As the riding season draws to an end, it’s time to think about how to store your motorcycle for winter. Unless you’re one of those brave souls who love riding so much you laugh at the face of cold temperatures, rain, and snow, chances are, you’ll have to switch to four wheels in winter.
In order to make sure your pride and joy is tucked away safely and ready for the new riding season in spring, you’ll need to prep your bike for winter as best as you can. Maintaining your motorcycle while it’s parked away isn’t less important than when you’re riding it, so make sure you do it right.
Here’s a simple, step-by-step guide on how to store your motorcycle for winter.
Store Your Motorcycle for Winter: Location, Location, Location
Ideally, you want to store your motorcycle at home. If you happen to be a lucky owner of an outdoor shed or a garage, you’re all set. Storing your bike at home means you’ll have it somewhere safe, dry, and warm where thieves and critters cannot get at it. Keep in mind that the storage place needs to be dark, too: even in winter, the sun can damage your bike’s plastic fairings, saddle leather, and tires. If the garage or shed has windows, make sure your bike is parked away from them or, better yet, cover them temporarily. This will both prevent sun ray damage as well as potential thieves looking in.
Storing your bike at home will also allow you to check in on it once in a while, and if you’re planning to store it for longer than three months, you’ll also be able to start it up and rev the engine periodically to make sure the bike is ready for spring. For the sake of safety, consider installing a CCTV camera pointing at the entrance of your garage or shed. More often than not, the very sight of a security camera is a strong thief deterrent.
If you don’t have a storage place at home, see if you can rent a garage or a shed nearby. In London and other bigger cities, this can be pricey, so see if you can share a rented garage with other riders. If that’s not an option, see if you can find a secure parking lot, preferably with a 24-hour security guard or security cameras on site. Although not ideal, it will still be much better than leaving your beloved two-wheeled steed out on the street.
Ride It Before You Store It
Now that you’ve found a good storage place for your bike, it’s time for one last ride. To make sure your bike’s tank is intact, you should always leave it 95% full. This will prevent rust from forming inside the tank, as well as protect your engine.
Top your tank off, add some fuel stabilizer to further protect the fuel system and the engine, and go for a short spin. This won’t just help you finish off the riding season with a bang, but also aid the fuel stabilizer move through the injection system.
If you want to be extra thorough and if your bike is an older model, now is also a good time to give your carb a good clean and make sure it’s in good condition. Do this before you ride and add the fuel stabilizer.
Remove Your Luggage
If you’re a sworn commuter or an avid adventure rider, chances are, you carry some sort of motorcycle luggage with you – panniers, a top box, and most likely, a tool roll. It can be tempting to leave everything on the bike but do yourself a favor and remove all luggage. Clean everything out, wash out the dry bags, and give your boxes or panniers a thorough scrub. Store the empty luggage away so it’s ready for the next riding season.
Equally, go through your tools and spare parts, clean your tool roll or box out, and make sure everything is in top shape. Now is a good time to see if you need spare tubes, tire patches, chain lube, or tool replacements.
Wash Your Gear
Since you’re storing your motorcycle for the winter, you may want to just throw your riding gear in a corner and forget about it until spring. However, to make sure you won’t have to get into grimy boots and a moldy riding suit when you’re gearing up for that long-awaited spring ride, thoroughly wash and dry your gear, gloves, and the liner of your helmet. Inspect for tears and signs of wear and replace or patch your gear up if it needs a little sprucing up. If your riding gear looks tired, winter is a great season to shop for new items as most motorcycle dealerships will typically offer better deals and discounts in the off-season. Pro tip: gear manufacturers usually design their new season gear during the winter months, so this is also a good time to see what’s new out there.
Change the Oil
Old, dirty oil left in your motorcycle over the winter can mess up your engine. After your last ride, do a quick oil and oil filter change – you’ll thank yourself in the spring. It may be tempting to use cheap oil as your bike will be standing still instead of being ridden but stick with your regular oil anyway. Your engine costs a lot more than a few liters of good quality oil, so don’t take risks. After you change the oil, run the bike for a few minutes – this way, your engine will have a fresh coating of new, clean oil for the winter.
Clean Your Motorcycle
Once you finish your last ride, clean your motorcycle thoroughly. Dirt, road grime, and other filth can lead to corrosion and damage your bike during the winter, so make sure your motorcycle is spotlessly clean before you store it. Give it a good wash, let it dry thoroughly, then use a wax or protective coating product. This will prevent rust from getting at your bike’s metal parts as well as protect the fairings.
Change Your Air Filter
Even if you don’t ride off-road, chances are, your air filter will be clogged up with dust and dirt. Take it out, give it a good clean, and grease it up before putting it back in. If it doesn’t look good any longer, consider changing it out altogether. Make sure your air filter cover is secured tightly, as critters may get into the airbox and make a nice little winter nest there.
Top Off Your Fluids
Topping off your brake, clutch, and coolant liquids will prevent them from turning into a gooey paste over winter. If you want to be extra thorough, now is a good time to drain all the fluids completely and refill them with a new product. If you expect sub-zero temperatures in winter, consider adding a little anti-freeze to your coolant to keep your engine from freezing. Most high-quality motorcycle coolants will already have some antifreeze in them to keep the temperature steady all year round.
Grease It Up
To give your motorcycle extra care before the winter, consider taking the spark plugs out, cleaning them, and greasing them up a little (WD40 works wonders). Clean around the cylinder heads as well. If your motorcycle has a chain drive, make sure you clean and lube the chain generously before you tuck the bike away. This is also a good time to check the condition of your brake pads; if they look worn, consider changing them so your bike is all ready to go when the spring rolls around.
In addition, lubricate your throttle and clutch cables to prevent moisture accumulation. Your gear shifter and kickstand can do will a little grease as well.
Cover the Exhaust
Before you put the bike away, make sure the exhaust is covered. You can simply wrap a plastic bag around it and secure it with a rubber band. Covering the exhaust will prevent mice from moving in an creating a fluffy nest inside – critters love finding warm and dry places to hang out in winter. Additionally, an exhaust cover will stop the moisture from creeping into your engine.
Put It on a Center Stand
Motorcycle tires are porous, which means they will gradually lose air if the bike is left on a side-stand. Put it on a center stand or a motorcycle jack to keep your tires from deflating. If you don’t have a center stand, a few creatively used bricks will do, too.
If this is not an option and you’re leaving the bike on its side-stand, over-inflate your tires and be sure to check the tire pressure once every two months or so.
Remove the Battery
There’s nothing more annoying then opening your garage door ready for that first spring ride and finding your bike won’t start because of a dead battery. To prevent this, remove the battery and put it on a trickle-charger to keep it full of juice. A steady charge will keep your battery in good condition throughout the winter.
Cover the Bike
Even if your motorcycle is stored indoors, a good bike cover will help prevent critters, moisture, and rust from damaging your pride and joy. Carefully wrap the exhaust first, then throw a cover over the motorcycle for added security. As well as preventing rust, a motorcycle cover will keep potential thieves at bay – unless you have covered the garage windows, too, nosy folks may try looking in and figuring out whether your bike is worth stealing.
Lock it up
Once your bike is cleaned, primed, and covered for the winter, the last step is to lock it up. Even if it‘s parked in a locked shed or garage, you should still consider adding extra security measures. A steering lock, a decent quality disc lock, and a heavy-duty chain through the frame or the rear wheel will help secure the bike better. Shed or garage doors typically aren‘t very difficult to break into, so err on the side of caution and lock your motorcycle down using several additional locks and chains.
If your bike is stored away from home, a motorcycle tracker can help you ensure the bike is safe. Monimoto wireless motorcycle trackers react and instantly alert you on your phone if your motorcycle is being moved, so if you can’t store your motorcycle nearby, it can give you some peace of mind.
Depending on how long your motorcycle will be stored for winter, some basic maintenance during the cold months can help you keep your bike in top shape. If the storage time is longer than three months, consider re-installing the battery, starting the bike, and letting the engine run for ten to fifteen minutes every month or so. This will help clear the fuel out of the carbs and keep your battery running. Once the bike is off and the engine cools down, do a quick tire pressure check and see if there aren’t any oil or fuel leaks.
If you can’t resist taking your bike out for a spin on a winter day, by all means, do so. For those of you who simply refuse to park your motorcycle long-term come hell or high water, there are plenty of winter motorcycle events to choose from. The Elephant Rally in Germany, as an example, is designed for the hardy and the adventurous – if riding your motorcycle and camping in the snow is your thing, head to the Bavarian Forest.
After the ride, however, don’t just dump your bike back in the garage and throw the cover on. Clean your motorcycle, top off the fuel, and grease it up again to make sure it’s prepped for the remaining winter months.