Introduction 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; see the wBWMotorcycle
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.
Many motorcycle 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
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.
I think 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,
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 complicated
for 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
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 interesting.
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.
The 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 the open.
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 use a
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
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 even cleaner-looking.
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
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 Cameleon system.
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
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
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 point.
Let's try it for the Multistrada. First, here's a scan of
the chart provided by Cameleon (this chart is also on their
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 seconds.
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 part!
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 the exhaust).
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
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
So I finally gave up on the idea and switched to using the
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 good.
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
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 confusing.
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 included.
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
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 litre).
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
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 care.
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
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 bending down.
BTW no affiliation here, just a delighted and lazy customer."