This is a post in the series on trail side maintenance. In this post we will look at 5 tips, tricks and tools to make trail side jobs a bit easier. Again, preparation is key here so that you are well equipped to deal with unforeseen situations. Do the brainwork before you leave, so to speak.

Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance

May I suggest you also have as look at the other posts in this series:

Table of Contents

Without further ado, here are five tips to make life on the trail that bit easier to deal with. Read them in order, or use the table of contents below to jump to a specific tip you want to check out:

Take notes!

Field notes are a great way to keep track of maintenance issues along the way
Field Notes are great to take quick notes on what you did to your bike while on the trail.
(📸 by Nik)

Take notes of the things you did to your bike while on a trip. That way, you can look back to see what parts of the bike may need additional checks. Or what consumable items you need to replenish.

For example, check that the axle nut is still tight after you took out the rear wheel to fix a flat. Or refill your toolkit with new patches and glue to fix another inner tube on your next trip.

I keep a notebook and pen with me at all times. A notebook with waterproof pages such as the “Field Notes Expedition” or “Rite In The Rain On-The-Go” will do the trick. These are small enough to be stashed almost anywhere. To write on them, the Fisher Space Pen is a great choice as it will write under just about any circumstance.

Another option is to use a note-taking app on your phone or a dedicated vehicle maintenance app like AutoSist. Although I personally use AutoSist to keep track of maintenance I do on my vehicles, I prefer an analog system for the trail so I am not dependant on a fragile, battery powered phone.

A third option is to print out the template provided in the next tip to take notes. It is free and simple to use, but probably not waterproof, so keep it dry.

Keep a cheat sheet

A cheat sheet is a very handy tool to have to quickly look up certain sizes or settings for your bike. For example, mine has tire sizes, tire pressures (for on- and offroad), oil type and suspension settings (how many ‘clicks’ for each setting for both with and without luggage). Of course, you can all remember that, but to spend that brain time up front reduces the chances of making mistakes along the way.

I have multiple motorcycles with different oils, tire pressures, etc. It is reassuring to know that I can look up that info reliably so I don’t have to guess or remember.

On the first iterations of the cheat sheet, I wrote down various torques. Those did not make it on newer versions of the cheat sheet as I do not have a torque wrench with me on the trail. I do have one at home, but then I use the repair manual to look up those torques.

Handy extra items to take with you

Over the years, I have figured out to take these three extra items to make trail side maintenance a little bit easier. Although I believe in travelling light, there is a lot of value in taking these few extra items to make your life a lot easier when you have to deal with unforeseen repairs while out and about.

  • Extra pair of worker gloves. Some prefer latex gloves, but I find these tear too easily when working on the bike. I do have latex gloves in my first-aid kit. But for repairs I use a pair of gardening gloves. They fit snuggly and are tough.
  • Headlamp. Yes, you look like an idiot wearing one. But, to be able to shine light on whatever you are working on, without using your hands, is super handy. I use one for reading at night in my tent as well. If your head lamp (or head torch as they are also known) does not have a “lock” feature to prevent accidentally switching it on, put the battery in backwards when not using the light. That way it does not drain while stored.
  • A multitool. I use a Leatherman Blast that is 15 years old or so, but it still works well. It is amazing how many jobs you can do with one of these tools. I have mine strapped to the bike, outside of the rest of the toolkit, for easy access. If I had to choose again, I would probably go for a Leatherman Crunch as it provides a set of locking pliers. And it takes bits so I can further lighten my load by using some Phillips head and allen key (aka hex key) bits.

Mark your tools

Helping stranded riders with their trail side maintenance is a great way to make new friends. But it is also a sure-fire way to loose your tools. Imagine several people helping out a fellow rider. Each whipping out their own tool kits and before you know it, you have no idea which belongs where.

So, mark your tools. I use a strip of electrical tape to mark mine. Or use a permanent marker.

Practice ‘trail side maintenance’ at home

I have mentioned it before in the other posts, but it is really important to get the experience before you actually need it. Being able to learn how to get your wheel out, or a tire off and on the rim in a warm and dry garage is so much better than figuring it all out on the trail. In the rain. On your own. In the dark.

A few tips when doing this:

  • Invite friends and have them bring their tools
  • Practice whatever job you want, each on your own bike
  • Make note of the tools and tool sizes you are using, so you know what to put into your on-the-bike toolkit
  • Put up some tunes from your wrenching playlist to make you feel awesome
  • Have cold beverages at your disposal. Or hot ones. And no alcohol if you are going to ride the bikes afterwards, of course.
Practicing trail side maintenance at home before going out. Best done with friends.
Practice trail side maintenance at home before you go out and about. Best done with friends 🙂

Wrapping up

That’s it. Now you know how to fix a flat, change the oil, tension the chain, setup your bike and make it as easy as possible for yourself (and your riding buddies) to perform different trail side maintenance jobs. Besides that you know to take notes, make a cheat sheet, take some extra items, mark your tools and practice at home.

I am curious what tips and tricks you have for me to better prepare for adventure. Please let me know in the comments!