You start to feel it about this time of year - the air starts to get crisp, you start to plan the annual leaf ride...its almost time to start to prep your motorcycle for winter. To keep your bike well maintained and ready to go in the spring, there are some things which need to be taken care of before the snow flies.
Give it a good bath
Leaving dirt, bugs or other junk on your bike over winter is bad. If you let those all winter, it will begin to corrode and start to damage the paint. Use water and a mild detergent to clean and ultimately protect your motorcycle's finish. Be sure to get the bike dry too - water that sits on the bike is almost as bad as dirt for long periods of time (like a winter) and it will begin to rust. Take this opportunity to make a last run to the local car wash on the bike and enjoy the ride.
Fuel - fill it up or drain the tank
This is like the chicken and the egg. So like one, some like the other - you either need to fill the tank or drain it. I like to fill, and if you do - you must use a fuel stabilizer. Again, some like Sta-bil, some like SeaFoam...pick your favorite and use the manufacture's recommended amount for your size of fuel tank.
If you choose to drain- get it dry. The last thing you want in your tank is rust- very bad. Along those lines - determine if your bike is fuel injected or carbureted. Carbs need to be drained of their gas - usually from small screws on the bottom side of the fuel bowl.
But - not before the treated gas has had a chance flow through. It will help preserve the carb seals and gaskets. (This is the same treatment which should be used if a bike is put into extended storage.)
Once you get back from the car wash and gas station - give the bike a once over with a nice wax or polish. This will keep the dust and dirt away from that new, clean paint. This is a great time to look over the bike; inspect for any damage to the body work, look over the frame for damage and of course dream of all the things you want to add to the bike for the next riding season. Some call these additions farkles, whatever you call them...its a good time.
Oil change and lube
What? Before you park it? I know - the humanity. But, this will protect your engine and spark plugs from the moisture you curated since the last change. Prior to the change - be sure to warm up your engine - to get rid of any moisture that could have already formulated around it. Those with the super precautionary gene will want to remove the plugs and add some oil to coat the cylinder walls.
By doing this - you add that layer of oil to the internals of the engine, which will keep things as good as new. A full oil change is also recommended before you go back on the road in the spring too - I will not admit to doing that myself. But, it is a good uber-precautionary riders will. They will say the chemicals in the engine oil becomes acidic over the winter - I think the new synthetic oils will hold.
To protect the cables, bolts and shafts from rust and tightening - use penetrating oil to prevent moisture from forming. Top of the list is the throttle and clutch cables, any pivot points like your kick stand and shifter - and if your bike is chain drive, clean, lube/wax the chain before you store it.
Some will want to remove the battery - and if you are not storing your bike in a heated area and you do not plan to trickle charge the battery...I have to agree. Now - I am spoiled and have a nice heated shed for my Kawasaki. But - removal is a great idea. Batteries are not cheap. I like a trickle charger - they have become very, very inexpensive.
The connection is permanently mounted to the bike and plugs into 120 volt. There have been some seriously cool solar trickle chargers on the market in the past few years - this is a nice free way to keep the battery maintained, and a super option if your storage spot doesn't have electricity.
Exhaust and mufflers
Again - we are wanting to prevent moisture - and where heat was, water can be. So use oil penetrating/oil to spray the muffler and drain holes to prevent rust. Some will go as far as to stuff/cover muffler hole(s) with a plastic bag - but make sure the exhaust is dry before you do that. Or, you will be trapping water in the system. One advantage to plugging the system is to keep any pests out of your pipes. No one wants mice in their pipes...not good.
Check and fill, if necessary, you tires to the manufacture's psi level before storage, It prevents any damage caused from under-inflated tires sitting. Make sure to store your bike on the center stand - it takes lots of down pressure off the tires. If your storage area is concrete - consider storing your bike on wood or carpet to prevent/minimize moisture contact with the tires. Cardboard will work in a pinch - especially if there is any change the tires could freeze to the storage floor, that is not recommended.
If your bike is water-cooled. Check your anti-freeze/water ratio. Anti-freeze should be flushed every 2-3 years. If you bike is air cooled - less often.
Covers can be purchased at local discount stores. It is an absolute must if you are storing outside - there are different covers based on inside or outside storage. Covering your bike not only protects it from the elements, but keeps keeps dust off and moisture to a minimum. Please don't use a simple tarp or sheet - it can absorb the moisture in the air which will lead to rust. Damp fabric can also attract - develop mold. This will primary cause issues with your seat...your bike seat. Save yourself and buy a reasonably priced bike cover - they do come in different sizes, so check the package.
Where to store?
Ideally - we could build a big, heated shed to store the bike in for the winter. We could keep it dry, clean and sit on it when we miss the riding. But, for many of us - this is not possible. If you find inside storage - try to find a place that is away from any windows.
UV damages the paint and plastic parts of your motorcycle. Some dealers offer bike storage programs - if you have no space at home. Also - if you plan to buy a new bike in the spring, check with the dealer...sometimes they offer to store new bikes until spring for free when they sell new bikes.
If you have to store the bike outside - find a nice, clean protected spot. Make sure if you are in a snowy area, you bike does not get disguised as a snow pile and get moved by the snow plow. That would be bad. Hopefully you have come away with a nice checklist to use to winterize your motorbike for the winter.