28 Oct 15

Prepare your bike for winter and win the cold war

You’ll be able to feel it; a couple of degrees lower when you’re riding home one night and you’ll know that winter’s not too far away.

We’ve got a few tips for you to help fight off the elements if you plan to ride over the winter months. Even if you tuck your beloved wheels away there are steps to take – much more than throwing a cover over it – that will ensure your bike gets through the dark days of a winter onslaught.

First and most important is the battery.  It can have a tough time generating current as low temperatures will slow down the chemical reaction. Dark cold nights are a constant drain – especially if your bike has an alarm fitted, heated grips and heated clothing accessories plugged into it.

Charging the battery overnight is ideal, but we don’t all have a nice warm garage. Next best thing is to periodically charge (at weekends if you can) to keep it fresh. Use a good quality optimizer with a quick-connect adapter so you’re not forever taking the seat on and off!

It’s also helpful to apply a spot of grease or Vaseline to the terminals, making sure they are tight.

The chain is probably the most neglected part of a bike and a harsh winter will finish it off.  If you’ve fitted an automatic chain oiler to the bike, it’s a good idea to turn up the flow an extra click.

If you just use chain lube, make sure you apply it weekly – remember, little and often is the rule and it should be applied immediately after riding, not before. This allows the lubricant settle and set into the gaps, rather than throwing it all off as you ride away.

Salt is a killer. It’s enemy number one.

If the bike has no protection, get it off quick. A bucket of water and a sponge is better than nothing, but salt corrosion is best dealt with by putting up a defensive barrier.  There are various spray-on products available and the water-based sprays are usually the best. Make sure you cover all the hard to reach places on your bike leaving a protective film on all surfaces. Always re-apply after washing to defend your bike from attack.

An oil and filter change is a must as the engine has to start from much colder temperatures and takes longer to warm-up. Remember, oil is the life blood of your machine, a change before winter means longer life.

Grease all moving parts to avoid seizure. It’s a good idea to spend some time doing this as any seized parts will take much longer to free than a simple removal, grease and refit process now. Brake and clutch levers, chain adjusters, gear lever tie rods and – if you have a stand – take out the wheel spindles and grease them up too. It’s worth leaving a smear on any bare threads or unprotected wheel nuts for added protection.

Make sure your tyres are in good shape and the pressures are correct, if they’re showing wear close the wear markers then change them. Cold, damp tarmac is unforgiving, so don’t leave it to chance.

Last, but not least – Anti Freeze.

You need proper coolant; water will freeze and crack your radiator. Even worse, it can crack an engine. If you suspect that the bike has only water in the system – normally it should be a dark green or blue colour – then change it right away.

It’s a simple task to drain and refill the system, but remember to bleed the system when refilling to prevent airlocks, which can cause overheating.

If you’re taking your bike off the road during the winter some of the above also apply. Keep your battery charged, lubricate your chain, wash and coat your bike with a good quality corrosion protector (a good ‘misting’ with WD40 will suffice) and find a good quality cover if you don’t have a garage. Start and warm up the bike gently from time to time. Some may advise an oil change before cold storage and that’s fine, but a change after winter is best as new oil will only sit and accumulate moisture during winter.

Winter is not a bike’s best friend so if you take the right precautions now, come the Springtime, when the battle against the elements is won, your bike won’t look like it’s been through a warzone.

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