Pack the Runt — or, Tool Kits for Adventure Motorcycling

I just watched a YouTube video. That’s me: always right there at the bleeding edge….

This video was pretty slick. It was produced by an American motorcycle accessory retailer, a respected company that focuses on the off-road segment. They sell some good gear.

So. They were detailing what you should pack in your tool kit for adventure motorcycling.

A lithium-iron battery booster pack. Pliers. Needle nose pliers. Needle nose Vice Grips. Etc. Plus etc. And then, with all that extra space you have in your luggage, add some etc., would you?


Yes, their tool kit recommendations were comprehensive…and about four times the size you really need.

No wonder riders are uncertain what to take!

The runt of the litter

With my runt-of-the-litter tool kit, I’ve done field repairs on…

  • Damaged valve-train components

  • Faulty electrics

  • Bent handle bars

  • Cracked gas tanks

  • Flat tires

  • Broken luggage racks

  • Suspension adjustments

  • Snapped clutch and brake levers

  • Broken shifter and brake pedals

  • Mangled oil coolers

 But, before you pack your runt…

First off, whatever tool kit you assemble, you need to use it in your garage before any trip.

Figure out what sizes of wrenches, sockets, screwdrivers, extensions and Allen keys you need for your specific bike. Assemble the other stuff you think you’ll require, like spare fasteners, inner-tube patch kit, etc.

Then work on your bike.

Changing your oil? Use only the tools in your developing kit. Spooning on fresh rubber? Same. Checking fasteners are tightened snugly in preparation for dirty-road vibrations? Yep: only use the tools in your kit.

Test it out; determine what type and size of tools you need, and which ones can stay on the bench when you leave for your trip. This should be an ongoing process, one you revisit after every trip.

Okay, you’ve done that – probably did it long ago, in fact.

Now you reduce the number of tools, and make them smaller and lighter.

You can’t take it with you – and you don’t need to

The lithium-iron battery booster pack isn’t necessary. I’ve had no problem push-starting fuel-injected bikes. And some bikes still start with a strong right leg. Besides, you’ll likely be riding with a friend, and she’s got a built-in booster on her bike: it’s called a battery.

Ok, I’m being snide. Bad habit.

But the thing is, I’ve researched tool kits more than any well-adjusted man should do. And I’ve concluded that many (many) of the items I see in those kits are not necessary. Alternative conclusion: I’m not a well-adjusted man. Umm…I guess we shouldn’t take that one off the table just yet….

Sure, lots of the items I see recommended for your tool kit might be nice to have — but they actually contribute to a problem, instead of solving it. Look at it this way: adventure riders cite weight and maneuverability as significant challenges when riding off-road. Obvious, right?

So if you have a kitchen-sink tool kit, and it’s adding unnecessary weight and bulk, it’s more likely you won’t leave the pavement in the first place. Problem. Or that you will leave the pavement and have a discouraging experience of piloting a once-svelte bike that now feels like a warthog or a certain Monty Python sketch character…. And then you stay on the pavement after that. Problem, squared.

“But, sir, it’s only a tiny, little thin one: a wafer thin mint!”

Yeah, I know: one extra pair of needle-nose pliers won’t leave legions of would-be adventure riders riding the couch instead.

But what if those pliers are packed alongside the electric air compressor you’ve never actually used on a trip? And an inefficient cooking system, that second pair of jeans, and…?

Pounds are made of ounces, my friend. And kilograms of grams.

So you’re going to take only what you need; I’ve got more posts coming to give you specific details. Once you’ve got that sorted, you’re going to search the YouTube for Monty Python wafer thin mint to see what happens when you pack in too much stuff. I apologize in advance.

And then we’re gonna tap into another strategy: the dual-purpose mindset. It’s kind of like reincarnation, only with two lives happening at the same time, instead of consecutively.

I have just invented concurrent reincarnation. Another Monday well spent.

Dual-purpose isn’t just a DR650

The central idea to a tool kit – and, in fact, to most adventure motorcycling preparation – is to design your systems for multiple uses.

Your tools should be as dual-purpose as your bike. I think I’ve figured out some good stuff I want to show you:

  • Use a ratchet extension to make screwdrivers

  • Remember combination-size open end wrenches?

  • Get a wrench / ratchet gizmo with a hex adapter

  • Install a new inner tube and cure Monkey Butt (yes, it’s a thing, skeptics)

  • Use your spark plug socket to increase the leverage of your efficient little ¼” ratchet

  • But wait: there’s more! (channeling my inner Vince Offer)

Details to follow. I’m trying to keep this bite-sized here, after all. Nobody needs that wafer aftermath….

Allen keys are a great example. Next post!

2 Replies to “Pack the Runt — or, Tool Kits for Adventure Motorcycling”

  1. Love this: just as useful on a tiny cruising boat! I could learn a thing or two from this blog for my boat repair toolkit!

    1. Hey there, Tim! You’ve heard the old saying, “If you like that, you’re gonna love this”? Check out my Allen key post. If you’re lucky, you’ll read it and realize that you’re not nearly as fussy as I am. Or you’ll realize you’re just as fussy as me, and wonder how that came to be….

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