Be Prepared – What Every Motorcyclist Should Carry
Every serious adventure rider prepares for the journey to the best of their ability and budget. Having the right tools and supplies can make the difference in, at best, a big inconvenience. At worst, a life and death situation.
In my experience, riders who stay exclusively on pavement are not so prepared. Often this is a case of nowhere to store gear or simply not giving it a thought. The most basic item – a tire plugger and inflation kit – is overlooked. Without it, what could be an easy 15-minute repair might take up the rest of the day.
You will wait a long time for the tow truck, but the driver most likely won’t have a tire-plug kit. This means you’ll be towed. If you’re lucky enough to find an open motorcycle shop their liability insurance may not allow them to patch your tire and they must sell you a new one and install it if they have your size and you have the money. While new is always better than patched, this might take the rest of the day. You get where I’m going with this – be prepared.
This guide aids in the selection of items that a thoughtful and prepared road rider might need. Most off-roaders and touring riders carry some type of bag with tools and equipment to help when things go wrong. I carry my moto go-bag near and far. It contains items that I might otherwise forget, and my buddies are happy I have it because I use it more to help them than help myself.
If you have room in your panniers or top case you may want to start, like I did, with a military style bag. I searched the online auctions for “molle bag.” It’s pronounced “Molly,” and features useful rows of straps on the exterior.
The molle system – well known in military and tactical circles – uses straps that allow other pieces to be attached. I like the professional look. Mine was $15, $7 for the add-on side bag and $4 for the radio holster, and a waist strap is included. Notice in the photos I have melted some of the strapping trying to iron on my name patch. Don’t do this. Sew on any patches.
If you don’t have room on the bike, and this bag is bigger than you care to wear, then look for a waist pack like Ortlieb USA’s waterproof Hip Pack 2 or Kriega’s R3 or R8 Waistpacks. Or take a look at tankbags – at least you will be able to carry the essentials.
Note that my kit has no tools other than the multipurpose pliers/knife/screwdriver/saw combo and a sharp, folding pocket knife. I ride mostly newer bikes and haven’t had the need, or space, for them. Use your own good sense on what tools to bring. Consider taking whatever tool is required to remove sections of your fairing just in case you need to get under there. For example, BMW often uses a T25 Torx.
You may want to consider one of the new generation of lithium-ion jumper batteries that can charge your USB devices and jumpstart a vehicle. All in a small and light package. Check out the Cyntur JumpStart mini, a one-pound bundle of energy.
Cautious riders may want to carry an ACR, DeLorme, SPOT or other personal satellite locator beacon. Each has varying cost, features and functions ranging from sending an emergency message and location to dispatching and receiving text messages via satellite. Because I really don’t disappear into the hinterlands, my choice is a compact Ham radio VHF/UHF transceiver to communicate with the outside world when the cell phone gets no signal.
There are many choices in this segment ranging from around $40 to almost $500. I prefer Icom’s ID-51A Plus 5-watt HT (handie-talkie) for its size, power, features, built-in GPS and unique D-Star digital. I value its tracking capability that will allow others to see my GPS coordinates and location on a map. There are other choices from many manufacturers that will do the job and save money but don’t offer the ease of use and functionality of the Icom radio (read more below).
These are only suggestions. Off-road riders can start with this and augment accordingly. Build your bag the way you like. Some riders in varying geographical areas might want additional items like fishing hooks and line, slingshot, blowgun, antacid tablets, snakebite kit, zombie repellant, and more.
My first aid kit is pathetic, and doesn’t help much with anything worse than a cut, headache or hangnail. It’s small and that is what I chose. Should a greater emergency occur I will call for help. Plan accordingly.
Always carry water. I once fancied the idea that I could buy a nice, cold bottle of water at practically any town or freeway exit. I was disabused of this notion the day my buddy Alex broke down at Fort Hunter-Ligget on the way home from Monterey. It was a hot and dry day, and we had to wait eight hours in the middle of nowhere for a tow. We had no food or water, and town was 35 miles away. It was only through the kindness of the soldiers who drove by and threw water bottles and MREs to us that we didn’t suffer more than we did. A bag of jerky, dried fruit, nuts and/or some food bars aren’t a bad idea either.
Ride safe and often. Be prepared.
Moto Go Bag: What Every Motorcyclist Should Carry
• Molle bag, waist pack or other
• 2-way radio and/or personal locator beacon
• Tools specific to your individual needs
• Water – food – jerky – energy drink
• Electrical – device charger cables, 12 volt bike-specific USB charger, converters for plugs (SAE, coaxial, Powerlet (BMW), cigarette)
• Jumper battery – may do double duty with heated vest, charging USB devices and for lighting source
• Spare fuses
• Radiator leak sealant
• Glues – JB Weld, JB Steel Stick, silicon sealant, Gorilla glue, super glue
• Cable ties
• Tape – Gorilla tape or other high-temperature tape
• Mini cargo net – in case you need to pile on more stuff
• Paracord (550 pound rating) – 30 feet
• Multi-purpose tool
• ChemLight light sticks
• Lighter and matches
• First aid – gauze and adhesive bandages, surgical tape, Ibuprofen, arnica, extra dosages of any regular medicine you need to take, calamine, Benadryl sting spray, EpiPen (if you need this), bug repellant
• Flat plug kit – I like Stop & Go’s mushroom plug kit
• CO2 inflator and cartridges – I like Innovations Ultraflate for the easiest way to inflate with CO2. Four cartridges will get a 190×17 tire to about 28 psi.
• 12 volt mini-compressor and correct bike-specific power plugs (optional)
• Tire gauge
• Spare earplugs – NoNoise Motorsport Noise Filter with zirconium oxide ceramic filter
• Siphon hose – or better yet, a semi-automatic siphon to avoid a mouthful of nasty stuff – Check your fuel tank. Many have hose blocks in them. You can siphon into a drained water bottle or if you can get the donor bike above the recipient, and have a long enough hose, you can go from tank to tank.
• Plastic or nitrile gloves
• Handkerchief – so many uses
• Microfiber or other wipes and rags
• Faceshield spray cleaner
• Neck gaiter – when it turns cold quickly
• Neck wrap – (pictured under knife) polymer filled – soak and it expands then tie around your neck to cool down
• Pen, pencil and paper
• Altoid peppermints – small size and everybody’s favorite when the helmets go back on
Following are my other must-haves:
With all the tools and toys in My Go Bag, the one that offers the most fun, along with its practical factor, is my Icom ID-51A Plus Digital/FM/VHF/UHF two-way radio. To my mind this particular Icom radio is the pinnacle of technology and capability. Use of this tiny yet highly sophisticated transceiver requires an amateur radio license.
Not everyone has the desire or the aptitude to study for, test and obtain a ham radio license, but the rewards are myriad for those that invest the time. My hope is that this story can engender some interest and get more riders involved. There is a plethora of information available for free online and the need the learn Morse code was eliminated from all classes of amateur radio licenses in 2007.
It is comforting to have a radio that’s the size of a deck of cards in your kit. It will allow communications through many repeater networks that receive and re-transmit one’s signal for many miles, far beyond the reach of one HT to another. I tested this last year in my Ham on a Hog review in which I was able to contact civilization far from cell coverage. Had there been a problem I could have summoned help via the radio I carried.
Icom, D-Star and More
My first transceiver was an entry-level unit I bought online for $40. I still have it and it works well. It is a good gateway to so much that is available to amateur operators. This radio covers the VHF/UHF frequencies allowed for use by Technician licensees.
As I progressed in this hobby I learned that there is a lot more technology available that offers more features and benefits. Icom’s ID-51A Plus, for example, is compatible with my first radio but is leagues beyond in capabilities. Added to the usual FM mode is D-Star digital mode. D-Star is one of several competing digital modes and is mainly offered on Icom products, although it is not a proprietary technology.
Digital transmissions have longer range and D-Star is capable of sending text messages and photos through a cable link to Android phones, all in the background while you can talk at the same time. This 51A has a built-in GPS unit.
When activated, this transceiver will send out your location coordinates to receiving stations and there is a compass wheel and arrow showing direction and distance to the radios to which you are communicating. There is even a website on which, if desired, anyone can track your D-Star radio along its route.
A micro-SD card in the radio will also record your conversations and your route for later playback on Google Earth. D-Star radio operators are also capable of selecting whether their transmission is heard throughout the D-Star universe or through a particular geographically located repeater. They can even locate other users selectively. The capabilities are myriad.
To my mind the Icom 51A is the ultimate companion for riding along the road less traveled. Whether you’re at the top of Dante’s View in Death Valley chatting with others in the park or you are stuck somewhere in need of a tow or some fuel, a D-Star radio can be a lifesaver, give peace of mind and be a fun distraction when you get to your destination.
Notes on How to Get Started in Amateur Radio
Ham radio is an exciting and rewarding hobby for those that resonate with communicating across the airwaves (and now the Internet, too) through many different technologies. Activities vary widely from VHF/UHF through repeaters, as described above, HF (high frequency) for longer distances point-to-point, using satellites and moonbounce to send your signal far, digital modes for data and messaging, AM, FM, single sideband, CW (Morse code) and much more. Some hams build their own equipment and others, like me, are not so adept and purchase our rigs.
Those interested in getting started might want to check with the Amateur Radio Relay League, founded in 1914. They have information on licensing and groups in your local area that offer classes, help and testing. Another website to check is HamStudy. Hams are a good-natured lot and helpful to a fault. When I got started I used a free online study website then attended a local group’s one-day course that ended the day with testing. I think about 47 out of the 50 attendees passed on the first try and received their Technician’s license.
Then there are the riders who install mobile radios on their bikes and chat with fellow riders or others along their way. This may be the subject of a future review. Shall I call it Ham in the Saddle? 73 de KA6USA
Icom ID-51A Plus MSRP $492
Cyntur JumperPack mini MSRP $99.99