This article will focus on the things you can do to prepare for situations that might arise while riding your motorcycle. Unlike a car, space on a motorcycle is limited and it makes it a bit more difficult to have everything you need in the event of a breakdown while on the road. I hope to raise awareness of some of these situations and perhaps prompt some proactive strategies for new riders.
Recently, I rode to work on my Harley Davidson FLHTCU. It was a morning like any other. I rode into the city and arrived at work, pulled into the park and parked my bike in its usual spot. When I was done work, I made my way downstairs and much to my dismay, my battery had died.
Those who know me also know that I make a point to be prepared for as many situations as possible. Luckily enough, I reached into my saddlebag, pulled out my portable boost pack and was able to jump start the bike and make my way home. The next day, I picked up a new battery and the bike has not had any problems since.
The road has a tendency to present challenges to riders when they least expect it. Depending on what you ride, these challenges can be met and the risk mitigated quickly with a little bit of planning.
This list is not exhaustive and is more meant as a base to help get new riders thinking of emergency situations and to come up with a contingency to reduce the impact of various situations.
Unless you ride a motorcycle with a sidecar, or maybe a trike, it is unrealistic to think that you will be able to carry a spare tire and wheel with you.
Road hazards are real and affect motorcycles as much as automobiles. The challenge with getting a flat on your bike is that changing a tire is not always possible and getting a flat can often mean that you are stranded on the side of the road. Depending on where you are, a replacement tire can be difficult to obtain.
I carry a plug/patch kit with me at all times. Many options are available and the price is very affordable.
I am fortunate enough to have a generous amount of storage on my Harley; furthermore, I have a power port in my tour pack that allows me to carry a small compressor on the bike at all times, with a place to plug it in if I need to use it. I carry a pressure gauge in my tour pack as well.
Not all motorcycles have the option to carry a compressor; however, alternatives are available such as cans of tire inflator with a solution inside that seals a flat in a tire and allows you to get to a safe location.
If your battery drains out and you can’t start your bike, you could find yourself in a situation where you need a boost. Given that space is limited on a motorcycle, it is unlikely that you will have a set of booster cables with you. Not to mention that if you are on a mountain pass, riding by yourself, it could mean that you are stranded on the side of the road for a long time, especially if you are out of cell phone range.
As mentioned earlier, I carry a portable booster pack with me at all times. It has saved me on three occasions and has helped a fellow rider as well.
The unit I have is quite small, and once charged, can be used to boost my bike numerous times. It can also be used to charge my phone if needed.
I carry the booster pack in my saddlebag; however, given its small size, I could easily carry it in a jacket pocket.
If your bike is small enough, you can get away with putting the bike in second or third gear, holding the clutch, get some friends to push the bike. When you get moving at a reasonable speed, pop the clutch and you should be able to start your bike this way.
Just make sure that your key is in the on position and that your kill switch is not engaged.
Running Out of Gas
When I think of running out of gas, I always think of the scene in Wild Hogs where the guys have run out of gas in the desert and they are pushing their bikes in the scorching sun as a scorpion walks across the hard top…
Running out of gas is not fun. Luckily, most bikes have excellent range, and with a little bit of planning, this should not happen. That being said, when riding in the backcountry, one can find oneself relying on a gas station that was there the last time and has since shut down.
Again, I feel fortunate to ride a touring bike as I have a lot of storage. A company called REDA Innovations makes a gas can that is designed to fit in the Harley Davidson Touring saddlebag.
For Adventure Touring riders, options are available from a company called RotopaX.
If you ride a cruiser or a sport bike, smaller bottles are available with brackets to allow you to attach the bottle directly to the motorcycle.
If you enjoy backcountry riding and mountain passes, carrying an extra gallon of fuel with you is a good option to consider.
Motorcycles seem to like breaking down at the most inconvenient times and places. Luckily, most bikes require a limited amount of tools to be able to fix a minor problem and get yourself home or to a garage.
Various commercially available toolkits for motorcycles are available. I chose the alternative of putting a toolkit together myself to suit my needs.
When putting your toolkit together, it is important to determine how much space you have to carry your tools with you. If you have saddlebags on your motorcycle, you are a bit less limited in regards to what you can bring with you. It is not realistic to think that you will be able to carry a full complement of tools with you.
I suggest consulting your bikes owners manual or looking online to determine what the manufacturer recommends. You want to have enough tools that you are able to address issues while on the road, without having the added weight of carrying tools that you will not use.
For the most part, you should consider that you will probably need a few wrenches (spanners). Examine your bike and see which sizes you will need to be able to remove the battery, make a minor adjustment to the brakes, clutch, mirrors etc…
A pair of adjustable pliers, a screwdriver with various bits and some Allen keys are probably all you will need to make an emergency repair. Consider throwing in a few zip ties and a bit of snare wire to temporarily reattach broken pieces to the bike. If you have space, it might be a good idea to have a replacement headlight bulb and a few fuses.
Finally, you should find a way to carry everything so it is available when you need it. I use a pencil case I bought at the dollar store. It is just the right size for the tools I need, it is secure with a zipper and it keeps everything together. (Bonus, it was only a dollar).
Weather needs to be taken into consideration while riding a motorcycle. It can change in an instant and if you are not prepared, you can find yourself in a very uncomfortable situation.
I carry a few items with me in my saddlebags that I find indispensable while riding. The first of which is rain gear.
I have a pair of rain pants and a rain jacket that fits over my leather riding jacket. It is rolled up in a small package and takes up very little room. I have taken the time to practice donning my rain gear while wearing my protective gear. The last thing you need is to be caught in a rainstorm and getting drenched while trying to figure out how to put on your rain gear.
I carry a pair of leather chaps. I have been in situations where the temperature has dropped considerably while out on a ride. Having my chaps in the saddlebag allows me to add a layer of protection against the wind and cold. I keep my chaps rolled up in a chap roll. This allows me to have them with me and they take up very little room.
Here is a youtube video demonstrating how to make a chap roll:
I keep a hoodie in my saddlebag. If I am riding while wearing lighter riding gear in the summer and the temperature goes down, I can always add a layer of warmth. I also carry a leather neck protector in my tour pack for the same reason.
Finally, I always ride while wearing tinted motorcycle sunglasses during the day; however, when the sun goes down, I do not feel comfortable riding without eye protection. I carry a pair of motorcycle sunglasses with clear lenses in the event that I find myself riding at night.
Last but certainly not least, I carry a first aid kit. I am not talking a full out paramedic bag, just a simple first aid kit that is available in the event of a medical emergency.
The kit I carry in my saddlebag is a pre-packaged kit that I purchased from the St. John Ambulance. It consists of an assortment of bandages and gauze pads, a triangle bandage, tape etc…The cost was approximately $10 and it gives me the peace of mind that I have some emergency supplies in case someone gets hurt.
All things considered, being prepared is not that difficult, and it does not have to break the bank. I find that with a little bit of planning, one can be in the best position should a situation arise.
I am fortunate to have a touring bike to be able to accommodate the equipment that I carry with me; however, as I mentioned earlier, a lot of dual sport bikes are equipped with saddlebags and tour packs as well. If you ride a cruiser or a sport bike, you could consider a tank bag, a backpack or both.
Being prepared will make your outings more enjoyable. Not only from the peace of mind that comes along with it but most importantly the knowledge that if you are faced with a situation, you will be able to remediate said situation quickly and be on your way.