Hands up everyone who when they get home from a ride the first thing they do is clean and lube their chain. Now half of you put your hands down because you know you only think about doing it … because that was me.
Chain maintenance is something that most bike riders have to deal with as part of motorcycle ownership. And yes, I hear all those shaft and belt final drive riders out there ready to talk about their clean/maintenance free (ish) final drives. But I want to put out a quick review of a chain oiler that I’ve been using for the past 8 years.
And before I start I have to say that I’m not a mechanic or even a chainologist just someone who likes doing big miles. Typically I do between 20,000 and 30,000km per year and sometimes more.
Over the years I have read a lot of pros and cons about chain oilers. I am not going to get into any technical stuff here as I would simply be sprouting it from other sources. Rather I am just going to talk about my experience with the oiler and what I have learned using it.
I bought the cameleon chain oiler in 2010 for my previous Kawasaki ZX14 as a means of keeping the chain lubed on trips. This was the first time I’ve had a chain oiler on any of my bikes.
So why the Cameleon?
The main player in this market over the years has been the Scott oiler but the thing I didn’t like about the Scott Oiler was that you needed somewhere to hide the oil bottle and most sports bikes don’t have many places to hide something like that. Whereas the Cameleon is small, discreet, really easy to install, and the reservoir is a tube that is much easier to hide. At the time it was pretty new on the market but it ticked all the boxes for me.
The setup was really straight forward. Find somewhere to mount it. Power it with switchable power source. Fill it with oil and program it. Done. You can even program the colours when the unit is on and when it’s activated. While the light isn’t that visible now as it’s hidden under think layer of dirt, it still brings questions from following riders at night who are curious as to the changing light under the bike. I have mine set up to activate for 3 to 4 seconds every 4 minutes which is a nice compromise for the sort of riding I do. I generally get over 4,000km for a tube of oil.
Installation tip : when routing the tube have the end cap at the high point so oil doesn’t escape and no you can’t block the little hole in the end cap otherwise it gets an airlock and the unit won’t work.
So how long do I get from a chain.?
Looking over my records I have been getting between 40,000km and 55,000km from a chain. Which is pretty good for a big 200hp sports bike which sees a wide range of use. My current chain has close to 57,000km and is just starting to show signs of wear.
What I have found running the oiler is that when a new chain goes on I have to make a couple of tension adjustments early on as the chain beds in and then I typically I haven’t needed to readjust it at all. Then one day it starts to click and I book it in for a new chain and sprockets.
I have to admit that I’m not always that nice to my chain. Yes, I ensure it’s at the right tension, but I don’t really clean it that often other than the occasional hose off when I wash the bike, or if I’m really feeling generous I’ll clean it off with a rag.
My Cameleon is now over 8 years old and has been operational for close to 250,000km in all sorts of conditions. This picture is after last weekend’s ride which included dirt. This is the original chain which currently has close to 57,000km on it.
The claim that chain oilers prolong chain life is a topic much argued. I’m not going to argue that either way, all I can say is – in all the years riding big powerful sports tourers I have experienced increased chain life. Is that because of the oiler or because chains have improved over the years? I suspect it’s a bit of both.
For me the main reason I purchased the Cameleon oiler was to make keeping the chain oiled on big trips easier, which it certainly does. Any side benefits of longer lasting chains is an added bonus.
Australian distributor for cameleon chain oilers – whereszed.com – formally known as Australian Motorcycle headlight Protectors (AMHP) who specialise is model specific headlight protectors.