If you think Gremlins are just a fury story from a Spielberg movie, think again. They’re real and they live inside your bike, just waiting to pounce at the least opportune moment.
A compact motorcycle tool kit is not something you can do a top end re-build with, it’s basically what we might need to get us off the side of the road. So, with that in mind, let’s take a good look at what realistically needs to be packed.
If you ride your own built cafe racer or an oldtimer, chances are that you’ve already been confronted with a breakdown at the side of the road. But owners of modern classics (but also other bikes of course) should also be aware! Regardless of what the manufacturer’s blurb tells you about your new all singing, all dancing hyper-bike, with its fly by wire and onboard computerized mega-brain reliability, out there on the open road you are at the mercy of a scientific phenomenon called Murphy’s Law.
This simply states, that if something can go t#ts up, it probably will. So, what can you do if something breaks, leaks, snaps or loosens when you’re out in the big bad world? Unless it happens right outside a 5-star resort that’s having a ‘free stay’ offer, you need to ‘sort it’. But the real answer is multi-layered, which calls for a degree of realism and some good old fashioned homework.
So, the question is, what ‘get me going’ motorcycle tool kit do I need with me? Obviously, this will rely solely on your bike and the best time to take appraisal of the kind of kit you’ll need, is when doing your pre-trip checks and maintenance, such as checking fluids, tire pressures and cable operations etc. That’s the time to get over, under and around your bike. Remember, the best toolkit is a redundant one, so prevention is better than cure.
Motorcycle Tool Kit Essentials
As space is going to be limited, here’s where you need to do your homework. First have a good look at your engine fasteners. Are they all Allen keys? Are they all the same size? If so, you don’t need an actual Allen key set (1), just the one or maybe two. Do that over the whole bike and keep a look out for special fastenings like Torx bolts, that need their own special tool (2)!
Next on the list are the external nuts and bolts. You might get away with a single spanner (3) but if not, buy a good quality short-handled adjustable spanner (4), or better still, a multi fit socket (5). These are brilliant as they have a series of pins inside the socket head that adjust to any fastener size between 7-19mm. They’re usually ½” drive, but if you buy one with a drill adaptor, this is just a small extension piece that takes the drive down to ⅜”. So, if you don’t want to take a short-handled socket wrench, you can use the adjustable spanner. That, or just find an Allen key that fits the back of the socket and voila – a socket set in two pieces.
A screwdriver is another essential, and these days, you can get the most amazing multi bit screwdrivers (6), with heads that fit inside the handle. The bits you need are a tiny slot head for electrical repair, a large slot head (7) and a large and small Phillips. You can even get them with Torx and Allen key bits and if you get one of these, you can get rid of the separate Allen key and Torx key mentioned above. Like I say, this is all down to homework and the more you do, the more compact you can get your road kit.
Last but definitely not least, is a good quality multi-tool (8). These are great pieces of kit and worth their weight in gold. There’s lots of these on the market, so once again see what they come with. Do you really need a pull-out teeny weeny axe? Great for chopping-up pasta but pretty useless in the real world. I actually carry two. The first is a Victorinox Swiss Tool X, all the fold out tools are nice and sturdy as you’d expect, but the pliers are heavy duty. The second is a Leatherman Skeletool, these are cooler than a penguin’s pants and earn their place on every one of my trips, simply because the carabiner which I snap-on to a belt loop, also doubles as a bottle opener. The rule of thumb with all of the above is a simple one, buy the best quality tools you can afford.
Other Useful Items To Pack
So, with the addition of some nylon zip ties (1), spark plug tool (2), a small torch (3) (one with a head strap is ideal) and a small roll of electrical tape (4), that’s the tool side of things pretty much taken care of. But it’s not quite the end of the story.
Common sense dictates that you also carry some consumables. Have a look at your fuse block and take one of each size (5). Next come the bulbs (6), you have to have a headlight and tail light that’s a given, spare indicator bulbs you can live without if room is very tight, as you can always go old school and stick out your arm. And pack your bulbs into a hard-plastic case to stop them breaking. I also carry a small strip of block connectors (7), which you can cut into singles. These are very handy as a trip usually means luggage, a pillion passenger and this extra weight can wear through wires.
Once again, anything else depends entirely on your motorcycle. Take a clutch and throttle cable if its applicable, personally I take a couple of solderless nipples (8), as cables almost always go at the ends. Chain drive? Then you need a link splitter (9) and spare link. Pack some inches of a fuel hose (10). Take a spare spark plug (11), you don’t need a gap adjuster, the knife on your multi-tool will suffice if you’re careful.
As for tires, check your bike and get the right repair kit (12). Some can tackle tubed and tubeless (so check what tires you’re riding!), but the most important thing it needs is a CO2 canister to inflate the tire, or you aren’t going anywhere. Don’t worry if you’ve never had to plug a tire or fix a chain before, YouTube is brilliant for ‘how to’ vids and if you find yourself out with other bikers, talk to them and ask what kit they take on big trips (you will need a mobile internet connection for that!).
Last top tip, buy a tool roll to stick all your kit in. There are beautiful canvas and leather tool rolls for sale (I like this one). If you’re a cheapskate like me though, borrow one of your kids pencil cases and don’t forget to pack it handy.
However, if the thought of getting your hands dirty fills you with dread, all is not lost. There’s a tool kit just for you and it consists of merely two items. A corkscrew for your Chateau Mouton-Rothschild and the phone number of a breakdown recovery service on speed dial! Cheers!