The motorcycle is put away for the winter… or is it? The first couple of years that I rode I faithfully went through the steps to bundle up the bike for the cold weather: changing the oil, filling the tank with gas and adding a fuel stabilizer, plugging all the holes such as the exhaust to prevent moisture entering, putting the battery on a trickle charger. This isn’t just to protect the bike from cold weather, but more so to prepare for long-term storage. Moisture builds in bad places, gas goes bad, batteries discharge, and used oil act corrosively on the inside of the engine. To prevent all this you have to prep the bike.
But then there are inevitably a few warm days in the middle of the winter that would be perfect for riding, but I don’t want to get the bike out because I’d have to re-do all of the winterizing again. So a few winters ago I decided that instead of winterizing the bike I would treat it as if I were riding regularly. A regularly ridden bike doesn’t need to be prepped for storage, as a warm engine burns off any accumulated moisture, the battery is charged, and aging gas is used up. Admittedly those sunny riding days are few and far between during the winter, so when I can’t ride I go out to the garage and run the engine for twenty minutes every week or so. That’s probably not a perfect solution, but certainly better than letting the bike sit.
The better solution, of course, is to ride the bike. Admittedly this is a bit foolish when there’s snow or ice on the road, but for how many days during the winter is this actually the case?
An issue, of course, is the salt and sand that are spread on the roads for every storm. These can be incredibly dangerous in corners, so in addition to waiting for snow and ice to melt I also have to wait a few days longer for the salt and sand to clear. And just like with a car the salt is bad for the bike, so after a longish ride where salt has accumulated on the bike a trip to the car wash is in order.
The biggest obstacle, for some people at least, is the cold.
Here’s where a little preparation solves the problem. My bike, a BMW R1150RT, has good wind protection and heated grips. I know of some riders who have added a heated seat as well. I have an electrically heated jacket liner that does a great job, but some cold-blooded people might also want the electric pants, gloves, and socks that are available. A couple layers of clothing under my riding pants, some thick socks under my boots, and some layers (including the electric) under my jacket and I’m good to go. My head never gets cold – have you noticed that the Styrofoam liner in a helmet makes it insulated just like an ice chest? – but a scarf is a good idea when it gets below freezing. I’m pretty warm blooded, though, so don’t need to bundle up much in the cold.
I’ve ridden in temperatures as low as 20 degrees F, and was perfectly comfortable other than feeling a bit immobilized by the Michelin Man worthy layers. I suppose that I could go colder than that; perhaps I’ll give it a try this winter just to say so.
Update [2 January 2011]: I forgot to mention some amusing incidents from previous years:
I went out to the garage to run the motorcycle like I do every week or so. After running them for a few minutes I noticed a bunch of acorns on the floor that I hadn’t noticed before, so swept them outside. Then a couple minutes there were a few more. WTF!? Am I senile already? So I kicked those out the door too. Then I happened to be looking back as I revved up the BMW, and saw a shower of acorns flying through the air. Mice had filled the muffler with acorns!
Something similar had happened the year before when I had a bunch of dried corn stored in the garage to supplement the wood pellets in the pellet stove. When I took the bike in for service in the spring the mechanic told me that the airbox was filled with corn. Mice hoard winter food by hiding it in crevices and other tiny dark places, and the motorcycle had a bunch of places perfect for hiding winter supplies.
And finally, later in the spring when firing up the bike a mama mouse, with three or four babies hanging from her teats, dropped out of the bike and scurried off. The bike is just full of hiding places!