Aluminum Vs. Steel Sprockets – Motorcycle Tips

metal motorcycle sprocket

Motorcycle sprockets can have an impact on your bike’s performance. In terms of aluminum vs. steel sprockets, both types have their pros and cons. Here, I’ll go over those differences so you can choose the type of sprocket that best suits your riding needs and your bike.

Use a Bike Stand for Safe Installation

Before you even think of changing your sprockets, make sure you have a motorcycle stand. Using a stand will help get the job done faster, more efficiently, and safely.

How Sprockets Can Impact Performance

Bikes come from the manufacturer with stock sprockets, but many serious riders change them based on personal preference, improved performance, and general maintenance.

Wear and Tear

Even if the sprockets you buy are made out of heavy-duty metal, you’ll need to change them out at some point, due to general wear and tear. With proper maintenance, you can expect sprockets to last as long as the chain, so about ten to thirty thousand miles. Once the sprocket has reached the end of its lifespan, it’s important to replace it as soon as possible. The next time you’re changing your motorcycle chain, take a look at the sprockets for signs of wear and tear.

Bike Performance

The sprocket works as part of the chain drive, helping to transfer power to the wheels. To alter or improve the power transfer, some riders like to change the gearing on their motorcycles. Gearing a bike can require a motorcyclist to compromise between speed and acceleration since achieving more of both is impossible. Sprocket changes that are too drastic can negatively impact how a motorcycle handles, so it’s important to choose the right parts for your ride.

Most riders will experiment with what works best for their bike and the conditions they usually ride in, so they can try out a variety of aftermarket sprockets in order to fine-tune their ride.

Which is Better-Aluminum or Steel?

rear chain and sprocket

Steel and aluminum are the two most commonly used materials for sprockets. Most manufacturers use steel sprockets; however, aluminum offers characteristics that some riders will find more appealing.

Steel sprockets are more affordable than aluminum and tend to have a longer lifespan. Because rear sprockets are smaller and durable sprockets are essential, most rear sprockets are made out of steel.

Aluminum sprockets are much lighter compared to steel, which makes them a great choice for the motorcyclist who wants to reduce bike weight. Even though aluminum sprockets are anodized, they tend to degrade much faster than sprockets that are made out of steel. For riders who are looking for sprockets that can help increase their speed, aluminum is usually the go-to choice.

Price

There is a significant price difference between steel and aluminum sprockets. If you shop around online, you’ll find that models that are made out of steel typically cost around thirty to forty dollars per sprocket, while models that are made out of aluminum tend to cost more than twice as much, with prices that range from sixty dollars up to ninety-five dollars. If budget isn’t an issue and speed is a priority, then you should definitely give aluminum sprockets a shot.

Hybrid Sprockets

If you can’t decide between steel or aluminum sprockets, there are some manufacturers that produce sprockets that are made out of both types of metals.

Longevity

As I mentioned earlier, sprockets that are made out of steel have a better reputation for durability and longevity. Steel models can last an average of ten to thirty thousand miles, while sprockets that are made out of aluminum will need to be changed every six thousand to ten thousand miles.

Summing it Up-Pros and Cons

In the end, you’ll need to weigh the pros and cons of each type of sprocket. Your budget will have a lot to do with the type of sprockets you choose, in addition to your riding style and usual riding environment.

Below, I’ll sum up the pros and cons of each type of metal, to help you choose the right type for your ride.

Steel

  • Last longer-thirty to sixty thousand miles
  • Has a reputation for durability
  • Are very affordable
  • Heavy

Aluminum

  • Lightweight
  • Helps keep your bike’s weight down
  • Increases your speed
  • Expensive
  • Only last six thousand to ten thousand miles

When to Change Sprockets

Even if you’re not shopping for new sprockets to improve your bike’s performance, at some point, you’ll need to change them as the old sprockets wear out. Worn-out sprockets can eventually cause issues with your bike’s performance. Checking the sprockets and chain regularly for signs of wear will clue you in on when you need to swap them out. For best results, always change the motorcycle chain and the sprocket at the same time. Because they wear down together, it’s a good idea to have a matching set, so everything will fit together well.

Avoid using old parts with new parts, since this can cause the newer part to wear out faster.

If you decide it’s time to change out the sprockets, if you choose a new size, keep in mind that you’ll need to adjust the chain to fit the new layout.

Final Thoughts

For new riders, it can be difficult to decide between aluminum vs. steel sprockets. However, if you’re a new rider and you’re willing to experiment, you can give both types a shot. If you’re looking for sprockets that can help reduce bike weight and improve your speed, then aluminum sprockets are a great option. If durability is your priority, then steel is the way to go. In the end, the type of sprockets you choose will be a matter of personal preference, riding goals, bike type, and budget.