Putting your motorcycle away for hibernation? Here's our handy guide to storing your motorcycle to prevent any nasty surprises when you get back riding.
Motorcycle riding is a liberating and wonderfully enjoyable way to spend your time, and not just a way of getting from A to B. But for some of us, when the winter weather sets in, it is time to put your bike away and find a less exposed method of transportation. The cold and dark mornings, the frosty air and the icy roads are all a perfect recipe for the worst rides you could have – every rider will have their own horror story about riding in the cold.
It makes sense that when this time of year comes the best choice is to put your bike away and find a different method of travel, though, some of us do not have this choice if you are one of those riders who are on two wheels from January to December check out our guide to riding your motorcycle during winter here.
Even stored away, your bike can be going through a lot against the elements so make an effort to find the best practices you can do to keep your pride and joy in the best condition while not out on the road.
1. Where should I store my bike over Winter?
Not all of us have a big and beautiful workshop, like the one above, to keep our bike in over the winter.
The first question is where will you be storing your bike while it is not in use?
Inside is the best place – a garage or dedicated structure for your bike is the best place possible for it to rest. It is pretty understandable why indoors is the best choice for storage: it gives protection against the elements that are unleashed outside. No snowfall, frosty air or rain will be lashing down on your bike when it is indoors. Even a private corner in a bigger space is a great place for it.
Not everyone has got a garage or inside space to sit their bike for an extended period of time. Though, it is not advised, your bike can sit outside while not in use – you just have to make absolutely sure that it is being taken care of. If you are leaving your motorcycle outside you need a cover for it. It should be a waterproof cover to prevent the effects of rain on it, and look specifically for one for outdoor use – an indoor cover will not give the weather protection you need for keeping your bike outside. The Oxford Stormex cover is a much relied on bike cover thanks to its tough outer design and waterproofing. We would recommend the Stormex as the cover to use when leaving your bike outside.
Covers are not just for outside use – even if you are storing your bike inside getting a good quality cover, like the Oxford Protex, is a smart decision. The Protex cover is designed for indoor use, has a stretchy material to sit close and secure to your bike and prevents the effects of dust and grime build-up that can still occur inside. The Protex, like most indoor covers, are not waterproof but with your bike being inside it should not need this feature.
2. Clean your bike before you store it away
You have picked a spot for where your bike will be spending its rest, but what next? Give it a good clean.
Even before putting your bike away, a good wash is great for it. With colder weather comes slippery roads and with that the methods to make them easier to bear, like road-salting. This salt sticking to the paint and metal work of your bike is nasty and can eat away at it all the while in storage. So, give your bike a thorough wash and dry before putting it away for hibernation.
A great choice for giving your bike a good cleaning is the Muc-Off Pressure Washer, not only does it come with the washer itself but also a kit of cleaning products directly from the old favourite Muc-Off to get your bike sparkly and clean as well as a set of luxury microfibre cloths to give it a bit of a dry after.
Of course, you need to make sure that the bike is thoroughly dry when it is put away, a Bruhl power-dryer is perfect for this – you do not want leftover water on your bike that can potentially damage it as well. Or you can use an application of GT85 to spray away any leftover water in the crevices and hard to reach areas.
3. Keep your bike battery in tip-top shape
Your motorcycle’s battery will have a terrible time in the cold and you may end up finding that your bike will not even start when you are bringing it out of its winter hibernation. Proper battery care will mean that your bike not being in use will have little effect on it.
The best option for caring for your battery while your bike is in storage is a trickle charger or battery tender. With your bike out of use the battery is decaying, a trickle charger will slowly keep it topped up, without over-charging which can also affect the battery life. Optimate is one of the best brands for trickle chargers and battery tenders – they have a huge range of different options that provide different connections for specific bikes and different levels of wattage and also for different battery types. It is best to know exactly what kind of battery sits in your bike before picking a charger out – you would need a lithium battery charger if your bike has a lithium battery, for example, or a CAN-Bus compatible charger if you own a modern BMW.
If you do not have a trickle charger or make the decision that you would rather do without one, there is still an option for keeping your battery at its best – it is a very hands-on choice though. You can remove the battery from your bike – the only issue with this is it is good practice to start your bike up every now and again, so you can shake the metaphorical cobwebs and help remove condensation from the engine and pipes. Removing the battery will make it a bit more difficult to give your bike a fortnightly restart. But this is still an option for those without a battery tender or trickle charger.
4. Should I store my motorcycle with a full or empty fuel tank?
Some swear by storing your bike with a drained empty tank, while others say the fuel tank should be full when put away. We reckon in our experience it is best to have a full fuel tank, it limits the chance that the empty tank can corrode or rust, and if you are planning on starting the engine every now and again, as we have previously mentioned, a full tank is great for making that easy.
Add a fuel stabiliser, like this one by Motul, to the fuel to stop it from "going off", which will make your bike run poorly when you come to riding again. If your bike runs carburettors, it's best to shut off the fuel supply at the petcock and drain the remaining petrol – otherwise, it can gum up and clog the jets. Not good. If you are not able to drain them, the next best thing is to add the fuel stabiliser to the tank, give it a good shake, and run the engine for a few minutes. The stabilised fuel will run into the carbs giving you half a chance of decent running when the ice starts to thaw.
5. Prevent corrosion by tending to your engine and pipes
The engine and pipes of your motorcycle can suffer from nasty corrosion when not used often – to combat this it is good to get your engine started every now and again, even in storage, but even better is to apply some oil or a dedicated anti-corrosion protector before your bike goes into storage.
A fine layer of light oil or anti-corrosion protector will keep the metalwork of your engine and pipes throughout your bike safe against the negative effects of the bike sitting unused. One of the best choices for anti-corrosion, and we would recommend an anti-corrosion over a generic oil, is ACF-50 – their Corrosion Block Grease is well-relied on by many motorcyclists and is one of the best choices.
6. Give a little bit of TLC (Tyre Loving Care!)
Your bike is looking beautiful and fresh after its final wash of the year, and you have a nice little spot picked out for it and the cover that will be keeping it cosy in hand – all you need is to tuck it away and you are done, right? No!
A set of front and rear paddock stands are an excellent piece of kit for storing your motorcycle. While your bike sits waiting to be brought out, its full weight will be resting on its tyres which is a great way of creating flat spots on them or even worse damaging the actual body of the tyre. Suspending the bike up on a set of paddock stands prevents this.
Oxford Products, well known for making a version of every single accessory you could need as a motorcycle rider, surprisingly, has a set of well-relied on paddock stands. Sold as a separate set, as you may only need the front or rear and you have the choice to buy both if you need it, the durable steel Oxford Zero-G Paddock stands are designed to minimise the required effort to move a given load.
If you cannot get your hands on a set of paddock stands putting a little layer of carpet underneath your bike is good or, you can try over-inflating your tyres by around 20psi. While in storage, your tyres, with the full weight of the bike on them, will slowly deflate – over-inflating them will prevent them from wearing down significantly. But keep an eye on your tyres, you may need to over-inflate them again after about a month. And please remember, to deflate them back to their regular PSI before going out for a ride when your bike is out of storage.
In the worst case, if you have no paddock stands, carpet or the means to over-inflate your tyres, at hand, rotate your bike every couple of weeks so the position of the tyres have moved and are not resting on the same area for days and days.
7. Keep your bike locked up and safe from thieves
Putting your bike away for the winter means it will spend most (or quite possibly all) of its time in exactly the same place, even inside or covered up, your bike is a pretty big, expensive target for any nefarious individual.
As a motorcycle owner you more than likely already have a secure lock for your bike for when you are riding out and about, even in storage it is a good idea to use that lock and chain and keep your bike locked away securely. The Oxford Boss Alarm disc lock and chain is one of the best choices and maybe one of Infinity Motorcycles’ most popular items over the years. Not just a chain, the Boss Alarm is not just an alarmed disc lock that locks around your brake disc but also comes with a chain to keep your motorcycle brilliantly secure.
If you have something like the Monimoto Tracker system, you can leave that fitted to your bike as well – just in case it is taken for some unauthorised walkies and you need to track it down quickly.
With your bike tucked away for a few months, now is a perfect time to see to those bits of maintenance you have been putting off – check and change your oil, make sure your brakes are in top condition, or anything else you need to check. With your bike off the road, this is a great chance to give it the attention it needs. It also means that your motorcycle gear will be out of rotation and that means you have a chance to give it a good clean. Your helmet, jacket, trousers, boots and gloves all deserve a little TLC to keep them spick and span. We will be doing our own series on how to clean your gear in the future, so, keep an eye out.
Following our guide will mean the minute that the weather clears and you start awakening your motorcycle from its slumber, it will come out raring to go and you will not have any nasty surprises to face.
Check out our range of maintenance products to find the things you need to help keep your motorcycle looking and riding at its best here.