Building an Adventure Riding Tool Kit
Building a Lightweight Motorcycle Tool Kit
This list has been refined by personally fucking up on 3 continents and counting. Fortunately for me, every time I’ve been stuck without the required tools, I’ve been on the side of the road or with other riders. Only two weeks ago, the mighty DR found her rear wheel wrapped in fence wire and with my right foot stuck where the wire had wrapped around my boot, it was my riding partner’s pliers that came to the rescue, as my multi-tool wasn’t making it through.
Possibly the most important aspect of your total packing list, a well-equipped toolkit can be the difference between pressing the “SOV” (Save our Vehicle) button on your spot tracker or being able to ride out of the desert on your own. Assuming the same person that doesn’t take a toolkit also wouldn’t take a Spot Tracker or PLB, the toolkit may be the difference between perishing in said desert and making it out alive.
Poetic licence aside, it is damn important to take with you, and here’s a list of what I believe you should take with you.
Motorcycle Tyre Repair Kit
This is listed first, as it is the most common cause of a stationary bike on the side of the track. I personally run Mousse so my kit looks a bit different, but this is what I would otherwise take.
Note: A few people have asked how I’m able to run Mousse on an adventure bike where road mileage would typically cause it to overheat, so I’ve outlined how to run mousse on the road.
Tubeless Tyre Repair Kit or Tube Patch Kit
Tubeless Tyre Repair Kit
If you’ve got a bike that comes with tubeless tyres, then first things first: it’s not a real “adventure” bike. Sorry.
Good news is that even though I feel strongly about the sanctity of the word adventure, this is Motorcycle Camping, so even you lot are invited, assuming you’re not just staying at hotels. Which you probably are… Anyway, moving on, here’s what you need.
You can buy a ready to go plug kit for tubeless tyres, but make sure it has the following:
- A reaming tool so you can enlarge a small puncture to the size where it will take the plug. You’ll likely have another tool that could double as a reaming tool, so eliminate extra tools wherever possible.
- Insertion tool. It’s fundamentally like the eye of a very large needle, but with a gap so that you can use it to force the plug in, but then twist it and pull the tool out while leaving the plug in.
- Plugs/strings. These are a self-vulcanizing rubber strand that fills the hole and then bonds to the rubber, creating a fix that’s described as temporary, but will often outlast the tyre. I’ve had one in the tyre of my work ute (pickup) for a few months. It weighs a few thousand kilos and the tyres are inflated to 45psi.
Important to note is that plugs have a shelf life. Inspect and/or replace them annually.
- Lube for the plugs. This has to be a specific type that doesn’t interfere with the self-vulcanizing capabilities. I actually carry vulcanizing fluid in my car’s kit (I don’t have a bike with tubeless) to use as a lube. I suggest this for bikes as well as it serves two purposes if you need to patch your tyre at any point, such as if the hole is too large for a plug.
- The excess of the plugs must be cut off at the rubber, so there’s never any pulling force exerted on to the plug.
Tube Repair Kit
This is another one you can buy pre-made, or piece together yourself. Here’s what you’ll need in any case.
- Multi-purpose patches will work on both tubes and radial tubeless tyres. It’s worth taking these slightly thicker ones rather than patches that are just designed for tubes, so that if the need arises, you can help a GS rider get their tubeless reinflated so they can high-tail it to the nearest Starbucks.
- Vulcanizing fluid. Just in case that same GS rider really needs to lube something…
- Roughing tool. If one of your other tools can’t double up as a file, grab one of those flimsy little aluminium things that come in bicycle tube repair kits. Those kits will actually suffice in most situations, you might just want to put together something a bit more heavy duty if you’re doing an extended remote trip.
Valve Tool & Spare Valves
Take a valve tool and at least one spare valve which is so small there’s no reason not to take one. All it takes is one grain of sand that won’t dislodge, to open the valve on an otherwise perfect tube.
I have steel valve caps on my DR650 that have little valve tools sticking out from the top. Not sure if I’d rely on them for a round the world trip though. Fortunately, my Adventure Spec midlayer comes with an attached valve tool/whistle in the pocket. I’m not sure if the whistle is to attract attention in the wilderness, or to prevent rape, all I know is that since Ian, the Irishman took Dad’s in Peru, I’ve been fearful of letting him go down any dark alleys alone.
Pump or Compressor
I had always carried a little hand operated pump that allowed for CO2 canisters to be used, until I realised that there’s excellent compressors on the market that are actually as small as most pumps. From what I have read, though haven’t been unfortunate enough to test personally, is that they don’t break any more often than manual pumps do. It’s not uncommon for the seals to blow out on those.
Add to the fact that just as much CO2 escapes from those canisters as what makes it into the tube, you may as well ditch the whole lot for a compressor.
If I was doing a round the world trip without Mousse, I may consider taking spares for both the front and rear. I usually just take a 21” for the front, that can also be used in an 18”/17” rear when in need.
At least two compact tyre levers will be required for a tyre/tube change.
Cable Ties, Tape and Similar
Wary must the rider be, who carries not a single cable tie (zip tie).
Carry multiple sizes of cable ties. You’re going to need them for something. A roll of insulation (electrical) tape is probably also a good idea if you’re doing an extended trip.
These should cover nearly all Japanese and European bikes. You’ll likely be able to cull a few from this list and still have a functional kit. Check what axle nut sizes you’ll require for your model.
- 22mm for Axle nuts
- 27mm for some KTM axle nuts
- 32mm for some KTM axle nuts
- 34mm for BMW axle nuts
- Shifter (adjustable spanner)
T-Bar and Sockets
I usually rely on a fixed T-bar rather than a ratchet as it’s a lot sturdier than a ¼” ratchet.
Multi Tool or Swiss Army Knife
A must-have component on any multi-tool is a bottle opener. Drinks can be a crucial element of any maintenance or repair endeavour.
This is an area where you can scrimp a bit. I take one of those black handles with the reversible flat/Philips head piece that every bike seems to come with.
Brake Bleeding Kit
Not an actual brake bleeding kit, such as the ones that are sold pre-compiled, but it is worth checking that your tool kit has what’s required to bleed brakes. Unfortunately, most bikes sold as “adventure bikes” are the ones that will have brakes that can’t keep up with adventurous riding.
I had to bleed the brakes on the KLR650 multiple times in Peru, from riding the twisting Pan Americana along the cliff tops.
Chain Breaker and Rivet Tool Kit or Master Link
If you’re chain is riveted on every link and has no master link, you’re going to need a chain breaker. Master links can be a bit of a pain to remove anyway, so you may as well have a chain breaker. One thing is for sure, you should carry a master link, regardless of what type of chain you have so that if it breaks, you can fix it without the need for a propane torch and a ball-pein hammer.
I’ll probably turn this into a whole other article, but for now, here’s a side note. Don’t worry with chain lube as it attracts dirt and O-ring or X-ring chains don’t allow the lube to pass into the link anyway. Save some money and double-up on a multi-purpose product by using CRC or WD-40 instead. CRC is preferable, as it’s not petroleum based and therefore better on the rings.
I’ve been in a few situations where I’ve been directly or indirectly involved in bikes only making it back because of tow ropes.
Just remember, if you’re being towed, don’t tie the rope to your bike. Pass it over the cross brace of your handlebars, back underneath and then around itself so you can hold it with your hand onto the throttle/grip. This will provide enough friction to pull the bike, but will immediately disconnect once you take your hand off.
Miscellaneous Parts and Accessories
- Clutch lever
- Brake pads
- Small set of spare screws and bolts
- Hose clamps
- JB Weld/Devcon/Metal Putty/Whatever you call steel filing reinforced epoxy in your country.
The Lightweight Tool Kit
Put the above list all together and you’ve got one hell of a heavy, oversized tool kit. Every bike and riding situation will be a bit different, so comb through the list and see what you can safely do without.
Many tools will be able to serve multiple functions if you choose carefully. Remember, the golden rule of packing for adventure riding, is that every item should serve two or more purposes where possible.