Tuesday Tip: A Long Winter Nap…

Man, it’s getting cold outside! Just last night it was around 45oF here in Southern California. Fortunately for us, though, that is about as cold as it gets, which means we are able to keep riding all winter long. We may have horrible traffic and our houses may be barely affordable for a two-income family, but we do get to ride year-round. This is why we were somewhat confused when we received the following email from Derek, via transworldmotocross.com:

I would like to see a Tuesday Tip on the necessary steps to take to prep your bike for the garage all winter. It will help all of us getting ready for the snowmobile season and the end of the motocross season.

We have to admit; at first we were baffled when Derek said “the end of the motocross season.” At first, we thought he might be talking about the end of the outdoor nationals and the start of the upcoming Supercross season. But upon closer inspection we began to understand just what he was talking about.

After some further investigation we have come to learn that in many parts of our great nation it actually gets too cold to ride during certain times of the year. In even more shocking news, in some states not far from Canada and the polar ice cap, frozen precipitation actually falls from the sky, covering up our beloved motocross tracks. As it turns out, those of you living in these frigid wastelands are forced to stow away your motorcycles for months at a time. This of course, can lead to problems with the bike’s internal components if not stored correctly. So, to try and be of service to our tundra-treading readers, we’ve put together a few tips on winter-bike storage:

Obviously, the most important consideration here is that the long-term storage location is as dry and as well ventilated as possible. Also, try to keep the bike out of direct sunlight as it can cause your plastics to fade. Finally, if you will be covering the bike, do not cover it with something that will hold in moisture. If you can, use a specially designed motorcycle cover, as they will prevent moisture from being trapped against the bike, which could lead to rust formation and mildew buildup.

Even if your oil is not yet due for a regular change, byproducts left behind in the oil can harm inner components they come in contact with during long-term storage. Use your usual oil-changing procedure, being sure to run the bike long enough to heat up the existing oil to ensure it is completely drained. After that, pour in the recommended amount of new oil and remember to run the bike briefly to help coat everything.

If fuel is allowed to sit for a long time it will begin to evaporate and clog the many orifices inside the carburetor. To prevent this, drain the carb completely by turning off the fuel petcock and removing the float-bowl drain screw to allow the fuel to drain out; or by turning off the fuel petcock and allowing the bike to idle until it uses up all the fuel left in the carb and the engine dies.

The next question then becomes what to do with the fuel in the gas tank. Because the tank on your dirt bike is made of plastic, rust is not a concern like it is with road bikes. The general recommendation is to completely drain the fuel from the tank during storage.

If you have an off-road bike, or one of the new KTM motocross bikes that has a battery, you will need to plan for its storage as well. The battery should be removed from the bike for storage, and if the storage area will get well below freezing, you may want to bring it indoors for storage. Give it a good cleaning, removing any grunge off the battery and terminals, then spray the terminals with silicone spray or another protectant. Also, keep in mind that if you are not able to charge the battery every few weeks using an appropriate charger, it will die and likely need to be replaced.

Depending on the storage time, some experts recommend protecting your cylinder and valves by pumping a very small amount of oil into the cylinder, using fogging oil (found at boat shops), or using storage plugs in the spark-pug holes. Check with your owner’s manual and/or local shop before adding anything to your cylinder. Any damage caused here can be costly to repair.

In addition to your engine/transmission oil, and fuel, other fluids to service before storage include:

  • Coolant — Change it, and be sure it can withstand below-freezing temperatures if that applies to you.
  • Brake fluid — It absorbs water; change it before long-term storage.
  • Hydraulic clutch — If you have one, change the fluid.
  • Lubricants — This is a good time to service lubricants in any moving part: throttle cables, clutch cables, linkage, steering head, swingarm, etc.

If you can, store the bike off the ground so that the tires are not touching. If you have had your current set of tires for a while, you may want to consider taking advantage of mid-winter sales and getting a new set for when the snow thaws.

Finally, before you cover her up and store your bike away for winter, be sure it is completely clean of any dirt, debris, grime, etc.

Protect metal parts like your frame and exhaust by spraying a thin coating of WD-40 or other protectant. Check your owner’s manual to be sure the protectant used will not damage the metal (such as aluminum frames) with long-term exposure.

Wouldn’t life be easier if you could just keep riding year-round? We hear housing prices in Arizona are great…