Touring Tip: Winterizing Your Bike

Nov 11, 2011 View Comments by

(With winter approaching, we are re-publishing our checklist for winterizing your bike, which was originally included in our October 2011 newsletter.)

Because mechanical systems perform best when they’re used regularly, the most effective way of preparing your bike for winter is to simply keep riding and maintaining it. But most of us, unfortunately, don’t live in a climate that allows for a 365-day riding year. Consequently, we need to prepare our rides for a period of winter storage. Here’s a checklist to help you make sure the job gets done properly:


1. Store Properly: Indoor (heated if possible) storage is best for guarding against moisture and rust. To prevent flat spots from developing on tires, store the bike with its weight off of the wheels.

2. Stabilize the Fuel: Fill gas tank, turn off petcock, drain carburetor(s) and add fuel stabilizer to the gas. Fuel injected bikes only require a full tank of gas and fuel stabilizer. Finally, run the bike so the treated fuel gets into the injectors or carburetor(s).

3. Tend to the Battery: Attach a trickle charger to the battery. If the battery is a non-sealed type, check fluid levels and add distilled water if needed.

4. Lubricate Controls and Other Mechanical Parts: Lubricate cables, change front fork oil as required by your Owner’s Manual and oil any other exterior unsealed moving parts.

5. Change Engine Oil and Filter: Because old oil can develop acidic qualities and cause corrosion, change it prior to storage and possibly again in the spring.

6. Inspect/Lubricate Final Drive: Chains should be cleaned, checked for proper tension, and lubricated. Check the oil level on shaft drive bikes and add or replace it as necessary.

7. Inspect/Service Cooling System: For water-cooled bikes, look for any signs of rust, ensure that coolant is at the proper level–flush and replace coolant every two years.

8. Inspect/Service Brakes: Remove the brake pads and check the calipers for corrosion. If left unchecked, corroded cylinders can eventually cause brakes to seize up. Replace worn pads as necessary.

9. Inspect/Replace Tires: Check the condition of tires, including tread depth. Tires with 3/32 or less of tread remaining or older than 10 years should probably be replaced.

10. Inspect/Service Electrical System: Look for any signs of corrosion on exposed electrical connections. A thin coating of Vaseline or other preservative can help prevent corrosion.

11. Replace Hydraulic Fluids: Hydraulic fluids can absorb moisture over time, causing corrosion and loss of braking effectiveness. It’s best to replace these fluids yearly, but be sure to use only the recommended fluid from a sealed container.         

12. Check Torque of Threaded Fasteners: Ensuring that key nuts and bolts (i.e., those that could threaten life or limb if they became loose) are at their proper tightness is especially important for bikes ridden off-pavement.

13. Clean/Protect Surfaces: Give your bike a thorough cleaning and then polish and wax all painted and chrome surfaces; clean and polish aluminum and stainless steel surfaces with the appropriate metal polish.

14. Inspect/Replace Air Filter: Inspect the air filter to determine if it needs replacement or cleaning.

15. Clean and Treat Leather: Use a high quality dressing to clean and preserve all leather surfaces.

16. Treat Cylinder Walls: To help prevent cylinder wall and piston ring corrosion, remove spark plug(s) and add 25cc of motor oil. Then, with plugs removed, use the starter to turn the motor over several times to distribute the oil.

17. Consult Owner’s Manual: As a final check to make sure you haven’t missed anything, review the maintenance schedule in your Owner’s Manual to determine if any other services are required.

Many, if not most, of the above procedures will be within the mechanical knowledge and skill level of many owners. However, if you’re in doubt about something, it’s always advisable to consult a professionally trained technician.

Tags: Categories: Touring & Safety Tips