Thursday, March 19, 2015

Fitting the Tutoro chain oiler

Below you can read our on-going evaluation of our Tutoro Chain Oilers, or you can go straight to the Tutoro website by clicking on the Tutoro logo on the left
The oil reservoir seems to be tilted forward too much in this photo as the bike is on the centre stand. Once on it's on its own wheels with the rider seated it all comes good
As you can read in our post 'all our gear after two years on the road', the chains and sprockets have had a hard life with all the rain we've had in Europe. No matter how fastidious you are in lubricating your chain, there isn't much you can do when it rains for days and days. The result was that we had higher chain and sprocket wear in Europe, compared to our trip trough USA, Mexico and Central America, simply because we had better weather there! Of course I could have just accepted that we can't change the weather and be happy with the good chain and sprocket life we were getting from our JT Sprockets. But I could also try to give them better working conditions and get an even longer service life...

Chain lube in a spray can is horrible, wasteful stuff. Wasteful because it doesn't last very long, there is always overspray and when the can is empty we throw away a lot of packaging. It's expensive too and can be difficult to get when you're travelling. When riding dirt roads it's worse than no lube at all as dirt sticks to spray lube, turning it into a sticky grinding paste. 

Mounted to the Bonneville footrest frame
That's why I used gearbox oil and a simple, cheap brush to brush it on. Gearbox oil is formulated for high pressure lubrication like chain drives, can be bought just about anywhere and costs roughly 8 dollars a litre which is enough for 100,000 km. It provides better lubrication for a fraction of the price of spray lubes and when you hit the dirt it simply drains off (which is better than a grinding paste). Quite frankly why anyone would still want to use spray lubes, other than shear laziness, is beyond me.

Still, there are even better options for extended chain and sprocket life... Enclosed chain drives for instance, where chains and sprockets have an almost endless life. The reason is simple: the chain and sprockets are protected from the elements and lubrication is thus not affected by them. My trusty MZ has proved that with an easy 70,000 km chain and sprocket life (and not even an o-ring chain either). Building an enclosed chain case is not something that's easily done but in an attempt to at least improve the lubrication I tried the Loobman oiler. It was a disaster as you can read elsewhere on this site. I also tried the Pro-Oiler, which wasn't very good either. Considering the costs involved with Pro-Oiler I had expected a top quality, professionally made product. In reality it's an underdeveloped hobby project that didn't function all that well.

The heart of the system: the motion sensor!
Looking at alternatives I disregarded the Scott Oiler as too expensive for what it is, which is basically a glorified drip feeder, and so the search went on. What I was looking for was something that is rugged, simple, reasonably priced and yet provide continuous lubrication. What I found was a system that did all that and something more... it's called Tutoro. Tutoro has, as far as I'm aware, a unique motion detector which starts lubrication when the bike is moving and stops when it's not. Having a built-in motion detector means there is no need to cut into the wiring. There is also no need for a vacuum connection... or any other connection to the motorcycle! The Tutoro just sits there quietly and starts dispensing oil when the bike moves! How good is that?

XT660R setup
I liked the idea but still had one reservation: the way most chain oilers dispense oil onto the chain. There is a lot of talk on the net about single sided delivery versus a twin-feed nozzle. Some claim single is better while others say twin feed is the way to go. I personally don't like either of them as they are in a vulnerable position, will get covered in dirt and muck, and are prime targets for stones. They are also a pain in the proverbial when fixing a flat tyre. I wanted to lubricate just after the front sprocket on the inside of the chain. There the dispensing tube would be out of harms way, protected by the front sprocket cover, and lubricate the full width of the chain rather than just one side of it.

Nick and Jude from Tutoro agreed that would be the best spot to lubricate the chain in our case, based on experiences they have in the trials world. They supplied us with a kit to fit them that way. The Tutoro comes complete with mounting brackets and nuts and bolts in stainless steel. Plus a collection of zip ties to strap them to the frame. The mounting instructions are clear as is the set it up procedure. Their advice is to have a good look at your bike first and take your time in determining where would be the best spot to fit them. Good advice!

On the Yamaha XT660R I decided to fit the brackets straight to the engine casing bolts. As the engine isn't rubber mounted there is no difference between fitting it there or to the frame. The supply line to the nozzle is short and it's easy to refill. For the Bonneville things were a little bit more complicated. Tutoro says in the mounting instructions that the unit should be within 10° of vertical. The rear subframe rails where the shocks mount to is well over 10° and would require all brackets of the kit in series to mount it. I didn't like that idea as we're taking some pretty gnarly roads and wanted to mount the unit as close to the frame rails as I can. I also wanted to use both mounting points for that same reason. I opted for the pillion footrest frame instead. Again only a short supply line and easy to fill. As the pipe diameter is relatively small, I didn't use the supplied zip ties for mounting the unit but used stainless steel hose clamps over nylon webbing from a strap, to protect the paint. 

XT660, once the cover is over the sprocket,
the dispensing tube is out of harms way
We haven't tested the units properly in action yet and I'm sure there will be some fine tuning needed, but the Tutoro is clearly a quality product. It's well made and thought out. It is as far as I know also the only system which is stand alone and yet only lubricates when it needs to due to it's motion detector. The bolts, nuts, washers and brackets are all stainless steel and the system even comes complete with a vent hose to prevent moisture entering the vent hole.

The Tutoro is fully automatic, meaning it will lubricate the chain at all times when moving. It doesn't take into account the weather, the speed at which you're travelling and the road conditions of course. The only system that does that is the Pro-Oiler, which has a microprocessor controlled electric oil pump, a GPS receiver (or needs to tap into the bike's speed sensor) a controller on the handlebars and needs a connection to the bikes electrical circuit. Not surprisingly it proved to be too complicated for its own good and very sensitive to electrical interference. Compare that to the beauty of the Tutoro: just one thing to mount on the bike, no controller, no electrics, no need for tapping into sensors and wiring and no possibility of electrical interference. Tutoro keeps it simple.

First update on the Tutoro:
Due to circumstances we hadn't had time to properly test our Tutoro fitment, until now that is. The unit seems to work fine but mounting the oil feed behind the front sprocket didn't work as planned. I'm guessing the distance between feed and chain is too big, or there is more wind blast behind the sprocket cover than I had imagined (or both). I can't mount the nozzle any closer to the chain as the chain could then potentially touch it when the suspension is fully compressed. So I had to mount it another way and did so by mounting the dispensing nozzle against the front sprocket. First test have been encouraging, we are now lubricating the chain!