Hey buddy, can you hand me that wrench?

Today the temperature got to around 55 degrees; a far cry from the temps in the teens that we have had much of the week.  This morning it sure felt like the garage was below freezing in temps, so the electric space heater got a workout for hours trying to warm the environment up so that I would be able to enjoy some time in one of my home’s man-caves, the garage.  Took over three hours to get temps comfortable enough that a hoody sweatshirt was the right clothing to wear.

Pulled all the tools off the Ultra, which is destined to be on the trading block sometime next year.  Looking at my records, it got ridden under 300 miles in 2014, it’s worse year ever.  After all the expensive work done on it last winter, it seems a shame that it just is not getting ridden.  Somebody will end up with a very nice Harley who will love riding it the way I once did.  Probably even more so now, since the entire suspension has been custom modified to make it ride even more like a Cadillac.

So the tools were pulled and laid on the floor along with the sporadic tools that had found their way into spaces on the Vstrom.  After an hour of messing around with everything, eliminating unnecessary duplicates, and ensuring that I had the correct tools to fix somewhere around 57% of the problems I could encounter while out on two wheels, I settled on the following:

Item Product Qty
Bike Tools
Locking adjustable wrench Stanley 10″ MaxiGrip #85-610 1
Vise grips – needle nose Pittsburgh 10″ 1
Needlenose pliers Ideal #35-1071 1
12mm front axle hex tool Adventuretech.biz 1
24mm axle nut wrench OEM 1
22mm axle nut wrench OEM 1
8mm combination wrench Craftsman #42912 1
10mm combination wrench Craftsman #42914 1
12mm combination wrench Craftsman #42916 1
14mm combination wrench Craftsman #42918 1
17mm combination wrench Craftsman #42929 1
8&10mm ratcheting wrench Craftsman #21932 1
3/8″ regular size ratchet Craftsman #44811 1
3/8″ stubby ratchet Performa 1
3/8″ 6-inch extension Craftsman #44261 1
JIS stubby screwdriver Hozan D-69 1
Ratchet screwdriver Craftsman 47144 WF 7 1
Portable driver bits Craftsman 25-piece 1
Hex key set – metric Craftsman #46698 1
10mm socket Craftsman #43542 1
11mm socket Craftsman #43543 1
12mm socket Craftsman #43544 1
13mm socket Craftsman #43545 1
14mm socket Craftsman #43546 1
15mm socket Craftsman #43547 1
16mm socket Craftsman #43570 1
17mm socket Craftsman #43548 1
18mm socket Craftsman #43579 1
11mm deep well socket Craftsman #50668 1
4mm hex head socket Craftsman #42674 1
5mm hex head socket Craftsman #42675 1
6mm hex head socket Craftsman #42676 1
7mm hex head socket Craftsman #42677 1
8mm hex head socket Craftsman #42678 1
10mm hex head socket Craftsman #42679 1
7/32″ hex head socket Craftsman #46662 1
5/8″ spark plug socket Windzone CR-V 1
3/8″ to 1/4″ adapter socket Craftsman #4256 1
Threadlocker Blue Medium strength 1
Baling wire Coil 10′
Electrical wire 14 gauge 10′
Flashlight (3) AAA batteries 2
Digital multimeter Mastech MS8216 DMM 1
Mini fuses 5A, 10A, 15A, 20A, 25A, 30A 5 each
Air compressor MotoPumps Mini Inflator 1
Tire plug kit Dynaplug Ultralite 1
Tire plug kit Nealey MINI tire repair kit 1
M/C jumper cables Emgo 84-96306 1
Fuel canister Rotopax 1.75 gallon 1
Trash bags kitchen sized 4
Ziplock bags quart sized 6
Duct tape Duck brand 1
Tie-wraps 4″, 8″, 14″ (quantity each size) 20
Multitool Leatherman Wave 1
Steel reinforced epoxy putty J-B Weld 8627-S SteelStik 1
Steel reinforced epoxy putty Blue Magic 16002TRI QuikSteel 1
Extra tools storage Speeco canister S24087600 1

The above list looks humongous and almost as if I need to carry a large Snap-On rolling toolbox on the back of the bike.  In actuality, most of the tools fit easily under the Vstrom seat in a spacious compartment between the battery and the rear light assembly as well as in a hidden container strapped to the underside of the actual seat itself.    The mini air compressor, jumper cables, zip ties, and the emergency tape all fit at the bottom of the left pannier without taking much room.

Back when I kept upgrading my camping gear a few years ago, I would buy something cheap, use it, and realize I wanted something lighter or smaller.  So, I’d buy the next model better, and sell the lightly used item for way below what I paid for it on a certain auction site we all know.  After a while, I learned what everybody else does….just buy the best of what you are looking for…once.  Buy once, cry once.  So, all of the tools I have acquired are the best of the best….they are light, work great, and take up much less room than other offerings.  Yes, some of it is expensive and there are other offerings out there.  But I want to make sure my stuff works when I need it.  For example, a tire air compressor that cost $20 at WalMart is not such a great deal when it overheats one minute into the use of it and it internally melts like many do.  Paying the $80 for the MotoPumps was hard to swallow…but I know it will work if I’m on the side of the road hundreds of miles away from help and need air for the tires.

The Speeco canister is strapped to the left side pannier rack, and holds one of the tire repair kits, some microfiber towels, one of the epoxy putty sticks (two brands are carried as each work better in certain circumstances over the other), and a few miscellaneous.
Canister is seen in orange circle at back of bike between pannier rack and tire

I have gone through my Vstrom service manual to look at bolt sizes of the majority of the issues I can think may occur.  The sockets and wrenches cover all of these areas on the bike.  In addition, I have made sure to carry some tools that fit the optional accessories that have been installed over time as well.  For example, the Vstrom uses mostly metric tools since it is a Japanese made motorcycle.  The Enduro Guardian skid (or bash) plate uses SAE bolts since it’s made in the USA, so in order to do an oil change (which will need to be done in a Walmart parking lot in Fairbanks on this trip), the tools to drop the bash plate are required to make the journey or will need to be purchased on the ride.  A $7 wrench here could easily cost two or three times as much…if not more…up north.

The Rotopax is a indestructible (nearly of course) fuel canister used on motorcycles to carry extra gasoline.  Made to withstand crashing, or high temperature venting, it allows a safe way to carry the bike’s life juice so it’s available when not watching one’s fuel gauge or the distance is simply too far away to reach on one tank full.

The trip to Alaska has two areas in which the distance is over 240 miles between gas stations…Coldfoot to Prudhoe Bay (which I am not currently planning on doing but if I change my mind I may need the extra fuel) and Dease Lake to Hyder (there are gas stations, but if they are closed for whatever reason I’ll be thankful for the fuel).  Extra fuel can be a lifesaver to the motorcycling traveler and a precious resource for anybody that runs out.

One thing that some motorcyclists carry are tire spoons.  Spoons look like their name…long handle tools that allow you to take a tire off the wheel when on the road.  Since I am not carrying extra tires on the bike, so far I have decided not to take any.  But, this may change and if I have the room when pulling out of the driveway for the trip, they will probably come along.  Just in case.

I also spent some time considering what extra motorcycle parts to carry.  On some of the online forums, people go totally OCD and bring along almost another motorcycle with them in case they need parts.  Yes, this big adventure takes me to an area where it can take days to get even the most basic items delivered to a stranded rider…but sometimes sanity must prevail when making choices.  One cannot prepare for all contingencies without having a trail of support trucks and personnel following you, but if there is room, nothing wrong with packing a few extra things.

From my preliminary packing of all the gear/clothing/tools I plan to take, I’ll have some room left over.  Besides the spoons I mentioned earlier, I will bring along an extra clutch cable and a set of front rear bulbs.  Bikes can be taped, tie-wrapped, or epoxied back together enough to allow you to limp to a repair shop if the worst were to happen.  One is not going anywhere with a broken clutch cable and depending on the break, can be impossible to fix.  So a backup clutch cable comes along, tucked into the interior of the left saddle bag for the journey.

This post got long, so time to drop off and go do something productive.  Like made a sandwich for dinner, put on  Big Bang Theory, and have one of the dogs jump into my lap in the recliner for the evening.  Almost under the 200 day mark until departure!

You have a FAK, right?

Weather seems to be averaging about ten degrees in the morning the entire week.  Cold blast has come come through months early this year; crazy weather probably caused by global warming or something.  So cold, the light snow we had days ago still sits on the ground.  I don’t mind riding in the cold, but won’t on the snow or ice.  So…all the bikes are staying in the garage, connected to the warmth provided by their battery tender connections to keep each of the batteries charged up.

First aid kit (FAK) on the motorcycle has been updated and all expiration dates checked on the consumables medicines.  Current kit contents:

Item Size Qty
FA Kit
SAM splint 4.25″ x 36″ 1
Red tip tourniquet Normal, compressed 1
Quik Clot Sport clotting sponge 5″ x 5″ 50g 1
Celox hemostatic granules 35g 1
Israeli hemorrhage control bandage 6″ 1
Combine ABD pad 5″ x 9″ 2
Gauze pads 2″ x 2″ 5
Triple layer non-stick pads 3″ x 4″ 2
Non-adherent pad 2″ x 3″ 1
Tylenol 2-pack 3
Advil 2-pack 2
Bayer aspirin 2-pack 2
Aleve 2-pack 1
Vick’s DayQuil 2-pack 2
Alka-Seltzer 2-pack 1
Blistex single pack 2
Oral pain relief – benzocaine single pack 2
Burn gel – lidocaine single pack 2
Antifungal cream – tolnaflate single pack 2
First aid and burn cream – benzalkonium single pack 1
Medi-Lyte electrolyte replacement 2-pack 3
Diamode diarrhea medicine single pack 1
Sting relief insect bite – lidocaine single pack 3
Antacid – calcium carbonate single pack 2
Pepto-Bismol 2-pack 3
Poison ivy/oak/sumac cleaners single pack 2
Alcohol prep pads single pack 5
Hand sanitizer single pack 2
Splinter out disposible tweezers single pack 1
Icepack single pack 1
Triple Antibiotic ointment 1 ounce 1
Hydrocortizone Plus cream 1 ounce 1
Hydrogen peroxide spray 2.0 fluid ounces 1
Visine Advanced eye drops 0.25 fluid ounces 1
3M temp-DOT thermometers Disposible 3
Non-latex gloves Pairs 3
Flexible fabric bandaids 3/4″ x 3″ 8
Bandaids Miscellaneous sizes 10
Medical scissors Regular 1
Prestige Medical clothing shears Regular 1
Metal tweezers Regular 1
Gauze tape Rolls 2
Got a few miscellaneous things to do this weekend.  Going to go through the tool kit that I keep on the Vstrom and ensure that I will have all the needed items to complete a ten thousand mile trip next summer.

A Vstrom Upgrade

Last winter, the Ultra Classic received a ton of work to ready it for the trip to Alaska in June 2014 that has to get rescheduled for June 2015. It was a enlightening experience learning the ins-and outs of suspension work on the Harley.  Even with the work, it just was not the right bike for me to take on this trip.  So the Vstrom was purchased, and it did a great job this summer of taking me to Utah, Colorado, Virginia, and other places.

Well, another round of serious motorcycle maintenance has been completed.  Some marathon sessions over a period of two weeks during entire weekends and the occasional after work garage party allowed the Vstrom to receive a bunch of upgrades/maintenance:

Valve check completed, 2 in spec, 6 needed adjustment
Throttle bodies sync
Throttle bodies access leads installed
Iridium lifetime spark plugs installed
Air filter installed
Radiator fluid changed
Sasquatch custom rear shock installed
SonicSprings front fork springs installed
Wheel bearings inspected
New front/rear brake pads installed
Steering head bearings replaced
New cush drive pads installed
New rear tire installed
Handguards installed
Voltmeter wiring ran
Permanent Garmin GPS wiring ran
Flash2Pass garage door transmitter installed
Probably a dozen more things I cannot recall right now

Much of the bike is gone
Front end on vacation
Custom rear shock, awesome ride quality

Lots of work getting all this pulled together. A quick shout-out to Brian, a friend who offered up his garage and time to help get this completed.  This guy knows bikes, and it was like watching a kid in a candy store the way he helped out and shared information.  He triple checked everything, greased every bolt as he went, and even let me ride one of his bikes while mine was on the lift.  Much appreciated!

Also promised to let others know about the Sasquatch shock.  Jay at www.adventurepowersports.us takes stock OEM shocks (which are usually designed for small, 160 pound guys) and rebuilds them to a rider’s weight, carrying weight, and the type of riding.  I talked to Jay on the phone for a good while and he was very thorough with asking all the right questions.  Now that the shock is dialed in, it rides much better than stock.  So, Jay is definitely recommended.  And, he’s got some killer pricing!

So, more updates to come over the winter of preparations for Alaska…but the major things are done.  Bike is ready to go, I have all the gear I need, funds are set aside, time from work is promised, and health doing pretty good.  Wish I could go tomorrow.  Countdown clock shows 212 days until pull out of the driveway time comes around.  So, I’ll share some more prep info over the next few months in case anybody is interested.