You can't bring it all.
As much as we try to cover all of the preventative maintenance our motorcycles need at home or at a local shop, sometimes stuff happens that we cannot predict. It’s times like that, when we are happy to have our trusty tool kits! But wait, do you have the right thing in your tool kit to solve your problem? Right along with doing all of the regular maintenance to your bike, you should also be doing regular maintenance to your tool kit. How prepared are you for some minor side-of-the-road repairs?
Tool Kit Maintenance?
Yeah, you read that right. No matter what’s in your tool roll, if you never touch it you’re going to forget what’s in there, and you might not have what you need at crunch time. The good news is, you can do your tool kit maintenance at the very same time as your motorcycle maintenance. Extreme familiarity with both of these things will help you when you’re far from home (and away from your garage full of specialty tools).
When you change your oil, swap your air filter, check your tire pressure, replace your spark plugs, do any regular maintenance: work out of your travel tool roll. Any deficiencies will become immediately apparent. Will you ever need to patch or swap tire tubes on a trail way off the beaten path? Make sure you have some tire irons and the appropriate axle nut wrench with you, too. Sometimes these tools simply live in the tool roll, and sometimes we buy duplicates so that our at-home tool chest isn’t missing pieces: do whatever works for you. It’s better to find out that you can’t get at your bike’s headlight bulb without a 10mm angled, ratcheting, closed-end wrench at home, rather than on the road.
What Will You Need?
If you want, you can whittle your tool kit down to the things your specific bike uses. Unfortunately, because I am often the designated mechanic among my riding buddies, my long-distance tool kit has a full set of metric sockets, allen sockets, torx drivers, a jointed extension, several ratcheting combination wrenches, a small adjustable wrench, a small set of vice-grips, a multi-tip screwdriver, needle-nose pliers, scissors, a small multimeter in a case (with a small safety pin as a test probe), various picks, a telescoping magnet, and a metal file. Depending on the bike I’m riding (or riding with), you’ll also always find a tire plug kit, a tube patch kit, a tire pressure gauge, and a tire pump with an SAE plug, in my kit. A full set of fuses and a replacement headlight bulb are always with me. A lithium-battery jump pack, too, will come in handy more often than you’d predict. Make sure you have the right leads to your bike, and you know how to connect it.
Good Enough Can Get You Home
What about the things that aren’t tools? How often do you come across problems that can’t be properly fixed without a replacement part (that you do not have), but can be bodged well enough to get you home? In my experience, really often. For non-tool resources, I pack a bunch of tie-wraps and cotter pins (sometimes tie-wraps will shear where cotter pins will not), a length of wire and posi-lock connectors, electrical tape, Gorilla or duct tape, and Rescue tape. A small bottle (like a mustard squeeze bottle) full of heavyweight gear oil is great for lubing your chain, and anything else that should move but doesn’t. Nitrile gloves will keep you from getting grungy when you can’t clean up. You’re going to want to put those hands back into your riding gloves! A couple of rags are a great addition, too.
Super glue is good not just for the occasional plastic part repair, but for field wound care, too (though, that’s a different article). I’m also a fan of 2-part epoxy like JB Weld, which helps when a crash is just wrong enough that an engine case is slightly cracked and weeping oil, but the rider is OK. Blob some epoxy on, grab some lunch while it cures, and ride on.
We've Seen Some Things
The more experience you gather on two wheels, the more problems you’ll encounter, and if you’re riding with the right people, the more fixes you’ll learn. The more you learn, the harder it is to leave any of this at home. You’ll need to do the luggage space v. preparedness calculus, and it may all depend on how close to civilization your trip will take you. The more you know about the inner workings of your own motorcycle, the better. What tips and tricks have you come across, when it comes to fixing your motorcycle on the side of the road?