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Smart storage for your motorcycle and you

Monday, January 1, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Wes Fleming #87301

There are a lot of places in the world with a distinct riding season. If you're lucky, it's long. If not, your bike could be sitting for several months at a time, year after year. Proper storage of your motorcycle in such a situation is critical to a long, healthy relationship between you and the bike. Treat your bike well and it will reward you with good performance.



(1) Wash your bike thoroughly, by hand, with a soft rag and appropriate soapy water. Don't use dish soap if you can help it, but if that's all you have, be sure to dilute it with plenty of water. Be methodical – start at one end of the bike and work your way patiently to the other end.

This is less a way to achieve a clean bike and more a way to put your hands and eyes on every visible component of the motorcycle for a hard check. You'll notice a loose bolt or a missing nut. You'll see if your tires need replaced. You'll be able to determine if this component or that one needs attention or tightening. It's the easiest and one of the best ways to build confidence in your motorcycle as well as your understanding of the interconnectedness of the motorcycle's subsystems. Adjust or repair anything you come across that needs attention.

If you motorcycle is chain driven, the washing process should also include a thorough clean and lubricate cycle for your drive chain, though you may want to save chain cleaning, adjustment and lubrication until after you've finished the other storage prep steps below.

This is a good time to check the condition of your brake rotors and pads, brake lines, coolant and fuel hoses, etc., and either repair or replace them before you store the motorcycle or make a note to have them taken care of as soon as the riding season starts.

(2) Change the oils (engine, transmission, final drive) and engine oil filter. When it comes to motorcycle operation, oil has three primary operations: Lubrication, cooling and cleaning. Lubrication and cooling are the two most of us think about when we think about oil, but it's important to note that oil will also store (by suspending in solution) both chemical and metal contaminants it picks up from inside the engine, transmission or final drive.

Changing the oils before you store your motorcycle gets these contaminants out of there so they're not sitting in the engine, transmission or final drive while the bike is in storage. Depending on the make and model of your bike, this step could cost you a hundred or so dollars. I realize due to the cost that some riders will skip it, but it's an important step in preserving the life of your bike.

(3) Fill the fuel tank with fresh, high-quality fuel. This is especially critical if you have a metal fuel tank. By filling up your (metal) tank all the way, you minimize the surface area of metal that is exposed to air, which means you reduce the likelihood of rust getting a foothold inside the tank. Once rust gets started, it's hard to stop and you could be in for a costly relining of your tank. Plastic tanks obviously do not rust, but many fuel tanks have metal components inside them – fuel line clamps and fittings, fuel pumps, etc. – and so filling them all the way up is cheap insurance against any kind of rust or corrosion getting started.

Use ethanol-free gasoline if you can, but it's not critical for short term storage (up to about three months). You can find a station that sells ethanol-free gas (hopefully near you) by using the website

(4) Add stabilizer to the fuel. This substance comes in many brand names, but the purpose is pretty much the same no matter what brand you get. Fuel stabilizer serves to keep gasoline's volatile compounds intact, primarily by keeping ethanol in solution. When ethanol separates, it attracts water, and that water will sink to the bottom of your tank (because science: water is heavier than gasoline). Not only can that water sitting at the bottom of the tank promote the development of rust (just ask any K 75 S owner), but it could get sucked into the fuel intake at an inopportune moment and shut down your engine.

I use Sta-bil for storage and in my lawn mower and other gasoline-powered devices, but there are a number of brands on the market that work just like Sta-bil. Find one you like and use it. If you're not sure which one to use, ask anybody you know that owns a boat and try what they recommend. Boats often sit for months at a time and part of routine maintenance for many boat owners is using fuel stabilizer, so they're likely well equipped to offer advice in that regard.

(5) Inflate the tires to the manufacturer's recommended specification. While the tires are likely to lose some air during storage, it's always good to set a known baseline.



(6) Hook your battery up to a charger/tender. There are dozens of these on the market, so choosing one can be a mind-boggling experience. I use an Optimate 4 Dual Program because most of the year, my bikes sit outside and the O4DP is sealed, so it's OK if it's out in the rain. The O4DP is also a good choice because it's rated for any kind of battery you might have in your bike, whether it's a lead-acid battery (wet/flooded, AGM or gel) or a lithium-iron (often misstated as lithium-ion) battery. Don't throw out the instructions, and use as recommended. (Read a lengthy article about the differences between AGM and lithium-iron batteries.)

Another reason I like the O4DP is because, unlike a straight battery charger, you can leave the O4DP connected to your bike for an extended period of time without damaging the battery. It's a smart enough device not to pummel your battery with a constant, steady stream of high-powered electrons. It will charge your battery up to its proper level, then maintain it so it's ready to go when you are. Just make sure the outlet it's plugged into is protected from precipitation.

Note the Sta-bil in the upper left corner. If you can, keep your charger/tender's cables off the ground. This will help keep critters from chewing on them.

If you're not going to hook your battery up to a charger/tender, then disconnect the wires to the battery and, if it's a flooded (wet) lead-acid battery, remove it from the motorcycle to prevent any possible problems related to weather, temperature and long-term storage.

(7) This next item could generate some controversy, but DON'T START YOUR BIKE WHILE IT'S IN STORAGE unless you plan on riding it for at least 30 minutes. Refer to the "change your oil" item above and remember that one of oil's jobs is to remove contaminants from inside the engine. If you don't ride the bike long enough to get the engine up to its full operating temperature and keep it there for 10 to 15 minutes, you're going to do more harm than good to your engine.

If your bike's not hooked up to a battery tender, you'll also be damaging the battery's ability to hold a charge. Most motorcycle electrical systems do not properly maintain a battery when they idle for a long time, and indeed, idling for a long time could actually deplete the battery.

It may go against every instinct you have, but if you're storing your motorcycle for a month or more, just store it. Let it sit. Don't start it.

(8) Cover your motorcycle. If you're storing it outdoors, use a heavy-duty, all-weather cover and secure it against wind. If it snows, brush the accumulated snow off your bike as soon as you can - after taking a photo, of course!

If you're storing it indoors, use an old bed sheet – flat or fitted doesn't matter, but a fitted sheet (the kind with elastic corners) might stay in place a little better. With indoor storage, all a cover is doing is keeping dust and dirt off the bike – and maybe keeping curious passersby and children from fiddling with it.

(9) Read about motorcycles and motorcycling. I recommend David Hough's Proficient Motorcycling and More Proficient Motorcycling as well as Mark Barnes' Why We Ride: A Psychologist Explains the Motorcyclist's Mind and the Relationship Between Rider, Bike and Road for starters. Hough's books will help you visualize riding techniques that could improve your riding (and maybe save your life), while Barnes' book will get you thinking about being a motorcyclist.

Reading doesn't have to be all educational, though. If you like bawdy tales of the life of a motorcycle fanatic, check out two books by Jack Riepe – Conversations With a Motorcycle and Motorcycles Speak Louder Than Words. If your tastes run more to the documentary than the torrid, you'd be hard pressed to do better than Neil Peart's Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road.

There are dozens, if not hundreds, of books you can read that will educate, inform and entertain you while the weather is keeping you off your motorcycle.

(10) Exercise and pay attention to nutrition. Riding a motorcycle can be strenuous physically, and the better prepared your body is for it, the more enjoyable it will be. Work on your core, and if you plan on riding off-road, work on your legs and upper body as well. Cardio training is good for your overall health, so don't neglect that. Paying attention to your neck muscles can help you hold your giant head up all day, especially if you wear a flip-front helmet (they tend to be heavier than other helmets simply because of the hinge and lock mechanisms).

The off season is a great time to reset poor eating habits by doing some research and paying attention to what you're putting in your body. Increase your intake of green, red, yellow and orange vegetables and try to limit your carbohydrate consumption. We all know that food choices can suffer when we're on the road, so using the off season to focus on nutrition will help you build healthy habits that can do you (and your family) a world of good.

Note: I consider avoiding cheap beer an essential aspect of eating right. Beer is packed with carbohydrates and calories, so if you're going to indulge, you may as well do so in a fashion that imparts as much pleasure as possible. Life's too short to drink crappy beer!


(10) Check everything about your bike. If you washed it carefully before putting it away, fixing any problems as you came upon them, your bike should be in tip-top condition and ready to go.

You should especially check your air box. Indoor storage and long periods of inattention are conducive to rodents infiltrating your motorcycle, and animals such as mice and squirrels love air filters and the spaces behind them. It doesn't take any time at all for a family of rodents to take up residence in your air box, and often you'll discover they found your air filter a delicious addition to their diet.

Inflate your tires to the recommended specification before riding. If you've stored the battery outside the bike, reinstall it. Check your foot pegs, foot controls, hand controls and hand grips for blockage or deterioration, and replace anything that has cracked or worn.

Last but certainly not least, check your gear. If your helmet has reached the end of its service life, replace it; don't forget to check your visor(s) and helmet liner, too, as replacing either or both of these things could extend the functional life of your helmet. Check the armor in your riding suit (or jacket and pants) and replace any of the pieces that may have deteriorated. Replace the insoles in your boots, or get new boots if necessary. Scotchgard your textile gear to renew its water-resistant qualities, and note that it might be time to replace your gloves as well.

Get your head on straight, turn the key, thumb the starter button and ride off into the sunset. Run that tank of treated gasoline through your bike, and fill up with high-quality gasoline and do it again. If your bike is running a little rough after the first tank, add some fuel system cleaner to the second tank and see if that helps. If it doesn't, you may need to pull the carburetors or fuel injectors and give them a manual cleaning.

Now that you've successfully survived off-season motorcycle storage, it's not a bad idea to think about building your riding skills by taking a training course. There are a number of them available, so ask your friends and do your research.

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out via email to

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