What is Synthetic Motorcycle Oil?

Ken Black

Synthetic motorcycle oil is a non-petroleum-based oil that includes traits of traditional synthetic oil, but is specially blended for motorcycles. While a motorcycle may function just fine with a traditional oil meant for cars and other automobiles, some believe that a synthetic motorcycle oil offers a number of advantages. Despite this, there is considerable debate about the practical uses and effects of a synthetic motorcycle oil.

Man working on motorcycle.
Man working on motorcycle.

To understand synthetic motorcycle oil, first it is necessary to understand what a general synthetic motor oil does. The benefit of a synthetic versus a petroleum-based oil is in the manufactured compounds. They withstand heat and generally take longer to break down over time. Therefore, the synthetic is considered far superior to conventional oil.

Synthetic motorcycle oil.
Synthetic motorcycle oil.

There are a number of arguments for using a an oil for motorcycles, whether it is a synthetic motorcycle oil or not. One claim is that the viscosity for motorcycle oils is greater than for normal automobile articles. Others say the higher revving, hotter running motorcycle engines require more stable compounds. Another argument is that phosphorous, an anti-wear agent, is more prevalent in motorcycle oils.

Each of these arguments have answers that argue against the use of a synthetic motorcycle oil or any other type of motorcycle oil. For example, motorcycle engines, in modern machines, generally do not run any hotter, or at least much hotter, than other types of engines. Phosphorous is still not present in very large amounts, even in motorcycle oils. Also, viscosity in any synthetic, whether it is a synthetic motorcycle oil or not, is generally comparable and far better than a traditional motor oil.

Therefore, many motorcycle enthusiasts believe the need for a synthetic motorcycle oil is greatly overstated. Most of the benefits to be gained come with any motorcycle oil. Therefore, the additional expense of a motorcycle oil is not truly needed and many argue it is just a way for retailers and manufacturers to make some additionally money.

Still, for those who choose to buy a synthetic motorcycle oil, it should be noted there will be no harm caused by its use. There may also be some gains by using the oil, even if those gains are highly questionable when compared to the overall increase in price. Still, for those who feel any additional protection may be worth it, this is an option that is available.

Synthetic motor oil being poured.
Synthetic motor oil being poured.

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