Sitting there on the side of the road waiting for your buddy to come get you is something every rider has to do at least once in their life. I mean, if you don’t ever get stranded in the middle of nowhere, are you even ‘motorcycling’? Or have you ever wondered what would happen if you were out of cell phone range, or maybe lost your phone on the ride when you got caught in a tough situation?
Now I’m not talking about making sure you have sunscreen or extra cash on you. If you are out riding and you don’t have these things on you, you probably need your head examined. What I’m talking about is the things in your saddlebags that you might need just in case. Like any type of emergency planning, no one really ever thinks that something might happen to them that requires them to fend for themselves for a couple of days.
Still, what if something bad did happen? Would you be prepared?
Many riders actually do go through quite a bit of an effort to make sure that they have some basics in their saddlebags at all times. So if you aren’t a part of the bandwagon, you best jump on it. Now, be aware that these suggestions are merely suggestions, and you might need to add to them depending on where and what time of the year you’re riding.
In any case, here’s a list of 15 things you should have on you at all times when you’re riding:
- Towels – Yes, towels. At least one good beach towel. Why? There are so many uses for a good towel on the side of the road, including: making sure you don’t lay down on glass, roll up for a pillow, and yes…clean stuff up. Yet this comes in #15 on the list because as useful as it is, it just isn’t that crucial
- Solar chargers and/or spare batteries – Solar chargers have come a long way in the last few years, and there are even some pretty nifty survival kits that you can get that surround the utilization of these. You get what you pay for though, and a solar set up can get pretty spendy. If all else fails make sure that you have a spare cell phone battery or two. There’s tons of options.
- Mylar blanket – If you haven’t seen these before, they are the old “space blankets” we used to talk about back in the day. The nice thing is that these have gotten quite the upgrade since they came out in the 80’s. Now there’s one that functions as water catchers, rain tarps, and more. They don’t take up a lot of space and are very inexpensive, so they fall into the “no brainer” category.
- Tire repair kit and air compressor – they actually have these at most motorcycle shops, and they are quite handy. However, they do take up quite a bit of space, so they only come up at #12 on the list. It’s up to you what you spend, but the basic concept here is that repairing a flat isn’t going to be easy, and it might be better to make sure that you have insurance with roadside assistance.
- Work gloves or nitrile gloves – You never know what can happen with a breakdown. Here’s what you don’t want to happen: you don’t want to have to use your riding gloves or bare hands to handle engine components. Riding gloves are designed for gripping the handlebars, getting oil on those puppies is no good. As for your hands…hey!…oil stains are cool, but 3rd degree burns are not.
- Jumper cables – You’d be surprised at how many people keep these in their car or truck, but not on their bike. Don’t do this. Jumper cables are important!
- Flares, Glow Sticks, Hazard Signs – As riders, we all know how important visibility is. It’s so important that when we are on the road, we know that our biggest defense against our lack of visibility is our mobility. Well guess what…when you’re broken down, you lose that mobility, so you had better pick up your visibility! Make sure cars get enough warning and can slow down before approaching your position. This is especially important in mountainous areas.
- Flashlight – Flashlights have also come a long way from the mag light days of yesteryear. While we can’t say that having a flashlight the size of a medieval morning star doesn’t have its advantages, you might find it too heavy or impractical to have on your bike. There’s some pretty good compact versions with LED technology that have great illumination and different settings for signalling for help. You can even get ones that wind up, and don’t require charging, and ones that charge through (you guessed it) your solar set-up. Headlamps are also a viable option here, if you need your hands free.
- High Temperature Tape and Zip Ties – First and foremost, duct tape fixes everything. The problem is, duct tape can’t handle the high temperatures a motorcycle engine puts out. SO, you have to get the high temperature stuff available at your local motorcycle shop, or automotive parts store. Zip ties fall under the “no brainer” category, and if you don’t think you need them, just follow one of the many cables on your bike. We’re putting money that sooner or later, you’re gonna run into one.
- Matches (Waterproof) and Citronella Candles – This is pretty self explanatory, and if you get stranded overnight, the candles have a dual function. Not a lot of space required for these two items, and if you’re riding in the wilderness, you might be stuck overnight. That means you’ll need warmth.
- Tool kit – If your bike didn’t come with an owners manual, you can probably find one online. Owners manuals have a maintenance section, and will usually list some recommended tools. If this doesn’t happen, one thing seems to remain constant across the board with mechanics, they love to talk about how much stuff they know. This is a good thing, because your local bike mechanic can probably help you put together the exact tool kit you would need, tailored to your specific bike!(Also, there are some basic tool kits you can pick up that will do the trick if you are antisocial, or quarantined by a global pandemic.)
- Rain Gear – This is in the top five, because it really does start the “Must Haves” portion of the list. Rain can literally get under your skin, this can not only get you cold and miserable, but it can be distracting. Distraction is bad bad juju for a rider. Rain gear is surprisingly inexpensive and takes very little space up in your bags. If you don’t have some, get some.
- First Aid Kit and Insect Repellant – There are many ways to put a good first aid kit together, and we suggest going with the “get what you need for your home and get a travel container for your vehicles” approach (yes, that’s an actual approach.) You should have your own first aid cabinet at your house that includes all the things you need including antihistamines. You can get travel containers, and simply refill them anytime you use something. OR you can get the premade ones, but make sure you add painkillers and allergy medications in them. Insect repellant is also a must to have in your first aid kit.
- Emergency Food – this goes without saying, and why it’s number two on the list. You never know how long you’ll be waiting for help, you might as well have some energy bars on the ready just in case.
- The number one thing you need to have in your saddlebags is: Bottled water! That’s right! Stay hydrated! You can take this an extra step by adding a water filter used for camping or survival to your pack, but this is completely your call. Just remember that you can go without food, but going without water can make a bad situation a whole lot worse.
And there you have it! A list of our top 15 items to consider having on your motorcycle every time you ride. As always, make sure that you check your supplies when you are doing your pre-ride check of the machine. If you don’t have something that you normally would, take the time to replace it. Don’t ride distracted with something as simple as worrying about zip ties.
Take your time, ride safe, and most of all, enjoy the ride!