Bike Tools 101

When circumstances backfire, you’ll need more than just a multi-tool.

Bombing a motorbike across empty dune swales or along a forested ridgeline is like soul-heroin… without the comedown or the whole ‘being a junky’ thing. It places a strong emphasis on chasing freedom and is generally an almost foolproof recipe for adventure. Anyone who wants to argue that statement has either never done it or is probably one of those people you read about on the internet who will argue that the earth is flat and eating laundry detergent is the best new way to lose weight. Idiots, basically.

Even when things go wrong, bikes are generally a lot simpler than cars and are pretty fixable in most circumstances. And in case you’re wondering, this isn’t going to be one of those articles that gives you useless advice like “match your tools to your bike – there’s no use carrying an imperial socket set if you ride a Yamaha.”

No, we’ll assume that you have a modicum of common sense and don’t need to be told to remember the spark plug socket. This article is for those things that you may not have even considered yet, let alone realised you need. Those tools that are included only after bitter experience and hard-won knowledge of remote travel. In fact, if you could read the rest of this yarn in the voice of Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino for extra gravitas, we’d really appreciate it.


Okay, other than usual t-handle sockets, Allen/Torx multi-tool, actual multi-tool, and the usual bits and pieces, you’re going to need some sort of bolt bag. Work out what holds your bike together and get the right selection of bolts, hose clamps, plugs, washers, and grommets and include them in your tool kit. Make sure you have a pair of latex gloves too for mechanical repairs, lest you end up coating the inside of your riding gloves with grease. Use the latex gloves, then when you’re done turn them inside out and return them to their Ziploc bag. `Leccy tape, cable ties and metal putty all have more uses than a time machine too, so don’t forget to chuck them in.


You’re cruising through the Pilbara, loving life when all of a sudden a drop bear lands right on top of you, causing you to wad up your bike and go for a short flight. Bad news is you’ve busted your leg and need to get in contact with an adult. Good news is you remembered your sat phone so help is only a phone call away. You can hire these things or grab a product like the Pivotel Sat Sleeve which turns your mobile into a sat phone, so you’ve really got no excuse champion.


Australia is basically a giant desert with a few green bits on the coastal fringes. That means that water should be so close to the top of the priority list on a big ride, so momentarily put aside your indignation that we pay more for it per litre than we do petrol. Unfortunately it’s not always available, especially in the red centre. If you get in a bind, have a Lifestraw tucked into the pannier. These things essentially allow you to drink out of the brownest, crappiest mud puddle in the country without getting sick. It’s also a great idea to have a few powdered electrolyte drink sachets on hand to replace lost minerals through sweat – which you can do a lot of, especially in the tropics.


Yeah, Bon Jovi is right up there with One Direction and Bieber in the ‘music that makes me reconsider living’ stakes, but there’s one thing those big-haired weirdos got right: headbands.

Rocking a headband under your helmet still makes a lot of sense. Riding in the heat? The headband will stop sweat getting into your eyes. Riding in the cold? A head band will create a seal with your helmet’s inner liner and keep your melon toasty. Have an obnoxiously loud exhaust? Position your headband over your ears and Shamwow, the noise is dulled a little. And besides, Karate Kid is long overdue for a Hollywood remake so maybe they’re about to be cool again? Right?


A small pair of vice grips are pretty good for getting rounded-off bolts undone, or clamping your mate’s swag closed from the outside. But we’ve also seen them used for a variety of things: broken brake and clutch lever replacements, rear brake and clutch selector lever alternatives, hell, we’ve even seen them be used to operate a broken throttle cable. Moral of the story: carry spare levers. If you refuse to listen to anyone who’s not your father, at least carry vice grips.


While things are way better than they were twenty or so years ago, the reality is that filling up at some remote servos can still be a bit of a hit and miss affair in terms of fuel quality. Most are really good, but given the low tolerance modern fuel-injected engines have for grit in their beer, running a fuel sock, or pre-filter for your tank makes a lot of sense. They’re generally pretty cheap and let’s be honest, even if there’s only a chance they’re going to stop you from having to rebuild your motor on the side of the CREB track, they’re still worth it.


Spare split links and a chain splitting tool should be stashed somewhere on your bike pretty much every time you roll out of the driveway. We say this because we may or may not have been witness to a Russel Crowe-spec tantrum when someone who will remain nameless (it was Danny) forgot his on our last ride. We let him carry on for a good five minutes until he was informed Dan had a link and tool on his bike, but hilarity aside, don’t do what Danny did.


Ok, it’s hit the fan. You’ve well and truly munted your bike. The piston is hanging out the side of the block like a dog’s tongue lolling on a hot day. You know your Leatherman and metal putty ain’t going to help you out of this one and you’re still 50km out of Karratha – you need to get your bike back to civilisation. Luckily you read this article before leaving and have a tow rope (or strap) on hand. Now, the rule of thumb is to connect the rope to the right foot peg of the bike doing the towing and wrap it several times around the left foot peg of the bike being towed. Don’t tie it off, just stand on it. Should get you out of the poo and back to the real world in more or less one piece.


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