Ahhh Old Man Winter… He’s here again and he has brought with him his snowy white beard, his pretty lights, Holiday cheer… and also, bad road conditions, eating too much, cranky shoppers… I digress. I love living in a state with seasons. I’m lucky that Michigan gives you a chance to experience all 4 seasons – even if SOME of them are longer than others… ahem… winter. The part I don’t love about winter is not riding my motorcycles. I hate seeing them all sad, gathering dust. I hate putting gas in a car, which needs to be warmed up before I can even drive it. Bah humbug!
So knowing that winter is coming, the least you can do is prep your vehicles such as motorcycles that sit through its duration for their hibernation. Everyone has a different approach to this preparation, so I did a little research and I based this article on what MOST people suggest. You may add to this based on your own experiences, or those of others.
- Protect your paint and chrome surfaces! Bug guts, dust and road grim can erode paint. So right before you put the bike into storage, give it one last good bath.
- Lubricate all the moving parts on the bike: Places like chains, controls, forks, pivoting points and cables are all susceptible to becoming stuck if not lubricated correctly. If that happens you also run the risk of them break when they are put to use again in months to come.
- Change your oil and filter: Moisture in the air during the winter, paired with broken down, used oil can really create an unhealthy situation for the insides of your motor come spring. So a new filter and fresh oils run through the motor will prep it and lubricate it correctly for storage.
- Fuel System: Gas tanks can rust when not in use, and untreated pump gas breaks down and becomes gummy over time. To prevent rusting and make sure your fuel is ready to run after a few months in storage, you’ll want to fill your tank completely with fuel treated with a product such as Sta-Bil Fuel Stabilizer.On your last ride of the season, stop in at the gas station nearest to where you will be storing your bike and add the proper amount of fuel stabilizer; then top off the tank. A full tank will keep moisture from building up on the tank walls, and adding the stabilizer before the short ride home will help mix the gas and stabilizer together and run it through your fuel system before storage.
- Battery Protection: Batteries have a tendency to self-discharge when sitting over time, especially when they remain hooked up to the bike. The easiest way to combat this is to hook up a battery tender which keeps a slow “trickle” charge and keeps the battery topped off without overcharging. Some also suggest that you should pull the battery from the bike for storage, but with a tender you can also connect the tender with the battery left in the bike. Before doing this, make sure the electrodes are clean and corrosion free; if necessary, clean them off and give them a light coating of grease. If you choose to remove the battery from the bike, just store it in a warm, dry place.
- Protect the exterior: If you are storing where there may be pests such as bugs or mice, or even just the dust from the environment, a good cover can really help keep these elements away from your bike. It is also smart to plug the ends of tailpipes and other places where these little critters can make nests during the cold months.
- Tires: Some folks suggest that you should elevate your motorcycle during storage to prevent flat spots on the tires. If your tires are allowed to sit in the same position all winter long, they could develop flat spots. Keeping the tires off the ground will prevent this, so if you have motorcycle stands, use them for storage.The alternative to this is moving your motorcycle around so that it’s not sitting in exactly the same spot on the tires. Not everyone can move a bike, and not everyone has stands – so choose what is best for you.
Either way, be sure that your tires are properly inflated before storing, because temperature changes (getting colder) can decrease tire pressure.
In the spring, before starting the bike, be sure to dust off your manual and have it handy. Do a complete inspection of the bike, including tire pressure and check for wear or weathering. Check fuel and fluid levels, filters, battery and spark plugs. Check things like bolts for tightness. Check that your lights are all in working order, and that the floats in carbureted bikes aren’t stuck in one position. A general once over of the entire bike with a fine toothed comb is the best way to be sure that it will be ready for a long riding season ahead!