If you live in a place where the effects of winter are felt, chances are your ride has already been put away for the season. Still, there are at least a few of you who just haven’t gotten around to it, are in denial that there aren’t any days to sneak in another ride, or are too damn lazy for such things as winterizing. New bike owners might have been frightened away by persnickety lists that suggest everything short of taking the Harley for a bedmate. I’m here, as always, to give some basic and simple common sense suggestions.
Why winterize at all? Good question, grasshopper. Two reasons: to preserve the life expectancy of the bike and each of its individual parts with minimal repair or replacement cost, and to make sure when that first day back riding arrives, the bike starts with ease and returns to your garage without needing a push or tow. Simple. Take care of her, and she’ll take care of you.
- Keep the gas tank full, and add some stabilizer if it’s going to sit for a month or more. Hopefully, you’re using the highest octane pump, but even then fuel might get funky. I’ve been on the road when the v-twin starts to sputter and thump to an embarrassing halt. No amount of cursing or wrenching will help with this one, so keep the tank, lines and carb clean and moisture free. Turn the fuel petcock to “off”.
- Attach a trickle-charger to the battery. If it removes easily and sits better off the bike, fine — but this isn’t necessary. Plug it in, clip it on, and forget the thing. This is a cheap guarantee against hitting that start button and getting back nothing but high blood pressure and a dental bill for mashed teeth.
- Fill tires to their maximum rated pressures, then place them on a scrap of carpet or anything that reduces cold conduction better than concrete. Not a big deal, but this will extend the life of your rubber, maybe by quite a bit. More importantly, it will help them keep flexibility and grip by minimizing brittleness and pooling moisture. Better is a center stand to lift both tires off the ground completely, if this is at all an option you can afford. (Some bikes have a center stand already.) Of course, you could build a fully temp and humidity controlled garage with your spare change.
- Change your oil, check coolant and brakes fluids, with the same consistency you normally do during riding season. My rule of thumb is 3,000 miles or 3 months, on or off the road. This is a small price financially or otherwise for a beloved family member, especially if it’s responsible for keeping gravel off your flesh.
- The best way to keep moisture out (and by now you should catch the idea that moisture is a big enemy) is to start the bike every few weeks. Sneak in a short ride when a dry day allows. So you might get a little chilly — c’mon, man up! Your neighborhood rep will gain 10 points when Don and Milly next door see you in leathers choking back some frigid wind in your pipes.
- Clean the bike thoroughly. Wax any paint and chrome. Treat leather seats, saddles and tool bags. Cover the bike completely with a breathable (again, to avoid trapping moisture) cover to prevent dust and critters. If the bike will be outside, obviously then cover the breathable cover with a waterproof tarp and tie down the sides. Or just send the bike to me — maybe you shouldn’t own a Harley if you leave it outside alone all winter! — Mark Mormar