Chain Maintenance Made Easier
WWhile modern sport touring bikes are becoming more and more like the luxury tourers from a few years ago, we've tried pretty hard to keep the "sport" in our Sport Touring. Our riding preferences put us on as many tight and twisty roads as we can pack in a day, sometimes going 1000 miles out of our way to avoid a straight stretch of freeway. We tend to gravitate towards bikes that share more DNA with their racing brethren. Largely because we've never met a centerstand that didn't drag and we've never met a shaft drive that didn't rob horsepower and add weight.
This sounds great, and possibly even romantic, until it's time to lube your chain at the end of the day. On a long weekend you can probably get away with neglecting chain maintenance, but string half a dozen 500 mile days together in a row and you will be running into chain reliability issues.
The unwillingness to compromise our sporting desires left us in a quandary; how to lube the chain without any way to get the rear wheel in the air. When you have three friends around, it’s not so bad. You can have two of your buddies hold the bike up onto its sidestand while you spin the wheel and and your third friend sprays the lube. If there are only two of you, one gets to roll the bike along while the second duck-walks next to the bike lubing and waddling. If you are by yourself you'll get to roll the bike, squat down to spray, roll the bike some more, spray some more, and on and on and on. None of these options are much fun. But, really, what alternative is there? If only there was an easier way…
In a feeble attempt to not sound like an infomercial; well, now there is! The fine folks at Wheel Jockey have come up with an idea that is so basic and so simple it’s amazing nobody has thought of it before now.
The Wheel Jockey is a small 4”x4.5” square metal frame with two robust metal rollers. All you do is roll the back wheel up onto the Wheel Jockey and the tire will rotate while the bike is stationary.
When we finally got our hands on a Wheel Jockey, we were immediately impressed. The quality of this little device is exceptional. The frame is heavy and strong and the metal rollers are mounted using quality bearings so they rotate with ease. There is also a thick, grippy rubber pad on the bottom to prevent slippages. In spite of this quality, Wheel Jockey says this device is only rated to support motorcycles up to 750lbs although we've been told that a larger version that will support bikes over 750 pounds is currently in the works.
Putting the Wheel Jockey into practical use wasn’t quite as easy as we initially thought it would be. It took a good five minutes of fiddling to get really good at using it. The biggest challenge we had was finding a place where the sidestand was a little bit up-hill. When you roll the rear tire up onto the Wheel Jockey from a flat surface the bike can lean a bit more than you may be comfortable with. This is because the Wheel Jockey elevates the rear tire about an inch and a half or so.
We also found that we wanted to roll the bike up onto the Wheel Jockey so that the tire was centred on the rollers. However, when the bike was lowered back to the side-stand the bike had a tendency to roll off the corner of the Wheel Jockey and/or “crawl” when we rotated the tire. When we positioned the wheel jockey so that it would be centered on the tire when the bike is on the sidestand things became a lot more stable and the wheel rotated much easier. We also found that if we pulled the wheel to the left while rotating the tire, it counteracted the wheels tendency to want to crawl.
Finally, it’s really important that the handlebars are turned all the way to the steering stops otherwise the bike will shift once you start rolling the tire. The nice thing is as long as the sidestand doesn’t fail or collapse, the bike is still, essentially, on the ground.
We’ve actually seen a few other devices designed to make road-side chain maintenance more practical but they all had one fatal flaw; they used the swingarm to prop the rear wheel in the air, which is fine unless you have a bike with a single sided swingarm. Because the Wheel Jockey is a simple roller it will work on any motorcycle that has wheels.
This item works well enough that it could be used in the garage for cleaning and maintenance, but we think wheel stands work much better and are far more practical. Where the Wheel Jockey shines is in its compact size. Throwing it into a saddle-bag or into the compartment beneath the rear seat is a snap. And since it’s so easy to use, it can be deployed at gas stations, motel parking lots or road-side pullouts so you can maintain your chain pretty much anywhere it’s convenient for you.
We give the Wheel Jockey the highest possible praise, and if you run into us while we are out and about, rest assured we’ll have a Wheel Jockey stashed away somewhere in our luggage.
To learn more about the Wheel Jockey, be sure to visit their website at WheelJockey.com.