A shaft drive used to be your thing about it. After all, it was low maintenance (not maintenance free). But a chain? That was a wear part that also required a lot of attention during wear and tear. Because dismantling, cleaning and greasing the chain every 500 kilometers? That was work!
Because everything used to be clearer, the work often started with a generous dipping with kerosene or another solvent. And yes… benzene was also a great help. Because if you don't know it's carcinogenic, then you don't have to worry about it. The clean chain was allowed to drip / smoke. Then it was dismantled. That was easy, because until 1970 the chains were simply provided with connecting links with a 'fish'. Just like bicycle chains.
Then the can of congealed chain grease was brought out. And as young people, we may all have thought at some point - and usually only once - that the heating, melting of that stuff was best done on the gas stove in the kitchen. That first attempt was usually the consideration to live in rooms anyway. And the house smelled like an explosion in a bitterballen factory for weeks to come.
If the chain grease was liquid, the chain was flattened in
Then the matter was allowed to simmer until the fat had settled between the links and cans. The subsequent dripping of the chain is nowadays seen as an environmental offense. And the tiles where the grease had gotten on caused local smoothness until well into August. The greased chain went to the clean (or new) sprockets and the engine was ready for the next 500 kilometers. The grease that had not yet dripped off at rest settled on the rear fork and rear hub and wherever else it ended up.
On some bikes, the chain was dripped from the primary chain case
The Scottoiler and his family members dripped oil from a separate van onto the chain and its surroundings. When the Honda CB 750 once on the track, it turned out that neither the tire manufacturers nor the chain manufacturers had anticipated a usable power output of 67 hp. Chains broke. Carters got sick. And if a retainer fish was mounted against the swimming direction, it could just swim away. If the chain didn't crack the crankcase then he could just run away. Chain tension was also an issue with all those things. When a chain wears, it gets longer. The free sag is usually about an inch or two in classics. Check the correct value. A chain that is too tight is disastrous for the bearing of the output shaft and the rear wheel bearing.
I see a star ...
During overtaking acceleration we have seen the chain of a 900 cc Japanese take flight. It was blocked by the windshield of a Mercedes. Which not only had a star on its grille.
The O-rings chains
Things were only brought under control when the O-ring chains, which had already been discovered in 1936, entered into a close union with the riveted end links.
A secondary chain is now a part that can last tens of thousands of kilometers without any problems. The only downside to things is their inherent internal friction caused by the O or X rings. On a classic 90 cc Honda that saved just five kilometers in top speed compared to an old-fashioned chain.
So if you go for convenience, put an O-ring chain around your classic. If you are going for authenticity from before - say - 1970, an old-fashioned necklace can still fit you. With its drawbacks. But the chains and the lubricants have gotten better than they used to be. And most of us no longer live in a situation where the smell of chain grease in the kitchen makes their mom mad.