If you’re lucky enough to have a garage, the chances are it looks like the picture above. Perhaps not stuffed with quite so many Ducatis but bursting with crap nonetheless.
This is not the dream motorcycle garage that you wanted. The man cave, the workshop, the den. This is a bloody mess.
Turn your garage into a man cave*
We want to help you turn your garage into a den. A place you look forward to retreating to, in order to spend meaningful time with your bike. It needs to be organised, free from clutter and set up so that you can work on your bike in comfort.
*woman caves are also permitted
We’re not just talking about a sofa and a beer fridge. You need a surface to work on, shelves, racks and tool chests. If you’ve got room for the sofa, TV and beer fridge afterwards then count yourself lucky.
You don’t need to have a workbench worthy of HRC’s finest. You can just head to Gumtree and buy an old table or make one yourself for a custom-fit to your dimensions. A few lengths of 2×4 and a plywood top from your local builder’s yard and you’re up and running. Screw it to the wall to ensure it’s sturdy and won’t shake itself to bits. You can also use a steel sheet to keep the surface nice and useable. Mastik around the edge of the workbench where it sits flush with the wall to stop your parts making a bid for freedom.
If DIY isn’t your thing you can just buy a proper workbench. Sites like MachineMart have a great range starting at £100.
Don’t forget a decent anglepoise lamp for the workbench.
Any old chair will do the job but why not treat yourself to a proper workshop stool. Handy when working off your workshop table but also a nice touch when you’re working on the bike. Saves the knees.
A place for everything and everything in its place. While you can spend £1000s on high quality industrial steel cabinets (that look amazing, but..) you just need a simple set of shelves and some storage boxes to keep your rags, oils, accessories and spares neatly organised and easily accessible. Check out this set of garage shelving and a workbench, it’s a top deal. All you need now is a set of clear plastic boxes in which to stash your stuff. Buy some big labels and label-up each box and you’ll know where everything is and be able to tidy up sharpish.
Halfords gets my vote for tool cabinets; they’re well made, smart looking and well priced. They often have deals on too. Even a serious home mechanic is going to struggle to fill this five drawer cabinet but if you do, you can buy a tool chest to place on top.
You don’t need your garage to be lit like an operating theatre but you do need a couple of decent fixed light sources. If you have one main light on the ceiling, the chances are it’ll cast a shadow on at least one side of the bike you’re working on.
If you only have an incandescent light or an old strip light flickering away, you can replace that with a super bright LED Array. This LED light screws into an E27 fitting and each of the three panels are adjustable. A simple screw-out-screw-in job. Done!
Or you could opt for these panel lights. They’re 12v LED and come with a converter. You can mount them on the ceiling or you could mount one on a cheap TV wall bracket to give you a powerful light source that you can angle and adjust to suit. Wire it into a 3-pin plug and you’re good to go.
A portable light always comes in handy when you’re working under the fairing or in tight spaces (let’s be honest, there are loads of those on a bike). We like this one it’s aimed at campers but it has its own stand and two brightness modes. It charges via USB and can be positioned at different angles, leaving you with both hands free to work on the bike. It’s under £15 too. What’s not to like?
For the workbench, don’t forget a decent anglepoise lamp.
You could buy a basic socket set for around £40 and it’ll do most of what you need to do. This Halfords set features a 1/4″ and 3/8″ drive and various sockets and bits. But sometimes cheap is a false economy, I’d recommend spending a bit more and getting a proper set like this one. It features just about everything you’d need, including a 1/4″, 3/8″ and 1/2″ drives, deep sockets, a univeral joint, spark plug sockets,long and short range bits, a range of 4mm – 19mm sockets and a set of Allen keys too. It’s 80% of the tools you’re ever going to need, in one box. The Halfords Advanced range (it used to be called Professional) also comes with a lifetime guarantee. I’ve walked into Halfords with a worn tool and my original receipt and they’ve swapped it out for a new one. Perfecto.
Buy the best ones you can afford because decent ones really aren’t that expensive. Without wanting to sound like an ad for Halfords, I’d go for these Halfords Advanced screwdrivers – they’ll probably last longer than you and I.
Oil filter wrench
I prefer this style to a socket as it’s easier to get to the oil filter
Combinations spanners (with a ring at one end and open at the other) are always handy. A range of 6mm to 17mm will cover most bikes. Something like this will do the job nicely. Grab a set of ratchet spanners if you’re feeling flush.
Tyre pressure gauge
Personally I have owned this one for years. I like the digital display but you can see more in our tyre pressure gauge guide here.
We’d all like a compressor and an airline but with mOdern battery technology there’s no need to have a big compressor chugging away. You can buy a tiny portable battery-operated tyre pump or just go for a twin-barrel foot pump and keep it old school.
Great for snipping the ends of cable ties and cables. Smaller the beter as it means you can get into hard to reach places.
Used to adjust your rear shock’s preload. If you have one in your bike’s toolkit then great. If you don’t, an adjustable C-spanner is a good shout and will cover any bike but if you don’t fancy shelling out £30, this is a good bet.
These are far easier to handle than regular Allen keys as you can spin them once you’ve loosened the bolt. You’ll only need a few (3mm to 5mm will do) but buy the best you can afford.
While some people work to the ‘get it tight then give it half a turn’ school of mechanics, others want to dial in the exact settings.
If you’re removing wheels, you’ll definitely need a torque wrench and if you’ve got a single-sided swingarm you’ll need a big f’in one too. A breaker bar can also come in handy to loosen off torqued bolts and will save your torque wrench from getting unnecessarily worn out.
When your bike won’t start and you swear the battery’s charged, a multi-tester will save you hours of messing around.
Because God didn’t think to give us three arms.
For day-to-day maintenance you can make do without these but if you’re carrying out a full service, they’re good tools things to have, if you want to do the job properly.
Good for accurately measuring things like brake discs, bolts, washers. These’ll do the job nicely.
Sprays and Lubes
WD-40 – Or GT85, handy to get things moving
Motorcycle chain lube – Whatever floats your boat
Motorcycle degreaser – Something like WD-40 degreaser or a brake cleaner will help you get the crud off
Graphite spray – Useful for locking mechanisms
Oil & Grease
Engine oil – whatever your manual recommends. Also, see our motorcycle engine oil guide.
Copaslip – if you’re putting a steel bolt into aluminium, you’ll be rounding off heads and snapping bolts the next time you come to undo it if you don’t use a bit-o’slip.
Ceramic brake grease – apply it to the back of your brake pads to stop them squeaking.
You can go the full hog and get a motorcycle bench to jack your bike up to a useful height. Great if you’ve got the space (or a bad back). Alternatively, an ABBA stand will save you a lot of hassle or you could go for a 1Jac or similar. At a basic level, a cheap set of paddock stands will do the job.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll drop at least one bolt or washer somewhere that’ll take forever to chase out with a screwdriver. Fear not, grab this telescopic magnetic pick-up tool and rescue yourself from your own fumbling.
A bag of old rags
Cut up your old T-shirts, socks and undercrackers into hand-sized rags. Useful for stuffing into things that shouldn’t be leaking or letting anything in. Shove ’em in the bin when you’re done.
A notepad and pen
Useful for writing down notes on what you’re working on. Torque settings for example or which colour connector went where. You might remember now but will you remember tomorrow?
A good quality hand cleaner is a far better way to get all the grease and dirt off your hands, without the use of harsh chemicals.
Bonus points if you get a wall-mounted paper towel dispenser. Super handy for wiping off your fingers or parts. One-handed operation is a breeze. A centrefeed one like this one will make you look like a pro.
Real men dip their hands in Guinness before working on the bike but for the rest of us, a bit of barrier cream will stop all the nasty fluids from giving you all sorts of nasty skin conditions. Make sure you thoroughly wash your hands after you’ve worked on the bike and apply a bit of hand cream when you’re done.
A Haynes manual – Far better than Googling for the answer.
A magnetic tray
A small one, nothing fancy is a great way to ensure all the parts you removed are there to be re-fitted when you’re done.
Either Threadlock or Loctite 243 will do the job of preventing vibrations from rattling bolts loose.
Draining trays – Useful to catch waste oil and coolant.
Jug and funnels
Rather than pouring half your oil down the side of your bike, get a proper jug and funnel to make the job easier. Draper makes some quality stuff.
Keep your bike on trickle charge or dig it out if the battery is flat. Check out our motorcycle battery charger guide.
Often overlooked but any garage is a potential target and most garage door security is woeful. Fit a decent ground anchor and get a heavy-duty motorcycle chain to go with it. Check out this motorcycle security guide as it contains loads of great tips on how best to secure your bike.
It also pays to get a motorcycle cover. They’re only about £15 and protect your bike from being scratched or damaged as you move stuff around the garage. They also keep the dust from building up.
It’s miserable working on the bike when you’re cold. Do your best to block any major draughts (old carpet in front of the garage door works, as does foam door seal tape) and get yourself a 2kw oil heater (and a thick pair of socks).
A good DAB radio doesn’t cost a lot these days. This one runs off a battery for up to 10 hours.
Great for saving your knees when you’re working on the bike. It’s also a good way to stop you getting cold.
Home Workshop: Ben's Top Tips
A rough concrete floor gathers dirt and dust quickly, is cold to work on and makes it hard to find the washer that just slipped from your fingers. A cheap fix is to grab an offcut of carpet from your local carpet warehouse. Or you can use modular workshop tiles which clip together and form a good surface to work on.
Fitting shelving at height enables you to keep things off the floor, giving you maxium space in which to manoeuvre.
If space is limited, build a shed which you can use to store boxes, garden tools and general clutter, to keep your garage free.
On sites like Gumtree, we've seen people selling entire toolboxes with all their tools for around £100. If you're starting our and your budget's tight, you could do worse.
Thanks to the following websites which helped us research and write this motorcycle garage guide:
Carpet has the added advantage of keeping your feet warmer, as does used laminate flooring with an underlay. Bonus with the laminate is that it’s easy to keep clean and wipe up spills. My garage and my bike shed are still a work in progress so your article is quite timely!