Yes, It’s Time to Start Thinking about Winterizing Your Motorcycle
Half the fun of owning a motorcycle is taking care of it. There is real enjoyment in doing your own mechanical maintenance. But it’s no fun fixing all sorts of ills on a bike that was stored improperly over the winter months. If you own one, you’ve got to know how to winterize a motorcycle.
Let’s go through a good system for putting your bike to rest until the sun comes back and the days get longer again. There are two schools of thought on how to winterize a motorcycle. One is for bikes that won’t be touched until spring, and the other school is for those people who work on their bikes during the cold, dark winter months.
Start with a Good Wash and Shine
Either way, after your last ride of the season you need to wash your motorcycle. Otherwise acid rain residue, road grime, soot from diesel exhaust, and dead bugs will slowly eat through your paint.
Besides, the best way to inspect every bolt, nook and cranny on your bike is to clean it thoroughly.
Fresh Engine Oil and Filter
I know, synthetic oil will last more than one season. But it does collect the harmful by products of combustion, and those acids are not friendly to your engine’s internals. Besides, a few quarts of oil and a quality filter are cheap compared to buying new engine parts.
Even better, you won’t have to do it before the first ride of spring.
Imagine riding a bike that has a flat spot on each tire. The roughness and vibration would be annoying, uncomfortable and possibly unsafe. Yet that’s what can happen when you leave your bike parked for months with its full weight on its tires.
If your bike has a center stand, use it. Then you can use blocks of wood under the frame to get the front wheel slightly off the concrete floor of your storage area.
If your bike doesn’t have a center stand, and if money is too tight to buy a nice bike jack, do this instead. For a few dollars you can buy a motorcycle scissors jack. It fits under the frame, about where a center stand would attach, and gets the bike upright with the rear wheel off the ground.
Whatever you do to get weight off your tires, be sure the bike is stable, secure and out of the way of foot traffic. You don’t want your bike to get accidentally bumped and knocked over on its side.
If none of those ideas works, perhaps you can roll your bike a few feet every month. You get the idea. You don’t want flat spots in your tires. Air them up too.
Yep, just like your car’s engine can be ruined by freezing water in its cooling system, your bike needs fresh anti-freeze every so often. Flush the old stuff out and refill with the proper type of coolant and the proper mix.
Again, it’s cheaper to over-maintain your bike slightly than to buy new engine parts. It makes good sense.
There are two trains of thought here. Remove the battery, clean its terminals and place it on a trickle charger. But if your bike has fuel injection, its computer will lose some of its memory when the battery is out. Then it will probably idle rough and run funny the first few miles when you take it back out.
For people who worry about things like that, buy a good trickle charger that monitors the battery’s state and charges it intermittently during the long months of storage.
One more thought. If you are going to do a valve adjustment during off season, it’s safer to remove the battery first. You definitely don’t want to accidentally turn the key on and hit the starter button when you have the cam chain loose. Bent valves will result. Be safe, not sorry.
Cover it Right
Don’t cover your bike with that old shower curtain. Plastic of any type is bad. In cold weather, it will form condensation underneath and trap it there. That’s a recipe for rust, and if not, then for mold and mildew. Your bike likes neither, and I don’t blame it for feeling that way.
Cotton is better, even if it’s an old bed sheet or an extra-large beach towel. The bike’s going to be indoors anyway, so who cares what the cover looks like.
Maintenance and Repairs
Some people don’t give up motorcycling during the winters. They use that time to do motorcycle maintenance work.
Get a factory service manual, read it and bring the maintenance up to date.
If your brakes don’t have enough life remaining for another entire season, change them while you are not riding the bike. Same for those worn out clutch plates, or those old throttle and clutch cables.
Modifications and Accessories
Now you’ve got the right idea. Holiday season is right in the middle of no-ride season, so make sure that you add some nice chrome pieces or accessories to your wish list.
The time to install new parts is when you are not riding the bike. It keeps the sport going year-round.
Plan Your Next Bike Vacation
After you’ve done the extra work to make sure you’ve properly winterized your motorcycle, reward yourself with a fun motorcycle get away for the weekend or longer. It’s a good way to celebrate the return of warm weather. And when you hit the road, you’ll be confident that your bike is already in tip top shape.
Last minute plans never seem to work out. But savoring the planning and preparation for a far-away motorcycle road trip can be just as much fun as the trip itself.
Get some paper maps and mark your routes. Then go online to find attractions close to your route, so you always have a place to see and get off the road for an hour or two. It makes for a nice trip.