The Motorcyclist’s Tool Kit
by Sportbike Solutions
There’s little that compares with the feeling and freedom of two wheels on the open road. That is, of course, until you find yourself broken down beside the open road, with no help in sight. That’s usually about when most riders open – for the first time – their OEM toolkit, only to find that it’s the next best thing to useless.
The following list includes the tools that we’ve found to be the most versatile, useful, and efficient for emergency repairs. Combined, they form a small, yet effective package that can be stowed in the trunk section of even the least accommodating race-replicas. This list is not comprehensive, and we do suggest adding tools specific to your motorcycle if money and time permit, but we do feel these 10 items are indispensable.
1) Metric Allen (Hex) Head Wrenches:
Allen-head fasteners are used extensively on sportbikes, particularly in securing bodywork, mirrors, and seats. Look for a set of Allen wrenches that includes 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, and 10 mm sizes, at a minimum. The best all-around tools are those with fairly long shanks, and combination flat/ball ends.
2) Metric Box End Wrenches:
For standard fasteners, box-end wrenches offer more versatility and take up less space than a ratchet & socket set. Choose a set that includes 6, 8, 10, 12, and 17 mm sizes at a minimum. And whatever you do, don’t use the ones that came with your OEM toolset. They’re better at rounding off bolts than removing them! Aim for quality.
3) Needle Nose Locking Pliers:
Locking pliers, best known by the brand name ‘Vice Grip’ (though there are other great brands of the same design), can function as pliers, a back-up wrench, a broken bolt extractor, a chain-plate press… the list goes on & on! A good needle-nose variety is the most versatile.
4) Multi-Tip Screwdriver:
A screwdriver with interchangeable tips can replace an entire drawer full of standard drivers – an important consideration when space for a toolkit is limited. Make sure to package 2-3 sizes of both flat-head and Phillips bits to fit the bulk of the screw-head fasteners used on your motorcycle. It doesn’t hurt to throw in a few metric allen-head bits, as well, if you can find them. Torx bits can also be handy, depending on your application.
5) Tire Plug Kit + Fix-a-Flat
A basic tire plug kit purchased at your local auto parts, along with one or two small cans of Fix-A-Flat can get you back on the road after just about any puncture. You may not want to drag knee after the repair, but it’s usually enough to get you back to civilization, and the nearest tire shop. Fix-a-Flat now comes in 4-oz cans specifically made for motorcycles and other low-volume applications, which fit in even the most confining tail sections.
A pocket multi-tool, such as those made by Gerber, Leatherman, or Victorinox, can perform countless useful functions on the roadside. Look for a quality model… the discount-priced knock-off brands usually provide dependability equal to their price. In contrast, the better-known brands, like those mentioned, are built to last a lifetime.
7) Jumper Cables
A small set of jumper cables, made specifically for motorcycles, is a great item to have, particularly for use on fuel injected bikes, or those too heavy to reliably push-start. Contrary to some rumors, there’s not harm in jumping off another 12V auto battery. Just make sure the donor vehicle isn’t running.
About the only thing worse than breaking down at night, is breaking down at night without a light. A small but powerful flashlight, such as a Mini-Mag-Light, should be a part of every toolkit. I’ve seen people use keychain lights for this purpose – the kind you have to keep pressed with your fingers – but these are not recommended, as they disallow free use of both hands. Remember to check your flashlight batteries on a regular schedule. It wouldn’t hurt to throw in a spare set just in case.
Electrical tape, zip-ties, spare fuses, a few hose clamps, assorted bolts and nuts, an extra clip-type master link, and some electrical connectors are all highly recommended for inclusion in your roadside toolkit.
10) Cell Phone + 12-Volt Charger
Perhaps the most important tool to have, particularly when your other tools don’t work! Don’t forget the charger! Emergencies seem to have a mysterious way of draining your battery in an instant. (Note: even if the charger is made to fit a lighter receptacle, you can always cut the wires and connect them to your cycle battery in a pinch).
With a little mechanical know-how and this minimal set of tools, many of the most common roadside emergencies, as well as some not-so-common ones, can be solved. Even if you’re lucky enough to never need a well-stocked toolkit, the confidence in knowing you’re prepared to deal with mechanical gremlins – should they rear their ugly heads – is invaluable.