Tested: Tutoro Chain Oiler on BMW 650 / Kawasaki Versys

The BMW oiler was supplied free of charge by Tutoro.
I bought my own for the Kawasaki and re-fit it to my CB500X.

It’s not sprocket science
Iscrub‘ve been thinking that some sort of automatic chain oiler really is the way to go. No, really! For the long road there has got to be a better way than carrying a bulky aerosol that will run out in a couple of thousand miles, or the faff of a small oil bottle to brush on manually (right). O-ring chains are very durable, but that durability can easily be doubled if they’re coated in a near-constant film of sticky oil (and perhaps cleaned once in a while).

tur-scottoiScottoilers have been around since I started biking, but I never bought into the idea of plumbing the unit into the carb vacuum,  or these days, involving electronics. Why complicate things, it’s just an oil dripper! Do you really need a £200 piece of kit including a digital read-out (right) on ambient temps and G-force, when you can make your own crude manual oiler from a squeezy bottle? Fit-and-forget automation is great of course, but I prefer an autonomous system which, should it require attention up the Khyber, will be independent of other bike systems.

tur-osco1While at Hyperpro the other month, I notice an Xco there with the Dutch Osco system. It was a stand-alone system which was neat, but turns out to be a manual, ‘actuate-the plunger-once-in-a-while’ operation. Too much faffing to remember at the end of each long ride. At just 20 quid and not Osco’s £110, the Loobman is another manually actuated dispenser that is probably less hassle than making your own. But the word seems to be Loobs don’t survive rugged riding and there’s the problem with all manual oilers: remembering to use them regularly.

A bit of research led me to Tutoro oilers who have the best solution for continuous chain oiling from a reasonable £67 with manual drippers costing about the same as a Loobman. The auto Tutoro uses a balanced weight that responds to the movement of the bike and pumps oil accordingly. It might well resemble the ‘triple-axis turtautoaccelerometer’ that Scott mention on their e-system oilers, but without all the electronics which surely defeat the point of using free kinetic energy. With Tutoro, you simply set the reservoir’s drip dial (reachable on the move) at whatever level needed to oil the chain. If it starts raining maybe turn the wick up a bit. You don’t have to worry about forgetting as when the bike is still the plunger weight is at rest – no pumping occurs, so no drips. Once you move off the bike’s motion will set it off again. Simple and ingenious.

The Auto Delux edition I was sent came with the 100mm x 45mm reservoir, delivery hose, a variety of reservoir mounting brackets, a forked nozzle, zip ties and cable guides, the helix flexible tube, a small top up can and 500 mil of Tuturo oil. This isn’t just any old oil, this is a lushly blended, thick and sticky blue goo, just like you get from the best spray cans.

Fitting the oiler msu-tur1I fitted mine on the pavement in a bit of a rush, while flogging books at a Touratech travel event last May. On my 650 there’s a way of routing the hose neatly in and out of holes in the swing arm, but that looked a bit tricky to pull off in my situation; I may get round to doing that later, when I change tyres for Morocco. With just the zip ties, the reservoir was easily fitted to a bolt on the subframe down tube: out of the way but easy to reach and about 20° off vertical which is within operational limits. The hose ran along the outside of the swingarm using stick-on hose clips (below). They may prove to be vulnerable off road (a slab of gorilla tape over the hose may help), but months of road riding later, everything is still intact.

On the road tur-07 The latest Tuturos come with a rubber forked nozzle which I thought was to get the drips close to the o-rings on either side of the chain. It’s a nice idea but I guessed wrong. Due to unavoidable chainslap, my nozzle got damaged almost straight away (right). tur-vidHad I watched the latter half of this video, I’d have seen the forked nozzle is supposed to ‘bite’ either side of the sprocket at ‘3 o’clock’ (left) and well out of the way of the slapping chain. From here the oil gets thrown out onto the chain. tur-08No matter; it’s only a bit of hose dripping oil onto the chain. Zip tied to the chain guard, I repositioned my single hose feed at the back of the lower chain run, just as it goes onto the sprocket; the place they tell you to spray a chain. I’m not certain it’s any less effective at lubing the chain in this position, and there’s nothing to get damaged or pulled off.

hebs1Setting the feed dial positioned at the bottom of the reservoir takes some practise, or it’s quite possible I didn’t rtfm properly. I didn’t bother priming the unit as that would happen automatically on the road. From Touratech I set off north for a spirited early morning ride across mid-Wales. I forgot all about the oiler until fuelling up at Newton in north Wales. Here I saw the reservoir was empty, oil was all over the back wheel and the chain glistened like an eel that had just stepped out of a steaming shower. With enough lube on the chain to last a few days, I shut it off then forgot all about it again as I rode up to far northwest Scotland (right) and then rode back to London via the Outer Hebrides. Finally, over the weeks and months, I’ve settled on about 1 turn out from closed; perhaps a bit more in chilly conditions.

tursideAlthough I haven’t scoured every corner of the internet to establish all the alternatives, to me the Tutoro auto luber is all you need to get the job done, without unnecessary complication at a reasonable price. My Delux kit contained enough bits to use a variety of positioning ideas and a pint of oil that is thick and sticky. If you run out on the road, motor or gearbox oil will do.

You can pay over three times as much for an e-system Scottoiler, or double for an Osco. I’m sure both work as well, but for my sort of riding and dodgy memory, simplicity combined with mechanical fit-and-forget ‘autonomous self-actuation’ works best. Good job Tutoro; I’m a convert and expect to remount this kit on all my future chain-drive travel bikes.

You can order the Delux kit I received here; manual Tutoro oilers cost from £25. Compared to the other products mentioned above, they’re all a bargain.

Update after Morocco capcapThe benefits of a chain oiler are greatest on a long trip covering long mileages. An bulky aerosol won’t last and you don’t have to get on your knees every morning to give the chain a squirt. I topped up my Tutoro and left for Morocco with a 200ml bottle.

All went well until I had to give someone a lift off a mountain pass one evening when things turned a bit epic. Because there are no pillion footrests on my bike, her feet flailed around a bit and knocked the reservoir about, losing its cap and contents. A flush out with petrol and an oil bottle cap plus a bit of inner worked for the rest of the trip. That’s just what I mean about the repairability of a simple unit in the field. And I came back with Morocco with the reservoir half full.

t2-28At times on the piste all the bikes got dry chains so I lubed them all with locally bought engine oil. In some situations when you’re riding through dust (below) and then through a lot of water (right) it’s quicker to just give the chain a regular squirt of aerosol lube or a brush down with whatever oil you have.

P1110505I adjusted the chain twice in the 10,000 miles I had the bike (8000 miles with the oiler) and the chain looks like is has 1000s of miles left in it. I’ll be buying a Tutoro kit for the next bike.

In fact I did just that. Pictured left is the same type of unit fitted with a little more know-how to my Kawasaki Versys. I took if off before selling it for the next bike: a CB500X which I hope to keep for more than a couple of months.

Photo David W

Photo David W

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