There’s been an ongoing debate for decades over what oil is best for your machine and my thinking tells me there’s no standard answer to that question. That’s because there are too many variables — the climate you live in, the amount of time you spend on the road, the type of bike you ride. A lot of folks will tell you that synthetic is the way to go, but that’s not always the case.
Where you live is an important consideration in your choice of oil because of climate considerations and oil flow rates. And synthetic oils definitely hold an advantage in the cold-weather department. High-viscosity conventional oils simply don’t flow in cold temperatures, and even low-weight conventional oils stop flowing at around 34 degrees Fahrenheit.
Synthetic oil will flow at minus-50 degrees Fahrenheit, a serious advantage if you live in a cold climate. Almost all of the wear in your engine occurs during start-up. If you live in a cold climate and you fire up your bike from time to time during the winter months, you could be doing some serious damage to your engine. Synthetic oils also perform well in high temperatures. Some synthetic oils can offer protection at temperatures up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Conventional oils tend to fail at around 270 degrees, although this is seldom an issue since bikes normally run under the 270 mark. But if you have a bike that runs low oil pressure, and could touch the 270 mark on occasion, you should definitely consider using synthetic oil.
The type of bike you ride is also a major consideration when choosing oil. For instance, if you ride a motorcycle that uses the same oil for the clutch as it does for the engine, conventional oil is the way to go. That’s because synthetic oils are “slippery,” for lack of a better word. This can cause major problems with a clutch, because clutches need some friction in order to work properly.
When it comes to the pocketbook, of course, synthetic oils are more expensive. A lot more! There are many benefits to using synthetic oil, but saving money is definitely not one of them. It costs money to develop these highly efficient oils and the end user pays for it. In some cases, you are paying much more than what is considered reasonable, and that may be due to the name of the product. As a rule, synthetic is about 50 percent higher in price than its conventional counterpart.
One thing that conventional oils and synthetic oils both have in common is their ability to get dirty. There are synthetic brands out there that claim you can run their oil for 20,000 miles or more without an oil change. But having that dirt run through your engine for 20,000 miles or more is not a good thing. Your oil should be changed at regular intervals (usually 3,500-5,000 miles) whether you run synthetic oil or conventional oil.
In most cases synthetic oil is the best choice. Conventional oil is fine for those riders who live in a mild climate, change their oil like clockwork, and ride a bike that uses the motor oil to bathe the clutch. For the rest of us, our bike is best served by spending the extra on the synthetic oils.