Regular vs Synthetic Motorcycle Oil

Motor Oil

If you are considering motor oil options for your bike, you will have to choose between synthetic motorcycle oil and classic, mineral-based motor oil. The type of oil you should use in your motorcycle depends on many variables, and this article will try to help you determine which type of oil is best for your bike.

Understanding Motor Oils and SAE Ratings

Before you decide which type of motor oil is best for your motorcycle, you should understand a little bit about the viscosity of motor oils and how they are rated. SAE ratings are used to measure the thickness of a car or motorcycle engine oil. A lower SAE number means that it is thinner and flows easier than oils with higher SAE rating numbers.

While the motor of your bike is running, engine oil gets hot which makes it flow easier. Therefore, engine oils that are too light may be of a viscosity that is too thin and will not protect your motor. Therefore, you should avoid light SAE-rated motor oils. Generally speaking, you should choose a motorcycle oil that is 20 W-40 or higher. This grade of oil simply means that when it is cold it flows like a 20 grade oil but at higher temperature flows like a thicker 40 grade SAE rated oil.

Motorcycle Oil and the Age and Design of the Engine

With newer motorcycles, manufacturers recommend using synthetic motorcycle oil. However, this doesn't have as much to do with the oil as the type of engine that it is going into. In fact, there are still several motorcycle manufacturers that recommend standard or regular motorcycle oil for some of their motorcycles.

The motorcycle engine oil that you will need for your bike's motor will depend usually upon two factors: the displacement of the engine and the actual engine type.

Generally speaking, lower displacement engines in the past were made with two-stroke or two-cycle engines. Two-stroke engines don't actually store engine oil and the oil is continuously burnt off as it is kept running through the engine in a continuous cycle. Therefore, it is necessary to frequently add small amounts of oil to a two-stroke engine.

Many manufacturers of bikes with two-stroke engines recommend the use of standard engine oil but you should use whatever is on sale with these types of engines and don't worry about mixing and matching.

On the other hand, four-stroke engines are similar to those in a car in that they have a reservoir that stores engine oil and only cycles it as it is needed. Because the engine oil can sit in a reservoir for long periods of time, synthetic motorcycle oil is often suggested because of its superior resistance to breaking down at cooler temperatures or when not being used. So, simply put, if you have an older two-stroke engine, use regular oil. If you have a larger engine that uses a four-stroke design, use synthetic.

When It Does Not Matter

If you make a habit of changing your motorcycle oil every couple of months or so, it really won't matter what type of oil you use. Whether it is regular or synthetic, frequently changing your motor oil will ensure that the oil is in good condition and able to properly lubricate your engine.