Chance Favours the Well Prepared

I ride my KLR650 - away - from civilisation at every opportunity. I also like riding nasty single track where extra weight, even on a monster like the 650, is an issue. Besides that, I frequently ride alone. So, I make sure to carry what I need to fix my bike, but not so much that I can't ride where I want. Over the years, I've fine-tuned my gear to match my bike, my riding style, and my capabilities. The following list may not be right for you, but I hope it will at least give you a few ideas about where to start.

The list:
  1. Poor Man's Batman Utility Belt: Bailing wire, black tape, zip ties,
    and duct tape. I don't carry rolls of each, but rather, I take lengths
    and wrap them around other things. For example, my spark-plug wrench
    has a length of black tape wrapped around it, my axle spanner has bailing
    wire, and my water bottle has duct tape. Not a lot, but just enough to
    make an emergency repair. I also replace these lengths as they get

  2. Everything I need to fix a flat tire. This includes an air pump
    strapped to my handlebars, tire levers zip-tied to my down-tube - just above
    my skid-plate, and an over-stuffed patch kit with extra glue tubes.
    Also, I replace one of my valve cover caps with one that can remove valve

  3. Better tools. I always replace the standard wrench sizes from the
    original bike toolkit with better quality wrenches. I only keep the
    specialty stuff, like plug wrenches and axle spanners. I also augment
    the kit with a pair of needle nose Visegrips - in place of the original junk
    pliers, a 1/4" extension with the head filed down to fit a 10m wrench and a
    few sockets, some allen keys, a master link for my chain, and a few nuts and
    bolts of various sizes. To lighten the load, I've drilled and filed
    the centres out of the larger tools, including the tire leavers.

  4. My emergency pouch. This pouch contains the bare minimum I need to
    survive a night in the bush. It includes a pair of nylon jogging pants
    (in case I'm out in jeans and get soaked in the cold), a couple of
    Powerbars, a large garbage bag (very useful for lots of things, including
    emergency shelters), candles and matches (to make a fire), and a space
    blanket. It also has a cable saw (just in case there's no way around,
    under, or over a fallen tree - I've never needed it but it's light).

  5. First Aid kit. My first aid kit is admittedly small - it's actually in
    a plastic travel-soap container. It contains Steri-strips, band-aids,
    gauze pads, a razor blade, Imodium, anti-histamine, and a shoe lace - just
    in case I have to tie something off. I figure I can use the tape from
    my toolkit or water bottle if things get rough. First aid kits are one
    of those things that will never really be enough; there's no end of things
    you can carry. Where you draw the line is pretty personal. I
    figure that if I'm alone and need more than what I usually carry, I'd pass
    out long before I got to apply the stuff anyway. If you're alone,
    carrying shell dressings for sucking chest wounds seems pretty pointless.

  6. Pack stuff. Besides my emergency pouch, I usually also carry a
    Thinsulate vest, Gortex over-pants, and x-large rubber gloves - for when the
    weather gets nasty, water, extra food, and a map and compass - in case my
    GPS dies. If the weather is likely to get cold, I may also carry some
    fleece pants to zip under my Gortex.

  7. Pockets and belt. I carry a neoprene face mask and scarf in my jacket
    pockets. In another pocket, I carry a little gas money, just in case I
    lose my wallet. On my belt I carry a Leatherman Crunch (locking
    pliers) and a cell phone. I'm often out of cell phone range, but you
    never know.

Things other people recommend you carry, that I don't bother with:

A spare tube. There is always the possibility that a tube will shred beyond being patchable. For those instances, some riders will carry an extra front tube - the theory being that a front tube can always be stuffed into a back tire if absolutely necessary. It's a good idea, but I don't bother. What I do bring is lots of extra tire cement and patches. I also make no attempt at riding on a flat tire, which will shred a tube quickly. I figure that, with sufficient time and glue, I could probably get a fairly damaged tube to hold air for at least a little while. Another point against carrying an extra tube is that they are big and hard to pack. Maybe someday I'll be cursing my decision but, for now, I just don't bother with a spare tube.

Clutch and brake leavers. These things stick out from the bike and can, when things go wrong, snap off. At that point, braking or shifting can become quite difficult. Some people carry spares; I don't. I do recommend taking a simple preventative measure: keep your hand levers loose enough such that you can, just barely, move them by hand. That way, when you fall down, they will move rather than break. Most people tighten them right up, and they break right off when falling over. Even if you carried spare hand levers, odds are the mount will break instead. Reduce the strain on both by keeping them slightly loose. Besides, for the most part - if the trail isn't too challenging - I can ride without a clutch or front break. It's not easy, but I can do it. As for the rear brake, no one I've ever met carries a spare rear brake lever. Riding without a rear brake is no big deal, annoying but not critical.

Shift lever. Some people swear by carrying a spare shift lever as well. I've bent mine around until it's hit the foot peg, but I've never broken one. KLR650 shift levers are prone to cracking; rather than carrying a spare, I make sure mine is okay by inspecting it once in a while. A little weld here and there is all it takes to make the stock shifter strong enough. If I did snap the shifter off, then I suppose I could make due with Vicegrips clamped on the stub. On a side note, before you go out and purchase that super-strong aftermarket shift lever, think about what you would rather have bend, the shifter on the outside or the shaft on the inside? If you hit a rock at speed, something is going to bend; I happen to think it should be the cheapest thing there is to replace. Sometimes weaker is better, like a fuse.

Clutch cables. Some people even carry spare clutch cables, I don't. It would be rather silly of me as my clutch is now hydraulic anyway. Besides, like a broken clutch lever or mount, all I have to do is get the bike started in first gear and I can make it out - at least until I get into traffic, and then it's not life threatening.

Some people always ride with a buddy. Well, that's a really good idea, but I don't bother much. There are problems with the buddy system: First, they always have the bike that breaks, which I wind up fixing for them - or worse, towing them out. Oh yea, tow rope; I don't carry one of those either. Second, if said buddies ride out front, I have to eat their dust. Third, if they ride behind, I either have to wait or they get lost and I have to go find them. Fourth, they wimp out and want to go home just when the trails are starting to get fun. And finally, I hate waiting around in the emergency ward after they've tried to keep up. So, I tend to ride alone, just wandering wherever the wind blows me. This is why I carry the stuff I do. I also acknowledge that I'm taking a risk and, if I screw up, I could die. No one will be there to save me, and I'm okay with that. I do take it easy while riding alone, and this is also the main reason I like racing.

Racing gives the best of both worlds. Like riding alone, I can go at my own pace. Unlike riding alone, if I screw up, I know someone will eventually be sweeping the course for people in trouble. Because of this, I can cut loose and ride as hard as I want, without that nagging thought that I could wind up in a ball on the trail, gasping for breath for a week, while slowly starving to death. I might die quick during a race but there's no lingering demise - thanks to the sweeps. Also, while I'm riding with a bunch of other people, I don't really have to look after them. Sure, if someone is hurt or broken down, I'll stop to help. But, I don't have to worry about the guy behind me when climbing a nasty hill, or going through some tough section. That's the job for the sweeps; escorting people out that get in over their heads.

And yes, I still carry all my emergency gear and tools, even when I race.

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