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5 essential tools for the trail

When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

Honda XR150L and Keeway Cafe 152

Trails are not always the most friendly environments. The variety of terrain and will inevitably give your motorcycle–and yourself–an enjoyable yet rough time. While being in and around the elements and unkept paths may be the very reason we enjoy off-road rides, trails often go deep into provincial terrain that are far from any shop that may be able to repair any breakdown.

If you’re about to take your dirt bike on a ride off the beaten path and are looking for preparation tips, then you’ve come to the right place. Here are 5 essential carry-ons for trail duty.

Wrenches, Sockets, and Allen Keys

motorcycle tools

Picture this: you’re ripping along the trails with your buddies and out of nowhere, you hear a faint buzzing noise from somewhere on your bike. You later find out that the handlebar clamp bolts are going loose and nobody has brought the right tools to tighten the bolts. A simple solution would be to have one of your buddies take a few hours to buy the right tools and come back, but an even simpler solution would be to take the right tools to begin with.

Wrenches, sockets, and allen keys are some of the most important tools to take on a trail. They are useful for when you need to disassemble and reassemble different components after an unfavorable situation. While taking all of the tools from your garage may not be the best idea, it’s important to know exactly what kind of tools would be needed to work on your bike in particular. Spend an hour or two sizing up all the different kinds of bolts and nuts on your bike, and find the appropriate tools to take with you. For example, a 10mm socket and ratchet may be helpful for speeding up repairs on the frame, but may not be useful for repairs in tight spots like the engine. Instead, taking a simple 10mm wrench may do the job for all your 10mm needs.

Spend time to find the simplest tools for repairing your bike, and craft the most usable and lightweight set of wrenches, sockets, and allen keys for your bike. Less is more!

Chain Tools

motorcycle chain

Your chain is one of the parts of your bike which gets beat up the most off-road. Crossing rivers, soaking up dirt and mud, and the constant flexing brought about by suspension travel. It’s no surprise that motorcycle chain issues are the culprit for many of the off-road blunders experienced by many trail riders. 

Take with you a chain disassembly and alignment tool for any stubborn chain links that may potentially cause trouble down the trail. It would also be smart to bring a spare master link and a few other spare links in case a chain snaps in half. Last but not the least, be sure to bring tools and spares to fit your bike’s specific chain to ensure perfect fit for trail-side repairs. Whether it’s shortening a chain that keeps falling off the sprocket, or repairing a chain that has split from a link, taking along a set of chain tools will save the day when an enjoyable trail ride goes upside-down.

Tow Strap

motorcycle tow strap

A tow strap is perhaps one of the most versatile tools you can bring with you on the trail. Tow straps are relatively cheap and are available to purchase in many different motorcycle shops and online shops too. Apart from doing what it’s supposed to do–towing bikes out of sticky situations–the tow strap will be able to resolve other problems on the trail.

Tow straps can be used for securing other items to your bike in case parts and baggage on your bike start to fall off. They can also be used in extreme situations where a fellow rider may need a tourniquet or an arm sling. Of course, tow straps will be most useful when they serve the purpose they were designed for: towing bikes out of deep mud, up and above steep uphills, and other sticky situations.

Tire Tools

motorcycle tire tools

While chains truly are one of the most beat up parts of your bike on the trail, nothing can compare to the kind of abuse your tires and rims will experience off-road. Trail tires are designed to provide the rider with as much grip as possible while soaking up the inherent surface imperfections of any given trail ride. Soft mud, sharp rocks, jumps onto imperfect hard-packed surfaces–you name it. Despite the fact that your tires are designed to provide you grip and reliability, there are times where wear and mishaps will take its course and a flat tire may halt the ride.

Taking tools to fix a flat tire and tube will be most helpful when you’re far away from a mechanical or vulcanizing shop. For those sporting tubeless wheels, a simple tire plug kit may be your one-stop solution for repairing a puncture off-road. However, those with tubed tires may want to take a tube patch kit or spare tubes to solve a punctured tube problem. A pair of lightweight tire spoons will help you get the tire and tube off the rim, and a small hand-operated air pump will help inflate your repaired tube or tire back to usable condition. A small tire pressure gauge may also help you inflate or deflate to the correct tire pressure for your given terrain.

First Aid Kit

motorcycle first aid kit

While not a dedicated bike tool, a first aid kit is a 10/10 must-have for any motorcycle ride. The same idea is made even more important off-road. On the trail, riders are much closer to the elements, which makes for both an exhilarating ride and an exposed one. Being far from medical centers and clinics, it is important to take along a first aid kit in case you, or one of your buddies, gets into an unfavorable situation.

For basic skin wounds, your first aid kit should contain a variety of band aid sizes, fabric and gauze bandages, antibacterial ointments, topical disinfectants, and medical adhesive tapes. For medicine, riders may want to carry paracetamol, allergy antihistamines, cough medicine, and stomach medicine. As for tools, it would be best to carry along a pair of tweezers, small scissors, and a thermometer.

While the majority of riders enter and exit trails unscathed, it is important to prepare for the worst –especially when you’re deep inside a trail. While many of the suggestions above are useful for the majority of small cases, it is important to do your own research on the best types of medical tools, supplies, and medicine you should bring. Don’t forget to build your own first aid kit for your personal medical needs as well. 

Bonus: Duct Tape

duct tape for motorcycles

Despite it not making our main list above, duct tape is definitely one of the most versatile tools you can bring on the trail. Use it to patch up broken panels, repair broken boots, secure items to the bike, tuck away loose wires, and solve many other issues on the trail. It’s lightweight and will not take up much space. A single solution for many difficulties on the trail.

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