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Tips for winter storage and cooler riding

Added December 2, 2016
Winter Motorcycle Storage

For three-season motorcycle riders, now is the time when, sadly, we have to store our motorcycles for the winter. Experienced riders know the successful start of next spring’s riding season depends on how we store our motorcycles now. If you’re in your first year as a motorcycle rider, now is a good time to learn about proper storage for your pride and joy.

Self-storage tips

Don’t worry, storing a motorcycle isn’t difficult, it just requires a little planning and some routine maintenance. 

The first order of business is to decide where you’ll be storing your motorcycle. While you can store a motorcycle outside under a quality cover, inside storage is a better option, if available. That said, here are areas to focus on as you prepare your motorcycle for storage: 

  • Appearance: Before parking your motorcycle for the winter, clean it thoroughly. Dry completely, polish, and apply a quality wax. Protect your motorcycle’s finish with a cover, even if stored indoors.
  • Systems and components: After a season of riding, some systems or components might need repair or replacement. Leaks should be remedied before storage. If you prefer to service other problems next spring, make an inventory of concerns now. 
  • Fuel system: These days, most gasoline contains ethanol—a subject of much concern in the motorcycle community due to its harmful effects on engines and fuel system components. Ethanol absorbs moisture from the atmosphere, and water in your fuel system is not good. Before storage, it’s best to switch to a non-ethanol gasoline and add a quality fuel stabilizer. Run the motorcycle enough to ensure the treated non-ethanol gasoline is flowing throughout the fuel system. Also, the gas tank should be full.
  • Oil and filter: Changing your oil and filter will remove combustion byproducts that can cause corrosion.
  • Battery: Batteries lose charge over time. If the battery is allowed to fully discharge in storage, it might not take a full charge come spring. There are many charging systems available that can maintain your battery at its peak performance level. Many riders prefer to disconnect or remove the battery during storage. Follow the instructions that come with your charger to avoid damaging the battery and possibly injuring yourself.
  • Tires: Tires should be properly inflated, with the tire pressure monitored on a regular basis. If possible, move the motorcycle at least once a month to prevent flat spots.
  • Critters: Small, furry creatures such as mice can view your stored motorcycle as a perfect place to build a cozy winter home. Consider blocking exhaust pipes and air intakes to keep them out.

Another way to store your motorcycle is to use a professional storage service. Many motorcycle dealers offer this option. Space may be limited, so book early.

Four tips for riding in cooler weather

Not everyone gets to experience the joys (or perils, depending on your point of view) of a winter wonderland. Southern climes offer the chance to keep riding. However, there are still some things to keep in mind in these areas, as oftentimes the weather is still cooler than during the summer season.

Riding in cooler weather means a little more preparation should be done to your motorcycle before you hit the road. Keep the following things in mind.

  1. Check your tire pressure often
    A 10-degree drop in ambient temperature can reduce tire pressure by 2 percent. If the last time you checked the tire pressure before a ride was on a 70-degree morning, on a 40-degree morning, your tires could be underinflated by 6 percent. Large variations from recommended tire inflation guidelines can adversely affect handling, safety, and tire wear.

  2. Change your oil
    If you run higher viscosity oil in the summer, now is the time to change it. Viscosity is the expressed measure of how resistant oil is to flowing and shearing. Proper viscosity oil is critical to reducing engine wear and maintaining good fuel economy. As the temperature rises in your motorcycle’s engine, the oil viscosity lowers, thus higher viscosity oil handles high heat better. Conversely as temperatures fall, oil viscosity increases. High viscosity and low temperatures can result in harder starting and provide less than optimum lubrication.

  3. Check your battery
    As the weather gets cooler and nighttime temperatures drop into the 30s and 40s, starting your motorcycle will require more battery power. If you use accessories such as heated handgrips or electric riding gear, less current is going toward charging the battery. Even the best battery will not last forever.

  4. Pack multiple layers
    Leather jackets that were too hot in the middle of summer feel just right other times of the year. But just wearing a warm jacket will not prepare you for the wide changes in temperature that can occur. Dressing in layers and even packing some of your winter gear will keep you ready for the sudden weather changes.

Even if you are lucky enough to ride year-round, regular maintenance and a few seasonal preparations still need to be made. Keeping the bike and yourself prepared means miles of happy and safe riding.