The first line of defense against an on-road bike disaster is preparedness. Bike owners everywhere have heard it before: you can't stop an accident from ever happening, all you can do is be prepared for it when it does. This means many things for the two-wheeled enthusiast, all of them having to do with becoming familiar with the inner workings of their machine. For the uninitiated this can be a daunting task, but ultimately advantageous. While you should have your vehicle checked regularly by professionals, learning the basics of motorcycle service can save time, money, and maybe even your life.
What You Need to Own
First things first: buy a set of tools. Start with the bare necessities and disregard more expensive tools intended for specific problems, like fuel injector synchronizers or brake bleeders. A set of socket wrenches, preferably ratchet, and an assortment of hex keys will come in handy in virtually every situation. While some variation does exist depending on the manufacturer, all motorcycle service tasks need these basic tools. As for tires, you should always carry a string-type tire plug. This handy tool can fix a puncture in a few quick steps, but you'll still need to find an air compressor to refill the flat. Plan to carry these things in your backpack or, if you have them, leave plenty of room in your side saddle bags.
What You Need to Know
Imagine you are in unfamiliar territory, racing down the interstate, when your brakes start gluing up. Or your engine won't turn over even though you just filled up on gas. Whatever the scenario, you need to be ready to respond in case no one else is around. The great thing about motorcycle service, however, is that it is surprisingly easy to handle on your own. The brake problem, for instance, could be solved by pumping the handle until the gunky hydraulic fluid passes through the threshold. No tools necessary. Equipping yourself with bits of knowledge like this can keep you moving so you can get to a professional for a more permanent fix. It's attainable knowledge, too, most likely hiding in the owner's manual underneath your seat.
What You Need to Do
Don't be afraid to get your hands dirty when tuning up. Though they are complex machines, bikes tend to be very simple compared to cars and trucks. The best way to familiarize yourself with the guts of your vehicle is to open it up and look around. As mentioned earlier, there are specific cases that require certain tools. If you make it your goal to know your bike left and right, you will be able to stock up accordingly. It is highly recommended that you do so.
The key, though, is remembering that you are only performing part of the motorcycle service. There is ultimately no replacement for a professional when things go south. But if you keep yourself up to speed on your bike's health, you will be ready to beat that roadside break down and continue your journey.