Types of Motorcycle Chains
Standard Non-Sealed Motorcycle Chain
A standard non-sealed chain is exactly what it sounds like: a regular old roller chain made up of inter-connected links. This chain is most often found on older bikes that predate the advent of O-ring and X-ring chains. Some of these bikes can only run with non-sealed chains.
O-Ring Motorcycle Chain
O-ring chains, as the name suggests, feature small O-rings that are fitted into the space between the outside link covers and the inside roller covers of every chain link.
These O-rings ensure that factory-applied grease stays inside the pins and between the plates. This ensures that the chain remains well-lubricated and also helps to stop dirt, grit and other contaminants from getting into the links.
When contaminants do get in between the moving parts of a chain, friction from the abrasive surfaces will cause chain wear. This dramatically shortens the life of the chain, as well as the sprockets.
As bikes become bigger and more powerful, O-ring chains supersede the standard non-sealed chains.
X-Ring Motorcycle Chain
The O-Ring chain seemed great to everyone. At least, until the supercharged environment of the racetrack exposed its weakness. When the large surface area of the O-ring presses against the pins and covers, it creates a certain amount of drag, which in turn creates a loss of speed.
So the race geeks created the X-ring chain. With a smaller surface area in contact with the pins and covers, drag is reduced and speed is increased. All while keeping the chain beautifully lubricated, mind you.
Now, unless you're desperately trying to shave a tenth of a second off your lap times, there isn't much between the O-ring and X-ring chains. O-rings are cheaper and offer identical lubrication. X-rings offer slightly better performance and longevity, but come with a heftier price tag. Your call.
Not sure if your bike has an O- or X-ring chain? Crouch down at the back of the motorcycle and take a close look at the rear sprocket with the chain wrapped around it. You’ll clearly see the black rubber rings sandwiched between the link plates. Do they look like X's, or O's?