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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My bother-in-law is a very highly-qualified scientist/ engineer/ chemist who lives and works in the UK. His specialty is ‘tribology’, or the science of lubrication.

Hardly surprising then that I thought he might be a good source to ask about the merits or otherwise of synthetic oils in our bike, and on the perennial question of running-in (breaking-in) new engines.

Here’s his advice:


Yes, tribological is a word we use instead of "rubby bits". Rubby bits if not working together correctly can cause a lot of damage. Of course some materials are designed to work without some form of liquid or grease lubrication.......

For what it is worth, here are my considered views.

1. If you do nothing else, change the oil on a frequent basis. There will always be times when the rubby bits will be rubbing and there is a shortage of lubricant in the engine resulting in microscopic metallic bits being pumped around the system.

2. The service interval is a guide: It assumes a "normal" operating condition. If you drive abnormally - high speeds and tight cornering then the engine will be working harder and may benefit from a more sophisticated oil.

3. Running-in is a technique required by engine manufacturers because they do not want to spend time or cost in producing a higher quality finish in any of the components. Thus it is very important that the engine is not stressed during this bedding in period. When all the sharp pointy bits have been rubbed down with the initial sacrificial oil then the engine can be
stressed, but not to its full potential.

4. Running in takes several 1000 km. and at a progressive rev range. For a new engine I would try and keep the revs below 50%.

5. For my money - use standard recommended oil and change at first service
1000km. Change oil filter.

6. Refill with standard recommended oil and change again at 4000km. Change oil filter.

7. Repeat 6.

8. I would now - after the engine has done 9k kms - change to fully synthetic and stick to an oil change every 8k kms. And do not forget the oil filter change.

I have done this with the non-turbo Mitsubishi FTO car I have, and it has now done 130 k miles and does not consume oil between my oil changes at 5000 miles. I also change the gearbox oil annually.

"Standard" hydrocarbon base oils are refined crude oil base stock with additive packs added for the application. The base stock tends to have a wide molecular weight range (this is a technical code for the molecular chains have different lengths), but is blended to give a standardised viscosity. This offers excellent lubrication but deteriorates when the engine is stressed. High temperatures, (piston ring and barrel) plus oxygen, degrade the oil, changing the viscosity. The additive pack does its best to mop up nitric acids in a petrol engine, or sulphuric acid in a diesel, even though low sulphur fuels are used. Over-fuelling (rapid acceleration) can also dilute the oil.

Fully synthetics - are specially made oils (thus more expensive). The molecular weight range is tighter, and the viscosity more constant over a wider temperature range. Fully synthetics also have additive packs to try and control the working environment. They also need changing on a regular basis.

Mind you, if you never really stress the engine, the recommended normal oil does an excellent job - provided it is changed frequently.

A can of oil £30/ 4litres (UK prices - L of S) is a lot cheaper than a new engine.

For those that really stress the engine, then there are substantial benefits to using the fully synthetics. Just remember though - racing engines have the oil changed after every race. Thus any motorcyclist stressing the engine should change the oil more frequently than the recommended service interval - either that or change the engine.....

So there you are, folks – this is from a genuine expert with no axe to grind or product to sell – I hope it’s of interest.

Lawrence of Suburbia

outer Brisbane, SE Queensland, Australia


Premium Member
2,171 Posts
Thanks, LofS. Very helpful. I had my bike serviced last week and my mechanic said fully synthetic is a must for the R1200.

171 Posts
NO it will never be the last word.

I agree with all of it.

I run dino oil and always will.

The reason?

MY R1100RT went 130,000 miles on it.
My FORD F350 diesel has 275,000 miles on it with dino oil.
I had a chevy truck with a 350 v8 gas, went over 300,000 before it was sold.
Regular change of the oil and filter are what is needed.
Clean Oil to spec.

I maintain 25 Full size vans. We change the oil when its supposed to be.
No problems with engines in 8 years and I don't know how many miles. Most of them go 125,000 to 150,000 miles then get traded in still running fine. I have been doing fleet maintenance for most of my life.

Clean oil
Clean fuel
Clean air

Simple eh?

I have no use for synthetic. It IS better oil, but the real thing has been proven to me too many times over too many miles.

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