Some of us have to face the reality that winter will completely end the riding season and we won’t be able to ride our bikes for 3 months or more. When faced with that happening, many try to ride to the last chance then when the snow hits the ground, park the bike, maybe cover it and sulk away till the weather teases you with a chance to ride in the spring. This method of doing things is bad for a number of reasons but it’s done thousands of times every year and the results aren’t always a happy start the next springs’ season.
So what should you do to make it as painless and inexpensive as possible to put up your bike and not have any spring trauma? Let’s talk about it.
Cleaning your bike: Yes, that’s what we’re starting with. When you clean your bike and do a good job, you actually look at things you don’t normally look at: loose fittings or controls, that turn signal you patched that’s starting to crack again, a missing fender bolt.. Make a list of those things so if you need to order parts/plan to fix them you get started on it. Clean, inspect and lubricate the chain and sprockets, looking at the condition with an eye for whether you should get that new set in and installed sooner rather than later. Detailing the whole bike is a good idea.. It’s a great way to find things that need attention.
Maintenance items: It’s time to do the things that need to be done:
- Do you need to change the oil? If it’s due, it would still be due in spring, and letting expended oil sit inside your engine all winter gives it a chance to leave deposits that are just as easily taken care of with a good oil and filter change now before you put the bike up.
- What about your brake fluid? It deteriorates much like engine oil does, but worse. It attracts and absorbs water, which then does bad things inside the brake system. Brake fluid is cheap, and fresh fluid actually performs better. If your fluid hasn’t been changed in over a year, do a flush and protect the system while making it ready for next year.
- Your battery: Are you running a standard lead acid battery? If so, you need to be prepared to put a trickle charger on it for the off season. I’m not a fan of leaving it on full time ( I prefer about 1 week a month), but in any case, you need to plan for that. A battery tender can be had for under $25 with connections for the battery and a quick disconnect plug to make it easy to connect/disconnect as needed. If you’ve got a lithium battery, the requirements/charges depend on brand.
- Is your bike due for a valve adjustment or any other large maintenance? If so, now id the time to plan it. In March you may find yourself at the bottom of a long list at the shop.. where in the winter both you and the shop aren’t rushed to get the work done.
Fuel: This is one that cost many people LOTs of heartache in the spring. Fouled carburetors, Gummed up fuel systems, rusted fuel tanks and failed fuel pumps.. all avoidable with a few dollars and minutes of your time. Get a good quality Fuel treatment/stabilizer. Add it to your tank after a ride and fill up the tank to mix it well. Ride the bike long enough to get that treated fuel throughout the system before putting it up in it’s winter storage spot. MAKE SURE THE TANK IS FULL. Having air space in the tank means condensation can happen as the temperature fluctuates. Condensation means water in the fuel and in the tank, resulting in corrosion.
If you can’t store your bike in a climate controlled environment, be sure that your cooling system has coolant in it and not water from the last track day. Freezing a bikes cooling system is deadly.
When you do park the bike, only cover it if it’s a dry environment. If it’s humid, covers sometimes act like a greenhouse and collect warm moist air and help to rust things. Another thing to be concerned with is rodents. If mice can get to where your bike is parked, they see it as a big playground full of caverns and crevices that are great to build nest in, complete with tasty wire covering to chew! If you put a cover on the bike, you make it an even more tempting place for them to hide. Covering the exhaust outlet and air intake are a good idea if they are readily accessible.
One last thing – Starting your bike every week and revving/idling it is a bad thing.. You don’t get it up to the normal operating temps that would on a ride, but you change the air in the crankcase over with cold clean air,, and increase the chance of condensation.. leave it parked. Look at it, wax it, and take care of any of those things you identified when you detailed it prior to storage.
Enjoy your winter break with riding videos, ordering new parts (we’re happy to help), and getting yourself mentally ready to pull your bike out ready to go in spring!