How to prepare your bike for winter
Parts & accessories
29 November 2006 16:54
Make an early start
Winter roads gritting and low temperatures that cause condensation and allow moisture to hang around is a perfect recipe for corrosion. Your bike will constantly be under attack from the elements – unless you mothball it for winter. But that’s too dull to contemplate, so instead fight back. With a little preparation, it’s possible to protect your machine from the ravages of the late season and continue to enjoy riding.
There are many preparatory wonder-sprays on the market, claiming to ‘winterise’ a bike, and some work – to an extent. But steer clear of ‘plastic’ sprays, as they can be difficult to remove and leave the bike tatty. The only real answer is thoughtful preparation, starting now, combined with occasional elbow grease.
If your bike is due a pre-winter service, make sure your dealer performs any winter preparation tasks you want. If not, there are a few basics to check out, the most important being your coolant. Its anti-freeze property can be checked with a hydrometer. Or, if you’ve no record of the coolant being replaced in the past few years, drain and replace it.
Chain and sprockets are constantly under attack from rain and grit, so need frequent lubing and occasional cleaning. Perhaps that £60 for an automatic chain-lubing system would be money well spent. Also, oil runs thicker and slower in the cold, so it’s imperative it is of the right grade, at the correct level, in good condition, and that you thoroughly warm the engine before you ride.
There are two approaches to keeping corrosion at bay – wash your bike after each ride, or apply a layer of protective material such as grease, and cleaning frequently. For method one, slap grease or chain lube over exposed surfaces, wash off with paraffin in spring – and be prepared for your bike to look temporarily like a shed. If you go for regular cleaning, it pays to invest in a cheap jet-washer. Get all the salt off the bike, then, after you’ve rinsed it, tip it over left and right as far as it’ll go to drain off any excess water.
1. The front of the fork slider (the lower, outer part on conventional telescopic forks) gets a hard time what ever the season, but with tons of road grit around they can take a right bruising. The answer is to get busy with some clear plastic all-weather tape (under a fiver at builder’s merchants) and use it to cover at least the front of the slider. nswer is to get busy with some clear plastic all-weather tape (under a fiver at builder’s merchants) and use it to cover at least the front of the slider.
2. Take a can of oily water-repellent spray (WD40, Rockeze, Duck Oil or similar) and have a good spray around hidden areas of the bike, especially under fairings. On conventional forks, the top of the fork legs just below the yokes is prone to rusting and with upside-down forks expect corrosion if you don’t keep this area protected.
3. Colder weather will expose any battery deficiencies – usually old age. Lower temperatures affect its strength and it’s likely it will have to crank the engine for longer before it starts. Sealed batteries require no maintenance, so if it’s weaaaak, replace it. Old-style acid batteries should be topped up and Vaseline applied to the terminals. batteries require no maintenance, so if it’s weaaaak, replace it. Old-style acid batteries should be topped up and Vaseline applied to the terminals.
4. With more moisture in the air, corrosion can attack switchgear and electrical connections, so lube them up. Undo the screws holding switchgear together, have a good squirt around with WD40 and do the same to all electrical connections – especially exposed connectors and switches (eg for brake lights and sidestand cut-out). and do the same to all electrical connections – especially exposed connectors and switches (eg for brake lights and sidestand cut-out).
5. With nights drawing in, it’s time to consider uprating your lighting to give it more poke. The ultimate badger-blinders are High Intensity Discharge (HID) kits, but they’re expensive at £220. There are also, however, plenty of performance bulbs around offering around 50% more light for £12 upwards.
6. A dab of grease will keep bolt heads grot-free, but it can get messy. An alternative for those who ride year-round is to replace cadmium-plated fasteners with stainless steel equivalents. A complete set of stainless engine and fairing fasteners will cost around £80. Apply copper grease to each as you replace them and they’ll never, ever seize.
7. Brake systems are vulnerable to road sludge. The pad retaining pins and exposed areas of the pistons should be greased sparingly (with copper grease or specialist brake grease). Give them a regular wash with a toothbrush and soapy water, followed by a blast of aerosol brake cleaner and grease, and they’ll stay up to scratch.
8. There are numerous bolt-on plastics that’ll save a bit of elbow grease. Front mudguard extenders (under £20) will help stop radiators and oil-coolers getting crammed with crud. Bellypans do likewise for a bike’s underside for £50-£150. Cheap huggers (£40-£80) also stop the rear of the bike getting coated in cack from the back wheel.
9. If you have no choice but to leave your bike outside, get a cover. But don’t think your bike is now fully protected, as air moisture will still find its way in – and this can include salt off busy streets. Keep the bike coated with a film of water-repellent spray and only ever put a cover over a dry bike, so you’re not locking in corrosion-causing moisture. streets. Keep the bike coated with a film of water-repellent spray and only ever put a cover over a dry bike, so you’re not locking in corrosion-causing moisture.
10. The most exposed part of a bike is its exhaust – it’s also the hardest to protect. Don’t be tempted to use a plastic coating, grease or other preparations because they will melt on the pipe and be a nightmare to clean off. If you ride year-round, it’s a good idea to find stainless replacements for mild steel components.
11. Examine your rear suspension linkages for grease nipples and take a grease gun to any you find. Also smear grease around pivot points – including footpegs, centre and sidestands. If you’re commuting on the bike, get busy and smear thick, red grease over any vulnerable metal parts, avoiding brakes and any parts that are often touched.
12. Contrary to popular belief, in winter ‘sticky’ sports compound tyres rarely get up to working temperature. Touring and replacement sports tyres, however, are of heavier construction and generate more internal heat. So not only will they offer more dry grip and be better in the wet, but they’ll last a good deal longer, too.