Some of us brave souls are all-year bikers – and we should pat ourselves on the back for that…
But, some are not – and that’s fine as well. Also, the lucky few of us may have more than one steed to ride during the year, so the other may be placed into hibernation.
Storing a bike over winter isn’t a simple case of taking the key out of the ignition and forgetting about it until springtime. The bike needs certain key things done for it to be ready to roll out of the garage when the temperature rises.
Firstly, let’s talk about getting a winter hack. Yes, if you love riding but don’t want to risk your pride and joy in the slippery winter conditions, the idea of getting something you can just get on and ride – and maybe just hose down at the weekends – is attractive.
Winter can be a liberating time for buying bikes… OK – so you may not think maxi-scooters are cool, but a second-hand Burgman, Silverwing or TMAX can start under a grand and they are more practical than bikes for that winter commute. And – don’t laugh at the bloke on an NTV Deauville – he’s still a biker and has a very reliable bike for around £1000 which means his main ride isn’t losing money.
So let’s get back to business: storing your steed – and we reserve the right to say this before we start: we know much of this is either common sense or personal choice. For example: some wouldn’t allow WD-40 on a chain as they fear it may affect the links while others brim the fuel tank and others drain it – do what you think is best. This is merely a guide! Take bits, leave bits…
CLEAN IT WELL
First of all, when you have that final blat on the bike, give yourself plenty of time (and what’s left of the daylight) to give the bike a real, thorough clean.
Many people aren’t fans of pressure/power washers – but we’ve never had any trouble with them – as long as you’re mindful of keeping the nozzle away from sensitive parts and backing off to ease the pressure over things like stickers/wheels/bearings and the like.
Don’t let the thing drip-dry – instead give it a damn good towelling over so every part and panel is dry and free from moisture. Here’s where you could – should you wish – remove all the fairings. This allows you access and visibility to more of the metal bits and pieces and engine/ancillaries.
Now pay special attention to exposed metal parts on the bike… avoiding the brake calipers/discs we would suggest giving these parts a nice coating in some sort of water dispersant. This also helps as not many of our sheds/garages/man-caves are moisture free. So, don’t be shy with liberal spraying of anything along the lines of our old favourites WD-40, GT85, ACF-50 or Scottoiler FS365. Do remember that a jet wash may well have removed any grease on linkages/parts if you’ve not been careful. And some would also oil the chain, or just give it a coating of light oil.
The octane level of fuel deteriorates over time, which will affect engine performance. Furthermore, leaving fuel in an unused bike can leave a tough residue which can block carburettor needles and jets and clog injector nozzles. If you’re wondering why modern fuel is hated by so many, then you think of fully gummed-up carbs come spring: you’ll have to take them off and probably ultra-sonically clean them. Carb cleaner often can’t do the job alone…
So what do you do? We’ve heard that some people brim tanks, some drain them. If you do that, we would suggest that – if you have an older carburated machine – you should drain the carbs by running the bike dry with the fuel tap off.
We think you should leave some fuel in the tank (no more than half a tank) and use some form of fuel additive (perhaps put in on that final ride with a full tank) and run the bike every so often: Silkolene Pro FST, Motorex Fuel Stabiliser and the like costs around a tenner a bottle.
When it comes to the engine, some use the move in seasons to do a swift oil/filter change so that everything is clean and ready for spring.
Ensure there is no moisture in and around the fork stanchions. Dare we suggest a low-powered hair-dryer to blow away moisture if you haven’t got an air-line/compressor. Remember that water can corrode chrome, which on forks can causing pitting that can potentially rupture fork seals. Check fork seals too: you don’t want to spot a blown seal come April… Rear shocks can benefit from a light coating of water dispersant but nothing more invasive…
Brake fluid and water doesn’t mix well and will lead to spongy brakes come spring. Sadly brake fluids are hygroscopic which means they absorb water – even from the air surrounding the bike. This means you may want to change fluid come spring. That said modern brake fluid is improving so a quick test ride in the new riding year will tell you what you need to know. One thing some people do is bind the brake lever to the bar to keep the pressure on and air out of the system. We’d go against that as it can damage seals in the brake calipers.
Moisture on parts causes corrosion which – on brakes – can mean they lock-on. Pad compounds can even bind onto discs (you’ll have seen this even on a bike left for a few days or a few weeks if not cleaned.) Some put another medium between the pads and discs – paper or card – others may remove wheels completely. Instead of that, what we would suggest is…
…get the bike off its tyres if you can. This way you can spin the wheels easier to stop the brakes binding on. This also helps keep the tyres in better shape and will stop them deforming. A couple of decent paddock stands can cost as little as £20 second-hand for both ends. Better still would be (our fave) an Abbastand (www.abbastands.co.uk) which sets you back just under £100 – with a further £50 for the ‘front-lift’ add-on.
If you can’t do that, keep the tyres off the garage floor: wood, or very thick cardboard helps. Move the bike back and forward every so often to even/distribute the load. Keep tyre pressures up at the top end of those recommended too.
OK, so if you’ve whipped off the fairing you can have full access to the whole exhaust – and that’s useful For some reason, historically, many Japanese bikes have had this most important part of the bike made of metal that corrodes at the very thought of precipitation…
So, for our purposes, give the downpipes and the collector box a good dousing in water-dispersant. DO remember that – if you’ve a mind to start the bike from time-to-time – it will burn-off and fill your garage with smoke. It’ll stink, too. And you will have to re-apply another coating. Do this when it’s cooled down. Wipe down the end-can with a clean rag doused liberally in WD or GT85. We would also cover the very end of the exhaust with a thick plastic bag and secure it with an elastic band to stop moisture running down it. Do remember to remove this if you’re running the bike every few weeks!
If you leave your bike in a cold garage and you’re not starting it regularly, the battery will drain over time and eventually go flat. We would heartily advise you to use what we’d call ‘batter chargers’ back in the day, but now are called (more accurately) ‘optimisers’.
Rather than just charge a battery when it’s flat, these modern optimisers essentially keep a check on your battery and only add charge when it’s necessary, effectively keeping the power level ‘topped up.’ Some say that these reduce the working life of a battery, but they are still the best option for bikes fitted with alarms and/or immobiliser. What price a decent battery? Well, the cheapest optimisers begin at around £20 and rise to about £60 for an all-singing and dancing one. You pays yer money…
INDOORS OR OUT?
No contest, I’m afraid: the bike should be kept indoors if you want it to get through a harsh winter. So, if you’re used to chaining the bike up outside and using an all-weather cover, we’d suggest either renting a suitable garage nearby or garage space from a mate, or building a shed. Small motorcycle-sized sheds can be built for anything from £100-£200. Don’t have windows in it: these can be peered through by the criminal element or (if cheap flexi-plastic) can be blown out in the smallest of breezes.
If your bike is in a garage or shed, then consider using a breathable indoor cover. If you want to go to extremes, you can cocoon the thing: www.carcoon.com/carcoon-bikebubble
All pretty much common sense then, we think you’ll agree. But by following a few of these rules the chances are that your bike will be ready to rumble come spring time.