Oil advice for expedition motorcycles

Oil advice for expedition motorcycles

Advice for motorcycle oil specifications in hot riding climates

Oil type advice, grades and types, comparing mineral oil, semi-synthetic and fully synthetic motorcycle engine oils, for long distance high temperature, extreme motorcycling conditions: 

Starting with the best advice we have received from motorcycle manufacturers main agents (in particularly Triumph in UK) although we would presume BMW, Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and KTM motorcycles are manufactured to similar standards.

* Always check your own manufactures recommended API / SAE / JASO spec.

* Bikes running wet clutches, oils should also meet the MA2 spec.

Viscosity – in extreme hot climates, see section bottom page re 10W50 20W50 Power 1 racing oils

Kazakhstan fuel oil garage
Fuel Oil dump in Kazakhstan – often best to carry our own!

Oil type options for motorcycles

Fully Synthetic motorcycle oil

These oils contain no natural minerals at all, they are 100% synthetic molecules. 

Benefits & properties include; less breakdown of viscosity, i.e. it flows better in a wide range of extreme temperature ranges, resistance to heat breakdown, oxidation, sludge, i.e It lasts longer in a wider range of environments and provides enhanced engine protection and efficiency, in a wide range of harsh riding environments.

* Fully synthetic oils are not recommended until engines have had a suitable running in period, often around 1,000-5,000 KM +  This gives the engine components chance to bed in, surfaces to clean, clear and mate together into a fine tolerance.  After the engine and gears have bedded in, the oils can do a better job of protecting engine, clutch and gears.

These oils are tending to be the recommended preference for newer, high performance liquid cooled bikes and as such should also perform well in the harsh weather and extreme temperatures we experience on the Motoexplorers Silk Road Asia-China expeditions.  Although, with an oil change opportunity at around 4000-5000 miles, there’s still a strong argument for semi-synthetic oils doing the job equally well.  

My own opinion is, I’d be happy running any good Semi Synthetic oil, where specified by manufacturers, with an oil and filter change at 4000-6000 miles, which we’re able to do on the Silk Road ride. That way we also clear out any dirt, filings etc etc that have accumulated in the oil.  If we were to omit the oil change and run right through to 10500 miles, I’d be more inclined to run the fully synthetic oils, where specified. My opinion is that the best fully synthetic oils should comfortably perform adequately on the full expedition, of 10500-11000 miles. (although certain bike manufacturers and warranty terms may stipulate that you need to change oil earlier) My own preference for the high temperature riding we do through Asia would be Castrol Power racing 1 fully Synthetic 10W50 oil – which states the benefits:

  • High sheer and oxidation stability, to stay within viscosity for a longer period of time, offering prolonged protection until servicing.
  • Temperature control, one of the main functions of engine oil in a small high revving engine is cooling due to the relatively small amount of oil in comparison to a car, Castrol Trizone has been developed to disperse heat quickly.
  • Cleanliness control, the combustion process produces a lot of dirty by-products, Trizone has been developed to minimise oil contamination and keep flowing as it should.
  • Extreme high temperature air-cooled and water-cooled engine performance
  • Excellent high speed oil consumption control & volatility
  • Excellent shear stability to prevent viscosity break down
  • Complies with requirements of catalyst equipped engines

Castrol Power Racing 1 fs 10-50 should fulfil the requirements for most motorcycles wishing to complete the Silk Road expedition, riding from Europe for a nice lap of Kazakhstan, to the Chinese border, and back.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning, any bikes emptying fully synthetic oil at 4000-5000 miles are probably missing out on at least half the products useful working life and the locals will happily pick it up after you’ve drained it and run it in their own vehicles for another year or two! (actually if they see a good semi-synthetic being emptied they’ll run that in their Lada for another 3 years!!

Possible brands / types include:

  1. Motul 7100 5-40 or 10-40
  2. Triumph (own branded) many bike dealers will have their own labelled versions.
  3. Castro power racing 1 fully synthetic (not to be confused with the non race semi synth version)
  4. BMW have their own version, labelled Advantec 5/40  (I’d hazard a guess it’s almost identical in performance properties to Castrol power 1 racing, but that’s not confirmed!)
  5. Mobil 1 10W50 or 15W50 power 1 racing

esso motorcycle oil sign

Semi Synthetic oils

Semi synthetic has been MotoExplorers own choice of oil in years gone by, having used many of the major brands for many years in a variety of older motorcycles. Semi-Synthetic oil is generally considered a very good balance of natural protection from it’s mineral, natural oil content and mix of synthetics, chemical additives.  We have used Valvoline, Mobil, Castrol, Putoline semi synthetic oils, for many years without any issues. 10/40 Semi Synthetic would usually be the stock oil of choice that we’d run most expedition bikes on, i.e our own Yamaha Tenere 660’s, BMW 1200 GS, air-cooled, etc  (we’ve mixed a variety of these oils in my own RTW Tenere

  1. Yamalube 10W40
  2. Motul 5000 10W40
  3. Putoline sport 4  10/40
  4. Silkolene super 4 10W40
  5. Castro power 1 semi-synthetic
  6. Shell advance 4T AX7 SAE 10W40   

Mineral oil
Generally only used for older motorcycles, classics, or running in engines. It’s the most natural oil, made from actual oil / petrol products.  Tends to burn faster and become thicker loosing it’s lubricating properties faster.

High Viscosity – in extreme climates

A higher viscosity multi graded oil should retain it’s ideal viscosity and lubricating properties longer in the higher temperatures which we’d typically experience riding the Silk Road to Asia, i.e. 40+ degrees.
Mobil 1 10W50 or 15W50 power 1 racing looks a good spec choice to me, for extreme higher temperature ranges. Or Castrol power 1 – 15W50 or Castrol power 1 racing 20W50 all look good oil specifications, for hotter climates.

Mobil 1 Racing 4T 15W-50 4L Extra Info

  • Recommended for lubrication of four-stroke motorcycle engines in high performance motorcycles
  • Meets or exceeds the requirements of API SN/SM/SL/SJ; JASO MA1 2006

I have read reports of guys using Mobil 1, 15w-50 synthetic in various bikes, even wet clutches without issue. There’s (un-confirmed) reports that the thicker oils tend to have less friction reducers and thus have less effect on the wet clutches. (un-official reports) I have used a variety of semi synthetic oils in wet clutch bikes, with no problems at all.

Castrol Power 1 Racing 4T 10W/50

The Castrol Power 1 Racing 4T 10W/50 is a fully synthetic oil, ideal for extreme riding on road or track. It uses the very latest Trizone Technology? that gives optimum protection to the engine, clutch and gears even under the most arduous conditions, including sustained operations at high rpm.

Features & Benefits of Castrol Power 1 Racing 4T 10W/50

  • 10W/50 fully synthetic oil
  • Trizone Technology
  • Tested to the extreme of temperature & engine conditions
  • Extreme high temperature air-cooled and water-cooled engine performance
  • Complies with requirements of catalyst equipped engines
  • Ultimate Performance for Extreme Riding on road & track

Power 1 Racing 4T 10W-50 is fully synthetic 4-stroke engine oil for modern high performance sports bikes that increases engine acceleration and power right up to max rpm. Its Race Derived Technology based on Castrol’s racing history and testing experience ensures maximum engine performance without sacrificing engine durability thus giving a significant benefit over other types of engine oils.

Power 1 Racing 4T 10W-50’s formula uses the very latest Trizone Technology™ for 4-stroke motorcycles, giving optimum protection of the engine, clutch and gears even under the most arduous riding conditions including sustained operation at high rpm.

Power 1 Racing 4T 10W-50 is suitable for all modern high performance motorcycle engines where API and or JASO specifications are recommended.


  • Specifications
    • JASO MA-2
    • API SL
    • BMW Special approval for HP-2 Sport

article ©MotoExplorer 2017

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