Tools for the road! To carry or not to carry? I usually only carry them if we're going to be out for the day or longer. When I ride to work I don't carry tools because I'm not going to be anywhere remote where I can't get help. Everyone has an opinion on whether or not they should bother carrying tools. They will add a bit of weight and take up some space. With careful purchasing and planning of your tools, you can minimize both of these impacts so that it's nearly unnoticeable.
Reasons You Might Need Tools
While with our HOG Chapter and with other groups, I have seen a few instances where a rider was able to continue on because of the forethought of our Road Captains bringing tools. If they hadn't brought tools, the rider would have had to wait for a tow truck to haul their bike away.
On one occasion, a rider's floorboard fell off because the bolt holding it on came out while he was riding down the road. One of the road captains stopped with him while the rest of the group continued on to the next stop. Fortunately, they retrieved the floorboard from the side of the road. They didn't have a bolt for it but the road captain had a small spool of baling wire, pliers, and wire cutters and managed to wire it back on so he could continue the ride.
Another instance occurred on a 911 memorial ride. We were about to leave the fire station, and one bike wouldn't start. After some basic diagnosis, the road captains thought the carburetor might be flooded. They pulled out some tools from a saddlebag, pulled the spark plugs, cranked it a few times with the spark plugs out, the excess fuel came out, put the spark plugs back in, and started right up.
One other time a rider lost a bolt that held one side of his windshield on. He rode up, holding the windshield so it wouldn't fall down. Even though no one had a bold to replace it, one rider had some zip ties, and he used those through the windshield and the bolt hole. It worked great, and he was able to ride the rest of the day with the windshield attached with zip ties. Was it a perfect fix? No, but it got that rider through the day.
No Motorcycle Is Exempt
These were small issues and easily fixed, but only because our road captains keep some basic tools with them on rides. You won't be able to do major repairs, but the tools can certainly help in many cases and with some creativity to get you back on the road. I know some people say they will just call for a tow, and that's fine. I would much rather have a chance to repair a minor problem than be sitting on the side of the road. If I don't have the ability to make a repair, then as a last resort, call the tow truck. I've seen new bikes with only a couple thousand miles on their breakdown. I've also seen bikes with thousands of miles break down. It can happen at any time to any bike.
Packing Various Tools
I have a set of tools compiled just for putting in my saddlebags. They were not very expensive, and with thoughtful shopping, you can have a compact toolset that won't require much space. I broke my set into two units, a socket set for one saddlebag and miscellaneous tools for the other. I found a heavy material small tool bag at Harbor Freight for $5.00 for the miscellaneous stuff. When we took our 11-day trip to the Blue Ridge Parkway, I took all of the tools that will be mentioned below. If you look at the pictures of my bike in the slideshow from that trip, you would never know there were that many tools plus clothing, shoes, camera, video equipment, thermos, and rain suit in the bags of my bike.
Itemized Tool List
Here is a list of tools I pack:
SAE Socket & Ratchet set= includes deep-set sockets, spark plug sockets, extensions
Crescent wrenches- 2 sizes
Screwdriver- Multi-point interchangeable tips
Allen Wrenches- Both SAE and Metric
Spare turn signal bulb
Quart of oil
Air pressure gauge