When setting out for a tour, be it extended or just a weekend jaunt, you need to plan for any hurdles you may encounter on the way. The best strategy to increase your odds of being able to continue your ride after a mishap or mechanical issue is to carry a tool kit that includes more than just the basics. While your bike probably came with a factory kit, you’d be foolish to count on it to serve as anything more than a paperweight. Read on to see what tools I think you should carry – at a bare minimum – on your next tour.
10. Tool Roll
File this under “Duh.” If you’re beefing up your tool selection, you’re going to need a place to carry it. The best choices I’ve found are tool rolls which can accommodate different tool loads while closing tightly to keep the loose parts from falling out. Roadgear is just one of many vendors offering quality tool pouches.
9. Electrical Tape
Naturally, electrical tape can be used to fix wiring issues. That’s what it’s designed for. However, electrical tape can be used for numerous other things. On trips, I have strapped broken turn signals back together. Then there was the time that the shifter nubbin vibrated off of a bike about 1,500 miles from home. I took a bolt and a pair of nuts and tightened them into place on the shifter lever. After wrapping the bolt with the better part of the entire roll of electrical tape, I had a shifter that didn’t cause me pain with every upshift for the remainder of the trip. And then there was the time that I was forced to use a paper napkin and electrical tape as a bandage on a nasty finger cut…
8. Baling Wire/Zip Ties
Sitting on the side of the road in Meridian, MS, I puzzled how I was going to get my brake pedal to stay in a usable position after my low-speed tip-over had broken off the adjuster. Yeah, I could have just ridden on to the campground, lifting my foot two inches off the peg every time I need to use the brake, but I needed the place to focus my anger at my stupidity for crashing. (I blame the delectable catfish dinner and way too much iced tea, but I digress.) Ten minutes later, the pedal was in almost the right position, and I was repacking my tool kit – all thanks to the baling wire I’d been carrying. I’d even almost forgotten what an idiot I was for not noticing the bit of sand at the intersection that put me on the ground. Since that time, I’ve also added zip ties to the pocket that carries my baling wire. The two are an almost unstoppable combination for jury-rigged roadside repairs.
7. Combination Wrenches
Yes, your OEM tools probably have two different sizes of open ends on the same wrench, but they’re made out of crap metal that wants to make your problems worse by rounding off fasteners. Pack a combination wrench for each of the major fastener sizes your bike uses. It’ll usually only be two or three wrenches. Give yourself bonus points if you pay a little extra for ratcheting wrenches that can really pay off in tight spaces.
6. Locking Pliers
After you’ve rounded off a fastener with the OEM wrench, your only recourse may be locking pliers. This isn’t ideal but will work in a pinch. Also, locking pliers can be used to hold parts together while you strap them down with baling wire, zip ties, or electrical tape. And, if you’re particularly desperate, they can be a crude substitute for levers and fasteners and handles and…
5. Allen Keys/Torx Bits
Motorcycle manufacturers seem to love allen bolts. (Some share a similar love of the dreaded Torx bolt.) Carrying allen keys in the popular sizes for your bike will help you cinch down or adjust that component that uses allen bolts.
4. Multi-Bit Screwdriver
With a multi-bit screwdriver, one tool can be used on any screw you may have on your bike. (Yes, even Torx screws.) You’d be surprised at how often you’ll use the screwdriver while on the road – particularly when camping. Also, you can use the hollow of the bit mount to extend your allen key for a little more leverage if you’ve encountered a stubborn bolt.
3. Flat Repair Kit
I’ve kept a flat repair kit under the seat on my personal bike for years. The ones with compressed CO2 give you the most bang for the buck. However, you’ve only got one shot to fill the tire. If you have two punctures, like we did on our Sport-Adventure-Touring shootout you’ll be out of luck unless you’re carrying extra CO2 cartridges or a pump, too. John Burns recently reviewed a pair of plug kits (see here), and I’ve been quite happy with my MotoPumps Mini. (Review here).
One word of warning, if your tire kit uses vulcanizing cement, be sure to check your plug kit every year or so. Otherwise, you may find yourself on the side of the road with a tube of pre-vulcanized cement, rendering your kit useless. (Don’t ask me how I know this.)
A multi-tool (a.k.a. Leatherman) is so useful when traveling that you shouldn’t keep it in your tool kit. It deserves a place of honor in your tank bag. Good multi-tools will have a healthy combination of pliers, a knife, a can opener, a bottle opener, a corkscrew, a leather punch, a screw driver, wire cutters, scissors, nail file, a saw, a masseuse, and a lawyer (to help negotiate those speeding tickets). I’ve even eaten a meal using just a screwdriver and the multi-tool’s knife when I discovered I had lost my utensils.
LEDs have forever altered the world of flashlights. Now, you can use them almost with abandon, knowing that the batteries won’t die just a few minutes into whatever task you’re trying to accomplish. If you can, get one that has an attachment to mount to your head, freeing your hands to set up camp or make that nighttime roadside repair. Your flashlight (and an extra set of batteries) should live in an easy-to-access spot on your bike when you’re traveling.