Tips for Storing Your Motorcycle Under a Cover

When a motorcycle is left uncovered, it doesn’t take long for the outdoor elements to affect its main components. While age can play a factor – newer models are designed to handle UV rays, moisture and cold better – any bike left outside can succumb to corrosion, cracked seals and rusted bolts.

To avoid these issues, you need to keep your ride covered. Experts recommend storage in your garage or another climate-controlled shelter, but what if these options aren’t available to you? Consider a motorcycle cover that’s designed to breathe, keep out moisture and shelter the bike from inclement weather conditions.

Finding the Right Cover

two covered motorcyclesNot all motorcycle covers are created equal. You may come across canvas, medium and heavy-duty polyethylene, and vinyl varieties. The goal is to find a sturdy material that offers UV and moisture-resistance but still provides a degree of breathability to prevent water droplets from getting locked in.

For long-term storage, you’ll want to look for waterproof, puncture-resistant materials that offer venting and include a soft fabric liner to lessen scratches to the finish.

Avoid selecting a light fabric motorcycle cover. These can blow off and tear easily after long-term exposure to the elements and won’t provide the degree of protection your bike needs.

Clean Your Bike

Dirt and debris can do more than dull your motorcycle’s finish. Long term, these particles can accelerate rusting and cause the metal to develop a pitted appearance. With this in mind, thoroughly wash off your motorcycle before covering it for long-term storage.

As moisture can also contribute to corrosion, let the bike fully dry. If you’re winterizing for the season, go through the usual steps of lubing components and replacing fuel and fluids. Focus on the essential parts for operation that can rust quickly when exposed to moisture.
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Tips for Cleaning & Disinfecting Your Motorcycle

Whether it’s your car, truck or motorcycle, all vehicles need to be washed regularly. Debris and dirt can tarnish its appearance, while corrosive substances like road salt can cause metal parts to rust. As such, washing your motorcycle is an essential maintenance task.

Yet, a motorcycle cannot be taken through the car wash like a passenger vehicle, as its exposed components are too delicate for a high stream of water. Failing to wash or using high-pressure water could affect your bike’s structural and operational components.

To keep your motorcycle clean and ready for your next ride, get started with these 6 tips.

1. Have All Your Supplies

polishing motorcycle wheelAlong with water, it’s recommended you have multiple cleaning tools on-hand. Sponges are ideal for removing dirt without scratching paint, brushes are crucial for the fine components, and flannel or microfiber are gentle enough to dry off the bike. Also have a separate cloth for removing any debris on the vehicle before you finish with a detailing product.

At most dealerships, you can purchase specific cleaning and soap items that also help eliminate scratches. If you have an older bike with chains, you will need to apply a specific type of lubricant. Be sure to avoid the detergent you would use on your car and never use dish soap to wash a bike.

As the final step, you’ll need to replace the lube that was cleaned off, especially on the chain. Have some additional lube ready for application once the bike has fully dried.

2. Avoid These Techniques

As we mentioned above, high-pressure hoses are out of the question when washing your motorcycle. In addition to avoiding the car wash, don’t use a pressure washer on your bike, even on the lowest setting. Instead, carefully wash all parts with a bucket of water.

Washing should be avoided on hot days, when your motorcycle has been in direct sunlight, or if the engine is still hot. These factors can cause the soap to dry quicker and stick to the bike’s components, requiring you to work harder.

3. Preparing Your Motorcycle

Before using water and cleaner, it’s a good idea to check all electrical connections and cover or plug the exhaust pipe to prevent moisture from entering the exhaust system. If you have bags or other accessories attached to your vehicle, remove them for easier access to all the bike’s surfaces.
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How to Care For Your Motorcycle Tires

Motorcycle tires literally set the pace for your ride, in terms of handling and performance. When tires show significant signs of wear, your bike may feel drastically different, which could increase the chance you’ll lose control. Whether you perform motorcycle maintenance yourself or have a trusted mechanic, here’s what you should know about taking care of your bike’s tires.

Regularly Check the Pressure

man checking tire pressureBefore taking a ride, use a tire gauge to check the front and back pressure, which is measured in pounds per square inch (PSI). If you’re unsure about the recommended PSI, check your owner’s manual.

It’s important to ensure both tires are properly inflated. Multiple factors can affect pressure, including how long you’ve been riding on the tires and current weather conditions.

If the pressure is low, you’ll need to pump both tires with compressed air to reach the desired PSI. If the tires are over-inflated – often a result of warmer weather or the load you’re carrying – bleed them via the Schrader valve.

As a note, some dealers use nitrogen instead of air, which makes the tires run cooler.

When you return home, give both tires a thorough once-over to check for nails or glass shards embedded in the rubber, cracked material, tread separation, bubbling or bulging. These factors not only affect tire pressure but also increase your risk of a blowout.

If you test the pressure after riding for a few hours and notice it has slightly increased, you may need to reduce your bike load or travel at slower speeds.

Check the Treads

Worn treads are a telltale sign your tires are on their last legs and will no longer effectively handle slippery or rough conditions. Get in the habit of checking your tire treads every time you go out for a ride.
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Why Replace Your Motorcycle’s Fluids Before Spring?

You followed the proper winterization steps, including gas and fluid replacement, before placing your motorcycle in a secure, climate-controlled storage location. After periodic checks throughout the season, you assume the bike is good to go come springtime.

Unfortunately, fluids can break down even when you’re not riding. While your motorcycle is in far better shape than letting old fuel sit in the tank, it’s not quite ready to ride. To make sure your bike is completely road ready, learn why you should replace the fluids first.

Drain the Gas Tank

woman inspecting motorcycleCome springtime, you have a few tasks to complete before your motorcycle is ready to ride:

  • Examine the fuel and drain the tank, especially if it has a brown, gritty texture.
  • Refill the gas tank. Add fresh fuel along with a fuel stabilizer to move any stale gas through the system and prevent clogs or misfiring.

Oil Breaks Down

Oil may attract condensation during winter and has been known to separate when your bike is not in use. For these reasons, it’s a good idea to check your oil for condensation before you ride, then change the oil and filter. Otherwise, you risk damage.
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How Oil Quality Affects Your Motorcycle

Lubricating your motorcycle seems like a straightforward task, but everyone has their preferred method. You may use conventional solutions, while another rider uses synthetics.

Bike lubrication is not one-size-fits all. There’s a range of oils are available, but riders have to be careful about solutions that may negatively affect the bike’s overall performance.

Start with the Basics

riding on a sunny dayFor modern-day bikes, oil has many essential functions, including:

  • Reducing friction and wear between moving parts
  • Working as a coolant
  • Gathering debris to deposit into the oil filter
  • Identifying and neutralizing acids and moisture created through combustion
  • Protecting against oxidation

Oil has evolved with bike design. Earlier models did not circulate oil; it passed through the engine and was eventually discharged onto the ground. Today, engines recirculate the oil and need filtration systems to catch and remove any dirt and buildup.

In this setup, the detergents essentially suspend the foreign particles until they’re captured by the filter. Unless you’re riding a vintage model, your bike has a filter and will need a detergent oil.

With these points in mind, run synthetic oil through your bike that has additive in the final formulation to improve corrosion resistance. This solution:

  • Offers better oxidative stability, or resistance to chemical breakdown
  • Resists heat better
  • Keeps its viscosity without thinning out, yet offers a dependable pour point

If you are unsure, it’s always a good idea to use the oil recommended in the owner’s manual. More advanced riders should look out for consistency between API, ILSAC and JASCO classification and viscosity.
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How Bad Is Rust for Your Motorcycle?

For many riders, their motorcycle is their most prized possession. As such, the last thing you want to see is rust on your bike. Rust forms when the vehicle’s steel components are exposed to a mixture of moisture and oxygen. Cold Northeastern winters and road salt can also speed up the process.

In addition to these factors, inefficient maintenance often creates a straightforward path for rust to attack metal. As you get ready to put your motorcycle away for the winter, consider the following points to avoid dealing with rust once spring arrives.

Rust in the Gas Tank

waxing red motorcycleThere’s a reason nearly every winterization guide recommends filling your gas tank before putting your bike in storage. If the tank is not kept full, condensation occurs. When moisture gets trapped inside, the metal interior begins to rust.

Ethanol gas, more corrosive than pure gasoline, also affects the metal in your tank after a certain point and is not recommended for long-term storage. As one common method, blend fuel additives or stabilizers into the ethanol to stave off potential corrosion in storage.

What could happen to your bike if the gas tank starts to rust?

  • A rusted gas tank decreases the bike’s value – an issue if you plan to sell in the future.
  • Rust affects how well the fuel flows through your motorcycle.
  • Clogged filters and fuel lines, resulting in pressure buildup.
  • Rust can start to circulate inside the engine, which impacts the amount of air mixing with fuel.
  • If your bike’s tank is rusted beyond repair, finding a replacement tank isn’t always easy.

Poor Motorcycle Maintenance

Beyond key components like the chain and tank, rust can eat away at other motorcycle parts, which will then need to be replaced.

To combat this, regularly clean off your motorcycle, washing off dirt, debris and grease, as well as waxing and protecting the surface. Rather than hosing everything down, use a nylon- or soft-bristled brush to loosen up any debris. While doing this, check all parts for signs of rusting.
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How Cold Weather Affects Your Motorcycle

Certain habits lengthen the life cycle of your motorcycle, while others can truncate it. Leaving your bike outside, uncovered all year long falls into the shortening category. Especially when temperatures plunge, snow and salt could take a toll on your prized possession. By spring, your motorcycle could be rusted and the engine gummed up with old oil. What else can happen if you forget winterization?

Decreased Tire Pressure

checking motorcycle tire pressure All vehicles run this risk. For every 10-degree drop in temperature, tire pressure drops roughly one to two PSI. Once spring arrives, your bike’s tires may be down at least six pounds. If you kept the tires directly on the ground instead of elevated, they could also be sporting a few flat, uneven spots.

It’s unsafe to ride on underinflated tires. While overinflated tires can blow out, below PSI:

  • Can’t always support the load you need to carry
  • Feel sluggish, which can affect your steering
  • Have lesser ground clearance
  • Might separate from the rim
  • Have to flex more, which causes a greater amount of internal damage
  • Will start to experience uneven tread wear and fail sooner

Rusting

When your bike is left unprotected outdoors, it’s only a matter of time before its exterior and metal parts to rust. Moisture is all it takes, whether it accumulates on the exterior or builds up inside the fuel tank. Leaving snow to pile up, while passing cars spray salt and slush from the street, accelerates this process. In turn, rust may eat away at the exhaust pipes, forks and wheel spokes before the season is over.

To combat these effects:

  • Keep your motorcycle indoors all year long, ideally in a climate-controlled area.
  • Fully wash it off and replace all fluids before placing it in storage.
  • Wax the exterior before you put it away to reduce corrosion.
  • Consider spraying the pipes with WD-40 to repel condensation and stuff them with a clean rag to prevent moisture and keep pests from building nests inside.

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Replacing Your Bike’s Fluids Prior to Storage

Although you may store your motorcycle in the garage for a week at a time when not in use, winterizing is a completely different process. When winter arrives in New England, your bike will be stored in a climate-controlled space for at least three months. Inactivity, moisture and pests can all damage your bike and by spring, what seemed fine in November may be covered in rust.

There are several factors to address as you winterize your motorcycle, but fuel degradation and oxidation need to be high on your list. Specifically, never keep old oil, fluids and gas for several months at a time. The solution will continue to degrade, gum up and separate, inviting corrosion in the process. In defense, flush out and replenish your bike’s fluids with the following factors in mind.

Limits of Ethanol-Based Fuel

checking motorcycle fluid levelsEthanol, found in gasoline, poses a few drawbacks for long-term motorcycle storage:

  • It absorbs water with time
  • The solution starts to separate
  • Thick deposits accumulate on components of the internal fuel system

Over three or more months, old fuel causes parts to fail and may rust metal surfaces. In more extreme instances, the rust progresses to the carburetor and rubber parts may start to break down and crack.

On the other hand, an empty tank is not much better. Moisture can still build up inside, leading to rust and dried out seals. For these reasons, any gas and water currently in your motorcycle should be flushed out and replaced with fresh fuel and a stabilizer. Keep your tank fresh with the following options:

  • Filling it with pure gasoline: It can be hard to find, but this ethanol-free option will protect a bike in storage for months.
  • Add a fuel stabilizer: Even pure gasoline breaks down, causing varnish deposits to form in your tank. Before filling up your tank, mix a fuel conditioner in with ethanol-based gasoline to lubricate and protect the motorcycle’s internal parts.

Carburetors Cause Fuel to Evaporate

Carburetors mix air and fuel for efficient combustion. They release directly into the atmosphere, so any fuel left in your motorcycle will evaporate and leave thick deposits. This buildup prevents fuel from flowing through your bike the next time you go for a ride.

To prevent this, run a fuel treatment through its system to remove any buildup and contaminants, before you switch the petcock to “off” and drain the carburetor. From here, add fresh fuel with a stabilizer to your tank. Deposits may start to form, so be prepared to flush it again in the spring.
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Tips to Winterize Your Motorcycle

For those of us in Connecticut, the early fall means more time to ride. However, as the days get colder and the calendar approaches December, you’ve got to think about winterizing your motorcycle. While you might be tempted to park it in the garage or throw a tarp over it, how you store the bike now directly influences its quality and rideability come springtime. Ultimately, a lack of preparation could mean a rusted, gummy bike with lumpy tires.

So, where should you begin?

When to Store?

man performing maintenance repairs on his motorcycleAlthough there’s no set timeline, those in the Northeast often retire their bike toward the end of October or whenever the temperatures turn noticeably cooler. On the other hand, some people extend it until there’s no more sun. Through a combination of these factors, your bike should be prepared and covered before the season’s first snowfall.

Pick a Location

Never leave a motorcycle bike outdoors, exposed to the elements. On a basic level, keep it covered with a secure tarp or in a portable garage. In either instance, the polyethylene material prevents water from building up and rusting the exterior and blocks UV damage. However, make sure the cover doesn’t completely seal off the bike. Otherwise, moisture trapped inside could result in mold, mildew and corrosion. Even inside your garage, a cover prevents dust from accumulating on your bike’s surface.

In an ideal situation, the garage should be a temperature-controlled spot – one that doesn’t get too cold nor too warm. No matter how you monitor the temperature, be wary of condensation and freezing. Condensation invites rust and can damage the tank, while freezing temperatures can result in cracked parts and rodents nesting in your bike.

Make a Maintenance Checklist

So your motorcycle remains in good condition during its time in storage, be sure to have the following done ahead of time:
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5 Winter Motorcycle Storage Mistakes to Avoid

In New England, the start of winter marks the end of motorcycle season for many riders. When there is snow and ice on the ground, commuting on two wheels can become even more dangerous. While most motorcyclists are reluctant to store their bikes away for the season, it’s important to take the necessary steps for proper storage.

We list five winter motorcycle storage mistakes to avoid.

1. Storing the Bike Dirty

storage garage Throughout the motorcycle season, our bikes see a lot of wear and tear. Sometimes you cannot avoid hitting that pile of mud and, before you know it, your motorcycle could use a good wash. When winter rolls around, it’s especially important to clean all debris from your bike prior to storing it away to prevent paint corrosion and rust.

2. Neglecting to Change the Oil

You may not think about it, but what happens to your bike’s oil when it’s not in use? The oil becomes stagnant – unmoving – and can cause problems when you rev the engine come springtime. To keep it from deteriorating over several months in storage, drain the old oil and add fuel stabilizer to the new.

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