The clocks have gone back, it gets dark well before five o’clock, and you can see your own breath in the air. That can only indicate one thing, that winter has arrived, and the motorcycle season is well and truly over. Or is it?
For some, the motorcycle is their year-round transport but for others, riding is a fair weather pastime best enjoyed in spring and summer. Whether you decide to tuck your pride and joy up in the warm and dry until the spring, or you carry on riding through whatever mother nature throws at you, there’s some simple things you can do to protect your motorcycle. Here’s Carole Nash Inside Bikes’ complete guide to winterising your motorcycle.
STORING your motorcycle during winter
If you choose not to venture out on two wheels in winter, then the first thing you need to consider is where you’re going to keep it. It’s always best to store your motorcycle indoors if possible, protecting it from the elements. The obvious choice therefore is a garage or a shed, but if you don’t have either of those, maybe you have a spare room or a vacant spot somewhere else in the house that could be donated to the cause.
But if it’s impossible to get your motorcycle inside for the winter, invest in a good quality outdoor cover and the best security you can afford, for that extra peace of mind. Do your best to park it somewhere with some form of protection from bad weather too, if you can.
After storage is decided, there are a few other essential steps to take before you cover it over for good. Start by giving your motorcycle a thorough clean, getting rid of any road grime that it’s picked up on previous journeys. When cleaning the bodywork and components, be sure to use quality cleaners and wax to protect surfaces. Take your time and be attentive to bug splats and tar patches, and aim for a squeaky clean finish. Use anti-corrosion spray on metal parts (but not the brake discs) and lube the chain.
You should never put your bike away wet, so after cleaning, give it a proper dry. There are some dedicated bike dryers on the market, kind of like hairdryers for your motorcycle, but that is a bit of an indulgence for most. However, it’s always worth starting the engine and letting it tick over until it comes up to temperature and the excess water has evaporated.
Hand washing your bike is always a worthwhile task. Getting up close and personal with your steed will help you see any potential issues you might need to rectify in the future, like oil leaks, worn or damaged tyres or perishing rubber parts.
Make sure your tank is filled up with fresh fuel as well and add an aftermarket fuel stabiliser. Filling up with fresh petrol stops air from getting in an oxidising the tank, and means it’s ready to use if you do decide to fire the bike up or even go for a spin. Again, run the bike for a couple of minutes so treated fuel gets around the entire system.
You’ll also need to isolate the battery so it doesn’t drain over the period of time the bike stays dormant. For those with a garage or shed with plug sockets, isolating the battery is simple. All you need to do is connect it to a trickle charger to maintain the battery’s power. If you don’t have that luxury though, safely remove the battery and charge it from the next best conveniently placed socket.
GET IT OFF THE GROUND
When your bike’s in the correct position of where it’s going to be stored for the winter months, try and get both wheels off the ground to take the pressure off the tyres to avoid getting flat spots. If your bike comes with a centre stand, use that rather than the side stand, or alternatively use paddock stands. If you don’t have access to paddock stands, add a little more pressure to the tyres. This is especially important on heavy motorcycles, like a large adventure or touring bike, and you’ll be checking the pressures before you head back out on the road anyway.
COVER THE HOLES
To avoid any unwanted friends setting up camp and hibernating in your bike’s internals while it’s cold out, insert some cloth into areas like the exhaust pipe and airbox intake scoops. But make sure you note down or set a reminder that you have cloth covering these areas (a piece of masking tape with a note scribbled on it and stuck on the clocks is always a good ides), because neither a mouse of strip of cloth being sucked into the engine will be any good for the running of your motorcycle!
Throughout winter, you should do a few simple, routine checks to make sure your bike’s condition isn’t deteriorating. If you can, start your engine every few weeks to let the oil and the water circulate if its water cooled. There’s no need to rev it, let the engine warm up naturally, and turn both wheels several rotations manually if you can, to ensure they’re moving freely and as they should be, and have a quick look around to make sure nothing is dripping.
RIDING your motorcycle throughout winter
If you’re an all-year-round rider and are very much looking forward to the quieter roads and those crisp Sunday morning rides, then a few changes to your bike will make those rides all the more enjoyable, and safer.
One of the biggest transformations you can make to your bike’s winter safety and performance is changing its tyres. Considering that the tiny credit card-sized contact patch is all that’s keeping you upright on wet and cold roads, you want to make sure that both of your tyres heat up and disperse water as quickly and effectively as possible.
Remember that braking distances are longer in the winter, and simple features in the road like painted white lines and drain covers become extremely hazardous, so having a confidence-inspiring set of tyres underneath you will allow you to enjoy the ride more, as well as being safer. If a change of rubber is all you do to your bike, you will have taken a big step in improving your winter riding experience. You’ll find more about selecting the right tyres for winter in some of our other articles.
After being out on the wintery roads, there’s no getting away from the salt and grime that covers your machine. It’s simply part and parcel of riding this time of year. And it means that to keep your bike in tip top shape, you’ll need to clean it far more regularly to stop the salt causing unwanted corrosion.
If you just enjoy a weekend ride in the winter months, then a thorough post-ride clean before putting it away for another week is fine. But if you use your bike for the daily commute, you’ll need to up this to at least twice a week. The reason being is that salt and grime simply gets everywhere, and the longer you leave it and the more it builds up, the more damage it’ll cause your bike, and key components like brake calipers will eventually seize.
Even though it’s probably the last thing you want to be doing after a long day at work, your bike will thank you for it and the hard yards will pay off. Specialist corrosion protection products like ACF50, XCP Rust Blocker and S-Doc 100 Anti-Corrosion treatment are well worth investing in.
LOOK AFTER YOUR BATTERY
Your motorcycle’s battery needs particular attention and monitoring during the winter months. The cold weather has a negative impact on the longevity of the battery, so check to make sure that it’s registering above 12v, and keep it topped up with a trickle charger when you’re not riding.
During the colder weather, you might also want to ride with heated clothing that plugs straight into the battery. Heated clothing will make a massive difference to riding comfort and overall safety, as you’ll be using less energy to keep warm, so you’ll become less fatigued and be able to concentrate better for longer. The latest gear is extremely good and the options available include jackets, waistcoats, gloves, and sole inserts for your boots. Heated grips make a big difference as well, and can be fitted to almost any bike, but for a more cost effective alternative, a set of bar muffs are quick to install and work well. Do be aware when using electrically heated clothing on your bike though, as they can give your battery and alternator a real hammering, especially on bikes with smaller alternators.
Finally, regular basic checks of your bike’s essential components, like the electrics, chain and sprockets, brake calipers, pads and disks, coolant and lights, is also recommended to keep you rolling all the way through winter.
Should you cancel your motorcycle insurance?
If you’re not riding in winter, you may have also thought about cancelling your motorcycle insurance due to the lengthy period that it won’t be out on the road. But remember, if you do cancel your insurance, your motorcycle would not be protected against the risks of potential theft or accidental damage.