Monday, October 13, 2014

Tools? What tools?

While there are quite a few people seemingly happy travelling to remote places without even the most basic tools, we take the essentials with us so that we can do our own maintenance, fix flat tyres, replace chains and sprockets etc. I'm not telling you what to do though! If you're more comfortable when the bike shop does all your maintenance, then please do so. If you rather grab the mobile phone when you have a flat tyre, then you won't need any tyre changing tools or skills either. I suppose the only consideration would be to make sure you stay within the mobile phone coverage area…

I've always done my own maintenance and have been in quite a few situations where I was glad I had the tools to get me out of trouble. Having a flat tyre isn't fun, not being able to fix it when you're stranded in the middle of nowhere is even less fun. So I carry spare tubes, a simple bicycle style repair kit, a mountain bike handpump, a tyre gauge, tyre levers and the tools to take the wheel out. The simplest way to make sure you've got all you need with you, is to do the job at home from start to finish and then pack all the tools you needed.

Each bike also has its own 'special' tools. I'm not talking engine strip down stuff but tools you need for basic maintenance yet won't find in a standard tool kit. For instance: 1/2 Inch socket sets usually don't go any further than 32mm, yet Triumph fitted a 36mm nut on the front sprocket of a Bonnie. Hex keys usually don't go any bigger than 10mm yet to get the front wheel out of a Yamaha XT660R you need a 14mm. Both examples are, in my book, clear cases that motorcycle manufacturers do not care about the customers that do their own maintenance as the 36 mm nut could have easily been machined to accept a standard 32mm socket and the front spindle of the Yamaha could have been a 10mm hex fitment too. Neither should require excess force as both are locked in place.

Carrying your tools
For years I have used all kinds of boxes, old socks, rags and whatever else I could find to carry my tools. Now that we have tool rolls I can't believe it took me so long to buy them. They are not just better to carry them but also make sure I don't loose any tools. Each and every tool has its own space now, which means that after the job is finished I simply check every spot in the tool roll to make sure I didn't leave anything behind. Tool rolls come in various forms, shapes and sizes. I personally have one from Wolfman but there are better ones for sale. The things to look for are pockets in various sizes and elastic to ensure each tool will fit in snuggly. A mesh pocket for smaller items like my pressure gauge and valve puller for instance is handy too. What is missing is a magnetic strip like the Enduristan has. When you're ready to pack up simply fold the flap over, so the tools won't fall out, roll up and fasten with the adjustable buckle. I've used them for a while now and simply love them. Tool rolls cost a bit of money but check how much your tools are worth and what it will cost to replace one when you've left it behind somewhere (not to mention the trouble you're in when you need it and it is no longer there…) and you'll find tool rolls are well worth the money.

Tools for fixing flat tyres and fitting new ones
Motorcycle tyre lever, smaller than
car ones; take two with you!
Apart from the tools needed to take out both wheels, I also take a set of tyre levers (small motorcycle ones), tyre patches, a valve stem puller (see photo) as they make the job so much easier, a proper valve tool that can also repair damaged

threads, a high quality hand pump and a small electric compressor. Why the handpump and the compressor? A good quality hand pump will do the job, depending on how fit you are. Small compressors are a lot easier though. You will need to start the engine to avoid flattening the battery and it might take a long time to fully inflate the tyre, which for an aircooled engine might cause overheating. We use the Yamaha, as it's watercooled, and manually switch the fan on. Small compressors can fail, especially the cheap ones, which makes the handpump a good backup.

Chain replacement tools
The tools needed to replace a chain and sprockets depend on the motorcycle and the chain used. Like I said, the Bonneville has a 36 mm nut on the front for which I take a socket, the rear is mounted with 14 mm nuts. Contrary to common belief you don't need to physically take the rear wheel out to replace the rear sprocket on the Bonneville or the Yamaha. First thing to do is slacken off the nut holding the front sprocket in place while putting your foot on the rear brake pedal.

Then slacken off the nuts holding the rear sprocket the same way. Undo the rear axle nut, slide out the axle, take out the spacers but don't remove the wheel. The gap where the spacers were can now be used to drop the rear sprocket through. Break the chain, either by removing the clip link or by breaking the rivet link, but leave the chain in position. Link the new chain to the old one and pull the old chain through. Depending on the type of chain you use and/or your preference, fit the clip link or rivet link with plenty of grease (if supplied, use the grease that came with the link).
To fit a clip link you need little more than pliers. To fit/replace a rivet link you need a chain breaker/riveter tool like the one shown in the photo.

Maintenance tools
Again these vary from bike to bike and the best way to ensure you have everything, is to do a full service at home and then pack all the tools you needed. I also take a gas type soldering iron as soldered connections tend to fracture in the end. I've re-soldered quite a few connections on our little camera battery chargers for instance. 

Spare parts
As a rule I don't carry a lot of spare parts. I've met people who have complete chain and sprocket sets with them, plus enough oil to do a service, plus an oil filter, spark plugs, all control cables etc. Weight is a killer on any bike and the stuff listed above is both heavy and awkward to pack. With a little bit of planning you can do all your servicing on the road without needing to take all that. We have been away for two years as I write this and not needed any of it. I do keep an eye on chain and sprocket wear though and thus can reasonably predict when I need new ones and order ahead. Most motorcycle manufacturers have an extensive world wide dealer list on their website and every bikeshop, no matter how small, can get you the chain, sprockets and tyres you need. Sometimes even overnight. What is handy to have with you is a cross reference list of the basic maintenance parts. We found for instance that the Triumph oil filter is the same as the one used on various types of Honda and Yamaha. The same goes for brake pads. The easy way to find out is by looking at the website of HiFlo Filtro, find the filters needed for your bike and then click on the filter which will give a fitment list. I'm using HiFlo Filtro as they are made to stricter tolerances and give higher flow than most OEM filters. For brake pads I use the SBS site.

Simple bicycle patches work on
motorcycle tubes too
The things I do take with me are emergency items, like a clip link for the chain, a spark plug, brake pads (especially since I've seen Brembo linings breaking off the pad!), hose clamps (more on which later), electrical cable and connectors, fuses, duct tape, zip ties, a spare tube, tyre patches, silicone gasket cement, glue and a cork… A cork is a very handy replacement for rubber bungs, replace a lost sump plug (it wasn't mine!), temporary plug a hole in a crankcase (!) or as a simple but very effective side stand stop on my own Bonneville when the rubber was smashed out of it after hitting a pothole covered in fine sand. Cork is oil resistant, reasonably heat resistant, can be cut to shape with a knife and is compressible to achieve a good seal.

Hose clamps
One of the most useful things invented for emergency repairs, in my view, are hose clamps. I've used them for just about anything over the years. From temporary fixing of split hoses to repairing broken luggage racks by using them to hold tent pegs over the fracture as a splint.