of your worries in this case. If you tighten the chain too much, it might snap and leave you powerless on the freeway.

Worst case scenario, it can result in a deadly crash.

Here’s another situation. Consider a bike running on its stand with the rear wheel remaining in the air. In this no-load condition, the chain slackens, and there’s some additional noise.

However, that’s easily avoidable.

Also, the slapping of a motorcycle chain is more intense when there’s an additional load on the bike.

2. A worn-out chain

This is another reason behind chain noise. A worn-out, old drive chain can make more noise.

At times, the rear wheel isn’t aligned properly and the axle is slightly tilted. This causes the rear sprocket to pull the chain in an angular plane that causes the chain to bend.

As a result, the slackness in the chain keeps fluctuating based on the wheel orientation. With varying stress on the chain, the chain becomes too loose. Noise can also originate in such a condition.

This can also cause the chain to come in contact with the chain guard or the sprocket cover.

In such a case, the chain and sprocket may get permanently damaged. You’ll need to replace the components without delay.

Old Motorcycle Chain

3. Lack of maintenance

Keep in mind that a dirty and dry chain can make a high-frequency metallic noise. The metal components will wear out faster without lubrication. Besides, a rusty old chain will generate more noise than a new motorcycle chain.

The combination of grit and dirt can play havoc on the metal components of the chain. So, cleaning and lubricating a chain at regular intervals is a must.

4. Sprocket noise

Noise from the sprockets isn’t so common, but it may happen.

When the sprocket teeth are worn out, the chain may not fit on the teeth properly. This mismatch will produce a lot of motorcycle chain noise.

I have seen a new chain fitted over a worn-out socket making continuous clanking sounds.

That’s why the chain and sprocket should always be replaced together.

(Oh boy, oh boy. That’s expensive, man.)

And let’s not forget about noise generated from a loose sprocket nut.

If this is the case you need to remove the sprocket cover and tighten the sprocket immediately. At the same time, check the rear sprocket for any loose bolts. 

Man And Motorcycle

How do I stop my bike chain from making noise?

The point is if the chain or sprocket is worn out, replacement is the only option.

If that’s not the case, there are a few steps that you can take to reduce the whining noise from your motorcycle chain.

  • Lube the chain at regular intervals to reduce friction. Follow the guidelines mentioned by the manufacturer in this regard. The rule of thumb is to lubricate the chain between every 300 to 600 miles after riding. (The chain remains warm after the ride and the lube works better.)  In addition, always clean the chain properly. Make sure that you use the right cleaner for your chain type.
  • Inspect the chain for any damage, looseness, or wear. Find out the right procedure to measure chain slack, and adjust it as needed. Check the free play in the chain and also inspect the drive sprocket for any signs of wear frequently. If your bike is a few years old, do this before every ride.
  • The life of the chain depends on how effectively you use the throttle and the brake. If you want the chain to last longer resist the temptation of going hard on the throttle all the time. When you use the chain at lower speeds, the striking energy of the metal components is reduced. This reduces the amount of noise generated.
  • If you’re in doubt about the reason behind chain noise in the motorcycle, it’s best to consult an expert. Let a mechanic inspect your bike and find out what’s wrong.

Frequently Asked Question

Bike Expert

Are new motorcycle chains noisy?

Drive chain noise is always present in a new or old motorcycle. However, if the chain is well lubricated and has the right tension, it’s not something you’ll notice while driving.

What causes excessive chain drive noise?

The two main reasons behind motorcycle chain clunking noise are the lack of right tension in the chain and a worn-out chain or sprocket. In addition, a lack of proper chain lubrication can also cause noise.

How do you reduce chain noise?

The best way to reduce motorcycle dry chain noise is by maintaining the chain in the right manner and keeping the chain tension right.