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.

Where you live is an important consideration in your choice of oil because of different climates and oil flow rates. And synthetic oils definitely hold an advantage in cold-weather. 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.

Here is a quick summary:

Conventional Oil: This is the oil used in bulk at dealerships and is the cheapest at the parts store, too. Most adhere to all motorcycle application standards but offer little in the way of additive packages. This is good oil for owners that are religious about frequent oil changes and have low-mile (but well broken-in) engines.

Synthetic-blend Oil: This is essentially conventional oil hit with a dose of synthetic. They’re formulated to offer better protection during heavier engine loads and the associated higher engine temperatures.

Full-synthetic Oil: These oils are made for high-tech engines. If these oils pass stringent special tests (indicated by their labeling), it means they have superior, longer-lasting performance in all the critical areas – from viscosity index to protection against engine deposits. They flow better at low temperatures and maintain peak lubrication at high temperatures. While excellent oil, synthetics do cost more and are not required for all engine types.

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, and changing your oil is cheap insurance.