Winter is Coming Learn How to Prepare a Motorcycle for Winter Storage


If you live in Ecuador, you may as well not read any further. Ecuadorian bikers are treated to year-round mild climates due to their position right on the equator. For the rest of us though, the approach of winter means it’s time to batten down the hatches.

Having to ride through winter, regardless of how good your waterproof gloves are, can be a real pain in the ass, not to mention dangerous. For many riders though, adverse weather conditions mean you just can’t ride, and that means laying your bike up.  So just push it into the garage and forget about it, right? Wrong!

If you want to find your bike in a ride able condition when it comes out of hibernation, you need to know how to prepare a motorcycle for winter storage. Before you put your two-wheeled bestie to bed though, grab your helmet, you’re going for a ride.

Motorcycle Winter Storage: Is it Time for an Engine Service?

Bringing the engine up to working temperature will get rid of any unwanted condensation, in or around the engine and exhaust. An important factor to also consider is, when was the last time your bike had a service?

If your bike had new oil and filters recently, then no problem, if not make sure you change both. Every time your bike fires, small carbon deposits get into the oil. Typically, they’re trapped in the viscous molecules until being caught by the filter but leave your bike standing, and the highly corrosive carbon will separate and start snacking on your engine.

While you’re out, gas up; this reduces the air-gap in your tank and prevents condensation. As for how long you can leave fuel for, is up for debate. Checking out information from gasoline manufacturers, some say it could be as little as four weeks before it starts to go off!

Motorcycle Winter Storage: It’s All in the Gas

Just keep in mind that their job is to sell you more, but it is a fact that most gas sold in the USA contains at least 10% ethanol. Ethanol is hygroscopic which means it retains moisture, while this isn’t a biggie during the riding season it could potentially cause problems when your bike is laid up.

If in doubt, fuel stabilizers and antioxidants are available for just this job, and when it’s time to ride, merely drain half your tank and top up with fresh gas.

Ok, so you’ve sorted the oil and gas, you now need to give the bike a thorough clean. If you’ve got a fairing, give it a good waxing and make sure all the nooks and crannies in the engine and frame are free of bugs and gunge.

Make sure your bike is completely dry if you’ve jet washed or hosed it down, as small hidden pools of water are the enemy.

Motorcycle Winter Storage: Lubes and Sprays

It’s important to spray WD40 or similar around your switchgear and electrical components. Pay particular attention to side-stand cut-outs and brake light connections. This procedure will keep condensation at bay. You can also lube your chain at this stage, but once again, this is optional.

If you’re a regular jet washer, chances are you’ve got some of those fancy exhaust bungs, if so, now’s the time to put them back in. If not, block the open ends with a rag to prevent condensation, especially if your exhaust system is steeply angled.

By now, you’ve probably located the best spot in your garage that’s away from draughts, etc. If your bike has an alarm, immobilizer or even a tiny LCD clock, you’re also going to need a power supply into which to plug your battery charger. The charger should come with the option of connections wired directly into your battery, or clips to attach it.

With the former, you can leave your seat down, but with the latter, the seat has to be up or removed. Once again, not a big deal, either way, just something to take into consideration.

Motorcycle Winter Storage: Take Charge of the Situation

If you’re buying a battery tender for the first time, take a moment to read all the specs. Ideally, you want one that automatically detects when your battery is at the optimum charge. It then either reduces to a trickle charge or shuts down and kicks back in when the voltage drops below a certain level.

Having a main-stand fitted to your bike is no longer a foregone conclusion as more and more manufacturers list them as an optional extra. Worse still, if you’re a Harley rider, you haven’t been able to get your rear wheel off the floor since the 1940’s.

Getting both wheels off the ground is an integral part of the storage routine so you’ll need to take action. If you have a main-stand, you will need a couple of wedges to choc under the wheels to get the bike balanced and achieve that all-important gap.

Alternatively, you will need to buy two stands; one for the rear axle and one for the forks. Lots of manufacturers sell their stands in pairs for this very reason, so it’s not the wallet kicking exercise it used to be.

Motorcycle Winter Storage: Stand Your Ground

As with the battery tender, read first to make sure you get the right type of stand for your bike. Getting it right is especially important for the rear stand as some lift via the axle and some under the swing-arm.

The third option is a hydraulic lift; these push underneath your bike, rest on the frame rails and can then be pumped up to the desired height.

In case you’re wondering why there’s a need to get your motorcycle off the floor, it’s all down to the tires. Keep them in the same position, leaning over on one side over the winter, and the porosity of the rubber will allow the tires to lose air.

Given enough time, the deflated tire will deform and create a flat spot. If it’s not possible to get your bike off the floor, moving it once a week is an option.

Motorcycle Winter Storage: It’s Time to Cover Up

You’re almost ready to turn the light off in the garage, head for the fire and start the hunt for the TV remote, except for one last thing, a cover.

Even an all singing and dancing heated garage can generate dust, and a cover will keep your paintwork bright and free from slobber! If you’ve ever put a Great Dane’s drinking bowl in your garage, you’ll know what I mean.

So there we are, no rocket science involved just common sense and an explanation of why you need to follow all of these procedures. Complete these easy steps on how to prepare a motorcycle for winter storage, and save yourself from potential problems. It’s the best way to ensure that your pride and joy is ready to rock when you are.