How to store and care for your motorcycle this winter

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Sandon Voelker

While we salute those hardy riders who continue to press their motorcycle into service through the winter months, there are many other owners who prefer to put their bike into storage and bring it out again when the salt spreaders have gone and the sunshine has returned.

Putting a motorcycle into storage isn’t simply a matter of opening a door to a shed, garage or, even, the hallway to the family home, wheeling in the bike and forgetting about it for months on end. There are tried and tested steps that, when followed, will help ensure a bike remains in good condition and emerges from storage in favorable health.

Choosing the best place to store a motorcycle

Megan Bowen

Where you store your motorcycle depends upon whether your bike is going to be happiest spending winter in a garage, shed, hallway, basement, or anywhere else convenient and safe from the elements. A kitchen, hall, or dining room may seem like a good idea, but the bike will only end up getting in the way and being brushed against.

A cool, dry, well-ventilated space makes the most sense. If it’s a shed, hopefully it’s one that you tended to one summer Sunday instead of riding, so that leaky roof is now fixed. A damp environment with a wooden structure will excel at holding moisture.

Mild winter damp is the bike destroyer, and many diehard classic enthusiasts still believe the best place for precious decades-old metal is in the space the family usually occupies. If you have a garage, make sure it’s ventilated or you seal it up and invest in a dehumidifier to control the environment and keep the relative humidity level at around 55 per cent, which will help limit the effects of corrosion.

If it must to be stored outside, see whether you can build a lean-to to provide shelter from the worst of the weather. Perhaps invest in an outdoor bike cover that is both waterproof and breathable. It will keep the weather and bird droppings at bay. A final alternative is to leave the bike with a storage specialist, but that will, of course, be the expensive route.

Clean it before storing it

Sandon Voelker

When you decide the time has come to take your bike off the road and store it over winter, clean it. Accumulated dirt, primarily of the mud-kind, often harboring damp, is another bike killer. It won’t happen to yours? Yes, it will. Wash it, make sure any drain holes are clear of debris, dry it, leave it out in the sun, run it to get it warm, even take a hair dryer to it. Make sure it’s bone dry when you put it away. If you’re into mid-winter rides, then don’t leave it dirty upon returning home. Salt plus dirt causes is an invitation to corrosion. Additionally, putting a bike away when it is clean means you’ll easily be able to see if it develops any leaks.

Should you fill the gas tank?

gas can into Motorcycle
Kyle Smith

To fill or not to fill. Modern-day gas can be a right old witches’ brew. It can damage original plastics and rubber in the fuel system of some classic bikes, although modern replacement parts are more resilient. Consider draining the system, but be mindful that topping up the tank will stave off rust inside. You may need to drain it and dispose of fuel if it spends more than a few months unused.

Fluids

It’s a bit Storage Extremist, but some will recommend draining all fluids—engine oil and hydraulic. Whether you choose that route depends on the machine and your level of caution. Some bikes are always going to let leaks in or out of the system. It’ll be obvious, though, through the appearance of grunge in oil or bubbles in hydraulic fluid.

Lubrication

spraying oil on motorcycle
Kyle Smith

Targeted blasts of WD40 or other drops of lubricant to moving part joints help avoid sticking, although older springy-type parts might benefit from being unhooked or loosened. We’re talking everything from brake actuating parts to cables and locks and hinges. And don’t forget to clean the chain and lubricate it before storing your bike.

Make time to shine

John Russel

Shiny bits don’t like winter. Original chrome is priceless. Pattern chrome can be either modern-day resilient (we call it plastic), or rust in a heartbeat. Avoiding brake discs, spray any bits that can corrode with a specialist preservation product. Watch out for the fluffy stuff that starts to settle on aluminum and alloys. Kill it off with a clean before it starts to eat into the lacquer.

Paddock stands and tires

John Russel

Don’t just leave a bike immobile. Things happen you won’t discover until you’re a hundred yards into your first spring-time ride. Over-inflate tires to protect their shape, and move your bike regularly so that it sits on different areas of the tire over time. Better still, lift the motorbike off the ground using paddock stands, taking weight off of the rubber. These are cheap and provide a stable perch for a bike, better than balancing it on an old tool chest and a few logs.

Batteries and chargers

Battery Tender on motorcycle
Kyle Smith

While some bike owners like to remove the battery from their motorcycle, many more will invest in a trickle charger or tender to ensure that the battery is kept in good health. However, many classic bikes harbor gremlins. You’ll know your bike’s foibles, especially early high-tech Japanese machines with lots of moody electrical systems. So make sure that your chosen charger is suitable for your ride.

Prevent mice and rodents from living in your motorcycle

Plastic bag over air intake
Kyle Smith

Creatures find mufflers comfortable places to be, and some air filters make great winter residences for rodents. If there’s a nook or a cranny that’ll be attractive as housing, seal it. Watch out for hibernating queen wasps, too. Some say the best way to seal a bike is to use plastic coverings and cable ties to ensure they remain in place, given rodents are likely to find old rags positively homely. The alternative is to place traps or bait.

Run the bike up to temperature over winter

Your bike shouldn’t be put away and forgotten. Start it every couple of weeks and properly warm it through, ensuring there are no residents in the muffler. If you have the luxury of a drive or private lane, then run it up and down.

Odd jobs

Kyle's Garage episode 4
Kyle Smith

You’re not riding, so what excuse do you have now for not finding the time to tend to the odd jobs that you’ve been meaning to gear around to over the summer? Use the winter time to service, repair or just plain pamper your motorcycle. Just like Kyle Smith does with his bikes.

Finally … Bringing the bike out of storage

When you pull the cover off next spring and your bike emerges from storage, check it from end to end and adjust as necessary: things leak, evaporate, stick, relax and stretch.

There. Follow that advice and you’ll know your bike will be ready to roll in the spring. The only issue might be whether your biking-only muscles will be quite so ready for the first swing of the leg after being out of the saddle for so long.

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