The difference between regularly lubing and not lubing your dirt bike’s chain could be catastrophic. A chain that is not lubed will rust and get stiff over time, making it kink and eventually break. When a chain breaks, bad things can happen, such as a broken engine case, or worse; your bike locking up on the face of a jump. So, what is the best chain lube for my dirt bike?
You want something that will keep the chain clean and lubricated, but you don’t want something that is extremely messy and will stick to everything that it flings itself on while the chain is rolling. While there are a lot of lubes on the market, you may like one lube more than another, depending on what kind of riding conditions you have, as well as what kind of chain you’re running; x or o-ring.
WD40 – Chain Lube or Cleaner?
Yes, the almighty WD40 is still a common chemical that riders use on their bike chains. While it is great for keeping a chain clean and rust-free, it is more of a penetrating solution than a lubricant. Although many people have sworn by it for decades with little to no problems, it depends on the terrain you’re riding in. Mud and clay are harder on a dirt bike chain, and are worse when they dry on it. I would not recommend using WD40 for harsh conditions such as this. If you’re just riding in dusty or on fairly clean soils, you’ll probably get away with running it though.
Bel-Ray Chain Lube
Riders have been having the most success with Bel-Ray’s Super Clean Chain Lube. Not only does it properly lubricate the chain, but it is really clean compared to a lot of other lubes. It protects the chain and sprockets from sand, mud, clay, and any other soil you’re willing to throw at it. It can be used on any chain, and is easy to apply. The price is a little higher than WD40, but it’s worth it if you don’t want a blown up chain.
In the end, it’s really just your personal preference. These are what I would use, but if you find another chain lube that does the job right, go ahead and use it. If you think there should be a product added to this list, feel free to leave a comment!
Ahh yes, the almighty “Which oil should I use” topic… Go on any automotive forum and this will be the most common thread topic started. Why? Because there are a lot newbies to these motorized vehicular devices that don’t know much about them…
What Kind of Oil?
To make this short and simple, whether your dirt bike is a two or four-stroke, look at what your manual says. If it says to use 10W-40 oil for the transmission, then use 10W-40 oil.
The brand of oil is not so much as important as what kind of oil you use in your dirt bike. In KTM manuals for some of their two-strokes they say to use 15W-50 Motorex oil. If you can afford it, buy the Motorex and you can’t go wrong. If you don’t like spending that much on oil, you’ll be just as well off if you buy a cheaper name-brand 15W-50 oil from Wal-Mart.
Most four-strokes require 10W to 20W oil. W stands for winter, so the first number is the weight of the oil when cold. The higher the number the higher the weight. A lower weight is used when riding in colder weather (40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower), and a higher weight is used for warmer riding conditions in the summer.
Some people have said that certain oils in their four-stroke motocross bike cause the clutch to slip. If that’s the case, go back to using what the manual recommends.
Most two-strokes aren’t very picky with what oil is in them, as long as there is some. Some 5W-30 Mobil 1 from the local auto store will work just fine. Just remember to do your regular oil changesand the engine and transmission will last a long time. A common mistake is letting the same oil be used in the bike, and eventually it will dry up. You won’t be too happy with a seized engine, so spend the few bucks on oil changes.
Just remember that changing the oil regularly is more important than what oil to use in your dirt bike. Filtering out dirty oil is preventative maintenance in itself, and will make your engine last a lot longer.
“Loading up” is a common problem for 2-stroke dirt bikes and snowmobiles. If you don’t know what it means or haven’t heard the term before, it’s usually when you let the engine sit or idle for more than a minute and when you go to rev it, it coughs and sputters. This feedback makes for terrible throttle-response, and will eventually foul the spark plug.
To temporarily fix this, assuming the bike is fully warmed up, give it a few quick bursts of WOT (Wide-open-throttle). This will clear it out, and should run like normal again. However, for those of you that want to fix this problem long-term, you’re going to have to spend a little more time, as well as a couple bucks…
The reason your two-stroke ‘loads up’ is because not all of the gas gets burned through the cylinder, so it just sits in the crankcase. When you give it some throttle, the fuel/air ratio is too high, causing it to blubber and sputter until it clears out this excess fuel. When there’s too much fuel going through the cylinder at the same time, the spark plug cannot burn all of it, thus resulting in a fouled plug. A spark plug is fouled when the jetting is too rich, and the tip of it will come out black and often wet (Click here to read more about Jetting).
So how do I prevent this from happening? The pilot jet is almost always the culprit. Many two-strokes (Honda for the most part) come jetted rich from the factory. This is probably to prevent engine failures, but it often causes more problems and headaches. A properly jetted dirt bike will have more power, much better throttle response, and no plug fouling.
Since the pilot jet is too rich, pull the float bowl off of the carburetor and unscrew the pilot jet. It will usually have a smaller number stamped on it, such as 42 or 55 (may require a magnifying glass). Go to your local bike shop and buy a couple jets smaller for it. Don’t worry, they’re only a few bucks each. To get an idea of what size you need, first check your manual if they have any jetting specs or recommendations. The internet is incredibly resourceful, so check there as well. In the end, every bike is different, so you may just have to try a few jets to see what works the best. Just remember that a rich pilot jet will cough and hiccup, while a pilot that’s too lean will bog off idle. Either one will have poor throttle response, so having the right jetting will go a long ways.
If re-jetting won’t get rid of the loading up problem, there’s probably something else wrong with your bike. Check and make sure the air filter is clean, the reeds are not cracked, the engine has good compression, and you are using fresh gas that has the right Pre-mix.
It’s almost February, and you know what that means…. Spring is right around the corner! For those of us that don’t live in the southern states, unfortunately, we have to Winterize our dirt bikes and most other motorized toys. I have a strong dislike for the cold, and knowing that warmer weather is just a couple months away makes me even more anxious to get my bikes out. But, before you pull it out of the garage/shed from storage and tear it up again, there’s some things you’ll want to do to make sure it’s going to run right. This can also be helpful for people that have recently bought a dirt bike that has been sitting in someones barn for years.
Yes, I know it may just be dusty, but unless you thoroughly washed it before you put away last fall, it’s a good idea to scrub everything down. You will see the effect of this years down the road; your dirt bike will still look like new (besides the worn paint), but others will have crusty, oil-stained, dirt-colored bikes. This is usually on the bottom of bikes, but if you take care of it, then it will be easier to sell in the future.
Clean The Carburetor
Dirt bike carburetors often get dirty and gummed up from sitting for a couple months. Even if you can get the bike to start up, chances are is that it’s not going to run right. The cheapest way to fix this is with a carb cleaner and an air gun. You should pull all of the jets out and thoroughly clean them. The smallest amount of dust can cause problems, even if you can’t see it. Then you’ll want to spray in the carb through all of the passages. It may take a couple times to clean everything out.
The more expensive, yet much more effective way, is with an Ultrasonic carburetor cleaner. These were originally used for cleaning small jewelry items, but the half gallon tank can clean dirt bike carburetor parts, as well as injector parts (for you FI guys). It uses special liquids with an ultrasonic frequency that washes away all the dirt, grease, and grime off of parts. Just stick your parts in the tank and let them sit in there for a few hours and they’re good as new!
After sitting for a while, oils and liquids gather dirt and impurities. It’s best to drain the old fluids and put in some new oil. You don’t want your engine to lock up on your first ride of the season when it could have been prevented with $10 of oil.
Air filters should be cleaned/replaced every few rides, and sometimes sooner, depending on the riding conditions. It protects the engine by keeping dirt and other foreign materials out of the carburetor. Dirt is an engines worst enemy, so don’t forget to clean the air filter. This goes for the oil filter as well, as it collects impurities in the engine oil. The oil filter on a four-stroke should be replaced every other ride. They’re dirt cheap (no pun intended), and will prevent a major failure later on. Two-strokes don’t have oil filters, so that’s one less thing to maintain.
If you want your chain to stay in one-piece, lube it up before you go on your first trail ride or moto session. A rusty chain can and will cause problems sooner rather than later. I don’t think I need to go into much detail, but a broken chain can blow a hole through the left side of the crankcase…
Fresh Spark Plug
A fouled plug is one of the worst problems that can happen on a long trail ride, especially if you forget to bring a spare. You should replace your dirt bike’s spark plug at least once a year. Not only does it give the bike more power compared to an old and fouled plug, but it will start and run much better. Don’t forget to pack spares!
Oil It Up
If you live in a relatively humid environment and your bike has been sitting for more than a couple months, there’s a good chance the cylinder walls have started to rust on the surface. This can be really hard on it and the piston rings on the first start up. To reduce the chances of a failure and damage, pull the spark plug off and pour a light amount of oil down to the cylinder. Then, slowly kick the bike over to get the oil to cover the walls.
Yes, technically this is number eight, but it’s very important. Gas goes bad fairly quickly, especially if it has additives or premix. So, drain all of the gas out of the tank and/or carb if you haven’t already, and put in some fresh gas. Old gas can and will cause problems, especially on higher performance bikes that require fine carb-tuning.
If you’ve completed all these steps on how to de-winterize your dirt bike, it should be more than ready to go! Have fun, and ride smart!
A very common question asked by new riders or people that have never owned a 250 four-stroke motocross machine. First of all, it depends on what year dirt bike you are looking at. 250F’s rapidly changed from the first years until now, and many of them had problems that needed to be solved.
Although the manufacturer’s had problems with their high-performance quarter-liter four-strokes, Yamaha pretty much had it figured out from the beginning. They were the first to come out with a 250cc 4-stroke motocross bike (YZ250F) in 2001, which is 3 years before any other manufacturer’s got on the band-wagon.
Yamaha’s YZ 250F become an instant success once riders started winning on them. In 2001 and 2002 the bike came with manual-decompression, making it a task to start the bike at times. But the only real problem the bike has ever had was in ’01 with a weak crankshaft that would go out on some bikes. In 2003 the Yamaha 250F came automatic-decompression. Up until 2006 the bike had no problems. The ’06 YZF did have a valve problem, but Yamaha recalled every one of them that was sent in. Riders that have had or been around 250F’s know that Yamaha was always the most reliable in the early years, even if it wasn’t the most powerful.
2004-2006 were embarrassing years for the other manufacturer’s. Kawazuki’s KXF/RMZ250 was a nightmare on wheels, especially when not properly maintained. Honda’s CRF250R often ate valves like Americans eat McDonald’s grease burger’s. By ’07 the companies (excluding Yamaha) started figuring out the kinks in their 250F’s….
If you are looking to get a 2008 or newer 250F and are deciding based on reliability, just pick a color. Really, pretty much all 250F’s now are reliable IF, AND ONLY IF, you take care of them. Doing regular maintenance on a 250 four-stroke is very crucial and will make them last much longer. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to get 50+ hours on a stock top-end, as long as you aren’t Pro or riding it on the limiter all day long.
Maintenance means changing your oil every 5 hours or so (oil filter every other oil change), cleaning your air filter every 1-2 rides, believe it or not cleaning your bike will make it last longer, lubing and cleaning your chain every ride, and re-greasing the bearings 1-2 times a year. There are a few more things you should do, but just doing these simple things will allow you to ride your 250F much, much longer.
As soon as you get the key maintenance steps down, there are just a few things left to do to make sure your dirt bike stays in tip-top shape. It is extremely important to keep the valve-train in good running order. To be sure of this, the valve clearances should be checked at least once a year (every 15-20 hours of ride time to be safe). Contrary to what most people think, the cam/timing chain should be replaced with a new one every year. If the chain breaks or seizes, the valves also seize and will be hit by the piston, causing massive damage to the engine. Buying a new timing chain is cheap insurance, so keep that in mind. I will get more into these topics in future articles.
Other than doing the normal maintenance, choosing the right bike mostly depends on its history. If you’re buying a new 250F then it’s no big deal, but buying a nice used one can be difficult. A good bike to buy is one that is clean, has low hours, was properly maintained, and the owner isn’t trying to hide anything.