How To Prep Your Motorcycle For Winter Storage

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It may seem like summer’s barely over, but, if you live somewhere that gets seriously cold, then it’s time to start thinking about putting your bike away for winter. Here’s how to prep your motorcycle for winter storage.

Location, Location, Location
You need to find somewhere covered, dry and protected from the elements. Some people simply park their bikes outside, under a cover. And, modern covers made from high tech materials do a good job of keeping the elements at bay, while allowing air to circulate so moisture doesn’t stick around. But, they can leave your bike vulnerable to harsh winter weather like high winds, falling limbs and drifting snow. Because of that, the best option is simply to get your bike inside somewhere that the weather can’t reach it.

Once you’ve figured out your storage area, follow these steps:

1. Ride your bike one last time, taking care to get it up to full operating temperature. While you’re out, fill the gas tank to almost full, then add a fuel stabilizer once you’re home. This will prevent the fuel from degenerating while protecting the inside of your tank from rust. Run the bike for five more minutes, allowing the stabilizer to mix fully with the fuel. You can buy fuel stabilizers from your local bike dealer, an auto supply store or online.

2. It might be a good idea to give the bike an oil change before you store it. The engine should still be a bit warm from that ride, but cool enough that you can handle it and its parts. Follow the instructions in your owner’s manual, draining the old oil, fitting a new filter and adding new oil. Some recommend using an inexpensive oil for this change as you’ll want to change the oil again in the spring. Once you’re done, start the bike up, let it warm up and the oil will circulate through the engine, providing protection against corrosion.

3. Clean around the cylinder heads and remove the spark plugs. Wipe them down with something like WD40 and squirt some into the cylinders via the spark plug holes. This will keep the cylinder walls lubricated, again protecting against your worst enemy — corrosion. Reinstall the plugs and, if your bike has carbs, now’s the time to make sure the float bowls are drained and the fuel is switched off.

4. Once the exhaust pipes have cooled for the final time, you can spray some WD40 down the exit — just a small amount is sufficient — then cover the ends with plastic bags. This will prevent moisture from creeping through the exhaust and into the engine. To ensure they’re air tight, zip ties or rubber bands can help.

5. Remove the battery from the motorcycle and store it where the temperature does not drop below freezing. If you’re storing your bike in a heated garage or other place where it will not freeze, there’s no need to remove the battery. However, you should clean the terminals and leads, then lubricate them with dielectric grease to prevent corrosion. A battery tender is a good idea, too. There’s plenty available online and they’ll maintain your battery’s charge, keeping it in good condition and ready to go once spring arrives.

6. Now’s a good time to wash your bike by hand, then wax the paint. Just make sure it’s 100 percent dry before you cover it up and lock it away. Once it’s dry, go over the metal parts with WD40, applying a light mist to the chain, frame and wheel rims. Don’t apply WD40 to brake rotors, brake pads or tires. If you do accidentally, wipe them dry with a clean cloth.

7. Some people like to place their bikes on a stand for storage, unloading the suspension and tires, while getting the bike off the ground. However, it’s perfectly acceptable simple to park the bike as usual, on it’s side or center stand. Cover it with a breathable cover to keep dust and damp off. Indoor covers can be had for $20 or so.

The final step is probably the hardest. Close the garage door, make sure it’s locked, and start counting the days until you can ride again.

  • http://www.xfire.com/profile/zwogon/ Urinat0r

    If I only want to change the oil once, should i do it before or after the winter?

    • Justin McClintock

      Before. Used oil has all kinds of crap in it you don’t want sitting in your engine (or just about anywhere else). Change the oil before you let the bike sit to remove anything caustic from the crankcase.

      • Devin Byrnes

        I have been doing the opposite, good info man.

  • Justin McClintock

    Location, location, location is right. My winter prep routine includes making sure the heated grips still work and zipping the liner into my coat.

    • it_weenie

      Same here. I’ll add heated gloves and vest when it gets really cold.

      • Devin Byrnes

        I’ve had my heated gloves on for weeks! #jealous

        • it_weenie

          Sorry Devin. I don’t even have my liner in yet.

    • JB

      Here, here! Let’s see a “How To Prep Your Motorcycle For Winter Riding”

    • Blake Harrison

      You mean thicker hoodie and the engine already is a hand warmer. Why spend money on those fancy grips? Lol Alas….I still wish I had heated grips.

      • Justin McClintock

        On my little DT175, the expansion pipe makes a terrific hand warmer, at least for my right hand. But alas, the SV’s pipes are a little too far down make useful hand warmers while riding. So it gets the electric type. (Not to mention the DT can barely keep it’s headlight on, let alone run electric heated grips!)

  • runnermatt

    Last winter I was able to take my bike out at least once a month. I live in Central Virginia and at least once a month I was able to find a weekend day that got warm enough to take my bike out, even if was only for 15-20 minutes.

    Is this preferable to winterizing and storage? I always park in the basement and the wood stove keeps it nice and toasty down there.

    • E Brown

      This is my method as well and I’m in Chicago. I ride regularly until the beginning of December, intermittently thru to March; there’s ALWAYS a break in there where I can get some rides in on clear, cold days. I keep thinking of get an old CL and putting some knobbies on it for the snowy days, but I’ve never pulled the trigger.

  • Daniel

    I pity the poor souls who have “riding seasons.”

    • Jason 1199

      I grew up in Ontario just north of Michigan. There you’d be lucky to get 6 months of half decent riding in before the snow and ice flew. Not to mention the insane summer humidity wasn’t exactly fun either. I live just north of Seattle now and while we get 6 months of regular rain it’s still more than rideable with the right gear. I just prefer to not ride something exotic or expensive through it

  • Jason 1199

    Step 8. Buy a KLR and ride it all winter while your summer bike(s) sleep

    • grindz145

      Step 1: Install knobbies
      Step 2: fuck it, ride :)

      • Piglet2010

        I bought my TW200 for snow riding.

        • grindz145

          A TW is a perfect winter bike. Add a few of these: http://www.aerostich.com/a-to-b-utilities/for-the-bike/tire-studs and watch out for people losing control of their cars, and you’ll be all set :D

          • Piglet2010

            Yep, those studs, some hand covers, and a couple of cans of ACF-50, and I am ready to go.

            And of course, the TW200 was the first motorcycle ridden to the North Pole (I posted the picture below in this thread).

            • grindz145

              A man after my own Heart :)

            • grindz145

              Oh and don’t forget Hippo Hands

              • Piglet2010

                That is what I meant by “hand covers”.

    • Blake Harrison

      It’s what I ride everyday. KLR’s are such awesome bikes! I leave the FZ1 at the house for days when I’m at the track or dragging knees in the mountains.

  • Matt Mason

    I gotta move south…

  • Rowtag

    thank God I don´t live in Antarctica

  • GTsuperheros

    Being from Honolulu I have two questions; What is winter? also, Bike storage? Aloha!

    • Mykola

      Winter is when the temperature drops below 70ºF, or alternatively when you can see your breath.
      Bike storage is what happens when you ride down the Ala Wai after drinking Saturday night and hit the police checkpoint. Auwe!

    • NOCHnoch

      Aloha! I used to live in Captain Cook in the BI, loved riding the twisty bits of the belt road down there.

  • Emmet

    Star Tron is a good fuel additive. I run it in all my bikes.

    After a cold, wet November ride, I didn’t think to wash my bike. Big mistake-a big step in corrosion when I rolled it out the following Spring :(

  • Eric Shay

    I live in MN, and I am prepping my bike this week by putting on new Pilot Power 3′s. Am I doing it right?

  • luxlamf

    Around Dec 3rd I will zip the liner into my Schott or Vanson leather jacket and keep it in until April or so. Or if its light winter again the Barbour will do, haven’t had a cold enough season for 2 years now to break out the Textile jacket though. Oh you have to love SoCal and its 12 month riding “Season”

  • Paolo

    Weather in Central America allows for year-round riding. I guess it kinda makes up for the high crime rates and blatant corruption of our local governments.

  • Mr. White

    I’m a riding newbie, I started my addiction in April and I’m now a daily commuter on the mean streets of Chicago. My intention is to be a four season rider since it’s the easiest way for me to get to work…plus it’s a blast. Barring snow and ice storms, it’s my goal to ride regardless of the temperatures. Any advice from experienced winter riders? I’ve got the right gear (Klim all the way), but what about any unexpected, overlooked challenges I may face when the mercury starts to drop? BTW, I’m riding a Triumph Tiger 800XC with ABS.

    • CruisingTroll

      Ice is your enemy, and it doesn’t come only from storms.

    • Piglet2010

      For the “polished” snow and refrozen slush you will encounter in
      Chicagoland, you need tire studs. Unfortunately, I think they are still
      illegal in Illinois, unless you have disabled plates.

      Also, I would want something lighter and less nice/expensive than the Tiger – a
      cosmetically rough but decent mechanically 200-250cc dual-sport would be
      my choice. But if you do ride the Tiger (cue Ronnie James Dio), clean
      very well and then spray all exposed metal parts with ACF-50 – otherwise
      the salt will ruin the finish.

      • Mr. White

        Believe me, I won’t be on the bike if there’s snow and slush on the street surface. I’ve already had plenty of experience with wet and rain this summer, but combine that with wet and cold and I’ll be driving a car even though that will pain me.

        • Piglet2010

          I remember driving down the Kennedy in late winter after all the snow and ice had melted but before the first rain – was hazy due to all the salt getting kicked up.

          P.S. Did you get your Tiger at MCC?

          • Mr. White

            Salt haze, sounds bad for the bike and your lungs! “MCC?” Got da Tiger at Motoworks Chicago, great place, terrific people.

  • John Goddard

    If you have a plastic tank, do the opposite of #1. Empty it and leave the cap open to vent so it doesn’t expand due to the ethanol. Put something on top of the cap hole to filter out any crap trying to float into your tank but still letting it breathe.

  • Hooligan

    And for those of us who live in more hospitable parts of the world and ride all year. Liberal use of ACF50 and Scottoiler 365 keeps the nasty stuff away.

  • Blake Harrison

    But the winter is when the fun begains????????

  • powder99

    Not saying you are wrong and the Kawasaki Concours manual is correct but you are in disagreement on a couple points. I would suggest people read their manual.

  • DaveDawsonAlaska

    Just put my bike away for winter… Temps are falling fast in Fairbanks, AK and I expect it to be well below freezing here in a couple weeks, snow pack probably starting later this week.

    Hoping I can afford studded knobbies by the time the river freezes solid! and ice racing starts in February, so long as its over -25F.

  • blkcycle

    For the past 30 years I have stored my bike in a heated garage at about 50 F or 15 C . I put a battery tender on the battery, and change the oils, add a bit of fuel stabilizer, Wash it down, wax the paint and cover when dry. its a lot easier on the bike when the temperature doesn’t change much and the moisture is down to minimal. my current bike is 11 years old has 165,000 km and is fairly pristine. my other bike is a 1992 with 45,000 miles and is also, in very good shape. being in a heated garage/shop seems to make a big difference. I used to shudder leaving my bike in a cold garage at -30F or C. The doors don’t open more than 2-3 times a week so there is not much temperature change. The other solution which would be more practical would be to have a residence in Phoenix and ride there for Nov, – April. But this is not feasable at the moment.

  • Mr.Paynter

    I am very thankful that I live in a climate with year-round riding.

    In the 12 years I have ridden motorcycles, the longest I have gone without was a month-long holiday in the UK/Germany mid-winter and I was DYING to get home and go for a ride.