Motorcycle Winter Storage: Tips, Tricks and What Not to Do

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Why is storing your motorcycle in the winter a good idea?

There are many reasons. Maybe you live in an area with snow. Perhaps the weather is cold, wet, and miserable where you live in the winter?

Whatever your reasons, taking the time to prepare your motorcycle for winter storage will repay you tenfold when the weather gets warmer. 

Preparation


Most of us have probably heard of the 5 P’s – Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance or variations on the theme.

To successfully store your motorcycle over winter, it is very apt.

Simply parking your bike in the corner of the garage after your last ride is asking for trouble.

Wash Your Bike

It may seem obvious, but the first step is giving your bike a good wash. Not just the mid-season splash of soapy water and a hose down that so many of us do, but a nooks and crannies wash. 

Invest in some quality brushes and cloths, buy good-quality cleaning solutions, and ensure you get as much dirt and grime as you can off the bike. 

There are plenty of chemical solutions, such as Muc-Off Nano Tech Motorcycle Cleaner, that can help.

Remove The Bodywork

Your bike should now look nice and shiny, but since you are putting it away for an extended period, take this opportunity to remove the bodywork and clean behind it.

You’ll be surprised how much dirt gets stuck in the awkward-to-reach places, so this is definitely worth the effort.

Dry Your Bike Thoroughly

Remove most water using a chamois or similar cloth, and if you are lucky enough to own a motorcycle dryer, use this to finish the job. 

A motorcycle dryer might seem like an extravagant item to own, but it will pay you back over time, particularly if you live in a cooler climate. Water collects in so many places on your motorcycle that you cannot reach; if left, it can quickly cause corrosion.

If you have spent many thousands on a new motorcycle, investing just $100 in a motorcycle dryer is well worth it.

Fuel Tank

There are two schools of thought on what to do with your fuel tank when you store your motorcycle. 

  • Add a fuel stabilizer to the tank and then fill the tank to the brim with fresh fuel. Doing this will prevent water from condensing on the inside of the tank, which contaminates the fuel and causes corrosion if left unchecked.
  • Drain the tank and store it somewhere dry and warm. 

While draining the tank is the most involved option, it is the preferred method. I didn’t follow my advice and left my SV1000S with a partially full tank. 

When I got around to using the bike again, rust had formed inside the tank, dropping into the fuel. The rust also got into the fuel filters located in the tank and caused intermittent running. In addition, the fuel had gummed up the fuel pump and the injectors. 

Cleaning the tank involved a lot of work, freeing off the pump and cleaning out the filters. Buying a new pump and filter unit would have cost over $650. 

Chain

Thoroughly clean the chain using a specialist chain cleaning brush, and then apply a thin layer of gear oil to protect the chain from corrosion. You could also check the correct chain adjustment at this point.

Storing Your Motorcycle for Winter


Location

motorcycle in living room
Most of us won’t get away with this!

If you have access to a garage, fantastic. That’s a great location if you have any space around all the other stuff stored there! Some people bring the motorcycle indoors to a nice warm and dry room, but most of us aren’t that lucky.

Cover

Whether you are storing the bike indoors or out, it will need to be covered. Outside you’ll need a quality waterproof cover, or preferably one of the dedicated motorcycle storage tents available on the market.

Paddock Stands

Your tires suffer in two ways during storage. First, if the motorcycle’s weight is on them, they can become deformed at the contact patch. Second, sunlight degrades the rubber and is another reason for a storage location and cover.

If your bike has a center stand, use this and support the front wheel to take the weight off. Invest in some paddock stands, front and rear, if there is no center stand.

Not only are they useful for storage, but they also make routine maintenance and cleaning much more straightforward. 

Battery

Your battery will quickly deteriorate while not in use, and if you live in a cold climate, that will only speed its demise. Either remove or connect the battery to a battery maintainer, such as the Optimate 4

If you remove the battery, fully charge it and store it in a dry, warm location. If you have a battery maintainer, connect this. If not, then charge the battery every month.

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Oil

Used engine oil carries many contaminants that can damage the engine internals. Leaving the old oil in the bike for several months is not a great idea, so drain it and fill it with brand new oil. Don’t forget to change the filter.

Grease

Apply grease to all moving parts and linkages, such as the gear, clutch, brake levers, and anything else that needs protection.

Protective Coating

There are numerous protective spray coatings on the market, such as the S100 corrosion protectant. These will stop corrosion dead in its tracks.

Plug Any Holes

During long, cold winters, your motorcycle’s exhaust would make a very comfy home for a family of small rodents! Block holes with old rags or dedicated bungs are available from many motorcycle accessory suppliers.

Insurance

It might be tempting to save a little money and cancel your insurance. You’re not planning to ride, so why waste the cash? The problem is that your bike isn’t covered for theft or fire damage.

Consider swapping to storage insurance, but the cost saving may be minimal.

Regular checks

You’ll probably do this anyway, but checking your stored motorcycle regularly is a good idea. 

First, you’ll see any tell-tale signs of corrosion or dampness and can quickly deal with them before they worsen.

Second, you can do a visual check for any furry friends that may have set up home in or near your motorcycle. 

Bringing Your Motorcycle Out Of Winter Storage


The sun has finally come out, the roads are dry, and it’s tempting to drag the bike out of storage, kick the tires, and then go for a blast. Don’t do it!

Check Your Fluids

Clutch and brake fluid are hygroscopic, which means they absorb water from the atmosphere. During winter storage, you might find your brakes become spongy, and the clutch doesn’t work as before. 

Bleeding the clutch and brakes is a reasonably simple task, with the right tools and suitable for a home mechanic. You’ll end up with fresh, air-free fluid and good brakes.

Check Your Tires

You are looking for any damage or signs of cracking. Then pump your tires to the recommended pressure and check for air leaks.

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Check The Electrics And Lights

Headlights and tail lights are obvious, but ensure that the brake lights come on when you operate the front or rear brakes. Small micro switches sense when the brakes are applied and can get dirty and fail. This might also apply to your side stand cut-out switch if fitted.

Check The Bike Thoroughly

The previously mentioned rodents can wreak havoc on a stored motorcycle. Make sure none have snuck into any gaps and that nothing has been chewed!

Remove any bungs or rags you put in the exhaust or other holes. Make sure all the controls move freely and nothing is loose.

Don’t Forget Your Bike Gear


Your bike riding gear also needs a little TLC before putting it away for the winter. You should clean helmets to remove dead bugs and chemicals and store them in a cool, dry cupboard. If you have a helmet cover, put it on or put a cloth over them.

Now is a great time to get all your biking gear washed, ready for the next season, and reorganize your gear wardrobe.

First Check Ride


You’ve checked the bike over, and everything seems great, but please don’t leap on and ride like you were last summer.

For a start, you are out of practice, and things can happen very quickly on a motorcycle. Yes, I have been caught out like this in the past!

Take a leisurely first ride out, test all the controls and get back into riding.