If you're a motorcyclist and regularly go on group rides or rides outside of a city -- whether it's an extended tour or just a short day trip -- you should have some kind of emergency kit with you. Mine has saved my butt more times than I can count. When things go wrong, whether you're in an accident or get a flat tire, you need to be prepared. That's why I'm going to let you in on what I use and even what I keep it in, so you can be sure you're not going to be left stranded miles from home.
While you obviously can't prepare for everything, carrying a small, well-thought-out emergency bag is one way of mitigating some of the risks of riding a motorcycle -- or, at the very least, taking the sting out of those risks if they catch up to you. This list is composed of stuff that I personally use or things that are similar to what I use. Some of it might seem like overkill -- like a GPS tracker or a spare bolt kit -- but rest assured, there's a good reason for everything on this list.
If you're going to put together an emergency motorcycle bag, you kind of have to start with the bag itself. The bag you choose should be compact, ruggedly built and waterproof. It should also be easy to attach to your motorcycle, put in a saddlebag or your backpack securely. That's why I use the Kriega US10 drybag. It's not super cheap, but it's one of the best-made bags I've ever used on a motorcycle trip.
The bag itself is a roll-top design and features a white, ripstop nylon interior that's removable and washable. There are straps included to attach it to any bike, and it's also easy to hook to any bag with MOLLE webbing. Kriega makes a smaller five-liter bag and a larger 20-liter bag, but this 10-liter model is the Goldilocks of the bunch.
Carrying a multitool is kind of a no-brainer for a motorcycle rider. The odds are good that you'll need some sort of knife or pliers or screwdriver at some point that's in an easily accessible spot so you can avoid having to break out your other tools. I love this Leatherman because it's compact, and the pliers are spring-loaded.
Leatherman and others like Gerber make all kinds of multitools. Pick whichever one you prefer, but the Wingman is an excellent place to start if you don't already have a preference.
Another no-brainer is carrying a first aid kit in your emergency bag. Whether it's getting stung by a bee when you're riding, burning yourself on a hot exhaust pipe, or even dealing with blisters from a new pair of riding boots, there are many reasons to carry a basic first-aid kit.
The ultralight version I've chosen is compact, reasonably complete, waterproof and affordable. This is the one I keep towards the top of my bag, so it's easily accessible, and it gets used more than you'd think. Make sure you keep yours stocked, too -- if you use a bandage, replace it when you get home. An empty first aid kit is a useless first aid kit.
This is a more serious medical kit for when things go really, really wrong. Unlike with the first aid kit, this one takes some education to use correctly, but it could mean the difference between you or a friend surviving a bad crash and dying on the side of the road waiting for an ambulance. Nobody likes to think about that stuff, but it's better to be prepared than not, right?
This kit is great because it comes with lots of gear to help stop bleeding, seal wounds, clear an airway and more. I especially like the RATS-style tourniquet that this kit comes with, more than the cheaper SWAT-style that comes in most other kits. If you get this, make sure you know exactly how to use it before you need it.
Breakdowns or crashes don't only happen during daylight hours, and I know from experience that trying to fix something on your bike while laying in the dirt and trying to prop your phone up, so the light on it stays in the right place is lame.
A headlamp like this one is a lifesaver. It's also great if you're going motorcycle camping and need to set up camp in the dark. This one is powered by a rechargeable battery charged via USB, so you don't have to worry about carrying spare AAs. This is especially handy because many new motorcycles come with built-in USB charging ports.
If you're in a pinch, you can fix just about anything with the judicious use of zip ties and swearing. I carry a pack like this with many different sizes of cable ties, and they've saved me from having to get a tow on more than one occasion.
Pro-tip: Don't forget to trim the ends flush and make sure they're not going to point towards any part of you. They will cut the crap out of you, and the last thing you need to add to a breakdown is blood loss because you were lazy.
This is one of those things that seem kind of extreme to have in your repair kit until you find yourself on the side of a freeway in the middle of nowhere at midnight with a missing bolt on your shifter, or worse, a brake caliper.
These things happen because motorcycles vibrate -- like, a lot -- and bolts can work their way loose. Obviously, checking your bike over and making sure things are tight on a semi-regular basis is a good thing to do, but a small stash of extra bolts is a nice thing to have, just in case.
Flat tires happen, and they happen more often than you'd think. If you don't happen to be near a gas station when one does (and that seems to be more often than not for me), getting air back into your motorcycle tire can be challenging.
These CO2-powered inflators are genius, take up almost no space in your tire repair kit and are powered by readily available disposable CO2 canisters. I also carry a compact manual bike pump, but I've yet to have a CO2 inflator not work or not be enough to get me going.
If you're going to put air in your tire after a flat, you first have to make sure your tire is air-tight, right? The good news is that most modern motorcycles come with tubeless tires, so doing a roadside repair on a puncture is often as simple as using a plug kit.
This one is the one I keep in my motorcycle tire repair kit, and I like it because it's compact, complete and doesn't force you to deal with rubber cement or anything to make sure the plug is sealed.
If you ride a dirtbike or an adventure bike, or almost anything with wire-spoked wheels, then it's likely that you aren't going to be getting away with just a tire plug. Nope, you're going to find yourself staring down the barrel of a more involved flat tire repair.
Specifically, you'll need to get your tire off the rim, once you get the wheel off the bike, of course -- and for that, you'll need tire levers. The BeadPro levers from MotionPro are the nicest I've ever used and make the process suck slightly less thanks to their leverage-increasing bead-breaker design. Don't forget to carry a spare innertube or two in the correct size for your wheels.
Trying to see through a bug-splattered or greasy visor sucks. While most helmet manufacturers recommend only using water to clean your visor, sometimes on the road, that's not an option, or if there's water aplenty, it's just not enough to do the job.
Performing roadside repairs is a dirty job, and you don't want to waste water you're carrying on washing them. These Permatex hand wipes are great: They cut grease and even smell nice. Plus, they take up essentially no room in your pack. Don't be a greaseball; keep your mitts clean.
These are perfect for cleaning things that aren't your hands that you don't want to gunk up a microfiber towel with. I use them all over the house too because they're easy to wash, and unlike paper towels, they don't create a bunch of waste.
Carrying tools with you on your bike is a necessity, even if you don't work on your machines as a habit. Emergencies exist and being able to nip up a screw or bolt on the side of the road can mean the difference between a flat bed tow or enjoying the rest of your drive. The trick is that motorcycles don't offer much space for extra stuff, so getting a comprehensive tool kit in as small a package as possible is key. Enter the Wera Tool-Check Plus. It's got bits and sockets, a ratchet and a bit driver and even an extension -- and it's tiny.
The GPS tracker is another list item that seems kind of extreme, and it's not super cheap, but there are plenty of places not that far outside of big cities like Los Angeles that don't have a cell signal and that aren't necessarily regularly trafficked by people. Having some means of letting people know where you are even when you're way off-grid is good.
The Spot tracker has become an industry standard, and the Spot 3 offers an SOS function, a periodic update function that lets others track your progress via Google Maps and plenty of other cool features. It's also a small and relatively robust piece of gear, and it's something worth considering if you ride a lot by yourself.
The downside is that the Spot requires a service plan to work, which is either $122 a year or $15 a month if you choose a pay-as-you-go plan. Both include unlimited SOS calls.
The best gear for your motorcycle emergency kit
|The best bag||Kriega US10||$125.00||You've gotta hold everything|
|The best multitool||Leatherman Wingman||$60.00||Compact, easy to put in a pocket or on a belt|
|The best first aid kit||Adventure Medical Kits Ultralight 7||$29.00||Minor cuts, scrapes, burns and stings|
|The best trauma kit||Lightning X Products MOLLE Pouch Emergency Kit||$50.00||Serious injuries, major lacerations, burns and bleeding|
|The best headlamp||Slonik 1000 lumen rechargable LED headlamp||$36.00||Seeing in the dark|
|The best cable tie kit||Cambridge ZipIts Cable Ties Assortment||$8.00||They'll fix almost anything|
|The best spare bolt kit||Homvale 304 Stainless Steel Screw and Nut Assortment||$20.00||Bolts rattle loose all the time|
|The best tire inflator||Pro Bike Tool CO2 Inflator||$20.00||Inflates flat tires quickly|
|The best tire plug kit||Stop & Go 1000 Pocket Tire Plugger||$32.00||Plug punctured tubeless tires|
|The best tire levers||Motion Pro 08-0536 BeadPro||$55.00||Fix flat tubed tires|
|The best visor cleaner||Muc Off Visor, Lens & Goggle Cleaning Kit||$20.00||Get mud, bugs or grease off your visor safely|
|The best hand cleaning wipes||Permatex Fast Orange||$4.00||Cuts grease and dirt, smells great|
|The best shop towels||Simpli-Magic red shop towels||$23.00||Sturdy, cheap and washable|
|The best compact tool kit||Wera ToolCheck Plus||$73.00||Small but comprehensive|
|The best GPS tracker||Spot 3||$117.00||Get found even in areas without cell service|
When things go wrong, make sure you packed right
While it's not necessarily practical to carry this bag all the time (like if you're just riding around town, for example) it's easy to toss it on your bike if you're going to be riding all day and aren't planning on leaving the bike unattended. If I'm only going to ride around town, I'll keep the Leatherman, the small first aid kit and the tire inflator and plug kits in my riding backpack (also a Kriega, this time an R20). That's enough to feel like I can handle a situation just a couple of miles from home or not far from a shop. It's also helpful to carry some cash in your emergency bag. You don't have to go crazy here, $20 or so should suffice -- enough for some food or a coffee and a tank of fuel should you forget your wallet on a ride.
I'm a firm believer in the whole ATTGATT mentality, which stands for "All The Gear, All The Time." It's something I've spoken about before at length. While most people apply that to safety motorcycle gear like riding clothes and helmets, I also feel like it's responsible to have what you need to stay safe in a variety of situations without relying on technology or the kindness of strangers.