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Happy Trails

Tips and Tricks for Motorcyclists

A monthly column of selected favorites from our vast archive.

This month it’s all about the home shop

Whether you are super capable of doing all your own service, or just like to dabble in a project now and then, this month’s column is all about your home shop.

O-ring chain safe

There are plenty of chain cleaners and lubes on the market. Some are made specifically for motorcycle chains and there are those who will tell you to just use any solvent you want for cleaning. Not so fast on that one. If the solvent doesn’t specify it is “O-ring Chain Safe” then either it’s not, or it hasn’t been properly tested. Many hobbyists tests are faulty in that they don’t test a single product through the life of the chain or under excessive heat, instead doing mostly short term overnight tests like the many you’ll find on the internet. Buyer beware, if the product doesn’t say it’s O-ring safe on the container, don’t apply it to your O-ring chain.

It may be cheaper down the street than on the internet

We recently needed a few basic supplies, disposable shop towels and a 100 count pack of nitrile gloves. We were brand specific in our search. The price from Amazon was $6.82 for the towels and $7.82 for the nitrile gloves. This included free Prime shipping. Then we checked three local auto parts stores. Every store was selling the towels for less, the lowest being the closet location at $2.49 for the exact same towel roll. We gave our money to them for the towels. The Nitrile gloves were another story with prices ranging between $12.49 and $14.99 for a 100 count box. The Amazon price was $7.82, again with free shipping. We bought the gloves through Amazon. The point here is shop the local brick and mortars and give them your money when it is right, you’ll want them to be there in the future as well.

Fractional calipers: Digital or analog? We say analog

Every good tool kit should have a fractional caliper to measure brake pad depth, chain slack and to do proper chain adjusts. There are many to choose from made from plastic to carbon fiber to steel. Some have digital readouts and here is where the problem begins. The darn batteries have a shelf life of about a year. If you’re an occasional do-it-yourself wrencher, you may not reach for the caliper tool more often than once a year and when you do, the battery may have gone dead rendering the tool almost useless. Instead indulge in a nice steel analog dial type fractional caliper tool.

Make your own slack gauge

It’s not practical to carry a fractional caliper as part of your tool kit on the road. Because they must be protected, they require a case I’m not willing to stuff into my gear assortment based on size. But what do you really need one on the road for anyway? To measure chain-slack every 500 miles. Instead take a flat plastic lid, from say an empty yogurt, dip or salsa tub and cut it square to your bike manufacturers maximum slack spec. You can find that in your owners or shop manual. Next mark the max point and minimum points with a Sharpie. Lastly place a clear piece of tape over it and smooth the corners so they don’t cut into anything, then store it flat in your on-board tool kit. It ain’t pretty, but it works.

Bi-focal safety glasses – they exist

If you’re over 40, you may be into reading glasses already. But reading most glasses don’t provide the coverage for working safely in the shop, and what you really need is a bi-focal to you can focus easily both near and far. Fortunately, the are now bi-focal safety glasses available. You’ll find them in diopters of 1, 1.5, 2 and 2.5 in our online store and they are available online elsewhere as well.

Packing Light, Packing Right

Tips and Tricks is a monthly column created by our editors and readers alike. If you have a tip or trick you'd like to share, email it to If we use it we'll send you a copy of The Sound RIDER! guide to Packing Light, Packing Right - FREE!



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Dualsport Northwest Rally 8/29-9/1 2014


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