Tools for the Trail
by Bill Pearson
I like riding motorcycles off-road. Way off-road. I like long trails. Really, really long trails. I like singletrack trails that go for 50+ miles that have lots of technical sections. Here in the So Cal desert and mountains, it's not difficult to do 100 + mile loops out where there's literally no one for miles. You can get way back in the middle of nowhere pretty fast out here. You guys who ride back east may find it hard to believe, but here in So Cal, there's still an element of the "wild, wild west" alive and well. Flogging your ride while being so far out of pocket on a vehicle that relies on mechanical pieces to work is asking for trouble. And sooner or later it will find and bite you.
So, what are our options? Stay close to the truck? Ride with big groups of riders only? Make sure your rides are never more than walking distance from a major roadway? Carry a cell phone & GPS so you can call in a chopper? Well, I HATE carrying tools, but I hate breaking down even more. And none of those options by themselves worked for me, so I decided my only option was to be prepared or find someone who was prepared. Since I couldn't find anyone up for the job, I decided to just do it myself.
For me, it all starts with meticulous maintenance. Always keep your bike in the best of shape. Replace wearing parts before they break and make sure the guys you ride with do the same. That's your best defense. After that, when assembling your tool stash, remember past break downs that either you or your buddies have had and recall what it was that bailed you out. Make sure to add that to your list of things to bring along. Doing routine maintenance with the tools in your portable toolkits is also a good idea. If you find yourself constantly using a tool that you don't carry….you'd better add it to your portable tool kit!
Right now, I have to admit that although I'm pretty prepared, there are some holes in my preparation. For instance, I rarely carry first aid supplies unless my wife is along. ;-) That's in her backpack! LOL There's no way to carry everything, so if you can delegate between your riding buddies it's helpful. Still, I always have the basics with me no matter what.
After over 10,000 trail miles, I have to tell you that I've never been left out on the trail. I've been close a couple of times, but I've never had to walk out or spend the night out in the cold. And it's all because I decided to be prepared. Believe me, I've had opportunities to exercise my survival techniques but I've never had to.
I often tend to ride different bikes, so I try to put bike specific parts on each bike. General tools or supplies that I will always need on any ride I carry on my person. Each bike I have is equipped with a front fender bag that has everything needed for changing a flat tire. Each bike also has spares that are specific to itself such as: Control levers, shifter, spark plug, etc.
When I ride the KLX, I have 5-6 spots that hold tools and/or supplies...
I rarely use the rear fender toolbag anymore because of the fact that I am switching bikes a lot more these days and the tools I used to carry there are now in my fannypack. If I had my preference, I'd keep them in the fenderbag, but that's just not an option for me anymore. Keep in mind that if you do use a rear fenderbag, pack a lot of heavy tools in it and ride hard, your subframe is potentially in danger of cracking. Keep a close eye on it or have it gusseted. Corey managed to break off his KLX subframe our first day at Moab last year.
As of right now, the ONLY type of dirt bike fender mounted gear bags I will purchase are http://www.dirt-bike-gear.com bags. Their rear fender ballistic bags are excellent and their front fender bags are the only ones Corey can get to stay on over high-speed whoops. I have yet to try their number bag or fanny pack, but next time I need one I will be purchasing one of theirs. Built BY riders FOR rider's right here in the USA. And no, I don't work for them. ;-) In over 5,000 trail miles, I've never had one spill it's guts, tear or come loose. I can't say the same for most other brands I've seen in use out there. So here's my setup:
Cinch down straps go around the fork legs to hold it tight on the bike. Center cinch-down strap keeps the contents tight. This bag is for all my "tire/tube" related items.
One normal duty 21" Front Tube small mountain bike pump, Patch Kit, Valve Threader Cable, two 8-inch Tire Irons and four 12-gram and one 16-gram CO2 cartridges,
Pocket Knife, GPS (when it's not mounted on the handlebars), Maps, Camera, License, Registration, Medical Card, Granola and Bars
Again, this is bike specific. This set of parts/spares is for my KLX300 and lives under the seat, between the airbox and rear fender. Often you have to get pretty creative about where you can store bike specific parts on your bike. I have a couple of levers in the airbox of my WR250F!
KLX Brake Lever, KLX Clutch Lever/perch, KLX Shift Lever, KLX/WR Spare Plug
This is where I carry water, lunch, some tools, medications and survival supplies. It's got the important stuff, and I know that it is always on my back whenever I ride. The HelmetCam is optional... :))
Water!!! License, Registration, Medical Card, Cell Phone, Wallet, Personal Medications, Spare Batteries (2AA for flashlight or GPS), Mini Flashlight, Space Blanket, Matches, Toilet Paper, Car Key, Spare Tire Key, Lockup Key, Money ($20.00), Tire Pressure Gauge, Tow Strap, Saw, Duct Tape, Siphon Hose, Fuel Bag (trips over 100 miles), Granola Bars / Candy, Advil / Pain Killer
This is where the hardcore tools reside. This pack resides on my posterior and moves from bike to bike - and occasionally if I'm filming with the helmetcam - to another rider. I went to a fanny pack when I started moving between bikes. It made having separate sets of tools and keeping track of things much easier. Click the photo above to see the bag open...
Triangle Tool, 17/27mm Riders Wrench, 19/22mm Riders Wrench, Crescent Wrench, Pliers, Needle Nose Pliers, Mini Vice Grips, 4 way screwdriver, Allen Wrenches (4 - for handlebars & Carb), Zip Ties, Rag, Rubber Bands, KLX/WR Spark Plug Wrench , KLX/WR Spare Plug, Safety Wire, Spare Nuts & Bolts, Elec. Tape, Tuning - CVK MJ's, CVK Needle Circlip, CS Sprocket Circlip, Spare Masterlink, Taffy Allen Key, Taffy Setscrew, Pilot O-ring, FCR Jets, Truck Key, License, Registration, Medical Card
I don't use this bag much these days due to switching bikes. If I were only riding the KLX, I'd put as much as I could in this thing and get it off my body! Note the cinch straps and inner bag. This is the KDX size bag from dirt-bike-gear.com. It fits the stock KLX fender perfectly and stays out of the way. Right now, I've got some non-critical stuff in it. Sometimes Corey carries it or I hand it to another rider who isn't carrying much.
Chain Breaker, Chain Press w/ Allen wrench, Spare Chain, Spare Master Link, Epoxy Putty (2) Aluminum & Steel Hose Clamps
One thing you can do to cut down on what you carry is to divide up stuff between riders. If you always ride with a buddy, there's no sense in both of you carrying a 10" crescent wrench. Divide up what you carry. Of course, if the one time you need the crescent wrench your buddy is at his niece's birthday party, you're going to be SOL, so if you decide to split them up, think it through.
For those of you that only ride the track or are within easy walking/pushing distance to your truck and have made the decision to not carry tools - I hate you! ;-) Seriously though, think about pushing the envelope a little! I would not trade being out on the trail 50 miles from nowhere for anything!!!
So there you have it! Everyone will have tools that are more or less important to their bike and the way they work on it. The point is to be prepared for whatever the trail may throw at you. Happy trails and should you decide you really don't need that crescent wrench -- may Murphy and his Law be in the next county over when you and your buddies decide to do that big "epic" loop.
Cheers, Bill P
PS - I'm thinking about bagging all this stuff and just carrying water, a GPS and a Sat phone. ;-)