Preparation with the Murph

Use the Murphs advice and you too will give the thumbs up

Welcome all to what will be a VERi BIG Vinduro season!

As this season will showcase several events of a longer duration than we might be used to (barring Harrow) it strikes me that this might be a good time to focus riders attention towards some housekeeping – meaning, what spares and tools you can carry when you are out and about which will get you, or someone else, mobile and back to the pits without resorting to the big push!

Gullible pushers won't always be available

Bearing in mind that these bikes are getting old (yeah, no shit Sherlock!) and used to break when they were new, let alone 30yrs on, here's some views from the saddle. So read on...

I might be accused of trying to tell you all how to suck eggs, but, in my defence, I've seen plenty of stopped bikes at events which could have been easily mobile if a few sensible tools or spares had been available at the time. So, here's just MY guidelines for handy trail spares and tools. Feel free to expand on the theme yourself!

We might even get into the hoary topic of pre-event bike preparation next (if I don't get lynched over this lot!).

A good start is to sit back in the shed with a soothing beverage and just look at your bike. It should look good – if it doesn't, get a bike that you do like the look of, or follow the cheaper option and have another bevvie. No doubt the picture will improve in time. Now, the bike is designed to carry you around. It will also carry tools etc. Carry as little on your person as possible. Two reasons; first, most tools are sharp and hard and will invariably find their way very painfully into dark and damp places inside your body in the event of an event, and secondly, your bike can carry them so why should you? See, lazy has a function! Now the looking at your bike bit makes a bit more sense – what potential places are there to carry nic nacs? Hmmm, there's a space for a toolbag behind the seat, on top of the tank or on the front guard, as well as around the frame or even the airbox. And they are all available and out of the riders way.

The spares you carry will be determined by several criteria. Spares that are critical to get you home or are specific to your bike (eg; like a spare drive belt – no one else is likely to have one in their back pocket so you better carry one), spares that are generic such as spark plugs and lever assemblies, and comfort spares, the kind of stuff that you can do without but are nice to have anyway (like some cables or puncture repair kits).

OK. Now for some nitty gritty's.

These spares are mainly to get you out of immediate strife. No-one really wants to have to do a top end rebuild by the side of the trail so there's no point carrying the tools for that task. This stuff will, however, get you out of some surprisingly awkward moments. Add ingenuity and imagination to the mix of spares and tools and a little goes a long way.

- Spark plugs. The CORRECT one for your bike. A NEW one, not a 'proven' used one. Carry more if your bike eats plugs! Put them into one of those nifty brightly coloured plastic sealed plug caddies. The bright colour is important as it will be easier to find when you've dropped it in the mud.

- A chain master link – the right one for the chain which is on your bike NOW, not two changes ago. It can be clipped over a control cable so it won''t fall into the mud along with the spark plug caddy

- Spare clutch, brake and throttle cables can be taped alongside their existing counterparts so they are ready to hook up when needed.

- A spare clutch or brake lever. Usually the one lever will fit either clutch or brake perches. Carry specific levers if they are different.

- Tape. For the connoisseurs! there are many and varied tapes available. Well, that's OK, but the ones you need are electrical tape and cloth tape. Tape can be peeled off the roll and re-rolled in accessible places like around the bikes handlebar or a frame tube. See, the tapes with you when you need it (not comfortably hanging on a hook in your shed) and doesn't take up room in a toolbag. Rubber bands cut to various widths from old inner tubes are also handy. They can be stretched around points of the bike (such as from one fork cap across to the other) for storage and have a multitude of uses only limited only by your imagination

- Spare fuel hose. A length can be slipped inside your steel handlebars, or if you are 'spoiled rich new school' and have alloy bars, slip an extra long length of hose in place of your tank cap breather tube. The hose also makes a handy siphon.

- A variety of usefully sized hose clamps can be secreted around the bike for later use; yes, they will get used eventually!

- A grab of useful nuts, bolts and screws – appropriate to your bike! The 'looking at the bike' bit is useful here – "if X falls off, what can I carry to fix it?" Try to standardise as many of the types of fixings as possible. If you are going to populate your bike with fasteners from Bunnings (uurghh!), then do ALL of them, not just half!

- Lock wire. Give the farmers a break! Carry wire wrapped around a spanner or somesuch. A metre goes a long way in a repair and doesn't take up much room.

- Cable ties! Enough said.

- If you decide that you will do a puncture repair on the trail then carry a 19" tube. It will stretch to accommodate a 21" rim or crumple to fit a 17/18" tyre. Two tyre levers and small handpump can be carried strapped to the handlebar crossbrace or clamped with those handy hose clamps to a frame tube somewhere. The tyre levers and hose clamps can also be used as handy splints to tie together a broken frame to get back to the pits (don't ask why I should know this!!).

- A tow rope if you must.

Tow ropes aren't just for European brands, Japanese owners should carry a tow rope so as to offer help to European owners, it will give you a nice warm smug feeling inside.

This option is for the weak kneed and can only be used to drag OTHER microcephalic mechanically challenged monobrow riders from the bush back to the carpark. Shame, shame. Proper Vinduro riders would rather be found as crow picked skeletons next to their defunct ride than be ignominiously hauled behind another bike back to the cars. You have been warned.

- Use your imagination and some commonsense with regards to which bits you can carry, and where they can be carried, apart from in the tool pouches – coz that's where the TOOLS belong!

Tools. Ahh, nice, shiny, manly. Everyone needs them at some point. The aim is to have the right tools at the right point without having to cart around a Snap-On tool chest.

It seems obvious to state it, BUT, make sure that the tools you carry will operate as required for the tasks you might set them. Like, beauty, I've got a spark plug spanner so I'm good. But, (lots of the 'but' bits in this section) does the spanner fit the plug in your engine and maybe, coincidentally, the NEW spare plug in the brightly coloured plug caddy? If the answer is yes, then proceed to try and actually remove the spark plug from the engine using the shiny spanner. Hmmm, the access is no good using this type of spanner so needs must that I procure one, or modify the offending tool, to one which can actually fit into the available space and do its task. You get the idea. ANY tools you carry MUST DO WHAT YOU NEED THEM TO DO. For example, try to adjust your chain with just the tools you can carry in your tool bag – you'll soon discover what tools will be required and which ones are useless.

Don't be afraid to modify tools to suit a task. For example, you can carry an adjustable shifter which will open just enough to fit the biggest nut you are likely to need to attack on the bike. Good, no need to carry a 15" when an 8" will do. You'll find that it will be too long to fit into your toolbag so, two options. Well, three really. One, clamp it somewhere out of the way on the frame; two, cut the handle so it fits the toolbag or three; follow someone who is smarter than you are and has managed to carry one somewhere on their own bike.

Basic tools, like correctly sized Allen keys to fit the case screws and the spare screws you are carrying, a small screwdriver which will fit your carby jets, a compact Phillips head screwdriver and any screwdriver that might need to reach a hidden clamp (such as on the carby), as large a set of combination pliers that will fit the toolbag, a small selection of combination spanners – usually 8/10/12/13/14/17mm. I like to double up on the common ones which might involve a nut/bolt combo. A plug spanner that FITS. Yes, yes, I know, again? Yes! A small set of vise grips can be really handy and will substitute for a gearlever or even to pull on a broken cable in a pinch.

Tools are fun. They allow a masculine release for creativity (phew!) so don't be afraid to modify these lumps of metal to do your bidding. You are the boss, you decide which are worthy to accompany you on your adventures. Remember those neat PE multitools? Yeah! Make your own to suit your bike. Weld a socket which will fit the rear axle nut onto the handle of that shortened shifter! Weld a plug spanner to that 17mm open ender! See, saving space and more practical! Remember too to keep the toolkit and spares with the bike they are intended for, which means that you might have to build several tool sets. Most riders who have spent the time to develop and personalise a toolkit are proud to show them off, to show how clever they are, so ask questions!

There's lots more to be covered but I'm hoping that this outline will help you to develop a framework to kit your bike so that if you need to do trail maintenance, or help another rider, you will have the equipment to at least have a fair shot at getting mobile again and not letting an easily repairable problem ruin your day.

With the right preparation any old misfit can be victorious