Gimme 10: Workshop weapons to raise your garage game

In Motorcycle Maintenance by Julian2 Comments

OK so take a look round your garage. What do you see – a beautifully ordered workplace in which you can carry out accurate and precise maintenance to your bike? Or is it a dumping place for just about everything that the family don’t want in the house from welly boots to cycles, behind which is your selection of poor quality hand-me down tools and slightly functional workshop equipment?  Yep – we are that guy too …

Husqvarna workshop

Now we can’t do much to help the clutter – except maybe suggesting buying a small shed and relocating all that non-bike stuff to the garden – but as for those poor tools and shoddy equipment that you’ve had for years, perhaps we can help. We’ve put together a list of garage candy that will raise your game from zero to hero and have your mates thinking you actually know what you are doing. Hell – it might even make you a better mechanic …


Dirty hands

OK lets start at the achievable end of the cost spectrum. Doing mechanics in your bare hands is not smart –  just because it worked for your Dad with his dry and calloused mitts doesn’t mean that it was doing him any good. Virtually every substance we use during bike maintenance is either flammable, corrosive or carcinogenic to some degree, and even if it isn’t cleaning it off with washing up liquid and sugar is rapidly wrecking our hands. This is not good and it certainly doesn’t make you more manly.

So for our first workshop weapon, we’re suggesting going online and getting a box of black nitrile gloves – the sort worn by mechanics and tattoo artistes across the world. If these babies work for the professionals and can keep out blood-borne diseases, then keeping your hands from the ravages of 10 40W and hydraulic oil should be a doddle.

OK so at first you might feel like a serial killer as you pull on the skin tight nitrile, but after a few moments working with them, they soon make sense. Not only that – put a few pairs in your ride bag and they might well keep your hands warm and dry. And when you finish it’s just bin and go.

Black nitrile goodness


Time to up the ante just a fraction, so it’s time to reach for the wallet. If there’s one tool that makes toy look like a GP mechanic, it’s those cool pliers that spin up immaculate twists of wire on the top riders bikes.

But lock wire pliers aren’t anything special – they are freely available from tool suppliers worldwide for less than £20. So why don’t we have any …

Once you have a set, it’s uncanny just how many components on your bike can benefit from a cheeky little twist of the good stuff. New grips – wired both ends. Oil filler – wired and safe from loss. Brake pad pins – laced up like a fine corset.  And if the final look was not enough, the actual process of making those twists is just so satisfying, you’ll be in geek heaven …

Nice pliers them
Secure your grips

Soon you’ll start looking at ways of drilling components just so you can wire them together.



A bike chain

We’re still in the relatively small money category here, but this tool is something most bikers need, but few actually have.

If you buy your chains and fit them yourself, then chances are that you need to trim them down. Yes you can do this with a grinder, screwdrivers and a hammer and refit it with a G-clamp and spare side plate, but let’s face it – it’s all ham-fisted botch engineering.

Buying the correct tool for the job will make the while process so much more satisfying. From actually splitting the over-length chain to fitting soft links, it’s all gravy with the right equipment.

Venhill chain splitter


We favour the Venhill kit as it’s a British company, the guys are always really helpful and they also make good braided hoses and all manner of workshop trinkets.

But be warned – you need to know what you are doing – an incorrectly fitted chain will cause big issues so follow the instructions. If you are not a confident mechanic, call a mate who is. Better to swallow your pride than eat through a tube for the rest of your life …


Now we are on a roll so lets reach for the plastic again.

Strange as it may seem, almost every bolt on your bike has a factory defined torque setting. Somewhere in a laboratory far, far away an engineer has carefully calculated just how tight your wheel spindle bolt should be. So why are you still using a length of scaffold bar on a 24mm socket? This is not doing your bike any good and it certainly isn’t going to be the correct tightness.


Lets get DIGITAL

But help is at hand. Get yourself the workshop manual and then get a proper accurate torque wrench. Analogue old-school versions are available but if your are going for the full pimped-garage look, then a digital wrench is the way to go.  Your bolts will never be over tightened again and you’ll feel cooler than Miles Davis.



Believe it or not – the pressure gauge on the top of your Discount Warehouse foot pump is not that accurate. Trusting the handling of your $12,000 motorcycle to the technical expertise of the budget far eastern manufacturing on a $10 pump may not be the wisest move. ‘About 40 psi’ is simply not good enough.

Under pressure

Now although we are suggesting a digital torque wrench, for the pressure gauge we are going to the old-school  side of things. This could be because of our love of Smiths clocks,  but whatever. Get hold of a well made metal analogue gauge with a clear and easy to read dial. You can get them with or without hoses, but the hose does introduce a potential for inaccuracy that the ones without do not have.

Whichever floats your boat – they are both likely to be infinitely superior to that telescopic piece of junk that’s been in the toolbox for decades.


you just have to ride and smile!

We run the best motorcycle adventures across Asia – from traversing the winding mountain roads on a Royal Enfield in the Himalayas to bashing through the jungle on a dirt bike in  Vietnam. It’s what we do, and we do it very well.


Lets stop focussing on the little stuff, we need to look at the bigger picture. Doing work on the bike while it languishes in a corner is never easy – parts ping off into the darkness, you’re bending over the top to reach bolts you can’t even see –it’s rubbish.

Pump it up

So let’s move things forward – you need a bench to put the bike on. But not one that you have to lift it up onto with the help of six mates, a proper drive-on hydraulic bench that clamps the bike in place. At the push of a button or the pump of a lever, your baby is raised smoothly to the precise height to allow you to work easily on the part in question. 

For dirt bikes, the smaller stand type scissor lift may be enough to do the job without the expense of the full length version you’ll need for adventure and road bikes. Either way, it’s all good when it’s off the ground and at eye height!

Until you have used one of these you don’t realise how much easier it makes things – it’s game changing stuff.


Scissor lift


We’ve gone big now so it’s time to stay there, though probably a bit cheaper than the hydraulic bench and firmly for the off-road contingent. With any piece of garage kit, once you see the top riders using them, you kind of know that it’s a good choice, so that’s why we’ve gone for the Rabaconda 3 Minute Mousse changer.

World Enduro riders and their teams rely on this piece of kit and it’s easy to see once you watch a video of just how effective they are in the right hands.

Changing mousses is not easy, but with the Rabaconda, you wouldn’t think so. And when you’ve finished with it, it comes apart to store in a bag, rather than cluttering up your work space – genius.


Time to change


Unlike the mousse changer, an air compressor is an addition to the workshop that will be used frequently once it’s there. From inflating your tyres to blowing water from your bike after washing, the pleasure in the quick blast of compressed air cannot be denied. Add in the fact that you can use air-powered tools no, then a compressor is a proper man toy.

Of course then you can act all casual like you’ve always used them – ‘Yeh – I just whipped it off with the rattle gun’ …

Air tools rock


Parts washer genius

It’s a scientific fact that few women appreciate you cleaning motorcycle parts in the kitchen, and even fewer like you using the dishwasher to deliver a factory-fresh finish to your engine cases. A mystery, but still a fact.

So in an effort to restore marital harmony, you owe it to your partner to invest in a parts washer like they have in proper motorcycle workshops. That way rather than cleaning that grease soaked front sprocket casing next to the breakfast dishes, a stream of purpose made cleaning agent can be liberally sprayed onto the grime to leave it sparkling like new.

Get the grease off with a parts washer

You’ll never argue again!


OK so lets return to reality for the last on the list.

All the tools in the world are not going to make you into a GP mechanic if you don’t have a Scooby what you are doing.

Of course it’s a male trait to pretend that mechanical aptitude and knowledge is inbuilt, but for many that is far from the case.

Read the words

So in an effort to improve your skills, then actually reading how to do stuff correctly may just help. A recent Facebook argument concerned how to drain oil on a bike. Having pointed out that for some bikes like the RMZ250F cold draining was recommended by the manufacturer, there were still the keyboard experts recommending ignoring this information!

Why would they tell you to do something wrong in the manual guys? How do you know more than the engineers that make the fricking engine?

OK – we’re calm now. Buy the book, read it and you will learn stuff and do stuff better.

So that’s our upgrade plan for this month. Do the lot together and you’ll hit the overdraft mighty quick, but step by step and things will definitely get better.

No – well maybe just grab some latex gloves from work …

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Acknowledgements: Rabaconda, Bavo Swiggers, Tyre Tech, more...


    1. Author

      Hi – thanks for your comments – we’ve done a man-cave blog too – search in the blog section


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