Do You Really Need A Touring Motorcycle Tool Kit?

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Updated May 2022

You could argue that no, you don’t.

Many people believe that a team of engineers armed with laptops are required to carry out repairs on modern-day bikes. And to a certain extent, they’re right.

Because unless you know how to work your way around the electronic gadgetry, you likely won’t know where to start.

If I was being ultra pessimistic, I’d say as long as you’ve got a smartphone and a credit card, you can basically buy your way out of any breakdown situation.

But is that really the point??

touring motorcycle tool kit
Image: Nina Mercado

I Wanna Be The Tool Kit Hero!

Have you ever watched those emergency programmes on TV? The kind where a CCTV camera catches a road traffic accident or a medical emergency?

Everyone stands there around the casualty. Screaming. Crying. Panicking. Nobody knows what to do or where to start.

And then out of the crowd steps a hero who cares for the casualty until the paramedics arrive.

Becoming The Tool Kit Ninja

Did you ever watch those videos and wonder “What would I do in that situation? Would I be the observer who stands there not knowing what to do? Or would I be the hero who steps up and saves the day?”

I can’t speak for you. But I know which one I’d prefer to be.

The problem is, we can’t all know everything about everything. But you can put steps in place to be the tool-wielding hero in your team of intrepid explorers!

bike mechanic in garage
Image: Kat Sazonova

There’s Good News, Though

Fortunately, the universe gives us time to prepare for difficult or testing situations in cases other than emergencies.

And in the case of motorcycle touring, an impromptu breakdown is such an event. Especially if it happens in a remote location. And even more so if the sun is setting and the temperature is starting to drop.

I don’t mind admitting that if I was to break down in the middle of nowhere, I wouldn’t have the faintest clue what to do – I’m just not mechanically minded.

I can’t change a sparkplug, change a tyre, or even sort out a puncture. Yet I still have a damn puncture repair kit in my toolkit. And this got me thinking.

touring motorcycle tool kit - hanging in garage
Image: Nina Mercado

Why The Hell Do I Carry My Touring Motorcycle Tool Kit?

If you have a serious engine fault in the middle of Uzbekistan, no amount of tools will enable you to get it going at the roadside. At this point, you will need to call the breakdown truck.

And that’s okay. Because there are no dents to your ego when you tell the story down the pub.

You had a major mechanical issue that only a professional garage could fix. The end.

But what about the smaller issues? What about the ‘manageable’ stuff that you could’ve fixed if only you’d used your initiative?

The Difference Between Abandoning And Fixing

If you have a manageable issue in the middle of your tour, you have two options. You can either fix it at the roadside or call the tow truck.

Fixing it might take a few hours of intuition. But you roll your sleeves up and get the job done as best you can with the tools you have.

But the process of calling the breakdown service, waiting for the truck, getting the bike (and you) to a garage a few hundred miles away, getting it fixed, and getting you both back to the point where you initially broke down, could take a week!

And by this point, you would’ve lost so much money in accommodation reservations and breakdown paperwork that the stress of it all would be enough to send you home.

Telling Tool Kit Tales Down The Pub

No matter which way you look at it, telling that story in the pub doesn’t have quite the feeling of kudos attached to it. Moreover, a breakdown is expensive!

I don’t know about you, but I can’t afford to spend a fortune on a tour only for it to be cut short by my own mechanical ignorance. And that’s why I’m learning how to fix my own shit.

mechanic fixing bike with spanner
Image: Cottonbro

A Touring Motorcycle Tool Kit Without Knowledge Is Useless

If you’re currently online and looking at a touring motorcycle tool kit that costs more than your bike, then don’t bother.

Sure, you’ll have some cool-looking tools. But you won’t know how to use them, and all they’ll do is take up space and provide you with some extra weight to cart around.

If you don’t know what a particular tool does (or what you use it for), then leave it at home! It’s as simple as that.

There’s no point trying to figure it out in the field. You need to know how to use it before you get into such a situation. And this is why I’m currently working with my mechanic to gain a little more mechanical know-how.

Learn How To Use Your Touring Motorcycle Tool Kit!

There are a tonne of ways of doing this. I have a good relationship with my mechanic, and I’m using this to better my knowledge. Slowly but surely, I’m adding to my repertoire.

You can watch tutorials on YouTube, read books, scour the web or even attend motorcycle maintenance courses for many fixes. Learning to fix common issues could be the difference between continuing your journey or ending it.

With a little bit of knowledge, you might be able to limp your bike to the next city where there will be a garage.

Without it, you’ll be calling the tow truck. And in doing so, you could be calling an expensive and disappointing end to your adventure.

touring motorcycle tool kit - mechanic with tools and bike in garage
Image: Andrea Piacquadio

What Tools Do I Need In My Touring Motorcycle Tool Kit?

Well, that depends on a few things! First off, you’ll need different tools for different fixes. And you can’t carry tools for everything.

For example, I’m working with my mechanic on what might be common issues in the field. And I’m building a tool kit based around those problems.

This means that I’ll know how to use every single tool in my kit.

As mentioned above, if you don’t know how to use something, then leave it at home.

Should I Buy Or Build My Touring Motorcycle Tool Kit?

There isn’t a right or wrong answer here. From a standpoint of convenience, a pre-made tool kit will always be the easy option.

However, you’re paying for that convenience. And this generally means you’ll end up with inferior quality tools compared to those you might buy individually.

But buying good quality tools could mean selling a kidney to afford them. To bridge this gap, I’ve bought a reasonably priced tool kit that I will add to as time goes on.

Add To Your Tool Kit Over Time

The other thing to remember here is that not all bikes are the same. So not all bikes have the same common issues.

You need to be aware of common faults on your particular bike and carry the tools that will fix those specific issues.

Moreover, some bikes require specialised tools. Many tools in your universal tool kit might be useless when working on your particular make of bike.

Everything needs to be tried and tested for compatibility.

mechanic fixing bike
Image: Chopy Works

Your Touring Motorcycle Tool Kit (And Reducing The Chance Of Needing It)

The best thing to do before going on a long trip is to ensure your bike is in tip-top condition. Get your mechanic to check component parts such as the chain and sprockets, brake pads, and tyres.

Get them swapped out and start your trip on new components if anything needs changing. This will generally stave away having to lug around spares to swap out in the field.

In the meantime, formulate a tool kit with the appropriate tools for your bike. And set yourself on a path to learning how to use it – just in case!

Top image: Tekton


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