Tools to Go

Text: RoadRUNNER Staff • Photography: RoadRUNNER Staff

In most cases, the stock tools that come with a bike are of poor quality, quantity, and too limited in usage. So it makes sense to look through them and find some better replacements and good supplements.

Nowadays the quality and reliability of most motorcycles are so high that serious break downs are rare. But you never know. Sometimes a slight defect can slow you down or interrupt your trip. For instance, your bike could suffer from a broken bulb (headlight, taillight, brakelight), a flat tire, or a broken clutch/throttle cable. Or you might have to fix minor damage caused by an accident. You depend on having reliable and precise tools for any of those problems. Unfortunately, most of the manufacturers try to save money with the stock tool kit. So it's up to you to check your toolkit and complete it, at least for longer trips. Otherwise there's probably an unpleasant surprise waiting when taking off your seat and opening the tool bag out there on some isolated road.

Things to watch out for when checking your toolkit: Does it include all the important wrenches, allen wrenches and screwdrivers needed for normal maintenance tasks? Do I have helpful tools like pliers, a small (rubber) mallet, and tools for checking on the spark plugs? Walk around your bike and look for spots where you need a certain tool. Make a list of items needed. Some of those things you'll already have in your main tool chest, others you'll have to buy. Purchasing better-quality wrenches and pliers than the manufacturer's stock provisions at your local hardware store certainly pays off. In this way, you'll not only save the nuts and bolts on your bike but the skin on your fingers. Also, think about spare parts you may want to take with you - spark plugs, spark plug caps, clutch/throttle cables, tire valves, fuses, tubes (in case of tube-type tires), tire repair kit, circlips, cotter pins, nuts, and bolts.

To help you decide what your bike needs to carry, we've compiled the following checklists. If you have more tips, write us. We'll publish reader suggestions.

For short trips

  • Combination pliers/wire cutter or a small vise grip
  • Spark plug wrench
  • Allen-wrench set (for instance, small combination sets for bicycles very often come with screwdrivers and socket wrenches; check your bike for the necessary sizes)
  • Multi-screwdriver w/selection of phillips and blade heads
  • Small screwdriver for electrical connections
  • Combination wrenches (check for necessary sizes)
  • Whatever wrenches you need for the front and rear axle (be sure you can loosen them before you leave)
  • Adjustable wrenches, small and large
  • C-wrench (to adjust the spring rate on your shock, for instance, or to tighten headpipe nuts)
  • Small rubber or plastic mallet (doesn't do damage to your parts; a steel mallet can be replaced by a rock)
  • Feeler gauge (sizes for spark plugs, contact points, valve clearance)
  • Brass brush (for spark plugs)

For longer trips
  • Spare spark plug
  • Spare spark-plug cap
  • Tire repair kit
  • Spare tire valve
  • Spare fuses
  • Spare throttle cable
  • Spare clutch cable (if your bike has a mechanically operated clutch)
  • Spare brake cable (if your bike has drum brakes)
  • Small can of chain lube
  • Small tube of Teflon® grease
  • Spare bolts, nuts, circlips, and cotter pins (easy to carry in a 35mm film container)
  • Selection of cable ties
  • Spare fuel line
  • Electrical tape
  • Baling wire
  • Silicon sealant
  • Duct tape
  • Length of spare electrical wire (12-gauge)
  • Tube of Super Glue
  • Mini pocketlight (for example, Mini Maglite) w/headband

Sinful Supplements
  • Multi-function tools for outdoor purposes w/pliers, knife, saw, file, screwdriver tips, etc.
  • Small hacksaw
  • Combination screwdriver w/tips for allen, phillips and blade bolts (replaces bicycle wrench set but usually doesn't come w/socket wrenches)
  • Punches in different sizes