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Motorcycle Storage Tips

It happens for some of us yearly, some of us at random times - storing our bike for some amounts of time. The preparation done to the bike before it’s stored will determine how easily it is to bring the machine back to life at the end of the hiatus. There are as many different storage theories as bike makes, and each of those have different ways of handling things like ‘cold’ vs ‘heated’ storage and short term vs long term storage. To try to cover any case, I will break apart each bike system, then give recommendations for short term vs long term and cold vs heated. Make a checklist of what you did to store the bike, and keep it with the bike so that you don’t lose it.

The most problematic system on the bike when not stored properly, and therefore the first system, will be the fuel system.

You will want to fill up your fuel tank before any storage - cold, warm, short or long. This will help to prevent any condensation inside the tank that will cause rust, and ensure you're starting your storage with the freshest availble fuel. If you’re going to be storing the bike for a ‘long’ period of time, add a fuel stabilizer and run the bike long enough to make sure that the carburetor bowls (if applicable) have stabilized fuel in them, then shut off the fuel petcock. Drain bowls vs don’t drain bowls. Seals can shrink when left dry for a long period of time, but even stabilized fuel will evaporate. This one is a tough call - I don’t drain my fuel bowls. For any storage where the hassle doesn’t outweigh the benefit, cover the intake and exhaust to make sure critters don’t make a home there - smoked rats don’t smell too good. Cling wrap makes a good cover for the intake, rags for the exhaust - just don’t forget to remove them! To further prevent critter nesting, a drop or two of oil on the rag will make it undesirable as bedding material.

Electrical System - next most problematic. Batteries will lose their charge over time - even without any load on them. A battery can also freeze, causing the case to crack, and allowing acid to leak out all over the place. If you’re storing a bike in the cold, remove the battery and keep it somewhere warm, especially if you can't put it on a battery tender. Here are the freezing points of batteries: At 100% charge, a battery will freeze at -77F. At 75%, -35F. At 50%, -10F. At 25%, 5F. At 0% (totally discharged), 20F. In the olden day of batteries, you weren’t supposed to store them on concrete, but the modern casings don’t suffer the same problems, and a concrete floor won’t kill your battery. I store mine on a plastic shelf and in a plastic bin (think plastic dishpan) - so that if there is some leakage, the plastic isn’t affected by the acid (which I neutralize with baking soda). Remember - the battery can give off an explosive gas - keep that in mind when selecting a storage location! A battery tender will help a removed battery or a bike stored in warmth - the pulse charges that the tender provide prevent plate sulfation and extend the life of the battery. Keeping it charged also means it’s ready to go when you are! This is also a good time to check the electrolyte (also called water) level in your battery (if you have a serviceable battery), and add DISTILLED water to the cells to bring the level up to between the lines on the side of the battery case. Tap water or any other bottled water will introduce impurities and chemicals to your battery that will shorten it’s life. Never hurts to have some distilled water handy - if you’re not sure, check the water that gets put in the iron - it should be distilled too!

Oil. If you’re due an oil change, change it (and the filter)! The oil not only provides lubrication to the engine, it also traps combustion blowby which turns acidic when mixed with normal condensation. If left in the engine, this will attack bearings, and that’s bad. My rule of thumb is that if the bike’s halfway to it’s next oil change when it comes time for storage, it’s time to change the oil. There’s another sticky here to cover "which oil". For longer term storages, ‘fog’ the cylinders with a protective oil to prevent cylinder wall rust. There are commercially available products to do this with - you simply remove a spark plug and spray it inside. For shorter term storages, the engine oil that’s normally on the cylinder walls should be sufficient.

Don’t forget to check the coolant level if you’ve got a water cooled bike.

For longer storages, lube the cables. Should be part of the Preventive Maintenance anyways.

Painted parts / Chrome. For longer storages, give your bike a good wash and quality wax - you can wax the chrome too. Don't forget the frame! This will ensure it comes out of storage looking as good as it did when it went in!

Chain / Belt. If it’s time to service the chain or belt, do so before storage - this applies to long or short storage. For chains, a light coat of lightweight grease can help to keep it looking and working like new - just don’t forget to write that on your list so you remember to clean it up, and put something underneath it to catch any drips. For the belt drive bikes, a good wash of the belt to remove any road grime or oils will help it to keep pulling strong.

Clean the windshield if you’ve got one - with a plastic safe cleaner. Bugs and other grime start to destroy the windshield as soon as they’ve hit it, so this applies to long or short term storage.

Don’t forget to treat the leather and vinyl things - seats, bags, etc.

Set the air pressure in the tires - but do not apply a "tire shine" product. If your bike is stored out of direct sunlight, the chance of UV dryrotting is quite reduced, however, don’t forget to check both pressure and condition of the tire when you take the bike out of storage. Parking on wood planks might help to minimize the thermal transfer from the floor to the kickstand, but rubber is it's own insulator. If you have to park the bike outside, you will definitely want to park it on something solid so it doesn't fall over while hibernating.

This is the point where you put the cover on your bike, and begin longing for riding season to return. Breathable covers work best - they allow the bike to stay protected, while keeping dirt and dust from making it’s home there. They also help to prevent any rust causing condensation - and this applies to both cold and warm storage. Some of us may have to deal with "sweating" - caused by the metal of the bike being below the condensation point of the air surrounding it. You will see the sweat on the outside of the bike, but it will sweat (to a lesser degree due to less available moisture) inside things like fuel tank, carb bowls, forks, etc. I've dealt with this in the past by using a small fan to circulate air around the bike - it keeps the condensation evaporated and also helps to prevent it by keeping the bike the same temperature as the air.

If your bike has to live outside while stored, follow the tips here, paying special attention to the waxing (don’t forget the frame) parts, and at least put a tarp over the bike cover.

When riding season comes, pull out your checklist, check anything indicated there, put the battery back in if you took it out, double check the checklist, and you should be good to go!
__________________;) :)
 

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Thanks, Blaine!
 

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Blaine, this is a great summary. Thanks for sharing it with everyone. Living in Maine winterizing is mandatory as the weather limits my biking to April through Oct. I follow those guidelines you posted each year, although I have chosen the option of draining the carb bowls. One year I didn't drain them (an 06 EN 500) and even with a little Stabil added to the gas I had to have the carbs taken apart and cleaned before it would run again. Perhaps not enough Stabil used? By the way, we are still planning on coming up to PEI next summer for a bike ride around the area and hope to cross paths with you while there. We'll be in touch as time draws closer.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Blaine, this is a great summary. Thanks for sharing it with everyone. Living in Maine winterizing is mandatory as the weather limits my biking to April through Oct. I follow those guidelines you posted each year, although I have chosen the option of draining the carb bowls. One year I didn't drain them (an 06 EN 500) and even with a little Stabil added to the gas I had to have the carbs taken apart and cleaned before it would run again. Perhaps not enough Stabil used? By the way, we are still planning on coming up to PEI next summer for a bike ride around the area and hope to cross paths with you while there. We'll be in touch as time draws closer.
Thats sounds awesome.I have better luck with SeaFoam rather than Stabil.I never drain my carbs.......But whatever works best for you. ;) :)
 

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I too have converted from using Stabil to SeaFoam. And I also run the carb dry. Surprising little left over fuel seems to gum up mine. I use it in my 2 carb'd bikes and my lawn tractor. No problems since using the SeaFoam and running them dry... Now I have to look into the Grandson's Hayabusa. It's FI and I need a touch of guidance on how to do those.
 

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I too have converted from using Stabil to SeaFoam. And I also run the carb dry. Surprising little left over fuel seems to gum up mine. I use it in my 2 carb'd bikes and my lawn tractor. No problems since using the SeaFoam and running them dry... Now I have to look into the Grandson's Hayabusa. It's FI and I need a touch of guidance on how to do those.

I do the same fill the tank & add SeaFoam. :) ;)
 

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Start using Fuel Stabilizer in Sept

Hi, I think you covered everything great. Thank you. Just two thoughts from here. After the First of September, I put Stabilizer in with every fill-up. I never know for sure when the last ride will be and I want to make sure every nook and cranny has treated fuel. I store our two bikes in a shed. Each one has the battery left in it, with a Canadian Tire Solar charger hooked up to it. Charges all winter long and is ready to go in the spring. I have four small batteries and a Marine battery that I have on solar trickle charge and it has worked for the past 3 years. Hopefully won't have to put the bikes to bed till mid November. Papa Smrph
 

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I too have converted from using Stabil to SeaFoam. And I also run the carb dry. Surprising little left over fuel seems to gum up mine. I use it in my 2 carb'd bikes and my lawn tractor. No problems since using the SeaFoam and running them dry... Now I have to look into the Grandson's Hayabusa. It's FI and I need a touch of guidance on how to do those.
Same here. Seafoam seems to work really well. In the wintertime I always keep a bottle in my bike, since I might be riding on the weekends or a fluke warm day (warm enough to commute without tons of layers), or it might snow and I might be off the bike for 3 weeks. Either way, I fill every tank and top it off with seafoam so I don't have to worry about whether or not I did anything to the fuel when I last rode it!
 
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