All’s Well that Oils Well

Story by William R. Duff// Photos by William R. Duff
July 2 2024

Oil is the lifeblood of your engine.

Let’s do the impossible right now and decide on the very best engine oil for your motorcycle.

Engine oil is your motorcycle’s lifeblood. It has multiple roles, including lubrication, cooling, sealing, cleaning, corrosion protection, and noise reduction. With everything that is going on internally in the engine, it’s no wonder choosing the right motorcycle oil can be confusing.

I always knew it was my destiny to own a motorcycle. I clearly remember the day my dad and me brought home my new rocket: a 1968 Yamaha YJ2 with its 60-cc single-piston-pounder engine with state-of-the-art oil injection system.

In those days, learning about my rip-snorting two-wheeler was limited to bugging the mechanics at the local motorbike shop or picking through the owner’s manual for much-needed information on the how-to of maintenance.

Fast forward a few years — maybe more than a few — to the internet jungle, with its social media platforms and online forums filled with spirited arguments over brands and types of oil to use. These arguments tend to be specifically about conventional versus synthetic, and over the right viscosity to use.

Fewer convictions among motorcyclists can match the intensity of the discussion about motorcycle motor oil selection. Criticize someone’s opinion and — holy moly! — watch the firestorm ensue.

Is Automotive Oil the Same as Motorcycle Oil?

It is a long-standing question and is easy to presume that these engine oils are similar. But that is not the case at all. Motorcycles in the past used oil designed for automobiles, but as fuel efficiency demands for autos increased, proprietary friction modifiers were added to engine oils. Although these friction modifiers are great for cars and light trucks, their addition became problematic for motorcycles.

Because motorcycle oil lubricates the engine, clutch, and transmission — in addition to cooling parts — you should steer clear of using automotive engine oils in your motorbike.

Types of Engine Lubrication

To begin with, let’s explore the three kinds of motorcycle lubrication — full film, boundary, and mixed lubrication — and their link to oil viscosity.
Full film lubrication is also called hydrodynamic lubrication. In this type of lubrication, a thick coat is created, creating a barrier between the two…

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