When Christmas shopping for your favorite motorcycle gearhead, it’s hard to go wrong with tools. Riders who work on their own bikes just love it when they tear the wrapping paper off a gift to find a new tool that can make their next oil change/tire replacement/chain adjustment/engine rebuild/whatever much easier and more fun. But be forewarned: The recipient of that tool might immediately bolt out to the garage, pajamas and all, to use it for the first time.
To help you in your quest for a great Christmas gift, here are 10 cool tools for your consideration. They all have been selected from Tool Time segments that run in my monthly Service department in Cycle World magazine. I actually use the tools that appear in Tool Time, so be assured that they are legitimate products that really work. You will see quite a few tools here from Motion Pro, but I am not on that company’s payroll; Motion Pro is the industry’s most prolific manufacturer and distributor of motorcycle-specific tools, so it’s only natural that they would dominate this list.
MOTION PRO BEAD PRO TIRE BEAD BREAKER LEVERS
Repairing a flat tire on a dirtbike when you’re out on the trail is one of the more primitive things you’ll ever do with a motorcycle, especially when breaking the tire’s bead. You have to lay the wheel on its side, continually jump up and down on the sidewalls with the edges of your boots until that bead finally comes loose, then turn the wheel over and repeat on the other side. Meanwhile, you’re grinding dirt and other debris into the wheel bearings while putting a heavy side load on the brake rotor and, with a rear wheel, the sprocket. If you had a big rock or a wooden club in your hand, you’d look like a colorfully dressed Neanderthal.
There has to be a better way. And with its clever new Bead Pro Tire Bead Breaker Levers (part #08-0519; $79.99), Motion Pro (www.motionpro.com) has found it. Bead Pro consists of two 9½-inch-long, 7075-T6 forged aluminum levers, one with a two-pronged forked end and the other with a sharply upturned end. To break a bead, you push the forked lever between the tire and the edge of the rim until you feel the end of the forks make contact with the rim’s inner seat surface; when a tire is deflated, this is very easy to do. Next, insert the other lever between the first tool’s forks with the upturned end facing upward; this, too, is easy, because the forked lever has already nudged the sidewall away from the edge of the rim. Once both levers are inserted, their handles will be angled apart in a narrow vee; you then just squeeze the handles together while pushing the pair downward. The squeezing forces their ends apart, which starts levering the tire bead away from the edge of the rim, and pushing them downward usually finishes the job, breaking the bead entirely.
Bead Pro isn’t intended just for dirtbike tires; it also works on tubeless and streetbike tires. Sometimes, depending upon the nature of the tire and rim involved, just one squeeze is enough to break the bead. Others may require additional applications around the rim.
I’ve used the Bead Pro on a wide variety of tire/rim combinations, including several involving tubeless tires, some of which are notorious for having tough beads to break. But every time, I succeeded in less than a minute using no more than three or four attempts and an amount of squeezing force that just about anyone could manage. As a bonus, the other end of each tool is a regular tire iron, so you can just flip them around and use them to pry a tire off or on the rim.
Considering that Bead Pro is just two pieces of forged aluminum, it is, at a penny shy of 80 bucks, rather expensive. But the first time you break the beads of a flat tire in a matter of seconds without any Stone-Age stomping on the sidewalls, you may consider it one of the most intelligent—and modern—purchases you’ve ever made.
GRIOT’S GARAGE RATCHETING ADJUSTABLE WRENCH
Gee, a crescent wrench—how exciting! Astute observation, except that this isn’t your typical crescent wrench. Technically, it’s not a crescent wrench at all. “Crescent” is the name of the tool company that invented this style of adjustable open-end wrench in the early 1900s. But so many other companies have produced virtually identical tools over the years that “crescent wrench” has evolved into a generic term most people use to describe any tool of this type.
This one is called the Ratcheting Adjustable Wrench (part #92774; $19.99) from Griot’s Garage (www.griotsgarage.com), and for the most part, it’s a conventional, 8-inch-long crescent-style wrench with jaws adjustable from zero to 11/16-inch. It’s well-made of chrome-vanadium steel, with thick jaws that provide a solid bite on any fastener. A metric jaw-opening scale is printed on one side and standard inch increments are on the other.
But Griot’s wrench offers one important difference: It ratchets. When the small selector button on the side of the tool is in its upper position, the wrench’s lower jaw can be pushed downward. So, when the tool is turned “backward” (crescent wrenches are always supposed to be turned so the force of moving the nut or bolt is on the fixed upper jaw instead of the movable lower one), the spring-loaded lower jaw can move far enough to “skip” over the corner of the hex, then snap back into place against the hex’s next flat. This means you don’t have to take the wrench off the fastener to reposition it for the next turn, hence, its ratcheting capability. Any time you don’t want or need the ratcheting feature, just slide the selector button to its bottom position and the lower jaw then behaves just like that on any conventional crescent wrench.
For sure, this tool is not a do-all for every application involving a hexagonal nut or bolt; far from it. But it can make some jobs go a bit more easily and quickly, particularly those that prevent the use of any other type of ratcheting device—inline hex fittings on fuel, oil or coolant lines, for example. Even if your motorcycle has very few fasteners that could be more easily loosened or tightened with this wrench, you likely could find many uses for it on your car, truck, ATV or the appliances and fixtures in your home. For anyone who uses tools, this wrench can be 20 bucks well-spent.
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