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ADV PreppingStarter’s Guide to Adventure Bike Tools and Trailside Repairs

Starter’s Guide to Adventure Bike Tools and Trailside Repairs

 Get prepared with the know-how and tools you need for adventure riding.

Published on 09.28.2018
The trick to selecting the right adventure bike tools to carry is bring exactly what you need and nothing more. But that’s like trying to guess the future. How do you know what’s going to go wrong with your bike? How do you know what will break when you fall?

You don’t. But if you are prepared for the most common problems, you’ll have what you need most of the time. When the unexpected occurs you’ll have to get creative. By then you’ll have taken care of a few issues on the road and developed a level of confidence in your ability to get going again.

A good way to assess your tool kit is ask yourself if you have what it takes to fix problems on your specific bike. When assembling your kit, keep weight down by selecting adventure bike tools that do double duty:

Tire irons with box-end wrenches on one end sized for your axle nuts, for example, a needle-nose pliers that doubles as a vise grip, one screwdriver with interchangeable bits stored in the handle, etc.


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Adventure Bike Tools trailside repairs

Start with the kit supplied with the bike and customize as you work through the common scenarios. And try repairs at home, using only your tool kit, before your first adventure to make sure you have what you need and know how to use it.

First is a list of the basic tools all adventure riders should carry. Next we think through some common scenarios to assess and customize your tool kit. Finally, a couple tips for when you need to get creative.

Basic Tools

Adventure Bike Tools Starter's Guide

  • Wrenches: Determine which sizes and types are common on your bike and pack those. For most bikes 8-, 10-, 12-, 13-, 14- and 17-mm are the most-used sizes.
  • Ratchet, Sockets and Extensions: Same as above. One-quarter-inch drive ratchets and sockets are small and light, but stout enough for most roadside repairs. One ratchet, two extensions (one short and one longer) are all you need. Check to see if your bike has torx- or allen-head bolts and if so, pack driver bits for those.
  • Screwdriver: A quality one with a range of interchangeable driver bits.
  • Multi tool: Don’t go overboard here as you can easily duplicate tools you’ve already packed and that’s just extra weight. Look for one with a good knife, file, pliers and pick. Bottle and can openers are a plus.
  • Repair/Fabrication Tools: JB weld or other two-part epoxy, strong tape, zip ties
  • Tire Pressure Gauge: Just a basic mechanical gauge that has precise readings in the lower ranges (15-30 psi)
  • Spare Bolts: Small box of common bolts and fasteners for your bike. Wrap the box in a rag to keep it from vibrating and you’ll have something to wipe your hands on after roadside repairs.
  • Tire Pump: This can be a portable inflator that runs off your bike’s battery, or a small, high-volume mountain bike-style hand pump.

Common Problems

Flat Tire

Know your bike. Are your tires tubeless or tube-type? If they are tubeless, you could be back on the road in minutes if you’ve got the right tools. If you’ve got tubes, you’ll be down a little longer.

Adventure Bike Tools Starter's Guide

Tube-Type Tires:

  • Wrenches sized for front and back axle nuts. These nuts are larger than pretty much anything else on your bike, and size varies from bike to bike.
  • Tire irons, minimum of two but having three is even better.
  • Valve-stem fishing tool. Makes getting the valve stem through the rim easier.
  • Inner tube patch kit.
  • Carry an extra front tube also (you can stuff a 19- or 21-inch front tube into your smaller rear tire in a pinch), but pack patch kits as a backup in case of multiple flats.

Tubeless Tires:

  • Pliers to remove whatever caused the hole. You should have that covered in your basic tool kit.
  • A tool to ream the hole and stuff in a plug. String patches are light, cheap, easy to use, effective. You can buy them with the reamer and tool to insert them into the tool. Or get a dedicated plugging tool such as the Dynaplug or Stop & Go.
  • If you dent a rim and the bead doesn’t hold air, you’ll either have to try to bang it out or install a tube. So it’s a good idea to bring a spare tube and tools to change it even if you run tubeless.

Dead Battery
Does your bike have a kickstarter? If so leave the jumper cables at home, you’ve already got a backup starting method. (Actually, you’ve got two: there’s always the push start). If not you’ll need:

Adventure Bike Tools Starter's Guide

  • Bike-sized jumper cables. These are smaller and lighter than those sized for a car.
  • Portable battery pack that can jump start your bike, charge your phone, power your GPS, etc., such as the Micro-Start Sport.
  • Tools to get to the battery. Should be in your basic tool kit.

Damaged Plastics/Body work
Broken bodywork is seldom a trip stopper. But you don’t want to have broken plastics flopping around or leave valuable parts strewn in the road.

  • Something sharp to punch holes in your plastic so you can stitch it back together. The knife or awl on your multi tool works well.
  • Zip ties to stitch it and strong tape to stabilize it. Duct tape is good, but there are better options including Gorilla tape and T-Rex tape.

Out of Gas

Adventure Bike Trailside Repairs Starter's Guide

  • For bikes with a carburetor, you can simply hook up a hose to the petcock to move fuel into a container like a plastic bottle, then transfer it to the empty fuel tank. On fuel-injected bikes you can’t draw fuel from a petcock, so you’ll need to siphon from the tank. You never know what kind of motorcycle you’ll be pulling fuel from, so pack a length of hose that is long enough to be used as a siphon (three feet should do it). If you pack the same diameter hose as your fuel line, then you’ll have extra if it ruptures or gets torn in a fall (the double-duty rule). It won’t flow quickly, but you’re not trying to fill the tank, just get enough to reach the next gas station.
  • Consider a “jiggler” device, which draws fuel into the hose simply by using an up-and-down motion, so you don’t have to suck on the hose yourself and run the risk of getting a mouthful of gas.
  • For bikes with a carburetor, pack a length of hose to transfer gas from one bike to another. If you can get to the petcock easily you can hook the hose to it and move fuel into a container like a plastic bottle, otherwise use the hose to siphon directly from the tank. Pack the same diameter hose as your fuel line and you have extra if it ruptures or gets torn in a fall (the double-duty rule). It won’t flow quickly, but you’re not trying to fill the tank, just get enough to get to the next gas station.

Other Issues To Be Prepared For

Broken Levers, Pedals or Pegs
If you fall enough, or just once the right (wrong) way you’ll break a lever, shifter, brake pedal, foot peg, etc. Time to get creative.

  • Carry spare brake and clutch hand levers. If you or a friend forget to bring one, try taping and/or zip tying a wrench, screwdriver or other piece of stout metal to the stub of your broken lever. If the stub is too short, you can bump start the bike and shift without your clutch or use the back brake as much as possible until you can make a full repair.
  • For a broken shifter or rear brake pedal, clamp your vice grip to the stub and shift/brake with caution. Put a couple wraps of tape and zip ties on it to make sure it doesn’t fall off.

Adventure Motorcycle Tools Starter's Guide

Cracked Cases
Oil leaking out of a cracked engine case or cover is terrifying, but it doesn’t have to be fatal. Many riders have patched gaping holes in their engines and gone on to ride thousands of miles.

  • JB Weld or other two-part epoxy. Use the putty or quick-set variety or you’ll be waiting a couple hours for it to dry.
  • Something to patch a hole. We’ve seen quarters, beer cans, bottle tops, stove parts and heavy-duty plastic pressed into service to successfully stop a leak. Anything that will cover the hole is better than nothing. Get creative.
  • A half quart to a quart of oil to top off what you lost. You should have that along in any case.

Adventure Motorcycle Tools Starter's Guide

Broken Chain
If you install a quality chain, keep it lubed and adjusted, and replace it when it’s worn, it is unlikely to ever cause problems. But better safe than sorry on long, remote ride.

  • Extra master link. (Make sure you know what type of chain your bike uses: clip-type master link, or riveted.)
  • A few chain links; 3-5 ought to do it. Try to use the same brand as the chain you’re running.
  • Chain breaking/riveting tool.
  • Small can of chain lube.

Broken Spokes
Cast-wheel bike owners can skip this one. A broken spoke or two is cause for concern, but not something that should end your trip.

Adventure Motorcycle Tools Starter's Guide

  • Zip tie or tape the broken spoke to its neighbor to keep it from flopping around, getting bent or caught in the sprocket.
  • Tighten up any loose spokes you find.
  • Keep an eye on the wheel and ride with caution. Spokes often break in pairs on the opposite sides of the rim.

Photos by Alfonse Palaima, Jim Vota, Stephen Gregory & Spencer Hill

Author: Bob Whitby

Bob has been riding motorcycles since age 19 and working as a journalist since he was 24, which was a long time ago, let’s put it that way. He quit for the better part of a decade to raise a family, then rediscovered adventure, dual sport and enduro riding in the early 2000s. He lives in Arkansas, America’s best-kept secret when it comes to riding destinations, and travels far and wide in search of dirt roads and trails.

Author: Bob Whitby
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5 thoughts on “Starter’s Guide to Adventure Bike Tools and Trailside Repairs

  1. Tow rope, 25-40 ft of 1 in. webbing. This does double duty as strap to remount a tubeless tire that has broken it’s bead to the rim. It holds the tire to the rim during inflation.

  2. Very good article. Something every rider should read. Do all your work with tools from your tool pouch, and bringing a battery bump start that also acts to charge portable devices while in camp.

    Ill add a tow rope soon to my luggage

  3. One thing ive done alot. Dont let other people do service work on uour bike(unless you are horribly incapable) in my opinion if your going on an “adventure” you need to know all the inards of your steed and know what makes it run or not run.
    Take plastics off, take the tank off. See how stuff goes together. change your own tires at home with only what tools you have on your tool roll.
    Understand your bike, its only keeping you alive, people make mistakes, most mechanics make mistakes.