My first bike, a ’68 Triumph, had a primitive chain oiler. Metered oil was drawn off the oil tank return line and a small amount was then diverted onto the chain via a drip line on the rear-wheel torque stay. It certainly oiled the chain but the errant spray also oiled my girlfriend’s snow-white jeans. My eager adolescent cure was to simply close the metering needle down and pinch off the supply, since that girlfriend was far more valuable to me at the time than any chain.
I still have that original TR6R but the girl, now someone’s grandmother, is long gone. Well, times have changed and so has chain maintenance. I have four chain-drive bikes and don’t relish maintaining them the vintage Triumph way, so I looked at various systems that promise to avoid the greasy drudgery that was once the norm. Most of the available chain oiling systems promise more than they provide or are incredibly messy. I discovered Scottoilers years ago and I’m a believer.
Let’s discuss some basics. Chains don’t really need “lubrication,” per se. Modern chains are manufactured with adequate lubrication sealed inside the rollers by special O-rings of various designs. Given proper cleaning and tensioning, these chains have much longer service lives. So do they really need an oiling system?
Because of their longevity, perhaps we should think of chain “oilers” more as chain “cleaners.” A light oil coating prevents corrosion, and if just enough oil is dispensed onto the chain, that oil will “fling off” the abrasive grit that eventually degrades the rubber ring seals on modern chains.
Before the eSystem, that precise amount of oil was impossible to control. Too little failed to do the job and too much was just messy.
The eSystem pumps proprietary oil from a reservoir onto the sprocket close to the chain run. The system is activated by a three-axis accelerometer that detects the bike’s motion and provides oil at a pre-determined rate only while the bike is moving. Oil is pumped rather than gravity-fed, so there is no drooling when stationary. A multifunctional digital display provides data including oil flow rate, oil reservoir level, ambient temperature and motion sensor activity.
Scottoiler offers two types of oil depending on ambient air temps. Traditional oil, the blue label, is for ambient temps of 32-90 degrees F. The high-temp red label is for hotter climes, 70-104 F. Here in the San Diego area, I routinely use the standard blue label with no problems. Hotter in your area? Simply choose the high-temp oil, which is slightly thicker.
Once the system is installed and metering is set, it’s a set-and-forget system. Metering is easy, and comprehensive directions are provided. The system will even tell you when the reservoir gets low. “Fling-off” is minimal. The rear rim stays remarkably clean and chain life is extended. New features include the addition of a capacitor to avoid losing the settings on bikes due to sudden voltage spikes on start up, as well as minor modifications to the screen and buttons to improve reliability.
My 2004 Ducati has had one chain replacement and I still ride on the original sprockets. Fill the Scottoiler. Set the Scottoiler. Adjust the drive chain tension as needed. This is a good product; it does exactly what it claims.
Wondering if the Scottoiler eSystem works as well for dual purpose bikes as pavement only bikes? Also, wondering if with the eSystem would a soft spray of water and just the system work, or does the chain still require a cleaning agent (i.e.: elbow grease and kerosene) to keep the chain clean after a dirt road run?
Thanks for the question, Walter. Since our experience with the eSystem has been on pavement only up to this point, we passed it along to Scottoiler for a response. Here’s what they said:
Both the Scottoiler eSystem (electronic) and vSystem (vacuum activated) are well suited to Adventure and Dual Sport bikes.
In fact, we now offer model specific vSystem editions for the Suzuki V-Strom, Triumph Tiger and Honda Africa Twin; the resultant response to significant Scottoiler sales in the Adventure bike segment.
Motorcycles fitted with a Scottoiler run cleaner chains compared to bikes where the owners use a high-tack chain spray. The reason is quite simple: The measured and frequent droplets of lube from Scottoiler systems flush dirt from the chain as they lubricate it.
As we use drops of oil as a chain lubricant, rather than the thick, liquid grease favored by many chain spray manufacturers, Scottoil will not form a thick, gummy build-up of grease and highly abrasive chain and sprocket destroying dirt-mix accumulation.
That’s why your chain and sprockets last so much longer with a Scottoiler fitted. This also means fewer chain adjustments are required because the wear rate is slowed down through better(continuous)lubrication.
Will you ever have to clean your chain again if a Scottoiler is fitted? Probably not – at least not under typical paved road conditions. If you ride significant miles off-road, then increase the drip rate to better lubricate the chain under those adverse conditions (with an eSystem, increasing the oil drop rate to the chain is accomplished by the touch of a gloved finger on the display panel).
If you use a hose to clean your bike, by all means spray water on the chain to clean it if required. Just remember to increase the lube drip rate on the Scottoiler, just for the first few miles to thoroughly coat the dry chain with lube once again.
-Roger Kirwin, Scottoiler USA
Thanks for the quick and useful response. I’ll pass this along to my riding buddies as well. Over 45 years ago I started out with chain driven bikes. Eventually, I gravitated to shafts (BMW and Suzuki) for twenty years and well over 300 000 kilometers. Ten years ago I returned to chain driven bikes and logged in over 200,000 km. For me, high quality (easy to change) sprockets and the new x-ring and o-ring chains, is clearly the way to go. That said, in my senior years I have to save bending for more pleasurable tasks than chain maintenance. I’ll certainly look into buying the Scottoiler.
Chains suck, too much maintenance and replacement.