Laying your bike up for the winter
After a glorious summer of biking, ride-outs and meet-ups, that time of year has come around again.
As the evenings draw in and weekends become wet and cold, like many bikers you’ll be looking to lay your bike up for the winter.
But what’s the best way to store your motorbike over the next few months? What security should you rely on? And what should you do about your motorbike insurance?
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Scrub-down, clean and tidy
Before tucking your bike up for the winter, give it a thorough clean and check all your cables and linkages.
Grease where necessary, protect metal areas from corrosion and fix those niggling little faults. It’s better to do it now while you have the time, than when you’re desperate to get on the road come springtime.
Use a motorbike cover
Ideally, you’ll have a locked garage or shed in which to lay up your bike – better for security and to protect from the worst of the weather.
If you don’t have a garaging option, then a heavy-duty cover should be considered almost essential to protect your ride from the worst of the weather.
Even inside you’ll want to throw something over your bike to keep it protected – old blankets, rugs or duvets are perfect for this.
Lift your bike up
Get your bike off the ground to avoid flat spots developing on your tyres through having the whole bike’s weight on them for a few months.
Paddock stands are obviously the ideal solution for this, but if you don’t have any, or can’t afford them there are alternatives.
A piece of old carpet under the wheels can help take the pressure off your tyres, as long as you rotate the wheels every couple of weeks.
You can also slightly over inflate the tyres to help keep their shape, just remember to set the correct pressures before you start to ride it.
Remember the battery
Winter is the busiest period for breakdown and recovery services. One of the reasons for this is that batteries hate cold weather.
You could remove the battery totally and store it inside the house (as long as your partner doesn’t mind!) but a better option would be to purchase a trickle charger to keep it topped up over the winter.
This avoids the need to refit the battery to your bike if you want to start it up in the meantime.
Turn the engine over
One of the reasons not to remove the battery is that it’s a good idea to start your bike up every few weeks over the winter to avoid a number of issues.
It stops the build-up of condensation and can give you advance warning of problems developing. Just make sure you let the engine cool down before re-covering your bike.
Full or empty tank?
The big debate in biking circles is whether to leave the tank full or empty.
A full tank won’t rust on the inside, but on the other hand, fuel can deteriorate over the winter and gunk can block injectors and so on.
However, this can be countered by starting the bike up to flush it through every couple of weeks.
Stop up the holes
Mice and other rodents are on the lookout for a warm place to spend the winter, and your bike’s airbox is a perfect spot.
Block up the intake scoops and exhaust pipe with clean rags to stop them getting in.
Dealing with damp
Some bikers will use oil, WD40, grease or even Vaseline to protect their bike over the winter.
While effective, it can take ages to clean this stuff off, and will likely prohibit you from taking the bike out at any point during the winter as cleaning and replying will be a lengthy process.
One alternative would be using a dehumidifier, although this could be expensive over a long cold winter, and you’ll likely be emptying the reservoir every day or two.
Or if you have a (very!) understanding partner you could always keep your bike in the house, so it won’t get lonely…
Just because you don’t ride over the winter, it doesn’t mean that thieves are hibernating too.
Ideally, you’ll keep your bike in a locked garage, but whether inside or outside we still recommend using a ground anchor and a heavy-duty chain secured to the frame just as you normally would.
Motorbike insurance – should I cancel it?
A small percentage of bikers will look to cancel their insurance policy over the winter – after all if you’re not riding it, why insure it, right?
As mentioned previously, thieves don’t take the winter off, so your bike is still at risk from theft.
Your garage could burn down, the garage might spring a leak, or heavy snowfall could cause the roof to collapse – right on top of your bike.
And what if you want to go out for a ride on a sunny autumn day or a crisp winter morning?
But more than that, the insurers are wise to your plan, and most will have a charge of £50-£60 to cancel your policy, so it’s likely you won’t get much back anyway.
So, for the sake of a few quid you might be better to leave the insurance to run – that way at the very worst, you’ll get another year’s no claims bonus.
If you do decide to cancel, you’ll also need to declare your bike SORN over the winter. This means you won’t be able to ride it - even for that emergency trip to the shop for more mince pies!
Certain you won't be out?
Many riders love a winter ride, the crisp air and winter sun offers a different, but just as valuable, riding experience.
But bad weather, black ice and freezing rain, to mention just a few, are valid reasons to avoid winter riding, and that’s without the road salt which will try its hardest to eat its way into every bit of your bike.
So, if you are hibernating your ride for the winter, follow our steps above and it’ll emerge into the spring looking just as lovely, and working just as smoothly, as when you tucked it away.