OK so you’ve made the decision. After years with just cars on the drive, you’ve taken the leap of faith to finally pass your bike test and buy that motorcycle you’ve always promised yourself. But wait just a moment – while your four-wheeled box might have thrived with little more than a car wash and a service every 10,000 miles, bikes are different. They crave tinkering, they need love, they need time alone with you. If you don’t give them enough attention, they are prone to sulk like a high maintenance mistress.
So you are going to need some tools. That crappy selection of Chinese screwdrivers you got at Woolworths in 1987 is not going to cut the mustard, nor indeed is your Dad’s jumbo socket set with Whitworth, AF and Imperial sockets. So in an effort to help, we’ve listed the ten garage essentials you are going to need to keep that new toy happy …
#1 SPANNER TIME
OK so lets start things nice and simple. Your new bike will have bolts and nuts, and on occasion they will need loosening or tightening. Now don’t get terrified – you’re not going to be replacing the crankshaft, but you might need to change the bar position or adjust the chain – that kind of stuff. So for the first of our garage essentials you are going to need spanners.
Find yourself a good quality set that goes from 8mm up to around 19mm – that should cover most bases and you will probably find your bike commonly uses a limited range of different sizes. You’ll need both ring and open ended as some will be inaccessible with a ring spanner, but if you can, always try the ring first as it gives better grip and is less likely to slip and round off nut or bolt heads.
#2 SOCKET TO ME
Just as important as the spanner set and in many cases, preferable to use, is the socket. As a way of tightening and loosening nuts and bolts, sockets are going to be best tool for the job as they touch every flat on the fastener and if used correctly, give an even turning motion without any unwanted shearing forces. In reality you may often use a socket and spanner together, holding the bolt head in place while you release or tighten the nut at the other end with a socket.
So you are going to need to splash a bit of cash here, but there’s no need to go mad and buy Snap-Ons first time out. Head for a good quality mid-priced set with a wratchet, T bar and long and short extender bars as the second purchase on your garage essentials list. The sizes are likely to be from 10mm up to 22mm but not necessarily all the upper sizes – few manufacturers routinely use 18mm fasteners, but most use 17mm.
Don’t worry if the smaller sizes are not there, you can either purchase additional sockets or rely on a second small socket set or maybe T bars.
Socket sets can have different drive sizes – the bit that goes into the end of the socket. The bigger the drive, the stronger force you can use to undo things without risk of snapping, but generally as we are working on bikes, not ocean liners, 3/4 inch drive should be plenty enough ..
#3 SCREW FACE
Screwdrivers tend to be a motley selection in any household – a combination of hand-me-downs and cheap rubbish from supermarkets or petrol stations. Don’t use these on your bike – poor quality tools will wreck those small fasteners quicker than your bike can accelerate.
Go to a tool shop or good hardware store and treat yourself to a proper set from a known manufacturer. There should be a good range of sizes to cover all eventualities, and you might also need some small ones for electrical stuff or tiny fasteners on small components. Always use the correct size and for cross head screws, make sure the tip of the screwdriver is not more pointed than the screw needs ..
#4 HEX SPECS
Hex or allen bolts are infinitely preferable for small fasteners as, if you use the correct size key, then they are more or less impossible to round off or damage. And for larger bolts, particularly those in inaccesible places on you bike, there are many advantages to the internal recessed driving heads of hex or allen bolts.
So if we are going to cover all the garage essentials you are going to need a full set of good quality allen keys which should have a short arm and a long arm for more or less leverage. Many will also have a ball end to allow use at a slight angle, but never use one of these on a very tight bolt as you will risk slipping and damaging the internal faces.
From time to time you may need larger sizes, for instance for wheel spindles but these can be bought individually from tool shops or online.
#5 HIDE AND SEEK
On occasions, things on your bike will need a bit of persuasion to do what you want them to. From tapping out a wheel spindle to loosening off a tight nut, the application of a short sharp shock may be necessary. But rather than suggest a hammer, we’re going to recommend a hide mallet as the best tool for the job as it delivers the right force but not the metallic shock that a hammer might. If you’ve never seen one before, it is exactly what it sounds like – a mallet with the head made from coiled thick hide or leather .
At a push you could go for a rubber mallet, but these are for cub scouts to knock in tent pegs. Get a hide version and you will have it for life
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#5 HIDE AND SEEK
You might think we are getting technical too quickly here but bear with us – if you are a complete newbie to owning and maintaining a motorcycle chances are you are not going to know how tight nuts and bolts should be done up. So rather than guessing and getting it wrong, using a torque wrench and tightening to the manufacturers recommendations will ensure you will get it right every time.
In reality even old hands at mechanics would be better off using correct torque settings and a torque wrench for every bolt, but that’s not going to happen – old dog and new tricks comes to mind. But as a newbie, start by doing it right and chances are you may continue …
#7 CHAKADEMUS & PLIERS
OK before we start this one, we are not going to be using pliers instead of spanners, so let’s get that one off the table quick sharp! But you are going to need a selection of normal, taper nose and wire cutters to pull, hold and cut things in the garage. So buy some to start with and then they will be there when you need them …
#8 MOLEY, MOLEY, MOLEY
Before you ask, this has nothing to do with small burrowing mammals with a penchant for ruining lawns or indeed facial furniture. Mole grips are like pliers that you can lock onto things to assist in removing or just moving them – so you need a set in your toolbox.
Don’t buy a tiny set or one that would grip an anchor chain, go for a medium size set from a proper tool store and learn how to use them – there’s an adjuster on the bottom to vary the size of the jaw gap, and a release bar to allow you to loosen the grip of the jaws.
#9 WD for YOU & ME
Owning a bike and not having WD40 in the garage is near on impossible. This wonderful product can be used for everything from helping nuts and bolts loosen up before undoing, cleaning road grime off wheels to providing an anti corrosion coating after washing and a million other jobs in between – OK maybe not a million. We exaggerated, but it’s at least 50 – it has to be on the garage essentials list.
But whatever the exact number, WD40 is a garage must have. Yes there are altenatives, just as you can buy tomato ketchup that isn’t Heinz …
#10 CABLE GUY
The last item on our list and it’s another must have for bike ownership. Cable ties or tie wraps will hold things in place, from connectors to cables, wires to widgets.
But it’s not a one size fit’s all deal – you are going to need a selection to cover all eventualites but avoid the super cheap options from the pound shop. Your bike deserves better …
So that’s your ten garage essentials for starters, Get these and you are on the way to toolbox perfection.
Oh hang on – you are going to need a proper toolbox. One with smooth running drawers on ball bearings and a lock. And the some stickers, gotta have stickers …