WINTER MOTORBIKE MAINTENANCE AND STORAGE TIPS
With winter setting in we thought it would be handy to write a few top tips on preserving your pride and joy through the colder months. Cold weather, salt on the road and adverse weather conditions make it even more important to maintain your machine, here are some key pointers to keep you and yours safe.
Warming up your engine is important all year round but especially so in winter. Your engine needs time to get up to temperature and circulate oil. In colder weather your oil will take longer to heat up and in turn thin out so it can be circulated around the engine. Metal parts also expand when heated and cold metal is much more fragile. Heating an engine too quickly can cause the more delicate cold parts to break due to the sudden change in temperature so it is always recommended to leave your bike idling and allow it to warm up so that oil is circulating and the metal has warmed before you put it under stress.
Check your oil level is correct and, if you live in an especially cold climate, it may be worth considering a change of oil weight to maintain the viscosity of your oil at lower temperatures. Most manufacturer manuals will contain a chart which recommends oil weight in correlation to temperature range.
With all the salt being spread on the road we need to be mindful of the corrosion this can cause to any metal it comes into contact with. It is a good idea to protect against this corrosion with a protective spray such as Muc-Off MO-94 or ACF50. These products create a barrier between the surface and any road grime, preventing corrosion and adhesion. They are also great for lubricating moving parts to prevent them from seizing. Applying a protective spray after cleaning your bike will allow you to go longer between washes or simply rinse your bike off with cold water between deep cleans (hot water will allow the salt to dissolve and absorb into metal) . Remember to keep these sprays away from tire treads and braking surfaces as they are designed to reduce friction!
Your chain is going to take a beating through winter. It’s a vital component of your motorcycle and, when looked after, its life can be greatly extended. Keeping your chain free from grime and corrosion whilst ensuring it is properly lubricated can reduce the rate of wear and make your motorcycle perform better. We find that a clean chain is instantly noticeable and delivers smoother power delivery. It’s important to properly clean a chain before applying lubricant. Adding lubricant before cleaning a chain will just embed the dirt. We recommend using a dedicated chain cleaner and brush.
Not all lubricants are created equal! Most are developed for different riding conditions and have different pros and cons. In winter you will require a more versatile or wet weather lube. Steer clear of dry weather lube which will not stand up in the wet and mucky conditions of winter. The debate on what kind of lubrication to use will forever rage on in the motorcycle forums of the world. Chain lube vs chain wax vs used motor oil and whatever else people use is a battle that is unlikely to end any time soon. For us, whilst wax may last longer in good conditions, in winter it picks up too much gunk, takes too long to cure and needs to be deep cleaned before reapplying, which can be more tricky than with lube. All weather or wet weather chain lube is easy to apply and quick drying. It may not last as long but its quicker and easier to remove and reapply and picks up far less road grime.
When cleaning and lubricating your chain aim to coat the inside of the chain and allow the lubricant to absorb into the links between coats (we recommend two coats!). Wipe off excess lube to avoid it collecting road grime. Avoid getting lubricant on your tires and brakes!
We like to check our chain tension when applying lubricant. Measure the free play in the chain at the middle point and refer to your owners manual for the correct adjustment. Remember to spin the wheel and check different sections of chain as they do not stretch evenly. If you do not do this it may be too tight and cause undue stress on one segment.
We sell a handy tool to check your tyre pressure which is important all year round but especially in winter. Pressure gauges are a great tool to quickly and easily read your current PSI. An under or over inflated tyre can greatly affect stopping ability, traction and handling as well as ride comfort. Refer to your owners manual for recommended tyre pressures. Tread depth should be checked along the centre of the tyre using tread wear indicators but the condition of the entire tyre should also be reviewed. Look our for tears, holes, bulges, bald spots and anything that may have got stuck in a tread or be a potential puncture. We recommend choosing a tyre for the riding conditions. If you are going to be riding a lot in winter it is worth changing to a tyre suited for the conditions.
If winter riding is not for you and you’ve decided to put your bike into hibernation here are our top tips to ensure it’s ready to rip come spring. If you store your motorcycle properly it can sit for long periods of time without any adverse affects. It’s better to store a bike properly than start it up once a week for five minutes before shoving it back in a cold garage.
Just as with riding through winter the best way to protect the external components of your motorcycle is by using a protective spray such as Muc-Off MO-94 or ACF-50. These sprays will preserve components and fight corrosion. Winter storage can destroy chrome and other metals in one season should you neglect to protect it. Protective sprays are great for wheels, engines, bars, tanks, frames – they’re pretty much an all round wonder product!
Before storing your motorcycle it is important to ensure all moving parts are properly lubricated to prevent them seizing or degrading over winter. This includes chains and engine oil but also extends to other moving parts such as kick stands, throttle cables, shifters and levers! It is worth changing engine oil before storage so that your engine isn’t bathing in subpar lubrication which may contain contaminants from use which, in storage, will corrode the internals of your engine. Top up the rest of your fluids if needed, its important to have the correct levels and quality of break and clutch fluid as well as coolants.
Draining the fuel is especially important on motorcycles with carburettors however degrading fuel can also leave sediment which blocks fuel injector jets. It’s worth completely draining your fuel tank if you are not going to be running the bike for an extended period. If you are not going to be bleeding your bike dry before storage you can instead top up with fresh fuel, add fuel stabiliser and allow it to cycle through the engine before storage.
Rubber can degrade over time so to get the best life our of your tires during winter storage you can try some of these methods. Ideally you should try and keep your tires off of the ground to avoid flat spots and uneven wear but if this is not an option try inflating your tires to their maximum recommended value and placing your motorcycle in its centre stand. If you can tend to your tires by rotating them once a week to avoid degradation, uneven wear and flat spots then come spring you should be ready to roll!
To avoid draining and damaging your bikes battery you can remove it and place it on a trickle charger or store it fully charged and check back on it, charging as required once a month. Battery tenders can also be installed to allow charging whilst the battery is on the bike.
Try stuffing towels or plastic bags into exhaust mufflers to stop moisture and critters making their way into your pipes and even your engine. Our preferred method is a towel or rags stuffed in the muffler with a plastic bag over the top to add an element of protection against moisture and ensure we’ve not got a damp towel sat damaging the exhaust!
Hopefully you’ve found this post informative and are feeling more confident about riding or storing your bike during winter, sign up to our newsletter to get handy tips straight to your inbox!