Here in sunny central Washington (and I did see the sun yesterday!) it is all of about 4 degrees fahrenheit. My youngest son (who is twelve and has no nerve endings I think) has been out riding his new to him YZ250f (that we just finished rebuilding). Snow, ice and very cold temperatures and all! I love riding, but I can take about 30 seconds of that and it’s time to go back in and sit by the fire.
Even though it’s a little too frigid for my taste, it’s not time to put away the bike. In the meantime, while we wait for the temperatures to at least get back into the double digits this is the perfect time to go through your riding pack and make sure you have what you need. If you are not really sure what you need, here are some suggestions. Keep in mind these are only my opinion, and nothing more or less.
Zip ties, zip ties, zip ties….did I say zip ties? Zip ties are one of those things that have many uses. If you have a flat you can’t fix on the trail, with enough zip ties you can keep your tire on the rim for many miles. They are great for fixing broken straps, gear and just about anything else. I generally carry a bunch of the medium size. If you need one longer you can string them together.
Duct Tape, I don’t bother carrying a large amount but enough to hold a hand guard in place or keep a wound tight. I actually carry my duct tape in my first-aid kit. It works great for blisters, bandages (with some gauze, never apply directly to a wound) and emergency mouth cesonor when you are riding with "that guy". I take a butane cigarette lighter and wrap a pretty good wad of tape around it. That way I have a lighter and I have tape when I need it. Doing this does not take much room and fits almost anywhere.
As far as hand tools go it’s very hard to give a specific list of things to carry since each bike uses different fasteners. Rather the best way to determine what you need is to think about what you might be able to fix on the trail. Figure out what you need to do these basic chores.
1) Change the spark plug. Modern 4 strokes rarely foul plugs, but it does happen. So make sure you have a spark plug socket that actually works for your bike, just because it “looks” like it will fit doesn’t mean it will actually fit. Tusk makes a nice little socket with extension tool that works with ¼” drive ratchet or a 14mm wrench. Make sure you have all the socket sizes you need to pull shrouds, seat, etc. to get to the spark plug. For most Japanese bikes if you carry an 8mm, 10mm, 12mm and 14mm you can pretty much fix anything. Of course be sure you have an extra plug. Tusk and other companies make nifty little watertight cases for an extra plug that will keep it from getting broken. You can either carry a plug in your pack or you can even zip tie it to the bike somewhere like inside the airbox.
2) Change/fix a flat tire. Motion Pro makes very nice and extremely light tire spoons that have an axle wrench on one end and a spoon on the other. Since you generally need two tire spoons it works out perfectly. You get one for the front axle nut and one for the rear. Tusk also makes a version of these but they tend to be a very fat on the nut end. Make sure the tool will actually work on your bike before you go out. I have ran into some fork designs that make it very hard to access the axle nut. I also carry a bicycle patch kit and a small tire pump. Some people prefer the CO2 cartridges, but the problem I see with the CO2 is you only have the air that’s in the little canisters; once those are empty you’re finished. Keep in mind, if you put Slime or any sort of fix a flat you will not be able to patch your tire.
3) Small pliers, screw drivers and individual allen wrenches (just the sizes that are used on your bike) and for the KTM guys be sure you have the appropriate star-drive bits. If you can find one, a small adjustable wrench is always nice. I also carry stubby box end wrenches (8, 10, 12, 14) and ¼” drive sockets in those sizes along with a small collapsable t-handle (no ratchet).
4) The only parts I carry are an extra spark plug and a couple of chain master links. A small chain tool is also nice, but I generally don’t carry one just because I can usually (famous last words) get a chain fixed with pliers and a screw driver, but it’s much easier with the proper tools.
All this (except the tire spoons because they are too long) I put in a ziplock bag and then into a nylon bag with a zipper. The two bags are great to put nuts and bolts in if you need to take something apart on the trail. It’s amazing how quickly dirt and trail debris can eat a bolt and make it disappear forever.
Some people I ride with don’t carry anything at all, or maybe just a multi-tool and get away with it. But if you are like me and do any back-country riding it can be long way back to the truck if something breaks, particularly if it's something you could have fixed on the trail.