By Sean Goulart, ThumperTalk Sr. Contributing Editor
When it comes to off-road motorcycles, there are certain tools that you simply must have and we’ve spent some time talking to riders, racers and manufacturers about just what they are. You might be surprised as to what makes the list of “The 9 Tools Every Off-Road Rider Must Have”.
Of course, we’re not saying that this list has the ONLY 9 tools you’ll need; these are the tools our audience felt they “must have”, not “should have”. That said, let’s take a look at our first “must-have” tool.
#1 - TIRE REPAIR KIT
A complete tire repair kit that can cover both tube-type and tubeless tires is a must-have item. A flat tire will end your day quickly and can be a real disaster if you are far from the trail head. This kit features the ability to repair tube and tubeless tires and also includes tire irons as well as a cool hose from the spark plug to pump up the tire when done.
#2 - SPRING PULLER
This affordable simple item is rarely used, but when needed - nothing else will do! Riders used to call this an “exhaust spring puller” because it was mainly used for two-stroke pipe springs. But smart mechanics know it can be used for a variety of tasks that other tools just can’t handle; like getting into tight spaces, picking up or “hooking” lost or misplaced items, getting underneath gas tanks, removing cotter pins, and holding items out of the way.
You need it because no other tool in your tool box does what it does. This T-handled spring puller from MSR Racing shown here is just one example of this cool tool.
#3 - LOW PRESSURE TIRE GAUGE
Having the right inflation for the terrain and tires you run is extremely important. If you’ve over or under-inflated your tires, you know the drill - incorrect tire pressure brings on a myriad of handling and traction-related woes, not to mention the potential damage to your tires, tubes, and rims. Working with old gas station compressors and $3 air pressure gauges just ain’t gonna cut it.
Most gauges read in 2-5 PSI increments and because the scale is so great, the low pressure accuracy is lost. You need a gauge that reads in ½ to 1 PSI increments to get those tires dialed in right. Features like longer hoses and bleeder valves are required and the unit shown below has what most off-road mechanics require at an affordable price.
#4 - SMALL GRANULARITY TORQUE WRENCH
Over tightening bolts on motorcycles is easy due to the small size and relatively low torque values applied. This can do serious damage to your bike especially on bearing related and load bearing items. Things like fork tubes are very vulnerable to damage when not following the specific tightening values as outlined in your shop manual.
Many torque wrenches are built for automotive applications and do not offer the granularity needed for low-torque applications. We like to use a specific lower value torque wrench with a ¼” drive to try to avoid ham-fisting expensive assemblies. One such example is the unit shown below, available in ¼”, ⅜” or ½” drive(s).
You need this if you care about doing the job right.
#5 - IMPACT DRIVER
We’ve all spent time with stripped screws and know what a pain they can be. One old fastener can turn into a day of frustration if the right tool isn’t available to remove it. Although many methods are used to get out these stripped fasteners, the old fashioned impact wrench is our go-to tool for this problem...it pretty much works the first time, and every time.
Always replace stripped screws with new units and use a torque wrench to avoid over-tightening. One issue when using impact drivers is missing the tool and smashing your hand, so here’s an impact wrench that uses a newer design for the handle that addresses that, although pretty much any decent unit will get the job done.
Note: Many issues with removing fasteners is due to the incorrect driver being used to begin with. Are you SURE that Phillips Head driver is the right tool? To learn more about the Japanese Industrial Standard, or JIS - Click Here
#6 - T-HANDLE WRENCHES
Every time I visit the pits, I look at what the mechanics use, no matter if it’s the Nationals or a local race. And one items that you always see is the ubiquitous T-handle wrench set. This is a tool than we use a bit more at the track/trail than we do in the garage, but it’s always closeby...and for jobs like taking on/off plastics, quick, low-torque applications; it can’t be beat.
T-Handle wrenches are inexpensive, usually have no moving parts and this would be a good example of what’s available out there:
#7 - QUALITY TIRE IRONS
Unless you’re made of cash or have a trust fund, you probably mount your own tires. Needless to say, thIS job is among the least liked, but the show must go on and once you get good at it, well... it still sucks.
But one thing that can make it better is having the right set of tools for the task - namely tire irons...and not those short stubby knuckle-busters that came in your OEM tool kit, we’re talking about irons that actually help you get the job done the first time. Once you use these you’ll never look at those stubbies again!
One such set are these from Motion Pro and wow are they trick, take a look:
#8 - HARDWARE KITS
When doing routine maintenance and inspections, lost fasteners are always a problem, and can end your day on the track or trail due to a missing or broken 10 cent screw or bolt. Add to that the fact that many hardware outlets do not carry the correct fasteners for our noble steeds and it all adds up to riders using the wrong item for the application.
This can be avoided almost entirely by adding a hardware kit to your tool arsenal. Most off-road motorcycles use the metric standard so we would recommend a kit like this (or larger) to fill most of your hardware needs.
Remember that using the right fastener for the job is a safety issue!
#9 - CHAIN BREAKER PRESS AND RIVETING TOOL
This tool almost didn’t make the list but after discussion, its merits won us over.
Changing chains can be a real hassle when they aren’t the perfect length and Murphy’s Law says it’s bound to catch up with you...and when you need to install a chain, shorten a chain or press out a pin, no tool works half as well as the right one.
A good chain tool will feature different dies for different size chains and hardened pins for long life. This unit from Motion Pro is just one example of a complete kit.
Thanks for checking out our "9 Tools Every Off-Road Rider Must Have!" article. If you're still hungry for more moto-tips, we've got em'! Just click HERE to browse. Or, if you don't see what you're looking for, use the search function.
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