Lubricating your motorcycle seems like a straightforward task, but everyone has their preferred method. You may use conventional solutions, while another rider uses synthetics.

Bike lubrication is not one-size-fits all. There’s a range of oils are available, but riders have to be careful about solutions that may negatively affect the bike’s overall performance.

Start with the Basics

riding on a sunny dayFor modern-day bikes, oil has many essential functions, including:

  • Reducing friction and wear between moving parts
  • Working as a coolant
  • Gathering debris to deposit into the oil filter
  • Identifying and neutralizing acids and moisture created through combustion
  • Protecting against oxidation

Oil has evolved with bike design. Earlier models did not circulate oil; it passed through the engine and was eventually discharged onto the ground. Today, engines recirculate the oil and need filtration systems to catch and remove any dirt and buildup.

In this setup, the detergents essentially suspend the foreign particles until they’re captured by the filter. Unless you’re riding a vintage model, your bike has a filter and will need a detergent oil.

With these points in mind, run synthetic oil through your bike that has additive in the final formulation to improve corrosion resistance. This solution:

  • Offers better oxidative stability, or resistance to chemical breakdown
  • Resists heat better
  • Keeps its viscosity without thinning out, yet offers a dependable pour point

If you are unsure, it’s always a good idea to use the oil recommended in the owner’s manual. More advanced riders should look out for consistency between API, ILSAC and JASCO classification and viscosity.


Viscosity describes the oil’s thickness and resistance to pouring in certain temperatures. The wrong oil can stress engine parts, transmission gears and destroy the oil’s molecules through heat. Consistency thins out, failing to deliver the lubrication and protection your parts need.

Viscosity also plays a role in how your bike’s engine cools itself. Between air- and liquid-cooled motorcycles, air-cooled exposes the oil to a wider range of operating temperatures and internal engine part clearances, which eventually impact its quality. To accommodate this variance, an air-cooled bike will have different viscosity requirements than a liquid-cooled model.

Conventional or Synthetic

Synthetics have been growing in popularity, due to the oil’s ability to improve gas mileage and overall bike performance for those who rack up miles.

Synthetic Oil

Synthetic oils cause bikes to run an average of 15 percent cooler! They come in three types:

  • Class III, based on petroleum, is basically a mineral oil
  • Class IV is created in a laboratory
  • A combo – called semi-synthetic – blends Class III and IV

All synthetics contain additives that improve your engine’s resistance to wear, tear, oxidation and heat, offering better long-term lubrication. Ultimately, these aspects prevent it from breaking down sooner compared to conventional solutions.

On the other hand, the smaller molecules have a greater chance of passing through cracks and seals, so you can identify leaks sooner. Synthetics typically cost more than conventional oil but for the mileage you get, that extra expense evens out.

Conventional Oil

By nature, conventional oil has more impurities compared to its synthetic counterparts, and thus oxidizes and loses viscosity sooner. To keep your bike in good condition, you might change the oil more often but if you don’t log a significant number of miles, conventional can be an affordable and effective option.
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