Planning on storing your bike for the winter or a long trip away from home such as a military deployment? This article will give you some helpful hints to ensure your bike stays in as good of shape as you left it.
Location: There are a lot of different places that people store their bikes, but obviously some are better than others. If you don’t mind the cost many dealers offer storage options along with storage preparation, monthly maintenance and will even prep your bike when you’re ready to ride again. If you’re more of a do-it-yourselfer or are just looking to save some money you’ll ideally want to store your bike in a climate controlled environment. If that’s not an option at the very least try to find a well insulated tightly sealed fully enclosed building such as a garage, shed or storage unit.
Engine & Transmission: Fluids are the life blood of your engine and therefore a very important part of preparing your bike for storage. Many people suggest draining the fuel from your tank to avoid the issue of stale gasoline, but this could allow moisture from humidity to corrode the inside or your tank leading to even bigger issues. We recommend adding a fuel stabilizer and filling your tank to the normal fill line. You do not want to fill your tank to the brim. If your bike has O2 sensors you’ll need to make sure that your fuel stabilizer is compatible, as some can ruin these sensors.
Changing the oil in your engine, primary chain case and transmission will help prevent corrosion and remove harmful byproducts of combustion. This is especially important if you’ve been making short trips (less than 15 miles), in below freezing conditions as the water vapor created during combustion will condensate and then freeze and over time can build up, mix with your oil, and form a sludge which can cause corrosion and even block oil lines. Allowing your engine to properly warm up (longer trips) will turn most of this water back into vapor allowing it to escape through the crankcase breather.
If it’s been awhile since you’ve last changed your brake fluid you may want to do that as well. Many brake fluids are hydrophilic, meaning they absorb moisture easily, which again overtime can build up and lead to corrosion. Changing your brake fluid will help ensure against this.
If your bike is water cooled and you haven’t changed your engine coolant lately you may want to change that as well. Different coolants have different life spans, so if your coolant still has plenty of life you should be fine. However towards the end of its useful life as the corrosion inhibitors used to keep the fluid alkaline break down electrolytic corrosion begins to occur eating away at the metal inside your engine and radiator.
As your engine sits for an extended period of time your normal engine oil slowly drips down to the bottom leaving valves, cylinder walls, piston rings, etc. vulnerable. To help protect these parts remove your spark plugs and spray fogging oil into your combustion chamber. After you’ve coated the inside of your combustion chamber, shift into gear and roll your bike a few feet, moving your pistons and covering your cylinder walls and piston rings (it may be easier to roll at a higher gear). Do NOT start your motor after this step as fuel will be fed into the cylinders washing away the fogging oil.
Exhaust: Condensation inside your exhaust system can cause rusting. Spraying WD-40 or other corrosion inhibitors inside your exhaust will help protect these components. However when you go to start your bike again for the first time your exhaust will smoke pretty heavily, so make sure you’re outside.
Battery: Although modern batteries are far superior to their predecessors, they are still generally not as “maintenance free,” as many manufacturers claim. To get the most out of your battery you’ll want to put a smart charger on it while in storage. Smart chargers are actually different then trickle chargers and are a better option. If you’re storing your bike in a place without electricity, you’ll want to disconnect the battery from your bike. If you’re storing your bike somewhere that might see extremely cold temperatures, it may be a good idea to remove your battery from your bike altogether and place it in a safe container in the event that the case cracks and you get a leak.
Tires & Suspension: Ideally you’ll want to store your bike on a service lift that takes the pressure off of your tires, bearings and suspension, but this should only be done if the bike can be safely secured while on the lift. If putting your bike on a lift is not an option make sure you fill your tires to the maximum allowed pressure. This will help prevent flat spots from forming. Also if you haven’t done so recently you’ll want to grease all your bearings and grease nipple points according you your owner’s manual.
Exterior:So far we’ve covered mostly internal components, so how about the outside of your bike? Similar to your internal components you want to keep moisture away from your external components as well. Before storing your bike it’s very important to give it a thorough cleaning top to bottom and dry it completely. Dirt traps moisture close to the surface and promotes corrosion. Painted parts should be waxed; non-painted metallic parts can be sprayed with a corrosion inhibitor. Apply leather conditioner to any leather components, and vinyl protection to any vinyl components.
Parking your bike over a water proof layer such as a plastic sheet or tarp will keep ground moisture away from your bike. Even if your bike is parked on a concrete surface ground moisture may still be permeating through it, so it is still a good idea to keep a protective layer below your bike.
When selecting a cover for your bike make sure you buy on that properly fits your bike and is breathable so that it won’t trap moisture.
Pest Protection: When storing you bike for extended periods of time, pest protection is always a concern. Placing moth balls in open containers in rodent prone areas like saddle bags and fairings are a good deterrent, this will also keep moths away from any fabrics you may have on your bike. Exhaust systems are another common place for rodents to build nests. Stuffing the end of your exhaust pipes with steel wool will keep rodents from making their home in your exhaust pipes.
Security: As a final step you’ll want to make sure your bike is secure as possible from theft and vandalism. Ideally the place you’re storing your bike has locks and a security system, but there’s no harm in trying to make your bike as secure as possible as well. Some covers come with steel cables that you can lock around the base of your bike preventing a would be thief from being able to easily get a look at your bike. Although this won’t deter a prepared criminal, it might save you from someone walking by and getting any ideas. You’ll of course want to lock your standard factory locks, and you may want to look into other aftermarket locks such as a disc brake lock as well. Basically the more work you make it to steal your bike, the less likely someone will be to try.