TOOLS - Take the right Kit
by Andy Davies
So, you're heading out for a nice road ride to your favourite cafe to meet up with some mates. What's the worst that can happen, you have a puncture, the bike stops working? Simple to solve, call the AA or a tow truck and you sit back while they do the heavy lifting. Unlike heading out on a road trip, trail riding involves heading off the main road and into the hills. The routes you are taking don't see a lot of traffic and some of the very good ones aren't accessible by much other than walkers, mountain bikers and motorcyclists. Furthermore, the terrain can be rocky, you could be doing water crossings and the chances of a little stumble do increase. Don't worry about a little fall, you're likely to be going a low speed so as long as you have the right gear getting up and carrying on is normally fine, but is your bike OK?
Punctures, banged engine cases, knocked radiators, broken levers, broken chains and flooded engines are quite common in the off road world. Some, like punctures, being a little more common place than most other things.
You can do things to your bike to help with this - like radiator guards, sumps guards, mooses - but maybe we'll write an article on that stuff another time.
It's important that you have the key tools to do the basics on your bike. Now there are limits to what you are likely to do at the side of a trail, for example you'll fix a chain but you wouldn't do a full engine rebuild. So keep that in mind when you're packing your kit. There is a balance to this, you want enough to do the job but not too much to weigh you down.
Here is a list of what I carry with some comments and some additional recommendations, not all bikes are the same and they all need slightly different tool combinations. Also, don't assume your factory tool kit has everything you need, they often don't. Besides have you checked it recently? Do you even have one?
So you have the tool kit, but what else comes in handy?
Not everyone has the spare cash lying around to go out and buy all of this stuff but many of us have a lot of this gear hanging around in a toolbox somewhere. So to get you started, go and have a rummage. Lots of people have a little 1/4" socket set that is often not used in favour of a larger 1/2" set, raid the little one for bits. Don't have a spare adjustable spanner, use the one you have, you can always go and get it off the bike when you need it.
However, if you are buying new tools, there is a handy rule to keep in mind. Make sure everything you put in your bag has more than one use. E.g. My trail tool = sockets, screwdriver, allen keys. Tyre levers are spanners also. Multi tool = knife and pliers. This will help you keep weight down and save space.
However, even without the latest space saving tools, you'd be surprised how much you can fit in a small bag. Don't forget, your bike has lots of places to strap smaller bags with bits and pieces in it, for example: under your seat, strapped to the bar pad, strapped to your seat. Many people stick things in a backpack or hydration pack but I personally don't like this, as I don't like the idea of falling off and landing on my tools (I don't like the idea of falling off either).
My personal favourite combination for carrying things:
Depending on who you ride with, there is a good chance you can spread this kit around. However, I like the peace of mind in knowing I have what I need to sort it out. I still think I have a few too many bits with me, but something niggles me that I'll need them so they stay in there. One day I'll probably conclude I don't need them.
I've mentioned a few brands in the article above. These are only personal recommendations but you may find them useful.
I really rate all of Kriega's gear and I have yet to find anyone with a bad word to say about them. Why do I rate them? Thekit is just really well thought out. The strapping system makes them easy to remove and you can also attach them to other Kriega gear like their larger packs and backpacks to make combo bags. There are extremely water tight as I found out first hand dropping my bike in a river with my phone in one. The Kriega US5 is a great little bag for strapping your tools to your bike.
Motion Pro Trail Tool
As with the Kriega gear, I like the Motion Pro stuff because it is innovative and most importantly works well. Furthermore the build quality is second to none. I debated the trail tool for a long time before getting one, but when I finally did I have to admit it is money well spent.
Very compact when packed away. When assembled it provides a full length screw and allan driver. Alternatively, you can flip the end 90 degrees which allows you to get some real leverage on tuff to budge screws. Then there is the 3/8" socket driver, which combined with the sockets supplied and a couple of supplements makes for a very nice to use socket set. You can also flip the socket attachment to change it to a 1/4" socket, useful if you have a couple of small sockets hanging around. And finally, you've got to rate a company that remembers to put the ever important bottle opener on a tool!
Motion Pro Combo Levers
For long enough I got by without my own set of levers and eventually I decided enough was enough and I needed to get myself some for my own kit bag. The levers were recommended to me by a number of people so I took the plunge. When you first open them your reaction will be towards the weight, these are so light it is quite unbelievable that they would ever be strong enough to change a tyre. But when using them, they don't flex an inch. I bought one with the small spanner, this is actually a 12mm on one side and 13mm on the other. It's actually nice and handy for removing the valve nut, especially as you have them out anyway. The 12/13 Combo also has a little lip on the tyre lever end which does seem to help grab the tyre for those first couple of lever pulls. My second is a 22mm which I bought because the bike I used at the time had a 22mm rear nut. Complimenting these, I also added their 3/8" socket adaptor which provides you with a nice long lever for removing wheel nuts. I may still yet buy a 3rd leaver, if I do, would get another one of these with a 27mm spanner to fit my current bike which will let me ditch the quite heavy 27mm socket I carry.