Last Updated: September 2017
Jeff ThurmanHard not to have noticed the change from 100 degree days to snow on the mountain tops. Overnight. One day it was in the 90’s, and then last week it dropped 40 degrees. Utah. At least we are getting some Autumn weather now. The importance of this is the coming of winter and your motorcycle.
We go through this every year, but the predictions of weather for the balance of the year and the first two months of 2018 call for colder temperatures than “normal”, and some early white stuff. The ski resorts are counting on this with opening dates posted of November 22.
I guess some of you have purchased the Touratech motorcycle chains for the rear wheel, and some may run studded ice tires, but many of us just don’t ride in sub-freezing temperatures with snow and ice blocking the driveway. So for us wimps, we put the motorcycle away for a few weeks or even a month or so over the winter. Oh sure, we all plan on taking the motorcycle out at least once a month, but sometimes things get in the way, like an ice-dam in the driveway.
So the question is: How to prep the motorcycle for the winter. You long-time riders can probably skip this, but I am amazed at how many riders are in a quandary about this. As you know, one of the things I do at the Harrison Eurosports motorcycle dealership is call everyone who buys a used or new motorcycle and also all those who get service, regardless of the brand of motorcycle. This time of year I ask cold weather questions like, are you planning on storing your motorcycle over the winter? Do you have a battery tender? How many miles and months since you had an engine oil change?
If you really are going to ride your motorcycle every two to three weeks, some of this may not apply, like the oil-change. OK, here are the basics of pre-winter readiness. If you are near the oil-change mileage interval or do an engine oil change annually, do it before you put the motorcycle away for the winter. Oil collects some traces of carbon and other stuff that make the oil somewhat acidic. You do not want acidic oil sitting in your aluminum crankcase for three months. If you are really serious about maintenance, also change the final drive lubricant (shaft drive units) and transmission oil (dry clutch units). BMW says to change these every 12,000 miles or once a year anyway.
Buy some fuel stabilizer. There are a half dozen or more brands on the market. Pick one. The “marine” strength of Sta-Bil is good, as is Star Tron and Lucas to name a few. The reason for the fuel stabilizer is that fuel goes bad over time, and fuel with ethanol is worse as it attracts moisture. Ethanol is evil in so many ways but one of the worst is the collection of water in your fuel. Ethanol is corn-alcohol and is like a water-magnet. Take the fuel stabilizer with you to the gas station. If there is a gas station near that sells ethanol-free fuel, get that. At the fuel stop, put in the needed amount (read the directions on the bottle), fill your fuel tank, and ride home. The ride home will slosh the fuel around and get the stabilizer well mixed and into the fuel injectors or carburetors.
If you have carburetors you may want to ride the last eighth mile with the fuel petcock off to drain the fuel from the float bowls of the carbs. If you don’t do this, at least remember to turn the petcock off when you get home.
Put the battery on a battery tender. Not a battery charger. Big difference. A tender “tends” the battery, and turns off when the battery is charged and back on when the voltage drops. Battery chargers just keep pushing a charge into the battery and soon your battery will be fried. I keep the battery tender on my motorcycle battery year round as that extends the life of the battery. If you don’t have a battery tender, buy one.
Put the motorcycle on its center stand. If you don’t have a center stand, I am sorry. Now look at the side wall of the tires. Pump the tires up to the “maximum” inflation pressure. This will help prevent flat spots on the bottom of the tires; and the tires will lose some air pressure anyway over the winter. If you don’t have an air-compressor, either the small emergency kind you carry with you, or a larger one with an air-tank, it’s time you purchased one.
If you have a chain, when you get home from putting in the stabilizer and fresh fuel, clean the chain with a cleaner like Motul Chain Cleaner. Then while the chain is still warm, lube the chain. Putting on the lubricant when the chain is still warm will get the lube into the O-rings. Wipe off the excess lube.
Some of you may store the motorcycle for more than a few months. In that case you may consider pulling the spark plugs and spray some upper-cylinder lubricant in the holes, then replace the plugs. This is really old-school technology.
When you have filled the gas tank, added the stabilizer, inflated the tires, finished with the oils and lubrications, and plugged in a battery tender, you should be just fine for the coming cold months. Do not go out into the garage and start the motorcycle for a few minutes and then not take it out for a ride. After you have done all the “storage” stuff, leave the motorcycle until you really are ready to ride. Starting it for a few minutes does it no good as a few minutes does not really warm up the engine and transmission and will add moisture to the exhaust system from unburned gas due to rich fuel mixture and a cold engine.
You can toss a dust cover the motorcycle so you can’t see it and be tempted to start it from time to time.
For now, go ride. There are probably six to eight weeks of decent riding weather before winter really sets in. Remember to layer your riding apparel. A heated jacket is a real treasure this time of year. Of course you have water proof boots and good stockings. Glove liners help in the cold and most BMW’s have heated grips. When you head out, your helmet face shield will be somewhat warm from being indoors. But as soon as you start to ride the outside of the shield gets cold which transfers to the inside quickly. Your warm breath will fog the helmet in minutes. There are anti-fog products on the market and some actually work to some degree. Keep in mind that on cold days, your tires take a long time to warm up, and the pavement is cold also. This means the adhesion of your tires is not nearly as good, and when cornering avoid the painted lines and man hole covers as these can be slippery. And you need hydration as much now as two months ago when it was 100 degrees.