Guide to Putting your Bike Away for Winter
Winters in the UK are long, wet, and cold; not ideal conditions for humans and certainly not ideal for motorcycles. If you decide to take your bike off the roads until the worst of the weather has passed, winter motorcycle preparation is essential to make sure your bike survives the cold season in top condition and ready to get right back onto the road at the first sign of spring.
In the same way that you get ready for winter by swapping into a warmer wardrobe and adjusting central heating settings, as a motorcycle owner there are some steps that need to be taken to maintain your motorcycle through winter.
We’re here to talk through the most important things to consider when you’re preparing your motorcycle for winter storage.
Preparing your bike for winter storage
Choose the right storage place
The first thing to decide is where to store your motorcycle over winter. Outdoor motorcycle storage isn’t really an option when it’s cold and wet, so you’ll have to find a clean, dry place indoors that’s suitable.
If you have a garage that you keep your bike in year-round, this is an easy decision. It’s a little trickier if you normally keep your bike on a driveway or in your garden, but there are some options you can look into.
How to store a motorcycle without a garage
If you have one, a garden shed should do the job as long as it’s watertight and there’s enough room. Alternatively, you can use a motorcycle storage unit in a commercial storage facility or ask a friend or family member if you can make use of their garage.
Top up fuel and fluids
Before your bike goes into hibernation, you should take some time to make sure the fuel and fluids are prepared for their time off. Fuel and oil can cause problems when left to sit for long periods of time, which could hinder your return to riding if you don’t take steps to avoid them.
Firstly, top your fuel tank up fully. This might sound like a strange idea given that you’re not going to be using any for months, but any excess space in your fuel tank could develop moisture which can lead to internal rusting.
Secondly, make sure to clean your oil filter and change your oil before storing your bike. Motorcycle oil can build up gunk over time and leaving this to settle while you’re not using your bike might mean that you come back to clogged pipes.
Remove battery or trickle charge
Batteries don’t mix particularly well with the cold, especially when they’re left alone for months on end. Over time, your battery will drain, and you might end up returning to your motorcycle in spring to find the battery completely dead. However, there are a couple of ways you can prevent this from being an issue.
If you’d rather not take your battery out, you can use a trickle charger to keep your battery topped up while you’re away from it. Just make sure your battery is fully charged to begin with and you should come back to a bike with plenty of juice left in it come spring.
Alternatively, you can remove your battery altogether and store it in a safe place.
How to store a motorcycle battery for winter
If you decide to store your motorcycle battery separately to your motorcycle over winter, firstly disconnect and remove it.
Your motorcycle battery should be stored in a place cool enough to prolong its life but warm enough to prevent damage from the cold. Try to find a storage place that’s comfortably above 0°C but still cool.
Avoid placing it on metal surfaces, or any other heat-conductive material, instead finding a resting spot on a plastic or wooden surface which will help it to stay ventilated.
Before storing your motorcycle, you’ll also need to make sure that it’s clean and completely protected against rust, corrosion, and other damage.
Start by giving your bike a good clean just as you normally would, getting rid of any dirt, water spots, or other marks. Then thoroughly dry it, taking care to remove all of the moisture that’s left from the clean.
To give your motorcycle the best chance of staying rust-free over winter, once you’ve cleaned and dried it you can apply a coating to any exposed metal parts. Spray-on anti-corrosion protectors like WD-40 or GT85 should keep moisture and condensation from building up on your bike while you’re not using it.
Also make sure that you re-grease any moving parts that you’ve cleaned, such as cables and linkages, to keep them rust-free too.
Keep it off the ground
Now that you’re done with all the preparation work to keep your bike’s parts in good condition over winter, it’s time to think about how you’ll actually store it.
An important part of the storage process is keeping the weight of your bike off the tyres to avoid them significantly deflating over the months they’re not in use. Tyres are porous anyway, and cold weather will naturally affect tyre pressure, but you can avoid the worst of it by storing your bike in a paddock stand.
A paddock stand will keep your bike slightly suspended by the wheels, rather than all of the weight sitting on the tyres all winter.
If you don’t want to buy a paddock stand, a semi-effective workaround is to place a carpet or rug under your bike’s tyres. Just make sure you rotate the tyres every now and then so you don’t end up with flat spots where they’re touching the ground.
Lock it up, stuff holes, and cover
Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean that thieves stop operating. To keep your bike as protected as possible while it’s in the back of your mind, keep it locked up and alarmed while it’s in hibernation.
To further protect from damage and corrosion, it’s also a good idea to also stuff your exhausts with rags and use a durable motorcycle cover or sheet to keep it hidden. This will stop dust from building up on the body, keep any wildlife from making your exhaust a den, and prevent any paint fading issues from light coming in through nearby windows.
SORN and get laid up insurance
The final step in making sure you and your bike are ready for winter is to deal with the admin of sorting your tax and insurance.
If you’re not going to be riding at all for an extended period of time you can register your vehicle as being off the road. This is often called a SORN, or statutory off road notification, and it is essentially a notice to the DVLA that your bike won’t be used on the road for a period of time.
When you SORN your bike, you’ll get a refund for the remaining full months of road tax that you’d otherwise pay, but you will have to tax your bike and check it has a valid MOT before you ride again. You can SORN your motorcycle through the Government website using the V5C number in your vehicle log book.
If you’ve timed your motorbike insurance policy to expire before the winter season to save money, you can also consider getting laid-up insurance. This is essentially just fire and theft insurance for a motorcycle in storage, insuring your bike against damage and theft while you don’t have regular road insurance.
Just remember that when it comes time to ride your motorcycle again, you’ll have to arrange a motorcycle insurance policy to make you road-legal.
However, it can sometimes work out more cost-effective to stick to a full 12-month policy rather than paying for a short-term policy as well as laid up insurance in the off-season. You’ll just need to make sure that you inform your insurer of any changes to where the bike is stored.
Before you make a decision one way or the other, it’s a good idea to shop around and get quotes for laid up insurance as well as motorbike insurance so you can see what works best for you.