The Real Tools of the Trade...

We started with a list of jobs that we were likely to need to undertake and a list of bikes we were likely to need to do them on. Primarily the bikes are BMWs and you’ll notice a preponderance of Torx fittings for this reason. Top of the list is bulb replacements, tightening up loose bits and gaffer taping things back together, but our kit also equips us for the following: punctures – tubed and tubeless; wheel removal; replacing incorrect fuel – including from injection system; adjusting chains; replacing brake pads; replacing/cleaning air filters; removing batteries; de-drowning and repairing cracked casings.

Now some of the jobs and tools are quite specific to the role of a tour leader, and some are far more relevant to adventure travel. You wouldn’t need to carry three different sized plug sockets or a universal internal hex drive for all four sizes of BMW front axle. You probably won’t be planning on de-drowning a bike. Oh, by de-drowning I don’t mean flooding it on start up, I mean dropping it in a river and filling the engine with water !

The most common problems – punctures and cracked casings – can apply anywhere; how you choose to deal with them relates to where you are. If you’ve dropped your GS in the car park of your local BMW dealer and cracked the rocker cover then you’re going to let them deal with it. If you’re in Chicken, Alaska, and the nearest dealer is four hours away, then you need to fix it yourself.

The sizes of spanners and sockets will be personal to your own bike but here’s our list of other essentials :

- Duct Tape : Get one of the small rolls that pack easily.

- Cable Ties : Long and strong. Like duct tape they are the bodger’s temporary repair nirvana. You can even stitch plastic panels back together with them.

- Clear Fuel Hose : Lets you syphon fuel either because you’ve used the wrong pump or more commonly because someone has run out. Why clear? So you can see the fuel coming up the hose and don’t get a mouthful!

- Insulation Tape : Another essential for all roadside repairs.

- Mini Compressor : We don’t carry CO2 canisters; the average canister will inflate your tyre to 7-12 psi. You need two to three to re-inflate a tyre, only then to find out that you haven’t fixed the puncture and the air has all leaked out. A compressor gives you a never-ending supply of air.

- Liquid Metal / Epoxy Putty : A putty that can be shaped and moulded to fill holes, repair cracks or even plug leaking radiators. When it sets it goes rock hard. Great stuff but when using it to repair cracked cases you always need to know the answer to “where is the bit of metal that is missing?” If it’s lying on the road, fine, but if it is lodged in the engine, then you must get it out. If you don’t it could be catastrophic!

- Multi-use Pliers : Long nosed, with cutters and an internal gripping surface that can be used as an adjustable grip.

- Stubby Tyre Levers : You don’t need lots of leverage so stubby levers are fine. Keep the little plastic rim shield they normally come with as well; it’s far too easy to scratch your wheels without it. We take three levers – you can do it with two but three make it a lot easier.

- Adjustable Spanner : Mechanics the world over break into a cold sweat when you mention an adjustable spanner but on the road is where it comes into its own. One size fits almost all.

- Puncture Repair Kit : Everyone has a preference. There is an advantage if you have tubeless tyres of using one of the glue-less systems. So many times people pop the puncture repair kit under their seat but when they need it three years later they find the glue has gone hard. The most important thing is to practice on an old tyre or tube. The side of the road in the rain is not the place to start reading the instructions and learning the technique.

And that’s it – add the right spanners and sockets for your bike and you have a decent kit. But remember – when you’ve bought all the nice shiny tools, learn how to use them, or leave them at home.