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Breakdown equipment and tools

Motorcycle breakdown and tools

Being on a motorcycle is restrictive when it comes to carrying tools. There is very little room compared to a car and when it all adds to extra luggage, you must consider what you take carefully. Tools can be quite a weight, mainly because they are metal and they can be quite bulky.

Packing them is always an art, to ensure they are secure and packed as tightly as possible. There is always a trade off between the clothing and equipment you need and the tools and parts you might need. The important word there is might, whereas there are certain things that you will need.

Everyone’s take on what is important to take is different, it really depends on where you are going and for how long. Some adventure riders take spare tyres and tyre levers with them to change a tyre at the side of the road but if travelling to northern France for a few days, you might just rely on your breakdown cover.

If you are not mechanically minded and have very little knowledge of how to fix a problem, it won’t be of any use taking tools with you. But you should be able to take care of your own chain with lube and some way to adjunct it if necessary (that’s if you have a chain). To me this is the very least you should take away with you, especially if you are nowhere near a garage and civilisation.

Other considerations

To me there are two types of breakdown, one that can be sorted out at the roadside and then bigger one is more likely to be catastrophic and will end your tour. 

A blown up engine or a major electrical fault will likely end in recovery, if you are abroad you should ensure your breakdown cover is adequate. The cover should get you recovered to a local garage, store the bike if necessary if you have to wait for it to be repaired, be able to keep you on the move even with a hire car, recover your bike back home and get you back too.

Hotel cover and plane transfers back home will be necessary if your bike cannot be fixed in good time at the garage. There is always an option that the bike can be repaired in the country of breakdown and then you can be flown out to collect it when it is ready. Not many people opt for this option if they are in a group, as the trip is over and they would have to go and collect the bike on their own. They usually opt to be flown home and the bike is recovered back for them.

Smaller breakdowns can be repaired at the side of the road. It might be a puncture and it just needs plugging to get you to a garage, something might be loose and just needs tightening up. But usually if you are riding in a group, more heads are better than one and reasoning out an answer is easy. Travelling alone can be a little bit more panic driven as your mind goes into overdrive. Always take a few minutes to assess what the situation is and don’t jump in with two feet straight away as it could be the wrong move.

Weigh up all your options before you make a decision and don’t get stressed out. You cannot change the situation you are in but you can choose your reaction to simplify the next step.

A battlefield repair is basically where you do enough to the bike to get it to a garage. An example could be a screw in the tyre causing it to go down, you haven’t got a puncture repair kit but you do have a tube of superglue. Take the screw out, cover it in superglue and screw it back into the hole. This will act as a plug until you get the bike to a garage to repair the puncture, known also as a temporary fix.

What I take


From previous tours and knowing the kind of things that can go wrong, I carry a fairly comprehensive toolkit. It is located on different parts of the bike so that I can carry it. Some of it goes under the seat unit, some of it is in the tank bag for easy use and the rest goes in the top box.

Where possible if I am riding with a group, I would share out some of the larger items to take. Some are on the bigger luggage capacity bikes, so an air compressor to inflate tyres does not take up much room for them.

Part of my armoury consists of several ways of sorting out a puncture (this is quite common), I usually carry:

  • Rubber plugs and the plugging tool
  • Green slime that blocks holes
  • A small can of tyre weld
  • Tube of superglue 

I always carry radweld on longer journeys because I’ve seen two bikes have radiator leaks whilst touring abroad. It might sound like an overkill but you do need to plug a radiator in the middle of nowhere. If you repair it, the result can be a bike overheating and that would be the end of the tour for that bike and rider.

The tools that I normally carry are:

  • Various size spanners
  • A ratchet spanner with various sockets
  • Screwdrivers
  • Various pliers
  • A small hacksaw
  • Cable ties
  • Electrical tape and duct tape
  • Spare bulbs
  • Rubber gloves for oily jobs
  • Small tube of hand cleaner

There are other useful bits and bobs in the tool kit but these items are down to preference and space. Depending on what you think you will and can fix really depends on your own experience and ability, there is no point having loads of tools if you are not mechanically minded. 

Other items

Modern bikes are not easy to repair when they go down with electronic management issues, they require a dealer to plug in the diagnostics but you can keep yourself going with minor situations. A flat battery can be dealt with now using a small battery charger and booster that gives out an impressive amperage.

If you have an older bike and you know it drinks oil, you could carry a small amount of oil for topping the bike up. Drinking water can be added instead of coolant for radiator issues and if anyone runs out of petrol, I have emptied a litre bottle of water in the past and used that as a temporary container to get some petrol in a tank.

Nice to have items include:

  • Compressor
  • Battery jump starter & booster

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