Time slips away from us, especially when we have a warm spell before the onset of winter. This year, although being wet, has been exceptionally mild, giving us the opportunity to keep riding well into November. Harden bikers will shrug their shoulders and plough through the depths of winter on their trusted bikes, yet others want to store their pride and joy away from the elements. Whatever your choice, consider the following tips to help reduce dramas with your two-wheeled partner
Clean up your act
Sounds obvious, but after that last ride before hibernation, give your bike a thorough wash. You don’t want to risk any water or salt eating away at the metal. Don’t forget to dry it too – remaining moisture can be the start of corrosion.
Make sure you think carefully about where you store your bike – a corner in the back of the garage, away from a common walk-way is a good option as you don’t want people/kids brushing past it or leaning their bikes against it. If you don’t have access to a garage or shed, a sheltered spot with an outdoor bike cover will help keep out the elements
Get your rubber off the floor
An excellent option for keeping your bike in a solid, sturdy position and to keep the bike’s weight off its tyres is to use one (or two) paddock stands. If you do not have the luxury of paddock stands, it is not a bad idea to slightly over-inflate your tyres over winter to help them keep their shape. Place an old piece of carpet between the tyre and the ground and move their position every few weeks to avoid flat spots. Just remember to return them to the correct pressures in spring.
Batteries hate the cold, which is why winter is such a busy period for recovery services. You can either choose to totally remove the battery from the bike, or simply install a connector to the terminals and use a maintenance charger to keep it topped up. If it’s possible, go for the charger option as it means you don’t have to break out the tools every few weeks when you want to start the bike. It's important to use a maintenance charger designed for bikes, but there are plenty available at very affordable prices...
Always use protection
Exhausts, silencers fasteners and brake fittings can start to corrode quite quickly when a bike is not being used so make sure they are properly protected for winter. Before putting your bike away just after final use, (when cool enough to touch) spray a light oil or better still a specific corrosion protector, then cover with an open weave cloth or rag to let it breathe. Just make sure you don't spray anything on the brake discs, calipers or the tyres.
More than a tick over
Condensation in the air finds its way into the exhaust pipe, causing it to rot from the inside out, but it can also be caused by starting your engine and not letting it get fully up to temperature.
The best option is to go for a ride, but if you really want to start it in the garage, make sure there's plenty of ventilation, and that it gets fully up to temperature by waiting for the fan to kick in. Remember to allow the bike to cool before re-applying corrosion protectors and covering it up again.
Full tank or not full tank? That is the question
There are two schools of thought when it comes to petrol tanks – full or empty. A full tank will prevent the inside of the tank rusting over winter, however some insist that it is better to drain it completely. A full tank is the best option as it's the moisture in the air left in the tank that is absorbed into the ethanol, which can create a gunky mess.
Lock it or lose it
Even if you're not riding your bike, there's still a chance it could be stolen. Fit a good lock (preferably with a ground anchor), taking the time to make access as awkward as you can for potential thieves... it’s not going anywhere for a while, so why not make it really difficult? An alarm and even a tracker are also great options.
Escape to the garage
Remember all the odd jobs you've been meaning to do but never got around to it? Now's the time to spend some time in your man cave renewing those tatty hoses, changing the oil, fitting those accessories that have slipped your mind. It's a great therapy to overcome the winter blues.
Tax and insurance
If you’re not going to be riding it makes sense to cancel your road tax and declare your bike SORN (Statutory Off Road Notification) . Don’t forget to check when the MOT is due though to ensure you are legal when it goes back on the road.
Your motorbike insurance covers you for more than riding, so even if you are off the road for longer than expected you should think carefully before cancelling it. Thieves are still active at winter and the winter weather can cause storm damage to a garage or shed and the contents inside. It’s better to be safe than sorry and stay insured, and comprehensive policies will cover your bike if it is stolen or damaged by fire, accidental or malicious damage, with Third Party Fire & Theft (TPFT) policies covering if your bike is stolen or damaged by fire.
Whatever you decide to do, keep a record so fate doesn’t come back and bite you on the arse. SORN is the easiest thing to forget when there’s a sunny day mid-winter and you’re inching to go for a blast. MOTs are simple to overlook, and insurance renewals can get put off when money is tight.
Keep it legal and keep it safe.