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Your Crash Kit


“Flippant.” Who, me?

In my last entry I mentioned that an effective tool kit to carry on today’s motorcycles consists of a “cell phone and a credit card.” I was accused of being flippant about safe riding. I wanted to respond with another flip…call it a digital flip… but adulthood won out. So let me explain.

The majority of motorcycles have reached a binary state of development, as in “being in a state of one of two mutually exclusive conditions such as on or off.” More simply put, they either run, or they don’t. If your motorcycle suddenly quits the odds are that you will not get it restarted. (This assumes that stupid has been eliminated from the equation; e.g., you ran out of gas, the sidestand is down.) There is little you can check, damn few significant covers you can pull off, and no error message scrolling across your speedo. Time to pull out the cell phone and the credit card.

But −and here’s where I try to become the “serious” rider− conventional tools do have a place with your motorcycle, but this place is different from what it once was.

Tools were once used to repair bad engineering, faulty design, flakey manufacturing, and crappy assembly. In other words, something would fail because of something someone else failed to do. A bolt would come loose, a battery would crack, a cable would separate … the list is endless, but most problems could be handled with an 8-inch Crescent, pliers, a flat-bladed screwdriver, and a liberal supply of swear words.

Today we need tools to repair the results of our own failures. Actually, our own falls. When the occasion arises where you go toe-to-toe with various physical laws, you lose. You crash. And that is where tools come into play.

Your tool kit −it’s really a “Crash Kit”− needs to contain items that will get you back on the road, assuming you haven’t really stuffed it, or yourself. Your kit should include the tools necessary to remove broken body panels, bend levers back into a useable position, and reattach still functional items such as mirrors, turn signals, and the like.

It’s easy to determine which tools you need. Pull up a short stool, sit down, and stare at your motorcycle. Look carefully at each lever, body panel, accessory item, and anything else that might take a hit if you crash. The question you need to ask, and answer: What tools will I need to remove a nonessential broken part, reattach an important one, or bend something back into a semi-useful position?

Without knowing what you ride, I can tell you five items that should be a priority:

  1. Duct tape
    Actually, I use Gorilla Tape. This is serious stuff that could hold together the crack of dawn. Broken panels, sheared luggage rack? Piece-o-cake. It also works to shut up any irritating riding partners.

  2. Bailing wire
    This soft wire (as opposed to stainless steel) works great at holding things together, and is easily bent and twisted.

  3. Adjustable pliers, a.k.a Vise Grips
    Quite possibly the most useful tool ever to inhabit a tool kit. Not only can they straighten, break off, remove, or attach any number of things, this versatile tool can easily work as a replacement lever; just clamp onto the stub.

  4. A multi-tool.
    If you don’t already have one of these, tear up your motorcycle license, you’re useless. For me, a Leatherman “Surge” is the tool of choice.

  5. Given the number of body panels that today’s bike carry around, the proper Torx bit(s) and driver are absolutely essential.

Past these five items, I’d suggest a short roll of electrical wire and tape, fuses, a rag, and any other tools that your staring exercise found.

Not to belabor the point …but I will… notice that none of these tools are designed to get into the motor. If that’s a necessity, then it’s time to pull out the …do I really have to say it?



# Jeff Giese 2013-02-21 17:56
Hi Reg:
I could not agree more. I remeber pulling the head off my dirtbike by the side of a trail back in the 70's to see what was going on. I would never do that with a modern bike...but then, I probably would have no call to.
Jeff Giese
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# Reg Kittrelle 2013-02-23 14:19
Since the vast majority of dirt bikes are now 4-strokes, imagine pulling the head off a, for example, Honda CRF450 while on the trail.
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# Mark Bour 2013-02-23 10:09
When I was riding my Buell S3T across the country, I carried an assortment of wrenches, torx keys, allen keys, vise grips, duct tape, light bulbs, spark plugs, extra oil, and more I'm sure I'm forgetting. That bike, while it never left me stranded, had a self-destructiv e demeanor about it.

My Sprint GT, on the other hand, all I carry is a tire repair kit (I think this should be included in your list), a roll of duct tape and the factory tool kit which will take off all body panels. My Leatherman is always with me as well. I feel more than prepared for anything I could handle on the side of the road.
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# Reg Kittrelle 2013-02-23 14:25
OK, Bour, those opening words, "When I was riding my Buell S3T across the country...", raise you to hero status. I've always been a practical Buell loyalist (meaning the Buell sat next to my daily rider in the garage), but taking a "tuber" x-country took/takes real confidence in your mechanical ability...and a large tool kit. I've ridden XBs x-country without a problem (other than my fingers cramping up from keeping them crossed, but an S3 would take a lot of convincing.
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# Mark Bour 2013-02-23 14:51
Albany, NY to Los Angeles, CA! You can read about here:

Like I said, it never left me stranded but had a habit of vibrating itself apart and emptying the oil bag through the exhaust when running at high speeds for hours at a time, which is all too common west of the Big River.
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# Don Henderson 2013-03-04 20:51
My bone shaker, aka, Harley Davidson, requires a lot of bolt checking.... I carry a wratchet, torx bits, sockets, vise grip, crescent wrench, screw drivers, lock-tite etc..etc...
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# Reg Kittrelle 2013-03-05 10:12
I've always had a suspicion that Bobber-style motorcycles weren't designed that way. They were just the result of everything shaking loose and falling off.
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# Don Henderson 2013-03-05 10:18
The best thing about my Harley, it was designed with a rubber mounted motor, to stop the shakes....
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# Reg Kittrelle 2013-03-05 10:34
Wonder if that would work for people? you know, replace our bone joints with rubber blocks? (OK, so I've had too much coffee this morning.)
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# Don Henderson 2013-03-05 10:47
I'll take some polyurethane, just round the knees and shoulders....
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