The aftermarket is full of tools to make motorcycles better. Get enough creative minds in enough saddles for enough hours with nothing to do but think about the ride, and you’re sure to find a fertile ground for some great riding accessories. However good these ideas may be, sometimes you just don’t have the scratch to lay out on one of these professionally crafted tools. Then again, maybe the need is so simple that nobody has been able to produce the idea in a way that is cheap enough to be marketable.
Here we’ve gathered some of our favorite motorcycle hacks that we’ve picked up while out on the road. You may think some of these are old news, but if it’s the first time you’ve read one, it’s new to you. So, take a look at our list and let us know in the comments section what we might’ve overlooked.
10. Crushed Can Side Stand Support
The foot of most side stands is pretty small, and when you lean 500-plus pounds onto it, the pressure can rise to a surprisingly high level. Now, make the surface that you’ve placed that foot on something soft, like hot asphalt or loose dirt or sand, and you’ve created a prime environment for returning to your bike to find it lying on its side. Most of us would not be too happy about this. If you remember your high school physics class, you know that the same weight distributed over a larger area will lower the pressure delivered from your bike to the ground. Various companies have used this a a great marketing tool by giving away logo-emblazoned squares of plastic at riding events.
But if you’re not at a riding event to grab this piece of swag, it’s time to get creative. A crushed aluminum can will do the trick quite nicely. Center your side stand on it, enjoy your time off the bike, comfortable with the knowledge that it’ll remain upright on its stand instead of sinking into the earth while you’re gone. Even simpler, a wide and flat rock will often suffice. Other creative items that achieve the same purpose which we’ve seen in our travels are: a wallet, a plastic water bottle, and even a helmet (which wore a “This helmet worn under protest” sticker and certainly belonged to someone who doesn’t care that they’re ruining the helmet’s ability to absorb an impact).
9. Latex Glove Liners
Riding a motorcycle with cold hands sucks. Then there’s the whole thing about needing them to actually function so that you can operate the controls. The two most common ways to get trapped out on the road with cold hands is having the temperature suddenly drop or to be caught in unexpected rain – both of which can easily happen while your insulated or waterproof gloves are all cozy in their closet at home. Well, if you’re smart, you’ve slipped a pair of latex gloves in your bike’s underseat storage. While you might think that the thin layer of latex won’t be very helpful, the amount they improve an uncomfortable situation can’t be understated. No, they won’t turn your vented gloves into winter gear, but they do vastly reduce the suckage of a surprise cold/wet snap when you’re 100 miles from home.
8. Duct Tape Visor
This is probably one of the oldest tricks in the book – particularly for people whose commute from work is westward – but it still bears mentioning. Placing an inch-wide strip of black tape across the top of a helmet’s visor will help to block out those painful rays of the sun in the early evening. Yes, it does restrict your vision a tad, but being able to tilt your head down slightly and get the sun temporarily out of your eyes is priceless. When the sun is high in the sky, you can store the tape on the back of your helmet.
7. Newspaper Inside Boots
You don’t need to encounter serious rain to get your boots good and wet on the inside. When you’re at home, you can just let them air out over a couple days or use one of those cool boot inserts that dries and de-funks the lining. However, when you’re out on the road for a few days, you probably don’t have the time or the space for that kind of luxury. Well, most gas stations have newspapers of some kind – be they free or for sale. Newsprint is remarkably absorbent and can be used to dry out your boots overnight. Just cram as many balled-up pieces of paper into the boot as you can. To be extra sure that the boots get dried as much as possible, change the papers a couple times, like after dinner and when you wake up in the middle of the night to pee. With a little effort, you can slip your dogs into comfy, dry boots in the morning. Newspapers can also be used as an insulating jacket liner when cold weather unexpectedly strikes.
6. Trash Bag Rain Gear
One way to separate real riders from the posers is through their ability to ride in bad weather. The more years you ride, the more you’ll collect rain gear and waterproof suits. Still, even the most experienced riders can get caught out without the proper gear and many miles left to travel. Since losing core temperature can land you in hypothermia-world, you’ll want to find a way to keep yourself at least partially dry.
Carrying a plastic trash bag under your seat takes up almost no room and will be worth its weight in gold should you find yourself out on the road on a cold and rainy evening. You’ll need to make head and arm holes before you can use it. (Your mom told you not to put plastic bags over your head, right?) Don’t be silly and throw it on over your gear; the bag will shred in minutes. Instead, put your plastic bag vest on under your jacket. Your gear will get wet, but you’ll be dry. Similar to the latex gloves mentioned previously, this technique also works for times when you’re wearing vented summer gear and the temperature suddenly drops.
5. Magnetic Directions Holder
If you’re still using tried-and-true method of taping directions to your tank, you’ll be familiar with the frustration of getting directions when you’re away from home and don’t have any tape. Or worse, you put a small roll under your seat and the heat from the sun turned it into a gooey mess. Well, here’s a trick for those with a metal tank: Take some of those flat magnets you get in junk mail and put them in a ziplock bag and store them on your bike for future use. The next time you need to attach some directions to your tank, the magnets will be waiting.
4. Ignition Switch Lock Reminder
We’ve all seen those neon orange “Remove Before Flight” ribbons that people attach to their disc locks. Well, in the dark, you can’t see them. If you just so happen to be preoccupied with your thoughts at night, you could accidentally ride off with the lock still attached. We all know (some of us better than others) how much that hurts. So, make it impossible to put the key in the ignition without encountering a reminder to remove the lock. Attach the fuzzy side of hook and loop fastener to the ring around your ignition key and put the hook side to the back of a brightly colored sticker. When you open the lock, place the sticker over the ignition switch, and you won’t be able to put the key in without moving the sticker. Store the sticker on the lock itself with a little more hook and loop.
3. Soft Ties for Tie-Down Point
For some reason, there are bikes that don’t have a convenient place to attach a bungie cord/net. In these instances, consider using a soft tie to create a mounting point. You can wrap them around the shock mount on cruisers with dual shocks. Another good place is wrapping them around the sub-frame on sporty bikes. Look around, and you can find these nylon loops in varying lengths to suit your bike bondage needs.
2. Wire Helmet Lock
OK, so this hack requires a little capital investment. Nothing major, but you will have to spend a little money. Go to your local hardware store and buy a piece of galvanized cable that is long enough to loop through your helmet’s chin bar with a few inches to spare. Buy crush sleeves and form loops at both ends of the cable. When you get ready to leave your bike parked, simply loop the wire through the helmet and lock it to that impossible-to-use helmet lock on your bike or loop it over the latch for your seat. This isn’t fool-proof, but it will keep the honest people honest.
1. Coat Hanger Cruise Control
Have you ever had a really long freeway ride ahead of you and wished you had cruise control like the cool sport-touring bikes we recently tested? Well, by simply scavenging a piece of clutter from your closet, you can create a friction lock for your throttle. Cut the long side off of a wire coat hanger and bend it in half over your throttle grip. Take a pair of locking pliers and clamp the two pieces together about a half inch over the brake lever. Now, twist the wire with the pliers, safety wire-style, until the coat hanger creates enough friction with the grip to overcome the throttle-return spring and hold it in place against the brake lever. Once you’re certain there is enough friction, trim the wire to length and file off the sharp edges. If this sounds a little too permanent for your tastes, wrap the coat hanger around the throttle 1.5 turns and use a rubber band to hold the wires together. When you no longer need it, just unwind the wire.
We’re sure we don’t need to tell you that you’ll need to roll off the throttle manually when you want to slow down, but we just did, anyway, to keep the lawyers happy.