If your motorcycle adventures are anything like mine, you’ll be used to things going wrong. But whether they’re as calamitous as mine or not, it pays dividends to prepare for the worst. I haven’t always done that, and when I haven’t, I’ve usually regretted it. So here are a few essential items of kit that I would suggest anyone planning a big motorcycle adventure finds a space for in their paniers or rucksack. Incidentally, they are all things that I been sat in a layby, wishing I’d had with me, at one point or another.
If you ride far enough, it doesn’t matter what bike you’re on, something will usually come loose. It’s quite often mirrors, and loose mirrors are a pain in the arse. With the right sized spanner (or even an adjustable) it can be a 30 second fix; without any spanners, you might have to put up with it for the next 30 hours. Or more.
Obviously, it’s not just mirrors. There are hundreds of things that can come loose and need tightening up, or break, and need removing. Especially if, like me, you’ve got a habit of accidentally laying bikes on the ground.
With a roll of tape, a handful of spanners and some Allen keys, you might not be able to strip an engine, but you’ll be able to fix (or at least have a go at fixing, even just temporarily) a plethora of problems.
Sometimes, your handful of spanners simply won’t suffice. If you’ve completely run out of fuel you might have to persuade one of your mates (if you’ve got any) to tow you to civilisation. That’s happened to me on more than one occasion. Of course that’s not the only thing you might need towing, and if it is just fuel, you might be able to syphon some out your mates tank to get you to a fuel station.
But if you can’t get your engine running for any other reason, you’ll be glad of a tow rope.
If that engine is definitely not going to start, and you’re in the Scottish Highlands or the Brecon Beacons, it’s probably going to be too far to tow your bike home. And you probably won’t want to walk it, either. You could always phone a recovery company to request a pickup, but unless you’ve already arranged some breakdown cover, they’re likely to pull your pants down.
Even on newer bikes, things can (and do) go wrong, and the thought of being stranded in a cold, dark, wet layby for hours on end, whilst I try and arrange some sort of recovery, fills me with dread. That’s why if I’m ever going on a long-ish haul bike adventure, especially if I’m going anywhere reasonably remote, I’ll always book some sort of breakdown cover.
Puncture repair kit and pump
Punctures are a real pain in the arse. But there can be a solution, if you’re prepared for it. Unfortunately, the one time I did get a puncture on a bike tour, I wasn’t prepared. So now, I always try and take a puncture repair kit with me. You can pick up a puncture repair kit for tubeless tyres for about £15, and they’re dead easy to use. You can plug a puncture with them in a couple of minutes.
Don’t forget you’ll need a pump too, to replace any air that’s been lost. You can get miniature 12v compressors that connect to your bikes battery, but they are heavy and they take up quite a bit of room. A simple hand held bicycle pump would probably do.
It’s worth bearing in mind that some manufacturers don’t recommend repairing punctures, so you might not want to rely on repairing a puncture as a long term fix, but when you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere, it’ll be quicker than waiting to be recovered, cheaper than a new tyre and safer than trying to ride on a flat.
I know some people wouldn’t dream of putting Radweld in their bike. Fine, whatever, that’s up to you. But I always carry a bottle with me. Radweld, if you don’t know is a solution that you can pour into your bikes cooling system, should you sustain a hole in your radiator, and it’ll find the hole and have a good go at blocking it.
If you’re riding in a group, getting a hole in your radiator isn’t uncommon. It’s happened to me on a number of occasions, and I’ve always been glad of the little blue bottle of Radweld at the bottom of my rucksack.
Granted, it doesn’t always work. If you’ve got a really big hole, you might be fucked, but if it’s small enough for the Radweld to do it’s thing, it might be the difference between you getting to enjoy the rest of your adventure, and not.
There’s been a number of reasons I’ve needed medication on previous motorcycle adventures… for some strange reason, I’ve quite often got a headache in the mornings. That’s one of the reasons it’s good to have a packet of paracetamol with you.
As previously mentioned though, I’m a bit of a bugger for throwing bikes (and myself) on the floor. And that sometimes hurts. Actually, it often hurts. A bit of pain relief, in such situations, never goes down badly.
If you’re out in summer time, don’t forget your sunblock and insect repellent, and if it’s a winter ride, a few Lemsips to keep the cold and flu symptoms at bay might make the days a little bit easier to get through.
Remember, the weather forecast is just an educated guess. They’ve got it wrong before and they’ll no doubt get it wrong again. If they tell you it’s definitely not going to rain, take it with a pinch of salt. Because it doesn’t take long to get wet through, but does take a long time to get dry. And being wet is not comfortable.
You don’t have to go all out, and have an entire wet-weather riding outfit stuffed into your bag. But I would definitely recommend a thin, lightweight set of waterproof overalls. It might not stop your hands and feet from getting damp, but if it stops the bulk of you getting soaked, it’ll be worth its weight in pound coins.
If you’re using a satnav, whether it’s on your phone or not, you’ll want some way of keeping it charged up. In fact, particularly if it’s on your phone; because you might end up needing that. If your planning on doing some wild camping, or you’re staying somewhere without power, you won’t have anywhere to charge phones, satnavs, or anything like that. And whilst it’s quite refreshing living ‘off-grid’ without your mobile buzzing in your pocket every five minutes, they’re quite handy in an emergency. In fact they’re very handy.
Loads of modern bikes have got charging points as standard, which is great… but it’s not too difficult to fit one to an older bike. And I would highly recommend it.