How To Assemble a Motorcycle Toolkit
You’re out enjoying a ride on a warm sunny day. You stop by the side of the road to enjoy a view. You hit the starter to get going again and then it happens: the starter turns slowly and your motorcycle just won’t start. If you’ve ridden long enough, it’s happened to you. If it hasn’t happened to you yet, it will. Your bike is broken down and you’re stuck. Having a good motorcycle toolkit can save your ride and turn a big problem into an inconvenience or maybe an adventure. How should you put together your own motorcycle toolkit? What Can I Fix? Start by thinking about common problems and what you might be able to fix on the side of the road. Common problems include a dead battery, a loose connection, a flat tire, a broken lever or a loose fastener. If you’re on a multi-day trip and your bike has a chain, you may need to adjust your chain tension. To assemble a good toolkit, start by inventorying the fasteners on your bike: are they metric or standard? Do they require Allen wrenches? Look for specialized fittings: it is not uncommon to find a special tool is needed to remove your wheels.
An adjustable wrench can fill in for a variety of open ended wrenches -- just make sure the adjustable wrench fits into the places you intend to use it. I carry both an adjustable wrench and common open ended wrenches. I also carry sockets for the nuts I have on my motorcycles. Make sure you can access your battery and fuse box. If your bike has plastics, make sure you can remove the plastics with the tools in your kit. Electrical problems are common and many can be easily fixed if you plan ahead. Inventory your bike’s fuses and make sure you have one of each type needed for your motorcycle. I carry a bit of sand paper, which is useful for cleaning corrosion off an electrical connection. Extra nuts and bolts can save the day. While you’re reviewing your bike’s fasteners note common nuts and bolts. These make good candidates to carry in your mobile hardware store. Zip-ties, safety wire and gorilla tape are my most used toolkit items. These come in handy for a variety of repairs on both your riding gear and your motorcycle. I carry a dozen zip ties between my first-aid kit and toolkit.
If your bike has tube tires, you’ll want an extra tube, tire irons and all the tools necessary to remove both your front and rear wheels. If you have a larger front wheel (common on dual-sports, adventure bikes and choppers) carry the larger front tube, which can do double duty as a spare for either front or rear. Tubeless tires can be plugged in an emergency (although you should replace a plugged tire as soon as possible; plugs can and do pull out). An automotive style plug kit will work on a tubeless motorcycle tire.
Having the ability to replace a tube or plug a tire is useless without a way to inflate your tire. A bicycle style compact pump can work -- if you have enough patience -- although you may have difficulty getting the tire bead to seat fully. To get the bead to seat, you need a forceful blast of air. For this you may need an electric pump or CO2 cartridges. CO2 cartridges are an expensive way to fill a tire but they are fast. I think they are best paired with a pump of some sort, like a bicycle style mini-pump. Having both enables you to put some air in the tube with the mini-pump (getting the tube back into shape) and then hit it with the CO2 cartridge to seat the bead. You could then finish with the mini-pump.
An alternative to the mini-pump is an electric pump that runs off your bike’s battery. An electric pump has sufficient pressure to seat the bead, is faster than a mini-pump and -- unlike CO2 cartridges -- can be used top off a tire which is simply under inflated.
JB Weld is an epoxy that I have seen used for amazing things. This quick drying, super hard, super strong adhesive is versatile and can be used for some extreme repairs. I have seen a punctured oil filter patched sufficiently for a rider to ride out of the woods. I also have a friend who patched a punctured engine case in the New Mexico desert with JB Weld and a piece of a license plate! When purchasing JB Weld, make sure to get the quick drying formula, which drys in minutes and not the regular formula, which takes hours to cure.
Size and Weight And, as a final thought, keep the size and weight of your kit reasonable. As you assemble a kit, it is tempting to carry everything in an effort to be prepared for anything. But, if your toolkit gets too big and heavy, it will likely stay at home. Look for opportunities for multi-purpose tools. Carrying a good toolkit is just part of being prepared. You should also carry a first-aid kit for emergencies. Let’s just hope you never have to use either.
What's In My Toolkit
The table below has many of the more obscure items I have in my motorcycle toolkit.