When you’re a motorcycle enthusiast winter time often means sitting around waiting for the roads to clear up and the weather to break so you can finally get back in the saddle. That is, unless you’re one of the lucky ones who lives in a part of the country where you have the pleasure of experiencing year-round riding weather. For the rest of us, our bikes become like bears as they’re hidden away in a cold, dark place, hibernating until the spring thaw.
Just like bears prepare for hibernation by foraging on food so they can make it through their winter sleep, it’s important to prepare your ride for its three-to-four months of down time with some basic motorcycle maintenance. It doesn’t take a lot of work or even a lot of money for that matter to get your motorcycle prepped for a winter’s nap. The important thing is to heed some, if not all, of these steps ahead of time, otherwise it could cost you a lot of time and money when the time does come to start riding again.
When gas sits for an extended period of time it can lead to degradation of its original chemical composition which can result in hard starting and rough running engines. Old gasoline stored in your motorcycle can also cause internal issues such as oxidation, turning to varnish and gumming up fuel lines your fuel filter or your motorcycle’s carburetor. To keep good gas from turning to bad gas when your bike is stored, your best bet is to add something like Sta-Bil Fuel Stabilizer, Motorex Fuel Stabilizer or Yamalube Fuel Stabilizer and Conditioner before you store the bike for the winter. When you know you’ll be taking your last ride of the season fill up your tank, add the recommended amount of fuel stabilizer, and then ride around for a few mile. This will allow the stabilizer to adequately mix with the fuel and work its way into the fuel lines and carb (if your bike is equipped with one). Also, fueling up before you store your bike will help reduce the chance of rust building up on the inside of your motorcycle’s gas tank.
Before you put your motorcycle to bed you should give it a thorough wash, detail, and wax. Storing your bike with a bunch of dirt, gunk, and road grime can lead to accelerated break down of delicate components like rubber fuel and oil lines, rust build up, and the accumulation of other unsightly blemishes on paint or chrome surfaces. There are many areas to clean and tend to from your body work to your chain, brakes, and seat. S100 offers a long line of cleaning products from its Total Cycle Cleaner to its Shine Enhancing Cleanser which is a great pre-wax treatment. A good degreaser on your motorcycle chain like PJ1’s Spray & Wash Degreaser will dissolve grease, oil, and dirt without harming your rubber, plastic, or painted components. Bel-Ray’s Brake and Contact Cleaner will do wonders cleaning out those tight gunk-filled crevices around your motorcycle’s brake calipers. Don’t forget to hit the engine; S100 can help bring back the black to your motorcycle engine with its S100 engine Brightener. Be sure to wrap up your bike’s spa treatment with layer of protective armor by applying a nice coat of wax on the body/painted components with something like Mothers California Gold Liquid Carnauba Cleaner and Wax, give the wheels a good once over with Liquid Performance’s Metal Polish, and finish up by applying some Yamalube Saddle Soap to your leather seat.
Just like gasoline, old/used motorcycle oil sitting in your system can be bad for your engine as well. Used oil contains contaminants that once sitting for extended periods can leave nasty deposits and just muck up your internal passages. So it’s smart to drain your old oil and change out the filter for a new motorcycle oil filter. Most likely your engine will still be pretty warm from when you rode around to mix in the fuel stabilizer, so the old oil should flow out pretty easily. Once drained and the drain plug is cleaned/reinstalled, screw on a new motorcycle oil filter and top off your oil tank with the recommended motorcycle oil for your ride. A little tip, if you haven’t discovered them already, K&N Oil Filters are very handy in the fact that they come with a 17mm nut on the end making it very easy to remove. When it comes time to ride in the spring, drain the oil and put a couple quarts of fresh motorcycle oil in. This will ensure your engine and internal components will be getting the benefit of fresh oil right from the start. And if you replaced the oil filter before storage you don’t need to replace the filter again before you ride.
Since you degreased and cleaned up your entire bike, be sure to spend some time adding fresh lube to items like the chain, swingarm, steering stem, and other components that need it. Also check the rest of your fluid levels like your transmission, master cylinders, and primary to make sure they are in good condition and topped off. Lastly, you should stuff the ends of your mufflers and cover up your intake system with something like plastic shopping bags. This will help keep small animals from sneaking into open areas and turning the insides of your motorcycle components into their own personal condominium complex.
Nothing is more frustrating than heading out to the garage for the first ride of the season and hearing nothing when you click the starter. Your battery hates sitting idle just as much as you do. However, your motorcycle battery has a much more adverse reaction to inactivity—it will die. In order to ensure your battery will be good to go when you are you need to tend to its needs, which means you need to connect it to some kind of maintenance device. When most people think of battery maintenance they think of Battery Tender, and for good reason, it’s very easy to use and very effective. The Deltran Super Smart Battery Tender Plus-12V will constantly monitor your battery and keep it properly maintained/charged without damaging it. The unit will automatically switch to Float Mode when the battery is fully charged and even though a constant charge is being applied to the battery there is no danger of overheating or overcharging and damaging the battery. It’s designed to work with AGM, sealed maintenance free, lead calcium, and flooded batteries. You can leave the battery in your bike with the Battery Tender hooked up or you can remove the battery. Keep in mind, batteries hate cold weather and even with a Battery Tender hooked up to it, extreme cold can cause damage, so if you live in an area that is prone to freezing conditions it’s recommended to store the battery/Battery Tender in a warmer area that is not susceptible to freezing temps.
It’s important to check your motorcycle tires before storing your bike. You want to inspect the tires and make sure there are no foreign objects, slow leaks, or major cracks in the tires that can lead to loss of air. Once you are sure the tires are in good shape fill them up with the proper air pressure. Letting your motorcycle sit with too little air pressure or leaking tires can lead to flat spots in the tires, possible damage to your wheels, or cracking/deterioration of the tires. If you have one put the bike up on the center stand as this will help take some pressure off the tires and suspension.
Once you’ve addressed everything you wanted to on your motorcycle and you’re satisfied it will hold up through its winter hibernation it’s time to tuck it into bed with a cover. Sure a standard blue tarp will work, but you won’t like the results if moisture gets trapped underneath or if your motorcycle is stored outside and the wind picks up, the tarps course surface continually brushes against your gas tank or motorcycle fender can really work the paint over. You need a cover that breathes and won’t trap moisture and will fit tightly over your motorcycle and won’t blow away. Nelson-Rigg has been in the motorcycle cover business for quite some time, so they know a thing or two about ensuring your baby is protected and has an undisturbed slumber. The Nelson-Rigg Falcon Cruiser Deluxe Cover features top quality Tri-Max treated polyester that is guaranteed to be 100 percent waterproof. It also comes with heat shield lower panels so that if you store your motorcycle with warm or hot pipes the cover won’t melt to your motorcycle exhaust. If you have a windshield the motorcycle cover has a soft windshield panel protector so it won’t scratch your windshield. The exclusive Perma-Venting system incorporated into the cover prevents condensation build-up and allows moisture to dry. Then to ensure the cover stays put it has a snug elastic bottom with one inch grommets to provide additional security.
Okay so that’s our list of things you should do when storing your motorcycle for its winter hibernation. Now keep in mind, just because you took care of these things doesn’t mean you should just leave your motorcycle unattended to for four months straight. You should check on it every once in a while and make sure you don’t have any oil leaks or critters nesting in your leather saddlebags and making a meal out of your motorcycle seat—we’ve seen crazier things happen.