We've avoided the topic of motorcycle chain oilers
for many years on webBikeWorld -- they just seemed too
complicated, too bulky and too fussy.
But we're probably in the minority on this one,
because many, many motorcycle owners swear by products
like the Scottoiler, the Lubetronic, the CLS chain oiler
and more. There are even some home-made solutions;
Motorcycle Oil Page for more information and links.
No offense, but I always figured the chain oiler
dudes to be a bit on the OCD side.
owners seem to be too obsessed with chain lubes
anyway -- it only takes a drop here and there to do a
proper job on a modern O-ring chain, and the old "if
some is good, more is better" approach is not the
way to go, because it will at a minimum spray oil all over
the rear of the bike and in the worst case on to the rear tire -- wouldn't that be just special?
Me? If I remember once a month or so I might spritz a bit of DuPont Teflon chain lube on
a few links
and call it done. It's a chore that I just can't
bring myself to love.
It actually doesn't take a heck of a lot of rocket
science to fling lube on a chain. After all, the "total loss"
lubrication system was used for years on everything from chains
to crankshafts back in the days when ships were wood and men were
All you need is a hose, a bottle to hold the
oil and a squeeze or two here and there as you ride
along and your chain will be in greaser heaven.
Honestly, it would be fairly easy to rig up a small
squeeze bottle or plastic tube and hang it somewhere and
run a very narrow diameter hose down over the chain and
give it a drop or two once in a while. Fancy it up
with a roach clip on and off control and you're all set.
about designing something like this occasionally when I have trouble falling
asleep at night but apparently I forget about it by time
I wake up.
That's basically what a chain oiler does, but there
are a couple of problems with that method: first, it's
nice to be able to control and/or shut off the flow of
oil, for obvious reasons, like when the bike is parked.
And second, who knows how much squeezing to do?
So the lazy (that's me) guy's solution would be to have
a chain oiler that would allow control of both the
flow and the quantity of the lubrication.
Hey wait -- that's the Scottoiler, right?
Well, every once and a while when I think my chain is
past due for a lube I take another look at
the Scottoiler. But I've never quite been able to wrap my
mind around it. No offense, Scottoilers--
and there are zillions of you out there, but whenever I
take a visit to the Scottoiler website and look at all the parts
that are involved -- well, it just looks way too
something that should be as simple as a chain oiler. And it also
looks too big to hide under the seat -- but hey, that's just me.
Thus, I was quite ready to scoot along for the rest
of my natural motorcycling career using my occasional
spritzing technique. But I have a confession to
make: in the back of my mind, there's that little voice
that every once and a
while makes me feel just the slightest bit guilty about
my wicked ways.
I mean after all -- I'm probably an anti-chain-lube
minority of one here, and even though I make it a point
to never follow the crowd, there's still that little 1%
in me that makes me wonder if I'm doing the right thing.
So that, strangely enough, is where the Cameleon chain
oiler comes in.
I don't even remember when I first heard of the thing
-- I think it was an email from a friend. But
something about it looked new and different and
The Cameleon Chain Oiler
The Cameleon oiler is a simple and efficient device.
The oil is stored not in a bottle, but in a clear vinyl hose
that is attached to the frame or bodywork. This is
rather ingenious -- the hose itself becomes the storage
unit for the oil, so there's no big bottle to try and
fit under the seat.
control unit isn't much thicker than the hose itself,
and it has slots molded in along the top for cable ties.
The controller can be mounted just about anywhere, but
the Cameleon is available with your choice of colors on
the printed logo, and, as you'll see, it has a colored
light also that glows when you're riding, so you'll
probably want to mount the controller somewhere out in
Kind of interesting actually -- a chain oiler that's
a fashion statement and meant to be seen, not hidden!
The controller adjusts the amount of oil that flows
from the storage hose through to the
third part of the system, a stiff but flexible hose that
is attached along the swingarm and is positioned to drip
the oil on to the chain.
Cameleon chain oiler controller attached to a downtube on the Multistrada. I
piece of rubber cut from an old tire tube around the frame to protect it.
The controller is a valve, powered by an electrical connection.
The power and ground wires are spliced in to the motorcycle's
rear tail light (or other electrical device that turns on
and off with the ignition), so the controller becomes
active when the bike's
ignition is engaged.
I'm not exactly sure what goes on inside, but the
controller allows a programmed amount of oil to flow
through the system for a certain length of time.
The oil is gravity fed from the storage tube down
through the controller and out through the flexible
hose, on to the chain.
Mounting the Cameleon Chain Oiler
One of the advantages of the Cameleon system is the
no-moving-parts oil storage hose, which can be easily
concealed in and among the frame tubes or bodywork of
the bike. The hose can be cut to fit if necessary,
but I was able to use the entire length as provided by
Cameleon. I snaked it up behind the Multistrada's
frame tubing and up under the seat. The end of the
hose is capped and it fits behind the seat and this
makes it easy to grab and fill when necessary.
The frame tubes on the Multistrada are perfect for
attaching the controller with the provided cable ties,
although the Cameleon cable ties proved to be too
brittle and they broke when tightened, so we used some
high-quality flexible cable ties we had in the toolbox.
Mounting the storage hose and the controller was
relatively easy; mounting the tube that drips the oil on
the chain was more difficult. Cameleon claims you
can mount the entire system in 1/2 hour, but that's if
you know exactly what you're doing and if everything
fits and aligns perfectly.
After we got the storage hose and the controller
mounted, Burn and I messed with several different
configurations, trying to come up with the ideal setup
for the hose that drips the oil on to the chain, and it
took a few hours to settle on a configuration that
worked the way we wanted.
Cameleon provides a few hose clamps in the box and
some self-tapping screws and they suggest drilling into
the swingarm to mount the clamps that hold the oil drip
hose. In talking to some other chain oiler users,
I discovered that drilling and tapping a swingarm to
mount the drip hose is a fairly common procedure, but I
wasn't too keen on this idea.
So we first tried running the oil drip tube on top of
the swingarm, using cable ties to hold it, but I didn't
like the looks of this and I was also afraid that the
cable ties might get caught on something and get torn
off. Here's a photo of the first trial:
First try at an installation, with the tube running down
the length of the swingarm.
After studying it for a while, we decided to mount
the tube along the chain guard and then down along the
back of the swingarm. I drilled a couple of holes
in the cheap plastic chain guard on the Multistrada and
used some stainless steel bolts, washers and nuts as you
can see in the photo below.
We still had to use one cable tie to hold the tube on
the swingarm, and I may end up drilling a hole in back
of the swingarm next time I have the rear wheel off,
where I'll use a hose clamp to make this installation
Here's a photo of the final setup:
Final installation location. The yellow arrows
indicate the bolts used to mount the hose clamps to the chain guard. The cushioned hose
clamps can be seen underneath the guard, below each bolt.
One issue that we ran into with the oil drip hose is
getting the tip of the tube to stay aligned out over the
top of the chain. The ideal location in my mind
would be to place the tip up by the front chain
sprocket, which would also hide the entire installation
and the lengths of tube needed, but I couldn't quite
figure out how to do this on the Multistrada.
Plus, the chain tends to whip up and down near the
front, which makes it difficult to place the tip of the
drip hose so that it won't get fouled.
Scottoiler now has a "floating" chain oiler tip that
apparently rides on the lower run of the chain so the
oil drips directly on the chain and nowhere else.
I may see if I can get one of those and adapt it to the
The drip tubing provided by Cameleon connects to the
controller. It has a stiff casing with a thick
length of steel wire inside that's maybe about 8 or 10
gauge or so. This hose can be bent to fit and it
will remain in the chosen shape, but it's pretty
difficult to cut -- it takes a hefty pair of wire snips
to do it.
If the tip of the tube is unsupported over a length
of about 2-3" or so, it seemed like it might be too
flexible to hold steady in position over the chain, so
we tried to find a way to support the tube as close as
possible to the tip.
Programming the Cameleon Controller
Programming the controller is very easy and -- dare I
say it -- fun. The program can also be changed or
modified within seconds whenever necessary.
Cameleon provides a chart (below) that gives some
starting points for suggested amounts of oil. The
chart shows the time in seconds on the Y axis and the
type of motorcycle on the X axis.
To choose a starting point, first pick the color for
the chosen oil weight. The recommended oil weights
run from 90W (red) to 250W (blue; 250W oil must have the
consistency of petroleum jelly!).
Next, choose a motorcycle type (i.e.; Touring,
Cruiser, Sportbike, Supermoto, Dirt Bike, etc.).
Then look up from the motorcycle type to the oil
weight color, then look to the left on the Y axis to
find the time, and you have the recommended starting
Let's try it for the Multistrada. First, here's
a scan of the chart provided by Cameleon (this chart is
also on their website):
Cameleon put a bottle of 90W chain oil in the box, so
that's what I used -- notice that 90W uses the color RED
on the strip along the bottom of the figure above.
The Multistrada is sort of like a Supermotard, so in
the chart above, look through the bikes and find the
Supermotard (fourth from the left). Now look up
and find the RED (90W) section of the colored strip,
then look at the Y axis -- it indicates about 4.5
It took me a while to figure this out, but once I
understood it, it's very easy (and I hope my explanation
here makes it even easier for you!).
After the unit is installed and has power and after
the correct time is chosen from the chart, the Cameleon
chain oiler can be programmed. This is the fun
Turn on the ignition, and press the button on the
bottom of the controller within 3 seconds of turning on
the ignition (See the video below). The light on
the back of the controller will then start to cycle
through about 10 different colors -- the same colors
shown in the chart above.
When the light cycles to the oil color chosen from
the chart, hold the button for the amount of time
suggested by the chart and you're set. So in my
case, I waited for the RED light to show and then I held
the button in for about 4.5 seconds (using a second hand
on a watch).
ADDENDUM: By the way, I don't really understand
the relationship between time, oil weight and motorcycle
type on the chart. Some email correspondence with
Cameleon didn't help to explain this. I'd like to
know if the time (4.5 seconds) means that the valve
opens up once every 4.5 seconds? Or does it mean
that the valve opens up for 4.5 seconds every certain
amount of time? Why do touring and Sportbikes
appear farther down on the Y axis and dirt bikes are
higher? I think if Cameleon explained the chart it
would help owners make a more informed decision on how
to set the Cameleon oiler.
When the button is released, the light blinks rapidly
to indicate that the time and color is set. Now it
will start to cycle through the colors again. It
can now be programmed to choose one of the colors to
display while the engine is running. It's a fun
way to indicate that the Cameleon is on and working.
I chose purple, so when the purple light glows, I
pressed the button again and it's all set.
OK, so once it's programmed, here's how it works:
whenever the bike is started, the Cameleon turns itself
on and after a couple of seconds the red light displays
for the time period I chose -- 5 seconds.
Remember, the red light shows in this instance because
that is the color I chose based on the oil weight and my
motorcycle type from the chart above.
After the red light displays for the five seconds I
selected, it will change to my chosen riding color --
purple -- and it will stay purple while the bike is
running. It's pretty cool actually, and the
program can be changed at any time to account for
different conditions, like rain, dirt, touring, etc.
We ran the storage tube along the frame of the
Multistrada, using cable ties to secure it. The yellow arrows indicate the tube; the green arrow
indicates the power connector for the Multistrada's tail lights; the red arrow indicates
the metal conduit for the tail light wires (the conduit protects the wires from burning on
After we got the Cameleon oiler installed, programmed
and running, I took the bike out on a ride in 40-degree
(F) weather. I discovered that it takes a while
for the 90W oil to work its way through the system; in
fact, when I got back after a 30 mile or so ride, the
drip hose was still dry.
An email to Cameleon suggested that I program it for
30 seconds or so and take another ride, to get the oil
flowing through. I did this and when I returned
home the tip of the oiler hose was definitely wet and I
could see the oil on the chain. So I
re-programmed it back to the suggested 5 second
intervals, which seems fine. I think I may switch
to a thicker weight oil though, especially as the
weather warms up.
Conclusion The problem with any of these automatic chain oilers
is that you really don't know how much oil is dripping
on the chain. I'd love to rig up a camera to take
a video of the tip of the oiler hose as I ride to see
how much oil really drips off the end and where it goes.
I'm assuming that the tip of the hose is directing the
oil on to the chain, but surely there is some
variability in the form of cross-winds, bumps, etc.
The Cameleon oiler is relatively easy to install and
it has some advantages because it's simple, has very few
moving parts and the oil is stored in the hose, which
can be easily concealed.
Whether or not an automatic chain oiler works any
better than an occasional spray of chain lube remains to
be seen. A true "scientific" test that compares
various chain lubes and oilers would be very difficult
to do, what with all the variables and the time it would
take to run the chain through a simulated road course
and then to extrapolate chain wear over time.
So in the end, I'm not really sure if a chain oiler
is just a pacifier or if it will really make a
difference... In any case, although I don't have
another automatic chain oiler to compare it to, the
Cameleon has a lot to offer.
Comments are ordered from most recent to oldest.
Not all comments will be published (details). Comments may be edited for
clarity prior to publication.
From "N.T.": "I purchased a
Pro-Oiler (very similar to the Cameleon) about a year
and half ago for my speed triple and used it for nine
months. I really liked the idea of hassle free
chain maintenance. But I soon discovered that
automatic oilers need their own maintenance and can be a
little fussy. I ended up doing just as much
tinkering and adjusting as I would have done spraying
some lube on the chain.
So I finally gave up on the idea and switched to
DuPont Teflon spray that I read about your website -
haven't looked back since.
I think there is some confusion about chain
maintenance. O-ring chains have all the lube they
need in the O-rings themselves so all that needs to be
done is prevent any grit/grime that accumulates on the
chain from grinding the links and to provide some
lubrication between the links and the sprocket teeth.
But most lubes end up attracting grit because they
are greasy or waxy. End up doing more damage than
That's why I think the Teflon spray is the perfect
lube - it provides lubrication between the links and the
sprocket but because it's a "non- stick" substance no
dirt sticks to your chain. Ever since I started
using it my chain has stayed nearly perfectly clean -
it's pretty incredible.
I'm at 10,000 miles now and the chain and sprocket
are still in great shape. When I had the automatic
oiler it was always goopy and dirty.
So don't waste your money - the Teflon spray is the
way to go!"
From "M.W.": "I read your review of
the chain oiler & it seems like a slightly less
complicated system than the Pro Oiler I have on my CBR.
I think they are a brilliant idea as they save all that
spray lube, which seems to build up, adhere to every
where except the chain, & appears to be harder to clean
up than plain oil.
After a few thousand kms, & parking the bike in the
same area at home, from areas that are difficult to
clean, the spray lube build up then falls to the ground
in very small balls. A curious little dog who
likes to sniff the squashed insects on the bike, stands
on one of these little balls & proceeds to run all over
the carpet. The reaction from my wife was about
7.5 on the Richter scale. Glad it wasn't on my
foot. I then fitted a CLS unit to my previous bike
which worked very well.
A couple of may be useful tips, before fitting an
oiler remove the chain, sprocket guards, clean all old
spray lube, also clean the chain & anywhere else it may
be on the gearbox or swing arm. Otherwise this
residue is diluted by the oiler & you have a worse mess.
If you drill into the aluminium swing arm, which is
the best way to secure the feed nozzle, use a self
tapping screw with a coarse a thread as possible as this
grips better in the soft alloy, a little thread lock
when you are happy with the location.
At present I have 26,000ks on the OEM chain & after
the initial tensioning it remains untouched."
From "L.P.": "I read your review on
the Cameleon chain oiler and I have to agree with "T"
(below), the ProOiler may be a better rig. I've
just finished installing one on my '07 Ducati ST3s and
it works like a charm. It works so well in fact I
had to mess around with the settings just to make
certain I understood what I was looking at.
If I have a complaint at all it's that programming it
seemed more complex than what I expected, but as you
found on the Cameleon once I got onto it there were no
further issues. Point in fact there are so many
ways to address riding conditions initial setup can be
To help get around this the folks at ProOiler provide an
optional selection that allows you to make more limited
choices much like the Cameleon. I chose to go with
the more complex program as it allows more precise
control for oiling under varying conditions. The
price for the ProOiler is slightly higher than the
Cameleon, around another $30 or so and shipping is not
upport-wise they're as good as they come, I had to
contact them twice because my particular bike had a few
changes from earlier ones. They were very prompt
in sending two replacement items which once received
made the installation go smoothly. All-in-all I've
been very pleased with their response and the quality of
the oiler is superb.
I've only owned one other automatic oiler, a single
sided ScottOiler mounted on my Aprilia Pegaso and
although it works OK it developed a leakage problem
early on. Evidently this is due to the failure of
an O-ring and as it's addressed in their web site's
troubleshooting section it must be a common occurrence.
Left alone in my garage, the entire oil reserve
leaked out onto the floor, big mess and very expensive
proprietary oil from ScottOiler at that. I haven't
ordered replacement O-rings yet so I can't comment on
the complexity of repairs.
Still, having an automatic oiler in place beats the
heck out of manually oiling any day, and I'll bet once
bitten you'll never go back to spray cans."
From "D.C.": "I've been a fan of
your site for quite awhile. Bought my REVIT jacket
because of the reviews here.
I live in Singapore. It's anywhere from 26c to
33c with high humidity all year round. At least we
get to ride anytime... with rain gear ready of course.
Allow me to share my experience on chain oilers.
It would be up to the reader to believe my report or
toss it off as Internet chatter.
A friend of mine rides an '02 Yamaha Fazer. He
installed the ScottOiler (single sided) from the get go
and has travelled over 40,000 miles in about 4 years
(daily commuting and touring). The chain and
sprockets were inspected from time to time by our
favourite mechanics and they found no significant wear.
They were quite impressed with the longevity. In the end
he changed them just for safety. After all, you
can't really see metal fatigue from just looking.
For maintenance, he wiped the chain down with paper
towels roughly once every 3 weeks. No chain
adjustments were ever made (except when the rear tyre
was changed, this happened twice).
For me, I used to have an '01 Yamaha R1. I
installed a manual chain oiler (much like Loobman,
single sided). It operates based on gravity and
there's an air valve to allow air into the reservoir (a
35ml syringe bottle). This is the "on-off" switch
for it. About once a week (or when I see the chain
drying up) I turn it on for about 5 or 10 seconds, shut
it, and ride off. I'm not sure how long it keeps
dripping but my guess is about 3 to 5 minutes. I
used plain engine oil as my lubricant (roughly USD 5 per
In the 3 years I've ridden it, for about 30,000
miles, daily commuting and touring up to Malaysia with
my friend, I've never had to adjust the chain either.
Up till when I sold off the bike, the chain and
sprockets looked good.
Now, I've gotten myself a Fireblade. I had
decided to use Maxima Chain Wax as I didn't want to have
a chain oiler on. I couldn't get my hands on the
Teflon lubricant reviewed at this site.
I cleaned and sprayed the chain every other week
(about 300 or 400 miles commuting). My chain and
sprockets were noticeably worn in about 6 months.
Lots of drive lash. I got quite irritated at the
need for maintenance. It's messy and it's not like
I have my own garage here. In Singapore, most
people live in apartments, with common car parks.
Not surprisingly, after a few more months when I
replaced the chain and sprockets, I bought the
ScottOiler (too lazy to install my manual oiler).
Nevertheless it would (be) wise for the owner to
examine the left side of the rear tyre from time to
time. High speeds do cause flinging. Though
both me and my friend have gone to the track for some
fun and did not experience any sliding. When the
rear tyres were examined they were definitely used fully
to the edges. Still, take left hand corners with
Oh, and a ScottOiler from another friend of mine got
stolen. It was installed in an exposed manner,
much like the Cameleon.
Sorry for the long post... if you've read this far,
thanks for reading!"
From "T.": "I read your article with
interest. It's a pity you have avoided this subject for
so long and the Pro-oiler has escaped your notice as the
best on the market, as I have had this system on two
bikes and 40,000 miles of trouble free chain oiling.
As you might already know, it lubes automatically
according to distance travelled (perfect) and requires
no specific oil, but engine/ATF oil work well and are
thin enough to reduce mess and at the same time keep
those O rings moist and out last the "sprayed" chain by
2-3 time not to mention the convenience of forgetting
about constant adjustment, removing Gunk and grime
BTW no affiliation here, just a delighted and lazy