Batten down the hatches

Well autumn upon us now, the denial finally has to end and it's time to start thinking about whether to put the trusty steed away snugly for the winter or to keep riding on through. Some autumn and winter days will be perfect for motorcycling with crisp sunshine and sparkling light and some will be grimmer - let's leave those to the imagination or reactivate the denial on a temporary basis for them. Whatever you decide there are a series of things which are a good idea to make your choice the best possible one for you and your bike. We have compiled a guide to autumn and winter motorcycling with a what to do list for you and your bike. We have also asked our staff and readers for their tips which will be appearing in part three - some of which may sound bizarre or unorthodox, but try them and you will see the bikerly wisdom for yourself.

What should you do with your motorcycle for the winter?

Here are some tips to help you whatever you have decided:

A What to do if your bike, like the hedgehog, prefers to sleep all by itself in its cosy garage for the winter months. This is covered in this article, the following two are coming in the next two articles.

B Next week - how to prepare your bike if you are going to just ride on through those winter months.

C And then part three - how to prepare yourself if you are going to carry on riding all winter - what to wear and lifesaving tips on how to put your trousers on - can't really explain at this stage....!

A. How to activate motorcycle hedgehog mode

Now that your bike has carried you happily through those long hot summer days (yeah ok bit of artistic licence there...this is Britain after all) you have decided that it can have a bit of 'me' time in the garage for a few months, while the storms are raging outside. There are a few essential things which are really worth doing before you snuggle it down for the winter, so follow this checklist for a happy winter bike:

1 Spick and span

Inspect your bike carefully to see if there has been any minor damage done during the summer riding season and if you find anything make sure that you fix it before you put the bike away. Check your lightbulbs and make sure that they are working - if not get some new ones. The roads are dirty, grubby and gritty out there as well, so check everywhere and clean your bike thoroughly making sure that you remove all traces of tar, grease and dirt which might eat away at the bike during storage. Don't be tempted to use any household products to clean your bike as they can contain salt or be too abrasive and cause more damage than they save. There are lots of specialized cleaning products on the market to help you do the perfect job on your bike - have a look at the links for some of them:

2 Tyred out

Check your tyres for sharp or embedded objects and clean them. Then fully inflate them so that they start as they mean to go on and are able to take the weight of the sleeping bike. Ideally you should check them and re-inflate them reasonably regularly during the winter and change the bike's position so that pressure is on a different part of the tyre. If you can get a motorbike stand that is ideal but if not a wooden plank is a good idea to keep the bike off the cold of the concrete which helps preserve the integrity of the tyre rubber. It is a good idea, if you haven't already got one, to get a tyre gauge so that you can check your tyre pressures easily, and a foot or stirrup pump to keep them inflated to the right pressure and these will stand you in good stead throughout the year not just in the winter.

3 Be kind to your battery

Remove the battery and take it inside after cleaning the terminals. Batteries like to live in a warm dry place or they become bitter and twisted and corrosive and you wouldn't want that! Use a battery charger to make sure your battery is fully charged when you leave it and recharge it every month or so over the winter. If you don't you can lose a battery in as little as one winter. There are clever battery chargers on the market now which you can leave your battery plugged into all winter which keep the charge in your battery topped up to the right level all the time, so it is perfectly charged and preserved ready for putting back into your bike. Like tyre gauges these are a really good investment for the whole year round as well - follow the link for what's available, the first link gives you some useful battery charger information


4 Slippery customer

After you have cleaned everything then lubricate it as this will protect it from damp and condensation and make sure it is in good working order when it re-emerges. Lubricate the chain, the clutch cable, and the kick stand - basically if it moves lubricate it, and you will thank yourself in the spring when it slips into action without a hitch. ACF-50 anti-corrosion formula is great to coat your bike with all over to prevent rust and corrosion getting a hold on the metal over the winter. Check in your manual and make sure that you are using the correct lubricant for each part.

5 Petrol head

Strange though it may sound when you are not going anywhere for a few months, fully fill the petrol tank and add fuel stabilizer. This will prevent the dreaded moisture from condensation creeping in while you bike is asleep and causing rust and gunge to build up in the tank. And think how happy you will be to start off with a full tank of petrol as petrol prices will undoubtedly have gone up over the winter yipee! It is worth noting that some bikes are sensitive to fuel going off in the float bowls so get to know your bike and be aware that if this is a problem for your bike, you will need to empty them when you restart the bike.

6 Oil's well that ends well

Change the oil and the oil filter. Drain off the old dirty oil which can turn acidic if it is left in the oil tank dirty, and clean or replace the filter and refill the bike with nice clean oil.

7 Snug as a bike in a rug

Get a good quality cover for your bike - think of it as an investment like a good winter coat! Cover your bike and check that there are no gaps where anything small and creepy crawly could wiggle in and have a nice winter snack by dining on your bike cover, seat or cables.

You snooze you lose

This is you driving out of your garage in spring

It may all seem a bit like hard work and pretty boring when you are not going to even get to use your favourite machine until the green shoots are popping out again beside the tarmac. But if you make the effort now, it will pay dividends in the spring when you break it out of the ice and spring into action on the open roads without having to deal with a legacy of problems caused by incorrect storage. You will thank your autumn-self in the long run!

...And finally you don't have to get your bike a telly in the garage, but you can pop in, give it a little pat and tell it what's happening on 'The Hairy Bikers' from time to time...

Watch out for our next article on what to do if you are not going to put your bike to bed but are going to carry on riding through the winter....

Posted by Lucy England
for Wemoto News on 01 October 2012 in How To Guides



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