7 Essential "Farks" for Cranky Old Bikers | COOK'S CORNER

What I do to all of my bikes, anyway.

The kids around here—Ari and Zack, less so Aaron now that he has a 4 at the beginning of his age—give me no end of crap for what they call farkle fever. According to them, I can’t leave any bike stock. Not for long, anyway.

They call this affliction uncontrollable tinkering. I call it preparedness. Among my many ticks, the boys have recognized seven things I do to my own bikes and those I run as long-term testbikes. Here’s the list.

1. Power Socket

Most of the time, this is just an SAE-style Battery Tender lead right to the battery. Chances are that if the bike is one of my personal rides, it doesn't get used as much as I'd like. And I hate to buy batteries, which is why I have, oh, six or seven Battery Tenders around the garage. Pretty much any time a bike sits for more than a few days, it goes on the 'tender. But there are other reasons: I have a couple of small pigtails made up, one to convert the SAE two-pin connector to a USB socket for charging my phone and one a round coaxial cable for heated gear. Because, well, at my advanced age I hate to be uncomfortable.

2. Heated Grips

Really, you should never be without them. There’s an important difference between keeping warm through insulation and being able to put heat back in the body through means such as electric grips, a vest, or even a heated seat. I tend to use thinner gloves when my bike has heated grips, which gives me a better connection to the machine. As far as OE grips go, BMW has pretty much everyone beat, but the stock heated units on the newer KTMs are good, as are Honda's and Yamaha's accessory items. My buying advice is to avoid the super-cheap grips, they're seldom warm enough.

3. Flat-Repair Kit

I believe in karma. Most of the time, whenever I carry a flat-repair kit, the flats happen to someone else. (Now, absolutely, I'll pick up a nail on the way home.) For local trips and commuting, I'm happy to have kits that use CO2 cartridges to re-inflate the tire, but for more arduous tours I'll take along a mini compressor. Every one of my own bikes has a kit under the seat, and we make a point to take at least one of these with us while testing bikes.

4. Upgraded Tool Kit

Used to be stock tool kits were okay. Now they're kind of a joke. I carry a small extra kit with upgraded tools as long as the bike's kit also provides a means of removing the wheels. If it doesn't I find a way to cobble together a kit from an older bike that'll get the job done. Or you can do it the easy way and get one prefabbed from CruzTOOLS. Maybe it's my advanced crankiness showing, but when the stock tool kit doesn't give you the means to adjust suspension, move lever perches, or commit some very basic roadside repairs, something's pretty wrong. Yeah, modern bikes are really reliable...but, geez.

5. Angled Valve Stems

Pure joy to use. Getting the valve stem out of the way of the chain and brake discs makes the otherwise cranky-making task of checking tire pressure a real…what did I say…joy? Yes, that's it. Truth: I didn't really appreciate these things until I bought my first modern Triumph in 1999. The Sprint ST had angled stems, and they were a revelation to me. I get mine from Kurvy Girl and install them at the first tire change.

6. Phone Power

I hate ending a long riding day to find my iPhone dead. It happens most often when I'm in the back country and the phone keeps looking for cells. And, yes, when I forget to put it in airplane mode. A 12v-to-USB adapter is useful for topping off the Bluetooth headset and keeping the iPad fresh. I got mine from Burns Moto. This version is a dual USB module with simple wire ends that rides in the tail box of my long-term V-Strom 1000. But check out the Burns Moto site for a bunch of alternatives including a clever DIN/Powerlet plug-to-USB doohickey.

7. Stands or Spools

Maybe I've had too many bikes nearly slip off pad-style stands but I'm loathe to have a motorcycle around the house without either a centerstand or a set of track-stand spools. Thankfully both bikes I own currently—a 2000 Suzuki SV650 and a 2013 KTM 990 SM-T—have one or the other. In the case of the KTM, both. I make an effort to be kind to my chains, but I'm kinder when cleaning, adjusting, and lubing are more convenient. The KTM's centerstand comes from SW-Motech, imported by Twisted Throttle.