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How to winterise your motorcycle: A complete guide

Visordown discusses the best ways to winterise your motorcycle; Whether you’re tucking it away or riding it each day.

It pains me to admit it, but in the wise words of Jon Snow “winter is coming”. So, as motorcyclists, it's time to get prepped for the cold spell which will undoubtedly hit the UK during the long, dark, wet and frankly sh*t season of winter (for bikers at least).   

Granted, there are some real heroes out there that ride every day during the winter, and hats off to them. But, others tuck their pride and joy’s away. We go through both alternatives to make this winter guide as complete as possible. 

Option 1: Tucking your motorcycle away until spring 

Despite people telling you that chucking your bike on the side stand and wrapping a tarp over it will be ‘sweet as a nut’... it really won’t. It would be 50/50 as to whether it would start once the weather warms up. So why chance it?

The bare minimum we recommend doing before covering the bike with a synthetic cover, is isolating the battery - so it doesn’t drain over time - and ideally, removing all the petrol from the tank and fuel lines. However, if your bike is fuel injected then this is going to be a proper task, so fill up the tank and add an aftermarket fuel stabiliser. Be sure the run the bike for a couple of minutes, this way the entire fuel system gets treated fuel.

Filling up the tank with fresh petrol stops air from getting in an oxidising the tank, and when you do decide to hop aboard you don’t need to worry about getting a jerry can and filling up.

So, isolating the battery then. For those of you with a garage with plug sockets, this will be easy. All you have to do is hook it up to a trickle (smart) charger and job’s a gooden’. For those without such luxury, it’s best to safely remove the battery and smart charge it from the most convenient plug socket. 

For anyone with a lithium-ion battery just disconnects the negative terminal and it will hold its charge for up to a year. 

Products we recommend: 

  • Oxford Oximiser X3

Now, if you’re feeling like treating your pride and joy with a little extra lovin’, then there are a few more things you can do.

Giving your bike a thorough scrub down is a good start as this removes any crud that can corrode your steed. Once it’s dry, waxing the paint after a soapy scrub is always a good idea, and ideally, spray a silicon protectant onto plastics. If you’ve really caught the cleaning bug, then spray a clean rag with aerosol lubricant and wipe down any polished or anodised metal surfaces so they don’t rust or corrode (DO NOT lube the brake discs). 

Don’t forget to clean and lubricate your chain too, as this is the most likely thing to rust. Work in degreaser with a brush, wash it away and regrease with wet chain lube (the more lube the better). 

Products we recommend for the job:  

Engine oil: to change or not to change that is the question? 

If the oil is looking a bit murky or you're due an oil service soon then drain it out and top it up with some fresh stuff. Check your manual to find out the right type for your bike, or you could just google it... 

Seal exhaust and airbox with thick plastic bags and secure with elastic bands. If you want to be extra you can remove the spark plugs and spray in some fogging oil to help prevent corrosion within the engine cylinder walls. This probably isn’t needed, but if you want to you can. 

What about emptying out the coolant? 

It depends entirely on the likely temperature conditions and coolant configuration. If you proper coolant it shouldn’t freeze and crack the coolant hoses. If you use water (which expands when frozen) remove it from the coolant system and flush it out with a dedicated bike coolant/antifreeze.  

Tyres

Inflate and raise the front and rear wheels on paddock stands, or centre stand. This helps to avoid flat spots and deforming. 

Cover

Last but not least, get a synthetic bike cover to lay your noble clean steed to rest. An old cotton bedsheet won’t do, as cotton attracts moisture and can rot. 

We recommend: 

Option 2: Ride it out

So you’ve decided to ride your bike through the winter, nice one. In all honesty, much of the same applies for riding your bike in the winter then if you were to tuck it away. 

First things first, you're going to need to give your ride a proper scrub down, and if required change the oil and filter. Doing a service now helps to assure that things will run smoothly come the bleak mid-winter. After cleaning, lube up the throttle and clutch cables with WD40 or GT85 and a cable oilier (see below) - a slippery cable is a non snapped cable. And don’t forget to wet lube your chain.

Next, to protect your bike and it’s electrics from the grit and grime of the winter roads spray it with a corrosion inhibitor/protector such as ACF50. DO NOT spray the brakes, handlebars, footpegs and tyres because it's a lubricate too.

Here’s a quick vid on how to apply it to your motorbike:

 

After the bike is clean, lubricated, and protected check of all the essential components on the bike: 

  • Brake pads

  • Tyres 

  • Battery (check is above 12v)

  • Electrics (check for any frays in cables or burnt-out terminals)

  • Coolant (make sure it has antifreeze mixed in)

  • Lights

If any of these components aren’t up to spec then replace them now, and whilst you're at it fix any niggles that need to be sorted. It’s best to prep now, then be stuck at the side of the road in the freezing cold because you didn’t check your battery was in good nick - check it with a voltmeter or hook it up to a smart charger. 

The battery is particularly important as you may be running heated grips and other heated garments from the bike. We recommend hooking the battery up to a smart charger at night to help improve its life and longevity. 

The most important thing to consider is the tyres, as these are the only thing that keeps the motorcycle in contact with the tarmac. If they're two-thirds worn replace them with a set of tyres more suitable for colder and wetter conditions e.g. Michelin Road Pilot 5's. Don’t be a hero just swap them, and check that the pressures are at the correct recommended value before riding. 

Once you’ve performed these checks and steps you’re good to get riding, albeit carefully. Through the season keep checking the condition of your lights, chain, tyres, coolant and battery. It’s checking the simple things that will keep you rolling.  

Lastly, we advise keeping the bike and chain clean, paying particular attention to the inside of the brake calipers. By washing away the salt and grit with warm soapy water once a month you’ll protect the pistons and seals from damage, which could save you rebuilding the brake calipers in the spring. 

Comments

Me and most of my buddies would do some of these recommendations...specifically the gas and oil prep. PA winters can get pretty cold and we never had many issues. But if there were, we like to tinker so it wasn't an issue. If you aren't doing anything in the winters you are just ruining your bike. But I moved down south so I don't have to worry about winterizing anymore.

James @ https://www.windowtintingsarasota.net/

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