Q. Hi Dave. After a typically British summer, winter’s coming all too quickly! How do I prepare the bike so that it survives until the spring and what are the best practices when it comes to motorcycle storage?
Rob Nicholson, Bristol
A. Hi Rob, great question, though it depends entirely on how you plan on approaching this coming winter; are you going to be leaving the motorcycle in storage so that it can be pristine for the riding season? Or are you planning on riding throughout the cold days and dark nights? To save you answering that, I’ll look at it from both angles.
If you’re going down the motorcycle storage route, then the first thing you’ll want to do is give it a good deep clean to make sure there’s nothing corrosive left on to blunt the appearance of your ride. Any exposed alloy or chrome surface is best treated with a corrosive inhibitor, there are plenty on the market that you can simply spray on. WD40 is well known, but there are alternatives worth considering as well. Make sure you don’t get any of this on the brakes though, else that first run out after winter might cause a brown trouser moment when you grab a handful of brake only to realise it’s not there!
A good car wax/polish will protect the painted or plastic parts (alloy wheels included as most are painted or lacquered). Mechanically lubing the cables with a good, light oil, such as 3-in-1 will ensure that they’re still nice and smooth in use when you start riding next year, and make sure you oil the chain, if your bike has one.
Modern petrol has a shelf life of about three months and I’ve been informed that it can go off over the winter, so it’s best to buy some fuel stabiliser. This can be bought from mower dealers, boat handlers or, of course, the internet and you simply add it to the fuel system to help prevent it going off. Make sure you add this into the fuel before the last run of the winter so it’s well mixed into the fuel system. Keep your tank topped up to prevent corrosion from forming inside.
A bit of extra pressure in the tyres won’t hurt, it’ll prevent flat spots and keep the tyre in shape, though it’s even better if you can get the weight of the bike off the wheels during motorcycle storage. There are some good battery condition chargers available that will keep the battery charged without damaging the cells.
Now, there are two schools of thought when it comes to whether you should run the bike during it’s lay up. Just running it briefly can cause condensation build-up inside the motor and exhaust, leading to corrosion. The best way to ensure this doesn’t happen is to take it out for a quick spin, nothing beats a run on a crisp day.
You can now SORN the bike during this time, when the weather picks up, go online and tax it monthly, saving you some cash throughout the winter.
Now, if you’re the sort that rides all year (or are interested in going to a winter rally, like the Elephant Rally)? A lot of the above still applies, though there’s no need for the fuel stabiliser. The main thing you have to contend with is the horrendous corrosion caused by the salt that’s used on our roads over winter. There’s a product called ACF-50, formulated to protect planes, especially naval planes on aircraft carriers, available on the ‘net which can be used on all surfaces (apart from the brakes!) to protect your bike from whatever winter can throw at it.
After a winter ride or commute, rinse the worst of the salt off with cold water (but don’t use any detergent) and top up the ACF coating once a month. Check the anti-freeze strength and only use what’s specified for your bike, and consider fitting heated grips, they’re a life saver in cold weather! Winter spec tyres are available, though look for those with a higher silica content designed for lower temperatures.
I hope these tips will help you feel comfortable with your motorcycle storage options, or if you’re planning on riding through the cold weather.
Have a good winter guys, I intend to!