If you live in a country where cold, snowy winters occur, with some preparation and good gear there’s not much stopping you from riding all winter long. If you do plan to keep riding your motorcycle in cold weather, the following tips and preparations will keep you and your motorcycle in tip-top condition.
With each winter and ever-changing conditions global warming seems to create, many riders are opting to keep the motorcycle running and riding. With the use of heated motorcycle gear outside of a few days or weeks it works out for many riders now to simply opt out of winter storage. Preparing your motorcycle for riding in colder temperatures is not only worth it but will protect your motorcycle’s life and ensure it performs well for you on colder air/road surfaces.
In true winter climates, salt trucks, at first hint of a freeze scatter rock salt over every travelled road surface possible. Salt and low temperatures cause condensation and allow moisture to hang around. This is a perfect recipe for corrosion when riding your motorcycle in cold weather to your bike’s vulnerable parts.
Your motorcycle will be constantly under attack from winter’s elements and what you need to do is fight back! With a bit of care, attention, and preparedness it is possible to protect your motorbike from these wintry enemies. And watch our for the promises of “miracle” protestant and “plastic” sprays with the claim of providing winterising protection to your motorcycle. And those “plastic” sprays are actually difficult to remove; leaving your motorcycle all tacky. The only real answer is – thoughtful preparation.
Pre Season Service
Just as in caring for your auto, take your motorcycle in for a pre-winter service. Make sure your favourite dealer performs all standard winter preparations. If not there a few basics to check out—the most important being your coolant. Your antifreeze property can be checked with a hydrometer—what’s that?
A hydrometer is an instrument used for determining the specific gravity of liquids. It is usually made of glass and consists of a cylindrical stem and a bulb weighted with mercury or shot to make it float upright. The liquid is poured into a tall jar, and the hydrometer is gently lowered into the liquid until it floats freely. The point where the surface of the liquid touches the stem of the hydrometer is noted. Hydrometers usually contain a paper scale inside the stem, so that the specific gravity or density relative to water can be read directly in grams per cubic centimetre (*source Wikipedia) Or real simple is simply to drain the radiator and refill it.
- Sprockets and chains are always under attack from water, salt, and grit requiring frequent (almost daily) lubrication and occasional cleaning.
- Motor Oil runs thicker and slower in the cold so it’s imperative you use the right grade so this might mean a change from what you’ve run during the warmer season’s.
An oil and filter change is a must.
- Warm engine. Before your ride off, unlike in warmer season, your bike will need time to ensure the engine is warm. This also ensures the fluids are running warmly through your motorcycle ensuring performance and engine life.
Post Ride Clean Up
There are two approaches to keeping corrosion at bay:
- Wash/rinse your bike after each ride, or
- Apply a layer of protective material such as grease and then clean often.
When I lived in the Caribbean, the salt air quickly eroded engine surfaces and most anything for that fact. I made it a practise to spray everything down with WD40, daily. Of course all except tires, seat, foot pegs and handlebars/grips. This did the trick against the sea salt corrosion. If your motorcycle is greased down well after washing—chain lube etc., (Note: you can wash it all off with paraffin in the spring if needed; using WD40 will not require a paraffin wash). If you go for regular cleaning, invest in a cheap jet washer; a rider’s best friend for keeping your favourite passion sparkle clean. A portable power or jet washer gets all the salt off the bike. Note also that after the rinse cycle, tip your motorcycle by leaning it with control, slightly to the left and right as far as you can manage to drain off any excess water sitting in engine block crevices.
Basic Care for Riding Your Motorcycle In Cold Weather
1: Wrap it up – Your front fork slider (lower part of conventional telescopic forks) takes abuse no matter the season. But in winter riding tons of road grit and salt batter your forks. The solution “Window Insulation” shrink-wrap /film. Use it to cover at least the front of the slider.
2: Grease it with WD40 – Take a spray can of WD40 or similar and coat hidden areas of the bike. Places like underneath fairings, the conventional forks, top of fork legs, over the engine, etc. These areas are highly corrosive and need to be protected.
3: Battery – Sealed batteries need little to none when it comes to maintenance especially if you’re regularly riding. However, if you start into the winter season with a battery which is weak, best to replace it. Colder weather will expose any battery deficiencies —most commonly old age. Furthermore, low weather temps affect its strength causing you to turn the engine over for longer periods before it starts —if it starts. For standard style batteries, be sure to top up levels and apply Vaseline to terminal. For parked days, if you can keep your battery on a tender.
4: Lube and Lube Some More! With more MOISTURE in the air, corrosion can also attack switchgear and electrical connections. These need lubing. Undo the screws holding the switch gear together and squirt around with WD40. Do the same to all electrical connections. Pay special attention to those exposed such as brake lights, side stand cut outs, etc.
5: Lighting. With the daylight hours shortened, it’s a good idea to consider upgrading your lighting to give it more brightness. Seeing and being seen is ever more important this time of year. Try installing a higher performance bulb. These offer nearly 50% more light. You can instal high intensity discharge kits yet they can be pricey.
6: Grease. Dabs of good old-fashioned grease will keep bolt heads grout free but can get messy. Try this instead; simply replace cadmium (Cadmium is a soft, malleable, ductile, toxic, bluish-white bivalent metal. It is similar in many respects to zinc but reacts to form more complex compounds-used largely in batteries and pigments, such as in plastic products) plated fasteners with stainless steel equivalents. Engine and fairing fasteners replacements will cost you but a few dollars, but certainly worth the investment. If you apply copper grease to the tips as you spin them in, they’ll never seize.
7: Motorcycle Brake Systems are vulnerable as well to road sludge when riding your motorcycle in cold weather. The pins that keep the pads and exposed areas of the pistons. These need to be greased—sparingly using copper grease or special brake grease. Wash them regularly with a toothbrush and soapy water and follow it by a blast from an aerosol brake cleaner and grease. They’ll stay in “stopping good” condition.
8: Mudguard for the front tire. These extenders will help stop radiators and oil-coolers getting coated and filled with road gunk. Huggers for the rear also stop the bike from getting coated by splash ups from the rear tire.
9: Importance of a Motorcycle Cover. If you have no choice but to leave your motorcycle outside, a proper MOTORCYCLE COVER is a must. But just because it’s covered, moist air will still find its way in – including salt if you’re parked on a busy street. Keep the bike coated with a water-repellent spray—WD40. Remember as well to put your cover over a dry bike. If not you’ll just be covering and locking in the moisture already present which will cause corrosion.
10: Exhaust systems – are the most difficult to protect. Not a good idea to use plastic coating grease because these will just melt on the pipe creating a nightmare cleaning session in the spring. All you can do is wash it after each ride and try if you can to replace stainless steel bits with mild steel components.
11: Rear suspension – needs a check and greasing of linkages. Best way to do so is with a grease gun or long reaching brush and be sure to smear the grease around the pivot points. While you’re at it do the foot pegs, centre and side stands.
12: Tires. In winter, or colder weather, sticky sport or soft compound tires, contrary to popular belief, seldom get up to working temperature. Touring / street sport tires are heavier construction and will generate more internal heat. They’ll give you added dry grip and perform better in the wet, plus they’ll last longer. And today, you will find manufacturers who do produce winter tires!
Note: Your mechanic may not be practised or familiar with winterising a motorcycle or scooter for road. As a backup, bring along your own checklist to leave with your mechanic. Referencing the checkpoints in this article.