Monday, July 20, 2015

Tutoro after 15,000 km

Here a spray on lube would have ruined the chain and sprockets as the sand will stick to it and becomes a grinding paste. With continuous oil lubing, the sand will simply wash off.
Complete setup on the Yamaha, the area has never
been cleaned in 80,000 km and most of it is the

wax type chainlube we used early on
For longer than I care to remember I have lubricated chains manually. If you are as old as I am then you might still remember the infamous Duckhams grease jars with their floating lids and maybe even the revolutionary Silkolene grease tube, which actually worked quite well. Slowly but surely the spray cans took over, which I never liked as they are messy, wasteful and expensive. Over the years I've tried various types of clear, wax and teflon lubes in spray cans and didn't like any of them. Lubricating with gearbox oil and a brush worked by far the best. Of course when the weather turns foul and the chain becomes wet, manual lubrication won't work. No matter what lubrication you use, it simply washes off in the rain. If the chain is wet before it's  applied then it won't even stay on it. As our bikes are no longer stored in shed overnight but outside 365 days a year, the chains didn't dry either. In short it became clear we needed something else to keep the chains alive for longer.

Close up feed tube on the
As you can read else-where on this site we also tried the Loobman, which doesn't work and doesn't lube continuously. We also tried the other end of the spectrum with a ProOiler, which we had fitted by the maker of the system and even he couldn't get it to work. The Yamaha was blamed for giving too much interference from the speedo sensor, despite the electronic Yamaha dash working fine. I also wasn't impressed with the built quality and the multitude of 'boxes' to be installed everywhere. 

It may look somewhat messy in the background at first but most of that is actually the wax type chainlube I tried for a while. What you are looking at is 122,000 km of various chain lubes (the area has never been cleaned) Compare this photo to the one in the first post on Tutoro to see what I mean. This is the original setup, feeding the front sprocket, I've since changed it to dripping straight onto the chain (see text)
When I first heard about the automatic Tutoro, which has a built-in motion sensor and thus needs no connection to the bike at all, I was intrigued. I like people that think outside the square! It seemed on paper a good system so we gave it a try and fitted their system to each bike. We also wanted a system that would feed the front sprocket, rather than the rear, as the drip feed would be much better protected behind the front sprocket cover.

With the Yamaha this didn't quite work out as the front sprocket is only 15T, meaning the area between the front sprocket nut and the chain is quite narrow. I opted for a drip feed on the bottom run of the chain just after the sprocket instead. On the Bonnie I fed the front sprocket at the 10 'o clock position. After 15,000 km it's time for an evaluation...

The drip feed just after the front sprocket, as I did on the Yamaha, has proven to work the best. The feed to the Bonnie's front sprocket works but created too much fling off inside the sprocket cover. The other difference between the two ways of lubing is the feed just behind the front sprocket drips straight onto the chain and thus disperses better. This was especially noticeable after heavy rain, when the Yamaha chain proved better lubricated. The only other change I have made since the original installation is shorten the feed tube to the extreme. In the more conventional position at the rear sprocket the long standard feed tubes will work well as it remains cool. When fitted behind the front sprocket as we did, the transparent feed hose gets warm from the heat radiated by the engine. This will soften the hose, causing the hard plastic feed tube to sag under it's own weight. The remedy is simple, shorten the tube which reduces the weight on the hose and brings the solid rod in the feed hose closer to the chain. I haven't had an issue since.

As you can see in the photos, on the Yamaha I bolted the unit to the engine. This can create a problem as the hot air coming from the engine will heat up the chain oiler. The oiler itself can handle it but it will reduce the thickness of the oil, which can lead to over lubrication. In the Yamaha's case the oiler is protected from direct hot air by the starter motor, while being cooled enough by wind. In short it isn't a problem. The unit gets slightly warmer than the one on my T100 but never over hand-warm. I have compensated for the slight difference in temperature by 1/4 turn on the adjuster.
So how has it all worked in practice? Well, they are simply a blessing! The chain is being lubed continuously even when it rains, which should prolong chain life. No more dry chains! Not only are they continuously lubricated they are also very very clean as the slow flow of oil has a cleaning effect. We have just covered 15,000 km on this chain and sprocket set, so it is early days yet to say much about chain and sprocket life. The only thing I can say is that after the initial bedding in we haven't had to adjust the chains at all so far and there are no tight spots to be found yet. 

It is perhaps good to understand that a chain oiler, any chain oiler, is not a simple fit and forget item. The amount of lubricant needed depends on a number of variables. As I said before temperature has an effect on oil thickness and thus influences the flow. A setting that will work perfectly at 0°C will over-lube at 20°C. When it rains there is more lubricant needed to compensate for the washing off effect and the same is true for winter roads with salt. The only way to see what is going on is by having a look and learning to see what is needed. With learning to see I mean that you will find, like we did, that the chains are so incredibly clean all the time that you might think there is no oil on it. I've more than once swiped my finger over a roller of the chain to see if there was any lubricant at all!

The unit mounted to the Triumph on the pillion footrest mount. I've
protected the paintwork with nylon webbing.
We've received a couple of questions on oil usage and how long a bottle of oil would last. It depends very much on the conditions. In wet weather chains need more lubricant, in dry weather less. It also depends on the speed you ride. The Tutoro oiler doesn't drip per km but per minute. Having said that in dry weather it should last between 1200-1600 km per fill. Don't be alarmed by thinking it uses a lot of oil as although the unit seems big, a large part of the reservoir is taken up by the motion sensor. We have used so far 500 ml for about 17,000 km. I have my setting on the rich side without getting any spray on the tyre. Filling the Tutoro is much easier and quicker than putting spray on a chain. No need to rotate the chain, simply pull the cap and fill it! It has also proven to be much cheaper than spray cans.

Adjustments can be made by simply turning in or out the only screw on the unit, which is in effect a needle valve. We use a 'base' setting of 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 turn out on the Bonnie and 1 to 1-1/4 on the Yamaha, because the unit on the Yamaha gets slightly warmer. In seriously cold weather, like we had when riding through Switzerland and Italy in frosty temperatures, we had them at 1-3/4 to 1-7/8 turn out when dry and 2 turns when riding in a snow storm...  

Mounting on the Yamaha
I've often heard the comment that all chain oilers are messy and spray their lubricant all over the place. I'm sure this can be true. If you simply turn open the valve and expect everything to adjust by itself then yes: there is quite likely a chance you will over-lube and make a mess. Having said that I have deliberately over-lubed the chain for a short period, simply to see what the effect was. It made a bit of a mess of course, just like over lubing with a spray can would make a mess. There are two big differences between the two though. First of all despite using a setting that had my chain covered in oil like it came straight out of a frying pan, there was no overspray on the tyre. That may seem strange but isn't. Unlike chain spray, which is stringy, proper chain oil tends to leave the chain in a straight line (ie straight onto the road or straight onto the chain case/cover). The other thing to remember is that spray lube and especially the wax type stuff is a bastard to remove, while oil cleans up easy with a rag and cheap brake cleaner. You may wonder why I haven't done this for the photo? Well, it isn't just chain oil on there but 122,000 km of chain wax, manual chain oil and Tutoro. Cleaning this on a campground would make a mess of the campground. Plus, we have already published an article about fitting the chain oilers and wanted to show that they don't make a mess. Not cleaning it for the photo has been done deliberately. This is after all a real-life test.

So what are the downsides of a Tutoro chain oiler? Eeh, well... don't know really! I can't see any point in going back to manual lubing as that will never keep the chain continuously lubricated with clean lubricant, nor can I see any point in switching to the more expensive Scott Oiler as that offers nothing more while having added complexity. I guess the gizmo-freaks among us would like to see a handlebar mounted computer controlled remote which checks the weather online and has rain, temperature and speed sensors built-in to work out the perfect amount of oil needed. For all others a Tutoro is about as good as it gets and for US$75,- to US$100,- (depending on the kit you want) is incredible value for money.