The Basic Motorcycle ToolKit — Tools to Help Get You Home

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Carrying a basic motorcycle toolkit can help you avoid small problems turning into big ones. This is RideApart’s suggested list of essential tools that you should carry at all times on your bike.

Providing your motorcycle is relatively new and more importantly well maintained, and if it’s not an old clunker that’s on it’s last leg, these tools will take care of most situations.

However, the biggest issue you’re going to face is finding the space on a bike to carrying a few essentials you may need. Most modern bikes have a very limited toolkit – normally found under the seat. Chances are that kit is not going to be complete or that useful if you ever find yourself stranded at the roadside. This is where an aftermarket tool roll comes in that can be bolted or strapped to your bike. For that, we recommend the Kriega Tool Roll.

Fold-up allen wrench: These are cheap, easy to find and can be used for the removal and tightening of fasteners on your bike. Make sure you get one that fits the parts on your bike. Either metric or AMSE (American Society of Mechanical Engineers) types are what you should be looking for.

One flat head screwdriver:
Ideally this should be pocket size and as skinny as possible to give you good access in tight areas. If it’s got a magnet on one end too that is even better, as it will help you locate any fasteners that drop into tight spaces.

Multipurpose pocketknife: Something like a small Swiss Army penknife or a pocket Leatherman are ideal as they carry a lot of blades and small tools and are also easy to stash on your bike. This is good for cutting hoses or lines that can become brittle over time. You may need to use a knife to cut the end of a hose before re-clamping it to ensure a tight fit.

Combo screwdriver: This is a good idea as it can be used to replace the flathead screwdriver we mention above. It will also have a Phillips crosshead screwdriver bit as well, along with a few other useful attachments.

Pair of pliers: As you’re going to be restricted by space, try and find a good quality pair of small pliers. They can give you good grip and can help straighten, tighten and hold parts and fasteners.

Adjustable wrench: Try to find one as small as possible, but also one that will fit the fasteners on your bike. Know your motorcycle: some bolts may only be accessible by sockets, in which case, carry the right sizes of those and a small socket wrench, possibly an extender too.


RideApart contributor Chris Brundage working on his DR-Z400 in Costa Rica.

Small flashlight: Very useful if you run into trouble at night. Make sure that the batteries are kept fresh. If you use Lithium batteries, they have a 10-year shelf life and work in cold weather. We recommend the Maratac AAA.

Battery cables: Lightweight cables that can be rolled up tightly are a good solution and can be stashed somewhere on your bike. If you’ve got a flat battery they’ll get you going again. Attach them to another bike’s battery providing you’ve asked the owner. In a pinch, you can also fit the cables to a car battery and then on to your bike’s battery. But don’t start the car, as there should be sufficient power in its battery to get your started.

Spare fuses and bulbs:
In the size and specs your bike needs. They’re small and cheap and often come in a convenient case that keeps them together and protected against damage.

Tire repair kit: Whether your prefer rope plugs or mushrooms, C02 or a pump, or even just a can of Fix-a-Flat, a flat tire is going to be your most common problem. And, with the appropriate kit, the easiest to fix.

Miscellaneous: Don’t forget to pack a few zip ties and a small roll of duct tape, as they will all prove invaluable time and again as you spend time on the road.

Make sure you have the phone number of a reputable towing company or have an annual membership to AAA.

These are what we recommend lives inside every basic motorcycle toolkit. What are your suggestions and what has worked for you in the past?

Related Links:
Trip Prep:
10 Things You Need To Take On A Motorcycle Trip

  • El Isbani

    Follow up to this article: Essential DIY motorcycle maintenance

    • http://www.RideApart.com/ Jen Degtjarewsky

      Great the idea.

      • Davidabl2

        Another: Electrical troubleshooting 101..including use of a soldering pen,circuit tracing.and how to make reliable wire connections.
        Especially since ADV, commuters,and customs are all likely to have non-standard electrics.

    • Mark D

      Agreed. Oil change, chain lube/adjustment, brake pad replacement, valve check, wheel alignment, preload adjustment are all things any tree-shade mechanic should know how to do.

      • http://www.RideApart.com/ Jen Degtjarewsky

        We are actually shooting a video on how to fix a flat on Saturday and also shooting images for stories on how to do an oil change, how to complete a chain adjustment/change, and how to do a tire swap. We will have more on the way in the coming weeks and can add in brake pads, valves and wheel adjustments. No prob!

        • Mark D

          Good stuff!

        • UrbanMoto

          Really looking forward to the tire swap one. Thanks.

      • Peitro Petrelli

        Yes! Show me how to do a valve adjustment on a 1996 YZF600 !

  • Michael Hamlin

    A small pair of vice-grips can be a lifesaver. Useful for many purposes, including as a makeshift lever. Here’s a pair we used to get a friend home.

    • Thomas Høj Jørgensen

      Yeah, but where does one draw the line? I’m carrying 20lbs of “maintenance equipment” already!

      • http://metabomber.com/ Jesse

        Depends on how far away fro help and supplies you are planning on riding. If I was on that Costa Rica ride, I’d likely have spare cables (had a clutch cable go on a commute home one day) and levers with me, too.

      • Davidabl2

        !5 lbs..That’s about right..if you’re riding an oldskool chopper :-)

        • Thomas Høj Jørgensen

          Sounds right, not that I would know :). I do some solo offroad trips in northern africa, and it’s nice having the tools.

          • Davidabl2

            Actually on most oldskool chops there’s no place to put any tools..I am always loaning those guys tools. Seriously. re off road in North Africa I’ll repost my tubed tire toolkit..and I’d suggest one of those satellite cell phones if you don’t already have one.

            • http://krtong.com/ Kr Tong

              Fork bag.

              • Davidabl2

                Well,yes, but it isn’t “secure storage” The H.-D. toolboxes have a primitive lock.

  • Daniel

    I feel like my Leatherman Squirt PS4 and Fenix LD01 cover most bases…I have a 5mm allen wrench under the rear seat cover too. An adjustable wrench is what I need to throw in the back as well…I have a tiny 1/4″ metric socket set too, but I don’t tend to carry that on the bike constantly.

    • Lee Scuppers

      The LD01 is 80 lumens on a AAA? I think it’s calling my name. How long do the batteries last?

      • Daniel

        1.5 hours @ 72 lumens, 3 hours @ 26 lumens, and 27 hours @ 3 lumens. It’s the perfect light to keep in your pocket for most occasions…but I keep a bigger Fenix LD41 light for bigger jobs. Rechargeable AA and AAA Eneloops works real well here…

  • Miles Prower

    My understanding is that most AAA regional offices will not help AAA members on their motorcycles. I know that’s the case for AAA New England. Here, motorcyclists get roadside help via their manufacturer’s warranty or service plan, or through AMA membership.

    If you have a Japanese bike, you might consider a JIS screwdriver (or set of JIS screwdriver bits) instead of Phillips, since the cross-head fasteners will more likely be JIS, not Phillips.

    • Frick

      Only the top “Premier” level of membership at AAA allows towing of Motorcycles.

      • Miles Prower

        In what state do you live?

        I am a AAA Premier member of AAA SNE. RV and motorcycle coverage does not exist at any level or price.

        AAA SE, on the other hand, offers RV and moto coverage as an additional-cost option to all levels of membership, but as a AAA SE member, you can only get assistance while in FL, GA, TN, and PR.

        Motorcyclists relying on AAA motorcycle roadside assistance in their home state should probably consider other options if touring elsewhere.

        • http://www.twitter.com/seanmacdonald sean macdonald

          Another reason California is awesome, we can add motorcycle coverage to any level of AAA membership

          • jonoabq

            AMA membership covers towing for all vehicles in a household, motorcycles & cars. Just sayin’.

    • Piglet2010

      My moto insurance (Progressive) covers towing/roadside assistance.

      • Rameses the 2nd

        +1 to your post. I have coverage with Progressive. I just added road-side with trip insurance for just $15 a year to my plan.

  • Lee Scuppers

    I prefer a head-band light to a small flashlight. Leaves both hands free.

    I also keep a Fenix E05 (single AAA) with me always. It’s a great light; I lost one in my yard, found it after a couple of winters embedded in mud, still functioning. About $20.

    For binding up anything hot enough to melt zipties, several feet of steel or aluminum wire is another nice to have, if you’ve got a small pliers to cut it with, e.g. the pocket Leatherman mentioned above. Big fan of the Squirt.

    A small tube of dialectric grease and another of Blue Loctite.

    Also, an adjustable wrench is good to have, but there good and bad ways to bring one along. I noticed this one day about an hour from home, when I looked down to make sure the nut hadn’t backed off. It hadn’t, yay!

  • http://metabomber.com/ Jesse

    I do love my Kriega tool roll.

    I also carry some Rescue Tape and a spare headlight. Being invisible and blind at night is the worst of all worlds.

  • runnermatt

    I’ll recommend two tools.

    The Bionic Wrench by Loggerhead Tools – Designed and Made in USA
    http://loggerheadtools.com/
    I bought my dad one for christmas last year.

    Vampliers – by Vampire Tools – Made in Kobe, Japan
    http://www.vampiretools.com/

    I’ve always favored Leatherman Tools too.

    Also, if you get a folding knife make sure it has a locking blade. When you are stuck on the the side of road in the middle of nowhere (or just plain in the middle of nowhere) the last thing you need is for your nice sharp knife to close on one of your fingers.

    • runnermatt

      While looking for flashlights that don’t require batteries I came across a wikipedia article on “Mechanically Powered Flashlights”. In that article they mentioned a “Clockwork Torch” design, produced by Freeplay Energy, the energy is stored in a flat spiral wound mainspring, rather than a battery.” It doesn’t look like Freeplay Energy still makes this design, but I would buy one.

      • Hooligan

        These wind up torches work very well, Worth their (little) weight in gold. Very useful for places where batteries are not available. I’ve used them for years in Africa.

  • Hooligan

    A good selection of cable ties will also get you out of many problems. My toolkit is a Leatherman, adjustable spanner and allen keys. Plus some of those hand wipes to get rid of greasy hands after the fix. You don’t want to be putting gloves back on dirty hands.

  • michaelmatos

    Would anyone have any imput on the prebuilt tool roll kits? For those of us in tiny apartments with not many tools they seem a cost effective option.

    • jonoabq

      Over the years I’ve found that the kits are not as motorcycle specific as I’d like them to be. One of the easiest ways to prepare a toolkit for travel/commuting is to get out a pen and paper and list every tool you use the next time you pull panels, adjust stuff, add accessory wiring, etc. then build a kit off of that list.
      I never leave home without:
      1. A working flat kit and two sources of air (CO2 & mini pump) with a quality gauge.
      2. Light
      3. A pair of latex gloves and a couple of folded shop towels or shop rag.
      4. Small assortment of Posilock connectors
      5. Small multi tool
      6. Mini roll of duct tape & electrical tape.
      7. A few zip ties
      8. Tools for panel removal & minor adjustments/repairs.

      There’s other stuff like a small voltmeter, wrenches for wheel removal and such that get taken on multi day trips but for the most part everything will fit under a seat or in a small tail pack. Pack it right and you’ll be surprised at how much essential stuff you can squirrel away. You get huge peace of mind by just having the ability to fix a flat. Check out an Aerostich catalog for small multi-use tools, Park tools (made for bicycle use but they work great for motorized stuff), and Wiha tools for sets of quality mechanical and electrical use tools.

      Hope this helps.

      • michaelmatos

        Wow. Thanks for the amazing wealth of information. It’s the priceless gems of experience. I think I’ll start with an equipped tool roll and add what my bike demands. A flat kit and some posilock connectors are on the list now.

      • Piglet2010

        #3 – Spend a couple of pennies more and get nitrile rubber gloves instead, since they are *not* soluble in petroleum the way latex rubber is.

        • jonoabq

          #3, Oops, sorry I misspoke, they are actually 6mil Raven nitrile, not latex. Kinda spendy but good quality (Napa).

    • http://www.twitter.com/seanmacdonald sean macdonald

      I think they’re a great starting point, but would probably swap some of the pieces for tools specific to my bike, and then add some of the things on this list that usually aren’t included. Revzilla has some great options, just make sure you take the time to compare them and see which one is the most applicable to you.

      http://www.revzilla.com/motorcycle-tools

  • Jason 1199

    On my KLR I have two tool kits depending on how from home or tow access I’ll be riding. The small one contains: leatherman, t-socket w 8,10,12mm heads, tube patch kit, trail jack, three tire spoons with 19, 24 and 27mm ends to remove wheel nuts, mini can of wd40 for chain or tire install lube, rubber gloves, and valve core remover. I keep a spare tube and slime pump in a front fender pouch. The tire irons have duct and electrical tape wrapped for later use.

    The big tool kit has everything from this article plus everything to strip the bike, access the spark plug, change oil, wire crimpers, zip ties, test light, jb weld, crescent wrench, small led light from rei, locking needle nose pliers etc.

    On my Panigale I carry a tire plug kit, co2, and a cell phone for free roadside assistance.

  • Khali

    I always carry all those but the battery cables. Ill write it down for a future buy.

    I carry a couple of small flashlights, one has a dynamo and the other is one of those tiny led “frontal” flashlights that you put on your forehead. Fell in love with it after i had to set up my tent on a really dark camping at the middle of the night.

    Also bought last week a really small 12v compressor, i think it will fit under my v-strom seat if I relocate the rain suit :)

  • Davidabl2

    Even though they’re “advertised on TV” one of those Gatorgrip sockets and a folding ratchet handles is a very good thing to have. I have leant mine to both grateful Harley and UJM riders in the last month. Even on my bicycle I wouldn’t leave home without an allen set, a 4-in one screwdriver, a small vicegrips..and the Gatorgrip..my Multitool,cellphone,pocket camera,and mini flashlite are with me any time i have my pants on .

    + + for the rescue tape(silicon utility tape) and zipties..I don’t carry those on the bicycle, but do on the motorcycles and the pickup truck. No jumper cables on the bicycle either;-) but always have some way(s) to deal with flat tires on anything with tires.

  • Davidabl2

    re Duct tape..duct tape sucks for anything except heating ducts…there is ALWAYS something else better than duct tape for any other application.

  • Jack Norton

    Does anyone have any recommendations for a commuter kit of useful stuff you actually can fit under your seat?

    I take something similar to the above if going on a long trip but don’t have the internal storage (street triple) to take much more than the standard for trips around town – usually less than 20km.

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Under my seat, I stuff one of those foldable Aerostich backpacks, silk glove liners, silk balaclava and some cash.

      On my keychain, I have a good multitool and a good flashlight.

      In my pocket I carry a good knife.

      I also tend to swap out the tools in the stock kit for better quality, more comprehensive stuff.

      Then, when I carry any sort of backpack or luggage, I shove a can of fix a flat and maybe a few more items like cable ties in there.

      You can fit a surprising amount of tools in your stock kit. You don’t need a full Allen key set for instance, just the ones you need for your bikes fasteners.

      • Jack Norton

        Thanks Wes. Not sure I can fit all that but am definitely going to up-spec my standard stuff.

        Stuff like this is another thing that keeps me coming back to this site every day.

        • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

          It’s really not that much stuff. You could totally fit one of these under your seat:

          http://www.aerostich.com/aerostich-lp-lightweight-portable-bag.html

          And the space used by your existing tool kit could easily be filled with better tools. You can probably get some fuses and bulbs under there as well. The other stuff (knife, multitool, light) easily fits on your keychain and in your pocket.

  • Aakash

    I love the Kriega roll. I’ll be posting a review of my own of it and it’s relative usefulness in my upcoming motorcycle gear blog.

    I’ll just say for now that I have three, yes 3, of them. Yes they are spendy, yes you could use the toiletries kit bag that Virgin Atlantic gave you for free on your flight to Heathrow. However, you’ll go through 3-4 lesser bags in the amount of time it takes to wear out the Kriega roll.

  • charlie

    A little off topic but can someone recommend a bike lock or lo-jack type of device for a commuter? I’ve read that lo-jacks don’t really help.

  • Phil Mills

    I’d recommend whatever sockets and wrenches are required to remove your wheels.
    Those tend to be a few sizes outside the range of what people are going to have in their home/automotive kits (especially the front axle tools) so if you’re stuck having to pull a wheel… well, you don’t want to have to rely on someone’s home toolset for that. My F650 had a good set of wrenches in the stock kit for that, but the kit the FJR came with is pretty useless.

    • Afonso Mata

      THIS!
      A few of months ago, 11PM on a misty-cold early-spring night, I saw this delivery guy/courier kicking his CG125′s rear wheel on the side of the road. I stopped to see if I could help, and he said his chain had a lotta slack (his employer didn’t give a damn on spending money on the bike’s maintenance) and he needed to get the wheel a bit far on that thinghy on the swingarm. You know what I’m talking about, don’t you? My english isn’t that great, I dunno how to explain it properly.
      Bottom line, to his rejoice my scooter’s toolkit’s socket wrench was exactly the size he needed to do the job.

  • Generic42

    AAA, AMA, or other for towing coverage? State Farm who I have my insurance through doesn’t offer roadside coverage on the motorcycle. I’m in Colorado if it matters.

    • Tim Watson

      AAA is worth looking at – varies from state to state but i have motorcycle recovery coverage here in California.

  • ben

    For any kit: spend money on good mechanics tools (home depot is not a good place to buy tools for your bike)! all it takes is a stripped screw or a rounded off bolt to get you on board.

    Wire/steel Zip Ties – sometimes plastic just won’t do.

    I rode 250 miles on this mess, you see the plastic ones, but they were breaking all the time, it’s the steel one that held:

  • Adam F

    Extra clutch and brake levers never hurt. Could make a huge difference of whether or not your stranded if your bike goes down and you’re in the middle of nowhere’sville

  • Aakash

    If you’ve got the dough, I’d recommend just picking up a Kriega R8 waistpack. It comes with a tool roll and you get the added functionality of a fantastic waistpack to boot.

    You can catch my review of the R8 waistpack and tool roll here: http://thecushdrive.com/2013/10/18/kriega-r8-waistpack-review/

    and here: http://thecushdrive.com/2013/10/29/kriega-tool-roll/

  • subaruzi

    AAA doesn’t tow / help bikes unless you pay extra. Get roadside assistance through your insurance for a fraction of cost

  • david janzen

    How about an essential garage toolkit?