The entire point of off-road or dual-sport riding is getting away from the rat race and into the outdoors. We want to blow out the mental cobwebs and push our physical limits away from crowds, stress, traffic and speed limits. Sometimes we forget that we are also distancing ourselves from a parts supply, a mechanic or even an ambulance or other medical care. It is probably wise to recognize that you are responsible for your judgment and safety. But suppose for a minute that you are extremely careful when you ride, and that you prepare your machine meticulously for the adventure. That is not enough to make sure that you and your motorcycle get home together. Crashes and mechanical failures happen..
Naturally, the most important thing you can take with you is another rider or even a group of riders. Riding alone is crazy. After you comply with the group rule, concentrate on equipment that ensures you won’t be the guy who breaks and torpedoes the ride. That means assembling and carrying a properly equipped backpack or fanny pack or a combination of the two. Some riders like to have everything in the same pack. Others worry about carrying the weight high as you do with a backpack. Those riders prefer to wear the unavoidably heavy tools low in a fanny pack, and combine that with a smaller backpack containing the lighter and softer items. The final choice is to make the bike carry as much of the weight as possible.
Picking a Pack
Ideally you want to look for a backpack that has a strap system that doesn’t limit your motion. One with a chest strap between the shoulder straps, an adjustable waist belt and room for a hydration bladder is ideal. Personal preference will decide whether you are looking for a pack with multiple pockets or one with a capacious, largely undivided main compartment. The same is true of fanny packs. Some riders like a large one with multiple pockets and plenty of capacity. Others like to put commonly used tools in a smaller, single-compartment race pack and the remainder of the tools in the backpack. Look for a fanny pack that has some sort of traction material on the side you wear against your body.
Take a hard look at your bike and make sure you have tools for any common mechanical problem. Specifically, be able to remove the seat and tank, spark plug, carburetor, and front and rear wheels. Don’t forget the hand guards. They often use hardware that is not common to your bike. You will want tools for suspension adjustments as well as the specialized tools to change and inflate the tires. CO2 cartridges are the easy way to inflate tires. There are several types and sizes of cartridges, in addition to several types of adapters. Ones that use the CO2 cartridges used in BB guns are the cheapest, but it takes at least twice as many cartridges as those with the threaded top. The really cheap, never-run-out way is a tiny bicycle tire pump.
In addition to general-purpose tools you may want some specialized items: a chain breaker, a folding saw for clearing heavily wooded trails, and Moose Racing Quicksteel Epoxy to repair engine cases for truly rocky rides. Some large zip ties, safety wire, tape and a couple of shop towels will also come in handy. Consider the weather. You may need a light, water-resistant jacket; a second pair of goggles; and extra gloves sealed in a zip-style plastic bag. Anti-fog solution, lip balm, toilet paper and mild pain relievers are all handy. You should carry a little money, a credit card, I.D. and paperwork for your bike in a waterproof bag. You’ll need a patch kit if you know how to use it. Most riders just carry a new tube. No matter what size bike you ride, just carry a front tube. You can use a front tube in the rear wheel, but it is much harder to fit a rear tube in the front tire. A length of fuel line to transfer gas from one bike to another is a handy item. Don’t try to siphon with it. Just connect the petcocks (non-EFI bikes, of course) and let the fuel level equalize. Choose your first aid kit in relation to how remote the ride is. The longer you are from help, the better the medical kit should be.
Live Better Electronically
At a minimum you should carry a cell phone, or at least one rider in the group should. For longer rides, little-known or new areas, or remote terrain, a GPS is a stellar idea. It will allow you to track your course, see existing routes, find your way back to the start and, worst case, call in coordinates if you need outside assistance. Finally, a SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger is an excellent addition. It is like a combo GPS/satellite phone. It allows you to track your route, check in via satellite and even send for help with the push of a button.
After you have assembled your kit, prep your bike for your next ride day using only your tool pack. Make sure you remove the wheels and change a tire. Adjust the change as well. That way there are no surprises when you are forced to work on your bike on the trail. Buttress the tools and parts with some energy food that travels well and drinking water, and you are as prepared as you can be. Think about how the pack(s) feel while you ride, and make adjustments as needed. You need all-day comfort, the ability to wear your protective gear, and freedom of movement. If you ride with a regular group, consider splitting some of the gear among riders. That way everyone can carry a lighter load yet still have everything you need on the ride. So have a great ride, and get your bike back in one piece.