Top tips for looking after your bike this winter

Author: Phil West Posted: 12 Jan 2016

We've put together this handy check list of tips to keep your motorcycle in prime condition especially if you're riding through the winter:

Lube the chain

If you don’t have a good, automatic chain oiler fitted, such as a Scottoiler, you must lube your chain regularly, at least weekly if being used. It’s also worth remembering to lube the chain AFTER riding rather than before which lets the lubricant get into all the gaps rather than being flung off straight away.

Lube your chain weekly if riding through the winter

Change the oil
Whether your bike’s going to be sitting or not, now’s a good time to change the oil. Dirty oil contains contaminates that can increase corrosion, leading to premature engine wear. Start by firing up the engine and let it run for several minutes to get everything up to operating temperature. Then, drain the old oil, and refill the engine with whatever viscosity is recommended by your owner’s manual. There’s no need for any special ‘winter’ blend or oil additive.

Drain and refill the engine with the recommended oil from the owner's maual

Check the anti-freeze

Modern, liquid-cooled machines depend on water in their radiators to keep cool which will freeze when temperatures fall below zero in wintertime. This can be avoided by adding anti-freeze but the complete system will need to be flushed through.

Look after your battery

Bike batteries get a tough time over the winter months as the lower temperatures slow the chemical reaction. To keep it charged needs a regular run or, if not possible and your garage has a power supply, try using a trickle charger to keep the battery in condition. It’s also worth tightening up the connectors on the terminals and keeping them covered in grease to keep moisture out.

Use a trickle charger if you can't ride regularly

Protect exposed surfaces

Obviously it’s important to keep exposed surfaces clean from the dangers of road salt and subsequent corrosion. The best way is regular cleaning but there are a variety of usually silicone-based, spray on products which can protect exposed surfaces, which is especially useful in awkward, out of the way places. Bear in mind, though, that many wash off easily so will have to be continually reapplied.

Grease the joints

Grease is still the best way of lubricating and protecting major joints and moving parts and also protecting exposed bolt threads. All should get a liberal coating before the onset of winter and regularly checked throughout the cold months.

Wash it – regularly

After every ride it’s vital that you wash your bike, and particularly the exposed underside, thoroughly with cold water. Don’t use hot – this dissolves the salt crystal and allows it to penetrate even further while cold water simply washes it away.

Keep an eye on your tyres

Your tyres need a good once over in time for winter. Not only can the colder temperatures reduce pressures it’s also more important that tread depth is good to cope with overly wet or slushy roads. One myth about tyres is that under-inflated tyres offer better grip in winter – they don’t and are dangerous.

Look after the brakes

Motorcycle brakes are particularly vulnerable in winter riding. Exposed calipers are vulnerable to road salt and can corrode easily so give them a good clean and check as often as possible. 

Adjust the suspension

It’s worth considering softening off your bike’s suspension settings, if possible, for winter riding. Firm suspension settings reduce grip in slippery conditions while with a slightly softer setting you’ll also be able to ‘feel’ road grip levels more accurately.

Also, if you’re not planning on riding…

Pick a good place to store it

Think carefully about where you store your bike – you don’t want people/kids brushing past it, knocking it or leaning their bikes against it in the garage.

Use paddock stands – if you can

If you have one (or two) paddock stands, use them to take the bike’s weight off its tyres. If not, move the bike slightly every week or so to put the weight onto different parts of the tyre.

Plug your pipes

Exhausts/silencers can start to corrode quite quickly when a bike is not being used so make sure they are properly protected for winter. Spray a light oil (such as WD40) into the ends and drain holes then lightly stuff a plastic bag (shopping bag is fine) into the end of each silencer to keep moisture from getting inside then cover each silencer with another plastic bag to keep moisture off.

Keep the moisture from your silencer with a couple of plastic bags

And lock it up!

If your bike’s not being used for a while, it’s vulnerable. Fit a good lock (preferably with a ground anchor) and, ideally, an immobilizer/alarm.

Any other tips you'd like to share?