How To Keep Your Bike From Dying This Winter
A Little Maintenance Now Saves Disappointment In The Springby TJ Hinton, on
Labor Day has come and gone, and for many, this will be the last hurrah before the end of the riding season. I’ve seen lots of folks put their bikes into winter storage only to find that in the spring, the first thing they need to do before they can ride is bring it to the shop because it won’t start or starts and runs poorly. I’ve seen it year after year, springtime is the busiest time in the shop. To avoid this happening to you, take my advice and follow this a short list of things that new riders will probably be unaware of, and even experienced riders willfully neglect though they should know better.
Ignore maintenance at your peril.
Perform the short-interval (5,000- or 10,000-mile) service as defined by the manufacturer. Usually this entails changing the fluids to include engine oil, gear lube and on jacketed engines in freezing climes, antifreeze. Primarily, this rids the bike of water that may have entered the system. The expansion of captive, freezing water can actually cause mechanical damage, and can mix with compounds to create acid that will sit there and gnaw away on your bike’s innards for months on end.
Don’t Forget the Cables
Do not just shoot some WD-40 or any other solvent-laced lube in there, or you'll be sorry come Spring.
Lubricate your cables. Frequently, moisture can find its way into your cable sleeves. If you ride regularly in the warm months, the frequent motion distributes the lube and prevents corrosion from taking hold. Over a long storage period, corrosion can form and weld the cable to its sleeve, setting you up for heartbreak, aggravation and expense when you get ready to head out in spring and shake the winter blues. It’s important that you procure the correct lube. Whatever you do, do not just shoot some WD-40, or any other solvent-laced lube in there or you will be replacing the cables anyway after the solvents delaminate the inner sleeve and binding the cable up. Check with your manufacturer or local dealer for the appropriate lube.
Avoid Stale Gas
No, turning the petcock off and running the engine until it dies is NOT the answer.
Add fuel stabilizer. As if the smell of stale gas wasn’t enough of a deterrent, gasoline turns into something horrible when the light ends evaporate through the atmospheric vent, and can leave varnish-like deposits throughout the fuel system. No matter whether your engine is carbureted or fuel injected, it can be difficult to rid the system entirely of fuel, and no, turning the petcock off and running the engine is not the answer. The best way to protect yourself is to fill the tank up and put in a fuel-stabilizer additive, then run the engine a short while to burn the untreated fuel that was already downstream of the fuel tank. This way you can be assured of complete protection throughout.
Keep the Roundy-Round Parts Round
Flat spots develop when tires are left sitting in one position.
Guard ye well against flat spots. Leaving the bike parked on side- or center-stand can have a nasty tendency to put semi-permanent flats in your tires. One method is to move the bike once a month, whether it needs it or not, so the flats don’t get a chance to really form. Another tactic is to raise and support the bike on a stand that holds both tires off the deck, and bleeding air off so the tires are well below operating pressure. A third option would be to move someplace warmer so you don’t have to stop riding for months at a time, but I digress...
Here Comes the Sun
Cover it to protect it from weather and UV damage.
Protect the finish. At the very least, park your ride where the sun won’t strike it directly, and cover it to protect it from the elements. The next best option involves storage in an outbuilding or garage with a dust cover, and if you are as hopelessly in love with your bike as I am with mine, the best option is to hold it in an actual climate-controlled environment, also with dust cover.
Install a smart battery-maintenance device, NOT a trickle charger.
Install a smart battery-maintenance device — not a trickle charger — that monitors the state of the battery and charges as needed. I realize some folks think that starting and running the engine a few minutes every few months will achieve the same thing, but that practice actually does more harm than good. So do yourself a favor and install some pigtails so all you have to do is plug in the connector real fast, and don’t be afraid to use it even through the riding season. Persistent undercharging is the death of batteries, and your on-board alternator/regulator isn’t half as smart as a proper battery minder, so don’t be afraid to use the charger year round. It will make a difference in a long run.