Hibernate Your Motorcycle
Regardless if you live in warm weather or have to deal with freezing temperatures in the winter, at some point, you may need to put your bike in storage for an extended amount of time. Depending on how long your bike will be left unused, it may require a lot of preparation to ensure your machine comes out of hiding in the same condition it was in when it went into storage. Storing your bike properly is essential to prevent your bike from suffering long-term damage and/or expensive repairs.
If possible, your motorcycle should be kept indoors. A heated garage is ideal, but if you don’t have such a location, then picking a place that stays a consistent temperature (even if cold) is the next best option. Freezing and thawing is not healthy for your motorcycle. If you have to store your bike outside, get a specialized cover that keeps moisture out and allows water vapor to pass through to prevent condensation. A cover also helps prevent accidental damage, makes it more difficult for small creatures to nest on your machine, and prevents others from seeing your bike.
Even if you are a few thousand miles/kilometers short of your next scheduled service, it is advisable to have your bike serviced before placing it in storage for an extended period of time. Some bikes require an annual service, even if you haven’t done the required mileage, and that service date may fall during the time your bike is stored. As a minimum, you should change the oil and filters. Old oil contains acids that can corrode your motor in the winter. Remember, your motorcycle may have a separate transmission and/or drive shaft that also runs in oil. Change it all.
After the last ride before storage, clean the bike thoroughly, paying particular attention to metal parts and linkages. Not many garages are moisture free, so manually dry the bike and coat the metal parts (not brakes) with an anti-corrosion formula such as WD-40. Remember to re-grease any parts (linkages, cables, etc.) that may have been stripped of their lubricants. After storage, before you ride your bike, wash off those coatings. You can read how to property wash a motorcycle here.
Loosely plug your exhaust with a rag to reduce condensation from forming inside the pipe (this also keeps the critters out). Additionally, place a piece of paper or cardboard between the discs and pads to prevent the pad material from bonding to the disk. You may want to clarify this a bit more. I’m not exactly sure where and what the discs and pads are.
#4 FUEL AND GAS TANK
Don’t drain the fuel out. If moisture gets into a metal tank, it can cause corrosion. Instead, fill the tank and add a fuel additive (often called a preservative or conditioner) such as Motorex Fuel Stabilizer. Fuel stabilizers prevent gas from oxidizing over the storage time and prevent the fuel from degrading and blocking up the injectors or carburetor jets. After storage, before starting your bike, drain or pump out the old fuel to ensure better performance of your motorcycle. Would you suggest having clean fuel on hand to refill?
#5 BREAK FLUID
Brake fluid attracts and traps water that can cause corrosion in the brake master cylinders and calipers. You need to re-bleed the system with fresh fluid, after storage, when it’s time to ride again. Don’t take chances with your brakes! Some owners strap the lever close to the bar to keep air bubbles out of the brake system, but ultimately, putting undue pressure on the seals may damage them over time.
#6 DRAIN THE CARBS
If your bike has carburetors, you need to drain them. Turn off the fuel petcock(s). Many carbs have a drain plug in the bottom of the float bowl. Where is this located? Loosen the plug and drain out the gas. If your carbs don’t have drains, you can either remove the bowls and empty them How?, or run the engine until it burns off the fuel from the bowls and stalls. How will you know when all the fuel is burned off? If your bike is fuel-injected, this does not apply to you.
#7 ANTI-FREEZE AND WATER COOLED
If your bike has the potential to be in below freezing temperatures, make sure your anti-freeze is fresh and mixed to the proper ratio. All race bikes and many track-day bikes contain only water in their cooling systems and should be drained and replaced with anti-freeze in the winter before storing.
If you don’t have one of the new-age lithium or anti-gravity batteries, you should put your motorcycle battery on a trickle charger or optimizer. Why? What do these do? If your motorcycle is going to be stored outdoors, take the battery out and jump-start it come springtime. Store your battery in a cardboard box in a place that is dry and out of reach. After jump-starting, you will need to ride the bike for at least a half-hour on constant throttle to re-charge the battery. Read our list of five top-rated battery chargers here.
Leaving your bike sitting in one spot for several months can ruin your tires. As they gradually lose pressure, the sidewalls distort in the places where they touch the garage floor. If you leave them this way, the tires may suffer permanent damage. Pump your tires up to a high PSI and check them every few weeks. You can over inflate them, but no more than 120% of the maximum pressure listed on the sidewall. However, it is better to put the bike on a center stand or a paddock stand, which will relieve the pressure off the tires. If you do not have a stand, move your bike around every few weeks.
#10 RUST NEVER SLEEPS
There are many points on a motorcycle that require periodic lubrication during storage: the throttle, clutch and brake cables, the chain, steering head, swingarm, wheels, bearings, etc. To learn what lubricant is recommended and what parts need lubricated, check your owner’s manual.
#11 RIDING GEAR
Don’t forget about your riding gear. Never put your riding gear away dirty. Give it a good cleaning and store it in a dry cupboard to prevent mold. Put your helmet in its helmet bag with some naphthalene to repel moisture. Where do I get this and how do I apply it? Store your boots with newspaper stuffed inside to soak up any moisture and prevent them from collapsing and losing their shape.
#12 NEVER FORGET
Always resist the temptation to go out in the dead of winter and start your bike. You can do more harm than good. When spring rolls around or when the time comes to get your bike out and start riding, make sure to preform a thorough pre-ride checklist before taking off. Refer back to this list as a reference before taking your bike back out on the road.