10 Tricks to Protect Your Motorcycle During the Winter

American Motorcycle Trading Co. - November 17, 2021

With winter on its way, some riders are making plans to get in one last adventure and store their bikes for the season. True motorcycle enthusiasts know that the cold weather, and even the snow, don't have to stop them from hitting the open roads for months at a time.

 

If you're planning on continuing to ride through the cold winter months, you'll need to pay a little extra attention to safety, performance, and motorcycle maintenance. Read on to find 10 helpful tips and tricks that can help.

1. Use the Right Rubber

A motorcycle's tires are the only parts that make direct contact with the road, so they're a good place to start the winterization process. When roads can be wet, slippery, and cold, having the right tires on a bike can make all the difference.

 

You'll want to keep in mind that cold conditions can affect how well tires work. Your dedicated sports tires aren't going to cut it when the weather outside is frightful, so now is the time to make the switch to silica-based sports-touring tires. Keep your summer tires in storage so you can switch them out when the winter is over or you decide to sell your motorcycle.

 

Even if you already have winter or four-seasons tires on your bike, you'll still want to check them frequently. Make sure the tire pressure is well within the manufacturer's recommended limits and check the tread depth before each ride. Proper tire pressure and adequate tread depth can help to ensure that those winter tires can do their job and provide plenty of traction even on cold, wet days.

2. Protect Exposed Metal

Most municipalities in the United States spread salt or deicer on the roads to prevent ice from forming. Unfortunately, the same salt-based products that help to prevent ice and snow formation can also do a number on any exposed metal on your bike, causing corrosion and leaving rust spots on your beloved motorcycle.

 

Thankfully, there's a simple solution to preventing corrosion during the winter months. All you have to do is make sure that all your bike's exposed metal parts get treated with an anti-corrosion spray before the town begins to salt the roads.

 

Anti-corrosion products feature specialized formulas that can provide durable protection from even the harshest weather conditions for up to 12 months. If you treat your bike before winter hits, you'll be able to take advantage of full protection for exposed metal for the entire year.

3. Plan to Wash Your Bike After Every Ride

When you've just come home from your first winter ride, a hot shower will probably sound like the best thing in the world. However, you shouldn't let your desire to warm yourself up stop you from taking care of your bike first.

 

Even if you've applied an anti-corrosion spray, your bike will still wind up getting coated in road salt, dirt, and muck after pretty much every winter ride. Get into the habit early of thoroughly hosing it down with cold water before you retreat to the warmth of your house to rinse off all that salt. Hot water can dissolve the salt crystals, which will spread them and cause damage over time.

 

Some riders prefer to use pressure washers, but an ordinary garden hose will do just fine. You can rinse off your bike either in the garage or in the driveway, but make sure that you do it after every ride.

4. Stay Diligent About Pre-Ride Checks

Ideally, you should be checking to make sure that your signals and lights are in good working order before every ride. During those long summer days when the sun is shining and the open road is calling, many riders get out of the habit of checking their lights, though. In the winter, you can't afford to make that mistake.

 

When there's snow on the ground, most drivers don't expect to see motorcyclists out on the road and many of them become less cautious as a result. Your headlights and taillights may be the only thing that keeps you visible, especially at night.

 

As you perform your pre-ride check, make sure that your headlights, brake lights, high beams, and indicators are all working as intended, but don't stop there. You should also make a point of checking that all of your lights are clearly visible and your protective covers are clean.

 

Winter road grime can build up fast on these surfaces, dulling otherwise bright headlights. Cautious riders don't just wipe off their lights before each ride. They also carry bottles of cleaning solution and apply it at each stop to improve visibility.

5. Change or Top Off Fluids

In the past, motorcycle riders and car owners had to change their oil when the temperatures started to drop. Thankfully, modern advances in technology have eliminated that hassle. You should still check your oil level before each ride to make sure you're not running low, though, and top it off as needed.

 

While you're checking your fluids, make sure your radiator reservoir is topped off with antifreeze, not water. Some riders use more diluted mixtures in the summer, but that can cause huge issues when the temperatures drop below freezing. Topping off your coolant with a high-quality antifreeze and testing it to make sure you've got the right ratio will protect your bike's most vital components no matter how low the temperatures drop.

6. Give Your Battery Some Extra Love

Motorcycle batteries, like car batteries, lose their charge naturally over time, and cold winter temperatures can accelerate the process. Letting your battery get drawn down too much is never a good idea, but it can lead to even more disastrous results when the temperatures drop below zero. The less of a charge you keep on your battery, the more likely it is to die when you need it most.

 

To complicate matters further, most riders don't go out for long pleasure trips during the winter like they do in the summer months. As a result, their batteries have fewer opportunities to get a good charge.

 

The best way to avoid killing a battery and having to buy a new one is to hook it up to a trickle charger in your garage. If you don't plan on riding your motorcycle every day, plan to charge the battery regularly instead.

7. Clean and Lubricate Your Chain Regularly

You should be cleaning your chain regularly all year, but in the colder months, it's especially important that you not forget this essential maintenance step. Like exposed metal on your bike's frame, its chain can wind up sustaining some serious damage from road salt if you don't clear it out after each ride.

 

If your bike's chain is left unprotected and covered in road grime, rust and corrosion will set in rapidly. Just rinsing off the bike after each ride isn't enough to prevent this problem, either. You should also be using drivetrain cleaner and a chain brush to remove lingering road salt and grime every 300 miles or so and reapplying all-weather chain lube after each deep cleaning.

8. Store Your Bike Inside if Possible

Obviously, you won't be able to keep your bike protected from the elements at all times if you plan on riding it through the winter. That said, storing it indoors in a garage, a shed, or even a hallway, can make a big difference when it comes to preventing problems with a bike's battery and cooling system. Storing a bike indoors can also keep moving parts from seizing up, which can create a huge headache for you if you use your bike to commute to work throughout the year.

 

If you don't have access to a garage or a permanent shed, you still have options for protecting your bike when it's not in use. Think about putting up a small, temporary pop-up shed at the end of the driveway or invest in a high-quality motorcycle cover to protect the bike from the worst of the inclement weather.

9. Invest in Hand-Warmer Grips

Protecting your bike during the winter months isn't just about making sure the cold weather and road salt, themselves, don't cause any damage. You'll also want to maximize your own comfort so that you can subsequently minimize the chances of crashing and damaging your bike.

 

Even if you have high-performance winter riding gloves, you'll likely find that your fingers still get cold and your response times suffer during the winter. Installing after-market hand-warmer grips that can be fitted onto your bike's standard grips can make a huge difference when it comes to rider comfort and safety. Just keep in mind that hand-warmer grips draw power from the battery, so you'll need to be extra careful about keeping it topped off with a trickle charger.

10. Know When to Call It Quits

If you head out for even your first winter ride and feel like your bike is struggling, rethink your transportation strategy. You're better off storing your bike for the winter, or even selling it and buying a new one in the spring, than causing it potentially serious damage by putting it through road conditions it simply isn't equipped to handle.

Enjoy Riding Year-Round

Winter riding isn't for everyone. However, serious motorcycle enthusiasts don't have to resign themselves to storing their bikes and waiting until spring to head back out on the open roads. If they have high-quality bikes with winter tires, all they'll need to do is follow the tips above to protect their motorcycles from salt, freezing temperatures, and other winter hazards.

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