Everyday Carry isn’t just an awkward term for the shit you carry in your pockets everywhere you go, it’s a philosophy of preparedness that promotes self reliance and skill over relying on others to help you out when you’re in a bind. It’s a philosophy every HFL staff member believes in and in civilian life it means flashlights and multitools and pocket knives. Something break? You can fix it. Hurt yourself? You can fix that too. Trapped? No you aren’t. On a motorcycle? It’s what you can keep under your seat and safely in your pockets. It’s the stuff you should be carrying with you every time you get on a bike so you’re able to deal with all the surprises life on two wheels can throw at you. It’s being a responsible rider. Here’s how.
If motorcycling is more than just a hobby to you, you’ll need to carry a few things with you at all times. It may seem like a silly pain in the ass or an excuse to geek out over gadgets, but the things on these list will help make your life go smoothly when you run into trouble. First up is light carry. This is the stuff in your jacket, backpack, pants pockets or under the seat every time you get on the bike. Most of the time, you won’t use any of it, but this is small basic stuff that doesn’t cost a lot of money to buy and doesn’t take up a lot of space. Next are luxuries. These are items that you’ll use even less, only in a crash for example, or items that while not exactly necessary, can make life a lot easier. Depending on how much space you have, it may be no big deal to carry all of this stuff at all times as well. Say in a pocket on your backpack or in a little tool roll or tail pack
Registration, Insurance and License
At some point in your riding career, you will inevitably be stopped by the police. Having your paperwork in order is often the deciding factor in whether you ride away or call a friend because your bike was impounded. Keep it under your seat or in a similarly non-removable portion of your bike so you can’t accidentally forget it. Need to take further steps to keep it try? LokSaks are affordable and extremely effective.
Tire patch kit / Slime
Your tire will pickup nails and you’re never going to get a warning as to when it will happen. It takes five minutes to make a permanent fix that lasts the life of the tire and it costs you almost nothing. Some people warn that riding on a patched tire is dangerous, but those people also own cars and have hundreds of dollars in “new tire” money lying around. Patch it and forget about it.
Of course, tire plugs will do you no good if you have an old bike with stone age tubed wheels or a Paul Smart Ducati. Slime doesn’t always seal instantly or perfectly the way a plug does, but it does work most of the time and it’s way easier than carrying tire levers and spare tubes..
Accurate tire gauge
Confidence is everything on a bike and a questionable tire will destroy that. Carry a tire gauge that you trust so you’ll be able to tell if you’ve got a leak and so you can set the proper tire pressure after you fix that leak. Don’t waste your valuable attention on something like tire pressure when it could be spent on a texting Prius driver. Don’t trust gas station gauges either, they can be off by hundreds of percent due to overuse, abuse and not enough maintenance.
Birds will shit on you and bugs will wander into your path. A nasty bug hit may cover .0.5% of a car windshield but that same bug will likely block 5-10% of your vision on a bike. If you ride near the ocean, salt spray will cling to your shield and, after a few minutes, you’ll wonder why it’s so foggy out. Carry around a microfiber cloth to clean your shield when these things happen. Spit works great to loosen dead bugs. Also use it to wipe the condensation or rain off your seat. Riding with a frozen wet butt is terrible. Good vision might save your life.
Patching a tire is dirty. There are adhesives, tools and road grime. A pair of gloves can even save you from minor cuts. If you find yourself fiddling and wrenching on the side of the road, a cheesy pair of nitrile gloves really make things better.
As an added benefit, you can wear them under your gloves as a vapor barrier when it’s wet or cold out. Being able to use your hands to operate your controls is a good thing for all the obvious reasons. Even if your hands are already wet, preventing evaporative cooling and windchill can really help markedly.
Maratac AAA Flashlight
Haven’t upgraded to the latest generation of LED flashlight yet? It’ll change your life. This thing’s brighter than a two D-cell Maglite and fits on your keychain. For reals.
Wes has modified his with 10440 cells to produce something in excess of 200 lumens. You don’t need to do that. In stock form, the 80 lumen max is more than enough to illuminate entire rooms, much less a work area or your bike’s guts. If you carry nothing else, this will at least let you effectively use your bike’s shitty stock tool kit at night, source spent fuses and other tiny, hard-to-see problems as well as find that leak in your tire and countless other things. Seeing is good. Being able to see at night is essential.
The Maratac AAA is lifetime quality, waterproof, will never require a new bulb and can stay on continuously for over two days. It’s just one of those perfect devices, which, for $24, is amazing value. Run it on lithium batteries for maximum brightness and battery shelf life. Put one under your seat, with lithiums, and you’ll be able to pull it out 10 years later and get 100% effectiveness out of it. Swoon.
Leatherman Squirt PS4 Multitool
So Wes is kind of a tool junkie. He has $200 flashlights and $200 multitools and $500 knives. You know what gets the most use out of all of them? This $18 keychain tool.
Equipped with pliers, a kinda crappy little knife, scissors, Phillips and flathead drivers, a bottle opener, a wire cutter and a file, it’s this that comes right out of the pocket and adjusts suspension, cuts zip ties, opens boxes, tightens bolts, takes down entire walls and dismantles vehicles every time. Bigger multitools are sturdier and pack more tools, sure, but will you have them with you ALL the time? Unless you like wearing belt holsters, probably not. This little Leatherman punches way above its weight and makes up for about half the tools in your toolkit. Just this and that flashlight is about all you need for civilian EDC.
CO2 inflator with 3 cartridges
A CO2 inflator is tiny, weighs almost nothing and will save you if you’ve only got 12 psi and are 50 miles from a gas station. Each cartridge is worth about 5psi, so it’s a good call to carry a few. Being able to
Loctite makes quite a few different products and you’re most likely familiar with the common red Loctite. You apply it to bolts and it stops them from working themselves loose. Green Loctite 640 or 680 is much more permanent. If you’re doing a road-side fix on something that came loose, you’ll want to make sure it doesn’t come loose again. Precision, torque and subtlety be damned.
Real tools instead of Leatherman
Wes carries a leatherman, I carry pliers, a knife, 4mm hex to remove bodywork and sometimes suspension adjustment tools like a flat head screw driver, 14 and 19mm sockets and, if it seems like the setup is way off, a rubber hammer and preload tool. On a modern bike, there really isn’t much, if anything, you can fix on the side of the road without spare parts. If you tear up your bodywork crashing, it’s usually better to toss the sharp and jagged remains in the trash than have them flap around and break off on the freeway. You’ll also attract less police attention this way. Now would also be a good time to consider investing in some frame sliders if you haven’t already. If you have a vintage, cafe racer or other carburated, less-reliable bike, think long and hard about what often breaks and what’s likely to break, then put together the bare minimum of what you need to repair that. Remember, you’re on a motorcycle and space is at a premium.
It’s worth it to swap the cheesy stock tool kit out for real tools that won’t bend and break when you really need them.
On long group rides I carry a full-size bottle of quick detailer in my pack. It loosens bugs and makes your shield easier to clean. Riding alone, the full-size bottle is overkill. Carry a tiny spray bottle instead.
It’s strong, sticky and holds stuff in place. It’s extremely similar to duct tape, but it comes in a wide assortment of colors and usually leaves no residue behind. From 10 feet away, no one will be able to tell you’ve crashed, cracked, broken and rashed things and taped them back together. Also use it to make temporary repairs to your gear after a slide. If you’re short on space, take the tape off the roll and roll some of it around a pen or itself or an old credit car.
Magic radiator hose tape (if you have a water-cooled bike)
Water-cooled bikes don’t work without water and radiator hoses are easily damaged. Keep some of this tape around and you’ll be one step closer to crashing stress-free. It’s made of a special rubber that that bonds to itself when you wrap it around a busted coolant hose.
Comes in a roll, stronger than zip ties, sharp and fits in places where zip ties won’t. Use your leatherman or pliers to twist and trim after you’re done. If you crash a bike with hard bags, this’ll remount them on the subframe despite broken hinges or whatnot. Safety wire plus racer’s tape is virtually a permanent fix.
JB Weld and change
Put a hole in your stator cover or sump? That’s probably going to cost a few bucks, but if you can score some oil, you can use your mircofiber cloth to clean up the broken parts and JB Weld a nickel, quarter, dime or penny in place to seal things up. A lot of crazy dirtbike people would even consider this to be a permanent fix.
Mechanic’s gloves (instead of latex)
Latex gloves work pretty well, but for a more permanent solution that will protect your hands even better, try these.
Use it to seal up your cuts, reassemble that broken switch or stick that tab back on your bodywork. Small, light and infinitely handy.
Bike specific spare parts that always seem to break or fall off
If your bike is always trying to leave you stranded, get one step ahead of it. If you ride an old RD350, carry around a plug wrench, plugs and maybe even a can of carb cleaner. Some dirt bikers even carry a spare cylinder. You don’t need to go that far if you’re just commuting, but you get the idea.
What if you have absolutely nothing at all and you find yourself with broken bones, bleeding on the side of the road? Use your phone to call friends and 911. It will save your life.
We haven’t included a first aid kit on purpose. If you’re wearing full gear, as you should be, and you still managed to injure yourself, then those injuries are unlikely to be of the kind you can fix yourself.
Gas stations always accept cash. Keep a $20 stashed in your jacket or on the bike. It will save your ass someday. With most bikes, this is enough for 200 miles or so of fuel. Late at night, that gas station with a broken credit card machine won’t prevent you from getting home.
Sportsbikes look great when you yank off the passenger pegs and seat, but those things are incredibly useful. Badger and harass your friends into keeping their passenger accommodations as well, no matter how excruciatingly uncomfortable they are. Motorcyclists will always help each other out and your ability as a motorcyclist to help out is greatly increased when you can transport a passenger, even for a short time and even if it’s really uncomfortable.
I was able to carry Wes 18 miles out of the back country when he crashed and broke his arm because the WR250R had pegs. It wasn’t comfy, it wasn’t cool and we couldn’t go faster than about 10mph, but it sure as hell was a lot better than waiting for him to walk out.
A note on safety
Crashing a bike sucks. Crashing and hurting yourself sucks a lot worse. You’re already wearing safety gear, so don’t dissipate its advantages by taking unnecessary risks. Anything carried on your body, in your pockets or on your back can cause extra injury in a crash. Carrying a multitool, for instance, in your hip pocket could jab a 16oz piece of pointy metal into your flesh and bones in a crash. Put it in a tail pack or under your seat and that won’t be an issue.
EDC is more than a shopping list, it’s a way of thinking. Be prepared for the worst with tools, the knowledge to use them and the mindset to deal with real problems and you’ll find the worst is never really that bad.
What would you add to this list?
For more on Everyday Carry, EDCForums.com is a great resource.