INFO MOTO would like to apologise in advance to the makers, importers and distributors of any of the products which appear below. We value the truth but sometimes Spanner takes it a little too far…
Bahco 25 piece tool kit
Remember when you used to ask your mum which of her children was her favourite? She’d always answer, “All my children are my favourites”.
Mechanics are a lot more honest about their tools. They definitely have favourites. If you have three 14mm spanners, there’ll be one you reach for every time you’re confronted by a 14mm fastener.
You can’t take your best tools with you when you go travelling, though, because they’re too bulky and cumbersome. What you should take instead is the beaut Bahco 25-piece tool kit available from Andy Strapz for the princely sum of $59. It has 12 sockets, an adjustable quarter-inch socket wrench, a 100mm extension bar and ten driver bits including Phillips heads and hex keys.
It’s not getting five stars because I’ve never used the four sockets ranging from 4mm to 5.5mm and the bigger sockets stop at 13mm. Get rid of the smaller sockets and give me a 14mm instead, please.
Take the carburetors off an early Triumph Speed Triple on the side of the road? No problem. It fits in the palm of my hand so it’s very easy to pack under most bike seats. If you have to buy a motorcycle rider a Christmas present, make it this.
Available from Andy Strapz for $59.
Red wine cask
On a ride to the Easter races at Bathurst in 1983, I was following the late, great Peter Smith when a bottle of Stones Green Ginger wine slipped out of his bedroll and exploded on the road. I barely survived riding through a haze of sticky liquid and shattered glass.
There must, I thought, be a better way of carrying wine to bike events but I was beaten to the invention by Tom Angove of Angove Wines in 1965 who patented the wine-in-a-box we’ve all come to know and love. Yes, it’s another great Australian invention.
You can’t hurt it. God knows I’ve tried. You can bounce it along the road, run over it, use the box to start your campfire and blow the bladder up when it’s empty and use it as a pillow.
It keeps the wine fresh in a way an opened bottle can never do and it’s cheap. It’s available in two, three and four litre boxes although quality can vary a little depending on what kind of season the winemaker has had.
Consistently reliable and my current tipple is De Bortoli’s 4-litre Pressings Shiraz. It says on the box it’s ‘big, bold and rich’ – just like me, really.
Available at all good bottle shops from around $22 and worth every cent.
A and AA Bagz
Some of us, dear reader, were born even before the invention of stretch straps. We’d tie our luggage onto our bikes with rope and faith – neither of which were enough to get us to our destination without a number of stops for re-tightening or back-tracking to pick up tents and sleeping bags which had already fallen off.
The AA and A bags designed and made in Australia by Andy Strapz are revolutionary. The AA bag is smaller (18 litres) than the A bag (30 litres) but both share the same mounting system. Nobody has made a bike yet which you couldn’t fit either of these bags to within a couple of minutes.
The mounting straps have their own little storage space at the back of the bag and are permanently attached. All you need to do is find available frame rails or bodywork to locate the bag on the pillion seat or rear rack and away you go with luggage that can’t fall off and never needs to be checked.
Andy has recently replaced the original D-ring fasteners with easier-to-use Ladder Loc buckles which demonstrates if you try hard enough you can improve on perfection.
Andy says the Cordura the bags are made from is ‘water resistant’ rather than ‘water proof’ but in 20 years of use, nothing inside my AA bag has ever got wet.
It’s been all over the world as it also makes excellent airplane luggage. The baggage handlers can play football with it and nothing tears or wears. Genius. Oh, and if you own a classic or a cruiser, you have the classy option of having the bag made from brown oilskin.
Available from Andy Strapz AA bag $225; A bag $295.
Order of the boot
You should never look in the ‘specials’ basket as you’re leaving a motorcycle shop. It will be full of things you don’t need (underguard spray to stop mud sticking to the under-side of the guards; green jelly to put on the back of brake pads to reduce squeal; complicated cable-lube kits; power cam (fits all bikes!) – you get the picture) but the prices can be irresistible.
“Hmm – those waterproof over-boots look like they’d do the job and one size fits all. Cripes, they come in a carry bag and they’re only $20!”
This is how I ended up with a pair of waterproof over-boots. The only brand name I can find on them is ‘Manfog’ which is what I must have been experiencing when I bought them.
The first time I tried them, I made the mistake of tucking my waterproof pants legs inside them which resulted in them instantly filling up with water as I rode. Okay, possibly my mistake. The second time I put the pants legs on the outside which did, in fact, keep my boots relatively dry but I found they moved around so much on my feet I couldn’t walk in them. At the fuel stop I’d have to take them off at the bowser to walk inside to pay and it would take 15 minutes to put them back on again.
It was then I realised my new boots were relatively waterproof anyway. I never wore the over-boots again…
Available from me. Used twice. Free to a good home.
ALDI motorcycle helmets
ALDI motorcycle gear (Torque brand) is looked down on by the motorcycle intelligentsia. It has a ‘special buys’ sale of motorcycle gear usually around late-August and it’s always well-frequented by riders who like the price and the quality.
Australia has finally abandoned the insistence that helmets sold here must meet the Australian standard. We can now buy and wear helmets which meet a variety of international standards that are better than our own. Despite this, ALDI still submits its helmets to Australian testing and are sold with AS/NZS 1698 stickers.
The safest helmet for you is the one that fits you best and has passed some recognised standard. Put the helmet on, hold it in the straight-ahead position and try to turn your head from left to right. It should allow small head movement but if there’s no movement, the helmet is too tight and if there’s excessive movement, the helmet is too big. It’s almost as simple as that. Oh, and the helmet shouldn’t press into your forehead and the back of your head. Most inexpensive helmets have just one shell size and the small, medium, large and X-large stickers relate to the amount of padding in the helmet rather than the size of the helmet itself.
If it fits you, an ALDI helmet will be comfortable and safe. Earlier models let moisture when it rained into the top of the visor but the most recent iteration seems to have addressed this problem. You don’t have to pay a million bucks to get a good helmet.
Available from ALDI every now and then for around $80. Also consider ALDI’s motorcycle socks and motorcycle ramps – very good value for money.
The beer that vanished
Among the finest of Victoria’s boutique beer brewers is Holgate in Woodend. I noticed them first because of a beer branded ‘Norton Larger’. Here’s what it said on the label: “Brewery founder Paul Holgate was inspired by his dad, Bernie – a Norton riding adventurer who grabbed life by the horns! Australian-grown malt and hops transformed a classic Helles larger into the ultimate Australian session beer to be enjoyed by anyone with a thirst for life!”
It was a great beer but the then-owners of the Norton brand noticed it and issued a cease-and-desist order. Registered branding is a curse which has long bedeviled capitalism.
No matter – Holgate changed the name to ‘Draft Lager’ with the same image of Bernie and his squeeze on the Norton still on the label. It’s a fine beer for anyone who rides but Holgate make other great beers including my current favourite: Mt Macedon Pale Ale. Do yourself a favour and try some.
Available from all good bottle shops for around $80 a slab
Maxima chain cleaner and chain lube
Have you seen that ‘rust remover’ spray currently doing the rounds on the interweb? It can’t possibly work the way it’s depicted. It defies science. It’s up there with oil additives which claim to stop your engine from smoking. You either have worn-out cylinder bores or you don’t – no oil additive is going to fix that.
Not all wonder products are duds, though. The Maxima chain cleaner and chain lube actually do what it says on the can. No more kero and toothbrush work to clean the chain before re-oiling. You just spray the chain cleaner onto the chain when it’s cold, wait for 60 seconds or so and then hose it off. It works a treat. Step two is to then apply the synthetic ‘chain guard’. Spray it on without overdoing it, wait for it to set (15 minutes or longer is fine), give the chain a wipe with a clean cloth to remove excess spray and you’re good to go.
Unlike other chain lubes I’ve used, the Maxima product looks dry and doesn’t attract road grit and dirt. The chain stays clean for much longer and the lube doesn’t turn into a grinding paste.
How it works is chemical magic but you should follow the directions on the can and not try to drink it or spray it in your eyes.
Available from motorcycle shops. Cleaner $23, Chain Guard $17