Motorcyclists are natural storytellers. A mundane trip to the supermarket can spin into a tale of a pitched battle between good and evil, yet end with the protagonists sharing a drink at a local UFO convention. While motorcycles are the catalyst for fantastic stories, a story revolving around just riding part of a motorcycle trip are rare. Maybe a few words for building tension, the “Mile after mile I was in a constant state of panic over exactly when my beloved motorcycle would try to kill me… again.” type of thing. Stories about getting cut off by a minivan and the revenge that the overworked and under appreciated soccer dad is deserved, are not stories worth telling.
Riding may be part of the story, the reason we are here, but it’s not the story. The story is always at the gas station. It’s on the side of the road when something irreplaceable brakes and you still make it to your mom’s birthday party on time with your new best friend. It’s the story of who you meet and the effect they have on your life. I have, and have heard countless stories like these. I don’t think there is a better vehicle for generating stories than a vintage motorcycle. Why that is? It is because vintage motorcycles break down and leave you stuck on the side of the road, sometimes more often than they should. When they do, and they will, you will meet the kindest, nicest most generous people you have ever met, until you break down again and you meet another group of the kindest, nicest, most generous people you have ever met. Pretty soon you realize people don’t suck as much as you thought and your outlook on life should improve. If you want to collect your own volume of stories, you are going to need a good tool kit.
First things first, get yourself a good tool bag. I use a Biltwell tool roll that I got a few years ago. (They make a modern version of this called the EXFIL-0 Tool Roll) You can fill this with the tools that make the most sense for you and your bike. You can also buy a tool kit ready to go There are a few good ones out there, but I think building your own is the best way to go. Here are some of the tools that never leave my bike.
- Six inch adjustable wrench
- A pair of locking pliers Needle-nose pliers
- a small LED Flashlight
- A few 12 point combination wrenches in your bikes most common sizes.
- A 1/4 inch ratchet with a extension and sockets in a few key sizes
- A tire Pressure gauge
- A spare set of Spark Plugs, a gapping tool and a Spark Plug Wrench
- A combination Screwdriver
- A set of Allan and Torx keys in your bike’s common sizes
- I have a right angle philips screwdriver that seems silly but is one of the most useful tools in the bag
- A jet tool from Pangea Speed. (Really clever float bowl wrench, jet screwdriver and spare holder.)
- Zip Ties and safety wire
- Electrical Tape and / or Rescue Tape
- A small tube of blue locktite.
- A leatherman multitool
Depending on the trip my tool kit expands and contracts. If I am going on a long trip I will add some more wrenches and maybe a chain-breaker with a spare masterlink. This set up has yet to let me down. It has given me just enough time on the side of the road to learn a lesson or get to know my friend better.
First aid kit
It is always a good idea to add a first aid kit to your pack. There are endless kits on the market to choose from. There are even motorcycle specific kits. I carry this one from W&W. It’s about 4 inches by six and has a good secection of the basics you might need while waiting for the Calvary.
The everyday carry
No matter the person or bike you should at very least you should carry a Leatherman and a flashlight
There is always room for this combo no matter how slim and sleek your chopper is. You would be amazed how many problems a Leatherman and a small led flashlight can solve. You can add a small folding kit to make yourself even more self sufficient. This Harley Specific one from CruzTools is handy and tiny.
I know I don’t need to remind you to bring your phone with you. There are very few problems that the phone can’t fix. Still, you are going to feel better when you sort yourself out in a few minutes with a pair of needle-nose pliers and a can do attitude.
I hope this helps you on the way to enjoying more miles and collecting stories of breaking down in the middle of nowhere.