The world is full of man-made things. They are all around us, woven inextricably into our daily lives. From today’s cutting-edge technologies, to infrastructure built by men and women who left this mortal realm long ago, it’s everywhere. Yet how often do we stop to observe, understand and indeed marvel at the ingenuity, time and effort that has been put into such things; or indeed consider the people behind such endeavours? For nearly all of us, I suspect, most ‘things’ are seen as exactly that – inanimate, soulless objects and nothing more. However, there is a person and a story behind every one of them.
For a long time now, I have wanted to fit an automatic chain oiler to my Tenere. For the non-motoqueros amongst you, let me briefly explain. A motorcycle’s chain needs to be regularly oiled to keep it lubricated and clean, which ultimately extends its life significantly. Most riders who use their bikes on a daily basis from home use lubribant in an aerosol can. It is quick, clean and easy – if you can lift the rear wheel of your bike and spin it whilst spraying lube on to the chain.
When living on the road however – where pannier space is at a premium, dirt and sand soon cake the chain, decent aerosol lube is hard to find, and lifting the rear wheel on a centre stand can be a back-braking task with a fully loaded bike – this solution is definitely not the best one. As I learnt first-hand, this usually results in an under-lubricated chain, or one coated with oil of a decided dodgy quality. This leads to a shortened lifespan for your chain and sprockets, which in turn creates a logistical headache and significant expense replacing them when you are in the middle of nowhere. We overstayed our welcome in a very wet Quito last year, waiting for a new chain to arrive by courier from the States.
So, automatic chain oilers – small bottles attached to the bike’s frame which pump oil on to the chain as you ride – are most definitely the way to go.
Whilst staying with my father in Gloucestershire, I took the opportunity to visit Tutoro, whose workshop is a short ride from his home. I had come across their automatic oilers a year ago, when I met a fellow British rider in Ecuador using one. Unlike the better-known Scott oilers, which require ‘plumbing’ into your bike to create vacuum which feeds the oil, the Tutoros work on a very simple mechanical system which uses the bike’s vibration to pump the oil down the feed tube. I liked the simplicty and wanted to fit one to the Tenere; and being nearby, I could pick one up and learn how it works first hand.
I spent at least two hours with Nick and Jude in their workshop, being shown how the oilers are designed and made. It was a rare occasion, one when I stopped to look at the story behind an object – and I found it fascinating. At a glance, a Tutoro oiler seems a basic devise, a plastic bottle with a tube and and an on/off tap, which even I could design. But as Nick demonstrated the precision of the spring tension required to balance the small weight which drives the pump, and the meticulous engineering required to ensure a tiny o-ring remains in its place, I realised that I was in fact looking at a piece of machinery that was very sophisticated in its simplicity.
As I learnt more about the design and the methods of manufacturing this unassuming device, I began to appreciate the enormity and the variety of human innovation and endeavour that has shaped so much of our world. In this particular instance, no one else has designed an oiler that functions by the same principles as the Tuturo. There was nothing for Nick to copy; instead, the design came from his imagination, his mechanical vision, and no doubt his patience and persistence to evolve and refine an idea into a product that worked perfectly.
Nick is by no means someone I would describe as an inventor; nor is he a highly-trained mechanical engineer or designer. For twenty years he was a police officer. His boyhood hobby, however, was building mechanical things and working with metal. Over the subsequent years, this passion fuelled the acquisition of knowledge which ultimately led him to where he is now – manufacturing precision instruments with computer-driven lathes which he designed and built himself.
I left his small workshop with a changed, and far richer, understanding and appreciation of the man-made component of the world we live in. I have long marvelled at the intricacy, sophistication and beauty of the natural world – a blooming flower, a hummingbird’s wings, the human eye. In such things, it is easy to appreciate the magic, or even to feel a sense of a higher, intelligent force behind nature. Now I look at man-made things through a similar lens. They say that home-cooked food tastes better due to the love put into it when it is prepared. Similarly, what appears inanimate is in fact filled with life – that of the person or people whose passion and endeavour brought it into being.
Looking at the world this way inbues it with an extra layer of beauty and amplifies one’s sense of appreciation. It makes your environment, no matter how man-made, feel a little more alive; it puts some soul into the apparently soulless. It’s simply a change in perspective and I recommend it.
And my thanks go to Nick and Jude for giving me their time to help me see it.
To learn more about Tutoro oilers or to buy one on-line, visit their website HERE.