What to bring with you on your motorcycle in case you breakdown is a question I’m asked a lot. The best thing you can do is preventative maintenance so you don’t breakdown. I’m a weekend rider so weeknights you find me in my garage cleaning, maintaining and checking maintenance items on my bike in hopes the ride over the weekend will be trouble free.
One thing to remember is you only want to bring with you what you can fix on the side of the road. Over the years led me to come up with a pretty good list of items. What I bring is basic tools and gear that will keep me warm, dry, mitigate minor pain and keep the bike on the move. It’s always good to have roadside insurance. Mine comes with my motorcycle policy. They will cover a short tow or some fuel if I run out but you will waste a full day when this is all done and said. You also have to keep in mind your bringing things with you that you may never use to fix your bike. I’ve used my tools many times on friend’s bikes I ride with. If they breakdown you’re not going to leave them behind (unless you’re like the Top Gear guys) so if they breakdown you breakdown and may waste a whole day for something minor.
I carry all these items on each bike I have. You will be surprised what you can fit in a tail bag. The small tail bag that comes with my Speed Triple is packed full with all these items as well. When it comes to my vintage bikes a back pack made by Kriega for the motorcyclist works very well. You would be surprised how much motorcycle clothes will pack down to a small size when you get all the air out.
I will start with the top left to right of my picture, row by row and describe each item. Maps…well in this day and age of GPS’s (I have a Garmin 665) I find you still need maps. When we are at a breakfast or lunch stop we will look at certain areas and see where we would like to get to using maps. I use the map to find a town so I can direct my GPS in that direction to guide it to a waypoint. While a majority of my rides I download from Backroadsusa.com or I plot them each and every ride I still consult maps. I keep NJ-NY-PA on my bike at all times riding locally. Rain gear I chose Frogg Toggs because they are light, breathable and fold up not taking up to much room. Klim makes a mid weight shirt called “inferno” I keep with me even in the summer, you never know when you might get a cold evening stuck in the mountains. I found this shirt to be extremely warm and have given them to my friends as gifts. If you’re tight for room you can always wear your rain suit top as an excellent windbreaker under your riding jacket. I always bring mid seasons gloved with me, Olympia with wind-tex makes some great gloves. I’ve been searching over the years for a good rain glove, I found it in Yamaha’s wave runner gloves. Your hands stay warm, semi-dry made out of wet suit material and leather, you maintain perfect grip on the handle bars in the pouring rain. You want to always bring a bottle of water with you at all times. ROK make some great small tie downs if you ever find yourself needed to strap down something to your pillion. Aerostich is a great one stop center for hard to find items. They make a great small all in one first aid kit that comes with a small soft pouch complete with bee sting ampules. I’ve been riding dirt and street for 35 years and last week was the first time I was stung by a bee while riding. I was about 200 miles from home and the topical bee sting ampule works great. I’ve added Advil and small travel size sun block to the first aid kit. A locking helmet retractable cord and cable. Most eateries in my area don’t allow you to bring in your helmets. I have an expensive helmet and choose to leave it locked to the bike. I usually also lock up my riding jacket and thread the cable through the arm of my jacket and lock it to my bike. Most modern bikes don’t have helmet locks anymore or they consist of a small bar sticking out of the frame that requires you to remove your seat and somehow hook your helmet to and put the seat back on. Sometimes you can’t find a coffee shop when you need one so I keep a bottle of 5 Hour Energy with me. A small bottle of Maguire’s Final Inspection 34 to clean my shield of bugs and a micro fiber towel. Scotts makes disposable shop towels, they are sturdy and I keep a few with me for oily messes from the bike or road food. E-Fill Siphon is a must to keep on board. I’ve come close at least a dozen times in using this. I’ve used it twice for friends. When you ride with a group of friends not everyone has the same range and one thing leads to another and you lose track of mileage and find yourself in the middle of nowhere and the sport bikes are usually the first ones to go.
Keep room for personal items like sunglass and cigar travel humidor. A small pen & pad is very helpful. One shot fuel stabilizer from Star-Tron is a great preventive item to use, it’s in my fuel tank all the time not just for storage. A small flashlight/torch is a must. I found a small flash light that doubles as a roadside “red” flasher sold at most hardware stores a great item to have with you. Motorcycle jumper cables- from dead batteries from leaving the key on to bad alternators is a must to bring with you. A friends Buell died on the side of the road, his alternator burned out. We were able to charge his battery enough by running my bike with jumper cables for him to get home. Automotive jumper cables are too large and bulky and you can never get the large clamps on a motorcycle battery. Cell phone and iPod charger cables- I consider my cell phone as important as checking my tires each ride. Most cell phones will not last the day if used normally. Having a way to charge your phone and keep it working when you need it will help keep you safe. My cell phone charging cables are made by Powerlet. Also Radio Shack makes very small inverters that plug in a cigarette lighter, Aerostich makes SAE connecters that plug into motorcycle SAE connectors for battery chargers that have a female socket on the other side for the inverter. Aerostich also carries plastic bags that are very rugged and waterproof. When the skies get wet I put my cell and wallet in these bags. I keep spares onboard to put other items if need be, they don’t take up any room. Cruz Tools makes some great compact tool rolls. I bought the largest one they make in metric but they make the same in American/SAE sizes. This tool kit roll carries most every kind of tool you will need for a road side repair. I’ve added a few things and keep them inside the roll up pouch; Leatherman tool, Cruz tool full allen & torqux set. Duct tape, electrical tape and blue painters tape. You can roll your tape on a pencil, cut off the excess pencil ends. Why painters tape? When I run into a jamb and need to tape directions or a note to myself to the tank it works great and does not leave glue residue. Mechanics wire to secure a broken loose part, heat resistant stretchable and waterproof tape to fix a leaking cooling hose.
Two important things I’ve used recently are metal epoxy and an extra tire valve. A friend took a turn to wide on his Harley and the primary case scuffed the curb and started to leak. We leaned the bike on its side to work on the side case. We were in a restaurant parking lot so we went inside and borrowed some oven cleaner and degreased the primary case. We mixed the heat resistant fast drying metal epoxy and applied it to the primary case. It’s now two years later and the repair is still holding, permanently. A few rides ago we were all stopped at a rest stop and I noticed the rear tire was flat on a friends bike. We had been riding almost 150 miles to that point. We found the tire valve was leaking. We were stopped across the street from a working gas station and it was open on Sunday afternnon. We barrowed a tire valve tool and removed it and found it was bent. Prior to the ride a shop had just installed new tires. I now keep tire valves and a tire valve tool with me, it talks up very little room. I keep a mini air compressor with me at all times and a tire gauge. Best Rest makes a very sturdy unit I keep on my KLR, I tend to use that a lot when I lower tire pressures off road riding. Slime and Stop & Go make affordable reliable emergency air compressors. A tow strap is another must have. I’ve pulled fellow bikers out of harm’s way when they broke down in a turn with a narrow shoulder to an empty parking lot. I’ve also towed bikes in order to jump start them when the starter failed. You can’t manually push and jump start most larger Harleys or my Triumph Speed triple no matter what gear you try. You never seem to break down parked on top large hills. Best Rest makes a nice tire plug kit and pouch to carry it in. I’ve used many kits over the years like buttered smeared mushroom plugs you push in with a special gun. I found blue colored tire plugs that when heated by riding it vulcanizes to the tire giving you a very reliable temporary repair that will get you back home until you can change the tire.
This is what I keep with me on every local ride. I hope this helps you in deciding what you need to bring with you on your next ride. I even have room left in my tail bag to take home leftovers form my favorite road side stops for Charlotte, my 3 year old fat chocolate lab.