How to prepare your motorbike for winter

Preparing your motorbike for the colder weather, salt on the roads and slippery conditions is an important task if you don’t want to watch it rot away in front of your eyes. 

Make sure your bike can cope with colder conditions with these 10 steps…

1. The right rubber

Prepare your tyres for winter

Cold conditions affect how tyres work and dedicated sports rubber isn’t suited to winter. Temperatures below 10 degrees are the domain of silica-based sports-touring tyres. If you have suitable tyres already, check their condition, especially the tread depths. And bear in mind that even if they are legal, they may still need changing.

2. Check you’re up to pressure

Keep an eye on your tyre pressures

British weather fluctuates wildly, so check your tyre pressures at least once a week. Air expands by roughly 2psi for every 10°C increase in ambient temperature and contracts by the same value when temperatures fall. So if you last set your pressures in July’s 30°C heat you will find that they’ve dropped by 5.4psi on a frosty 3°C November morning.

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3. Battery health check

Don't get caught out with a flat battery

Low temperatures cause oil to thicken and an engine’s internal components to drag, so your battery has to work harder in order to crank over the motor from cold. With the engine off, check the battery’s resting voltage: a battery in good condition should indicate a reading of at least 12.6v. Lightly grease the battery’s terminals and check all the connections are tight.

4. Don’t get frozen out

Make sure your coolant doesn't freeze

Never be tempted to top up your radiator with water rather than proper coolant that has anti-freeze properties. And check how long the coolant has been in the system because its freeze-beating properties degrade over time and if your coolant freezes it will wreck your engine. Owners of air-cooled bikes needn’t worry about this step, of course.

STICK’S TIPS: Change your coolant every two years to keep it working at its best

5. Burning bright

Make sure your lights are in great condition

Make sure your lights are working and not covered in crud. Adjust headlights for both dip and main beam for optimal performance. If you’re thinking of adding lighting accessories such as front fog lights or LED indicators make sure you choose quality items.

6. Warm hands, happy heart

Warm hands are important to prevent distraction

Heated grips will take the pain out of winter rides. The grips have heating elements imbedded in them, often with multi-levels of heat control, and are powered via the bike’s 12 volt electrical system.

7. Lube it or lose it

Keep your chain protected

Winter salt will destroy your chain in double-quick time so stay on top of cleaning and lubing. Alternatively you can fit an autolube system such as a Scottoiler. These devices automatically meter a precise amount of oil to the chain, and they work so well that they can substantially extend the life of your chain and sprockets.

8. Vision technician

Pinlocks help prevent visors steaming up

Cold and wet conditions mean visors are prone to misting. The best solution is to fit an anti-fog insert into your visor. A Pinlock insert costs around £25 and will be a revelation if you’ve never used one before.

Alternatively, there are liquid treatments for the inside of your visor but these will need regular re-applications for decent performance.

STICK’S TIPS: Remove the insert and wipe it over with a microfibre cloth regularly

9. Smooth operator

Keep your brakes in good order

When your hands are cold and the conditions challenging, you need your bike’s controls to be as smooth as possible. Remove the front brake lever and give the pivot bolt a thorough clean using wet and dry or a wire brush to remove any corrosion. Then re-install it with a thin smear of grease. The same can be done for the clutch lever, and rear brake levers.

10. Relegate rust

Keep your bike rust free

Using anti-corrosion products like ACF50 or XCP Rust Blocker will protect your bike from salt-accelerated corrosion. These products coat the vulnerable parts with a fine film which acts as a barrier to prevent oxidisation taking place. You should use anti-corrosion products alongside an established cleaning routine for optimum performance.

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Bruce Dunn

By Bruce Dunn

Datalogger, professionally testing bikes for over 25 years.