Updated: Sep 24, 2020
There is a growing number of bikers who have become all weather riders but for those of us who simply cannot handle that deep bone chilling cold, winter storage is not so much a choice as it is a necessity.
Based on the opinions of many old dogs and plethora of articles available online we have sifted through most of it and eked out the top 10 tips, on how to control moisture build-up and limit opportunities for rust to take hold and ruin your bike
1. Prep the storage environment
The place where you will be storing your bike should be as damp free as you can get it. If you must store your motorcycle outside there are a few steps you can take to reduce the level of damp.
a. Invest in some cheap foam flooring and a sheet of plywood big enough to park your motorcycle on top off.
b. Try not to park your bike on grassy areas or too close to the hedge – insects and other tiny little creatures such as spiders will not hesitate to call your motorcycle home over winter.
c. If you cannot get electricity to your motorcycle, we recommend that you remove the battery and store it in a dry warm place so that you can put it on trickle charge.
2 Lift it off the ground
Leaving your motorcycle stationary in one place for extended period may result in flat spots on the tyres. If possible, suspend your bike off the ground on paddock stands. If this isn’t possible put a layer of old carpet between the tyre and the cold concrete floor of the garage and remember to rotate the wheels every few weeks.
3. Top up tyres
slightly over-inflate your tyres over winter will help to maintain shape, especially if your bike is not stored with the wheels off the ground. Just remember to return them to the correct pressures in summer
4. Trickle charging
Batteries do not cope well with the cold and if not stored correctly will not make it to the next riding season. You can either chose to totally remove the battery from the bike or simply install a connector to the terminals and a trickle charger to keep it topped up. Trickle charge on the motorcycle is the preferred method as it will spare you from having to refit the battery several times over winter, but we understand that many have no choice but to endure outside storage
5. Top up
There are two opinion camps when it comes to petrol tanks – full or empty. Our Mechanics very much favour a full tank. It will prevent moister build up inside the tank and prevent the inside of the tank rusting over winter. Joining the tank full camp does mean that you have start you bike at regular intervals. Modern petrol quickly loses its octane and leaves a gunky mess that can block injectors or carburettors. Starting up at regular intervals will flush it through and prevent long term damage
Water dispersing oil (WD40 or a similar product) works wonders when it comes to protecting the finish on engine cases or vulnerable parts. Apply it liberally using the can’s spray function to areas that need protecting. Take care near and around the brake discs and callipers (WD40 is best known for making things move and disc and callipers are for stopping things from moving) To get around this squirt a bit onto a cloth and wipe it over the wheels and chain rather than spraying directly onto the wheel.
6. Close up the holes
leave a post-it note over the ignition barrel noting ‘holes are blocked and to remove cloth before starting up’
Insert 100% natural fibre lint free cloth into areas such as the airbox intake scoops and exhaust pipe/s. (Mice love setting up a winter hibernation home in airboxes and have no issues sharing real-estate with spiders.) Letting your bike inhale a mouse by accident is not good for the engine…. Neither is sucking in a cloth, hence the warning note…
7. Cover it up in layers
When it comes to covering your bike there is a very big misconception that you just need to put a waterproof cover over your bike to stop the moisture, but this is the last thing you should do. Best practice is to layer up, much the same way you would dress up in winter. The important points to remember are:
i. The layer closest to the frame should be made from a good heavy duty 100% natural fibre breathable fabric. There are many dustcovers that claim high wicking values and breathable, porous construction but please pay attention to the fibre composition information. If it does not state 100% natural cotton, viscose or bamboo it is not a natural fibre and prone to moisture build up. The 1st layer must not be in contact with the floor at all. 100% Natural fibre products are very good at absorbing moisture.
ii. For the 2nd layer investing in one or two cheap 3- 4 tog summer duvets will serve you well as its purpose is to generate a bit of heat and keep the cold air away from the frame and engine. If you are on a budget, you can use old heavy curtains and blankets as well. Fibre composition is not important for this layer as it will not be in direct contact with your bike.
iii. The 3rd layer is the waterproof layer. There is an array of options in the marketplace and how much you spend on this cover, is entirely up to you. The characteristics of a waterproof cover are:
a. The outer membrane will be treated with a wax or similar non-porous coating that will prevent water from seeping through the fibres
b. All the seams (incl. the hem line) will be sealed with a non-porous waterproof adhesive tape. If there is a single exposed seam that is not covered with tape then it is not a waterproof cover.
iv. If you are using a cover from previous seasons, please take care to inspect all the taped seams on the inside to make sure it is not perished or peeling away from the seam lines. Also check the whole cover for surface damages such as tears, holes and/or broken stiches on the seam lines. If you find any of this then you need to consider the cover no longer waterproof. Small areas of damage can be fixed with a good quality duct or Gorilla tape, but if the seam tape on the inside shows signs of perish it is best recommended that you replace the cover.
v. If the composition and information label states "Water resistant" then it is NOT waterproof
8. Start up and run the engine at regular intervals –
Please allow about 45 minutes to complete this task. Do not be tempted to rush it and remember the post-it note from point 6
Despite best efforts there is always a likelihood that condensation in the air can find its way into the exhaust pipe/s, causing it to rot from the inside out. Starting your bike up every 5 – 6 weeks and letting it run for a good length of time is a good way to control this. For oil-cooled bikes we suggest you run it for 15-20 minutes and for coolant run bikes the consensus is that you run it until the fan kicks in. You do not need to remove it from the garage but please make sure that it is well ventilated. Exhaust gasses can have unpleasant side effects when inhaled so it is best avoided. Remember to allow the bike to cool down enough before re-covering it. The advice on this is that you must be able to hold your hand on the exhaust pipe for about 60 sec. Again, in the interest of preventing injury to self, please do not rush this part, blisters on fingers are painful
9. Insure it!
It is perfectly legal to SORN your motorcycle over winter which will entitle you to cancel your insurance but it may not be a good choice.
i. Your insurer may choose to levy a cancellation fee and this can be as much as £100.
ii. Thieves are about no matter the time of year.
iii. Roofs can buckle under the weight of snow and collapse
iv. Trolls can drop stuff on your bike when you are not looking.
Considering all the disasters that can befall your motorcycle are too endless to risk not insuring it.
10. Book your spring service in good time
When the dark days of winter passes and the Snowbells begin to bloom we all get very excited about the new riding season and all the joy it will bring us. It is at this time that most other bikers will also start to plan their summer adventures and book their motorcycles in for its annual service. To avoid long delays for getting a service slot we recommend that you think about when it is due and get it booked in as early as possible.
On a final note, we know this is a lot of information to consider. To help with it all you can compile a check list for yourself on a white board or in a note book and tick all the tasks as needed through the winter. Do not panic too much over this as you will not be marched off to face the firing squat a dawn it you do not complete each and every task required.
If all of this fills you with dread we do offer a winter care service and can make winter prepping easy and stress-free. For more information about this please see the link below.