If you don’t care what the weatherman says and you’re the kind of kid that will go out for ride on your bike regardless of what’s falling out of the sky, fair play to ya. For a lot of us, though, the hour of cleaning that tends to be necessary after a cold, damp, winter sortie will be too big a turn-off. That’s why our bikes remain in their cosy garages. What’s considered the ‘winter season’ will vary in from person to person; but if you are going to park your bike up for more than a couple of months at a time, and the missus won’t let you bring it in the living room, there’re a handful of little tricks that are worth remembering. Our top tips for storing your bike over winter.
The first thing I’m going to say about tyres is pretty obvious. Make sure there’s some wind in the bastards. An underinflated (or even worse, completely flat) tyre that’s sat on the floor isn’t a happy tyre. Especially with half the weight of a bike on it. It’ll be fit for nothing but the scrap heap after six months. Be sure to get them right up to pressure when you park it up. And then give them a kick whenever your passing, just to make sure they are still full of air. If they’re the full of air, they’re the right shape, all the way round.
The cold temperatures in garages can play havoc with your hoops even when they are pumped up. They can freeze flat-spots into the bit that’s sat on the floor if they’re stood still for long enough; particularly on concrete floors. The best thing to do to avoid that is to get the bike up on paddock stands if you’ve got them or. If not, park it on a bit of carpet or something soft, and roll it forward a couple of inches every now and then, to give the bottom of the tyre a break.
Your road bike’s probably got a dollop of antifreeze in it already, so you might be alright; but do you really know how much there is in there? And how many winters has it had to endure since it had a refresh? Has it ever had a refresh? Rather than crossing your fingers and hoping for the best, it’s not a bad idea to refresh it. Drain the muddy, rusty coloured coolant out of your bike and replace it with some lovely fresh stuff. New coolant will be bursting with the corrosion inhibitors and antifreeze that it needs to be effective in the fight against blown water pumps and the like. There’s nothing like a bit of peace of mind, is there?
If you’ve got a race bike or track bike, bereft of any antifreeze at all, for fuck sake don’t neglect it. Forget to drain the coolant out, and you’ll regret it. If you are going to leave it in a sub-zero garage whilst you’re merrily throwing mince pies and that horrible hot wine stuff down your neck, it won’t be long before Jack Frost’s had his wicked way with your crank cases and you’re left with a pile of scrap gathering dust in your garage… with a big brown stain underneath it.
When you try and start your bike up after it’s been sat for six months or so with a tank full of fuel evaporating itself into the ether, expect to hear a lot of coughing and spluttering. And not a lot of starting. The fuel will’ve lost all its ‘fizz’. Try and drain or syphon all the fuel out of the tank when you park it up. And then stick it in a sealed container. You might just save yourself a fair amount of heartache when the sun comes back out.
If your bike’s running on carburettors it’s also very sensible to run them dry. Just the engine ‘till it stops, which shouldn’t take long after you’ve drained the tank; or just turned the full tap off. Old, evaporating fuel has a tendency to ‘gunk up’ in the float bowls and cause the floats to stick. And this is even more important if you happen to be the lucky owner of a two-stroke motorcycle. The oily fuel will only get oilier and stickier as the fuel evaporates out of it; brilliant if you want to create a Stars in Their Eyes style smoke screen next time you fire your bike up, but not very good for your engine or exhaust.
If you know your bike is going to be sat idle for a long period of time over winter, don’t wait until you drag it out in spring to put fresh oil in it. When your bike’s still for any length of time, all the oil settles down to the sump; along with all of the contaminants that are in it. Acids which attack seals, moisture which causes corrosion, and wear metals that can have a catalytic effect (speed up) the whole corrosion process, are all better out of your engine than in it.
Decent oils use special additives called vapour phase inhibitors which, once they are settled in the sump permeate out of the oil and stay in the parts of the engine that the oil has run out of, as a kind of vapour, helping to stop the engine internals from corroding. These special chemicals don’t work as well after the oil’s done 10,000 miles though. It’s ten times better for your bike to be sat dormant with fresh engine oil in it, rather than old stuff that’s been on there for Christ knows how long. And whilst you’re at it, give the chain a clean and a really good lube too; the bastard’ll go rusty quick sharp if you don’t.
Whether there’s a motocross bike, a superbike or anything in between nestled in your garage, there’s always a few scallies that would love to get their filthy little hands on your pride and joy. Please don’t give them the satisfaction. If your bike is going to be sat there for months on end, be careful. Especially if you’re not going to have eyes-on; you’re asking for trouble. When it comes to motorcycles, I don’t think any level of security is over the top. Chains, ground anchors, disc locks and that sort of stuff are all a bare minimum. But if they really want it, that won’t stop them, it’ll just slow them down.
These days you can get alarms and camera systems that link up to your smartphone for a few hundred quid, so it’s worth investing something like if you are serious about keeping your bike (and anything else in your garage) safe. Cameras will act as a deterrent as well as giving you a heads-up should anyone decide to try their luck. Anything to make moving the bike more difficult is worth doing too, like taking a wheel out. And hiding it under your bed. Again, nothing will stop them trying to get it, if they really, really want it. But if you can slow them down a bit, it might give you time to call the police. Or get your shotgun out.