But I do my best to keep them ready to ride – so that when the weather finally does break, I won’t be sidelined for reasons that aren’t weather-related.
* Roll ’em around/keep the tires aired up –
Bike tires seem to need more TLC than car tires. In my experience, they are more prone to air loss and flat-spotting. It may have something to do with their construction – which is very different from car tires. Bike tires, for one thing, have a rounded rather than flattened contact patch. This is why they get damaged when they lose air – and sit for awhile. You may have had the experience of going out for a ride on a bike that has fairly new tires but had been sitting for a couple of months. You immediately notice it doesn’t feel right; the bike won’t transition smoothly from upright to leaned over in a curve. It’s the tires. And often, there’s no fix but to toss ’em and get a new set.
This can be avoided by checking air pressure every couple of weeks – and walking the bike around the garage to avoid having the bike’s weight pushing down on the same section of tire for months of just sitting.
Another thing you can do is find a shop that will fill the tires with nitrogen – which leaks less and also (assuming the shop has good equipment) will contain less moisture, which will help reduce internal corrosion – a fairly common problem with bike wheels, which are often chrome-plated steel.
* Keep ’em fueled up –
One way to dodge fuel system problems is to keep the tank as topped off as possible. This reduces the formation of condensation inside the tank. Ethanol-laced gas (which attracts moisture) is particularly prone to this; by keeping the tank full rather than half full or three quarters full, you’ll have taken a big step toward reducing if not eliminating this issue. I also dose the tank with the Marine Grade (green bottle) of Stab-Bil fuel stabilizer. This stuff is much stronger than the pinkish-red Stabil and specifically designed to mitigate problems associated with high-moisture environments. It’s not just a gas issue, either. Using the stabilizer (and keeping the tank full) will retard the formation of rust on the inside surfaces of your bike’s fuel tank.
The other thing I do is run the bikes even if I can’t ride them. Ten minutes is enough to fully warm up the engine and purge old gas from the lines and carburetor bowls – and fill both with fresh (or at least, fresher) gas. If your bike has a center stand, you can also run it through the gears, which is good for the transmission/clutch as well as the driveline (including the chain). On the latter (chain): This is another good reason to “walk” the bike around as it moves the chain around, so all the tension isn’t focused on one spot while the bike sits.
If the bike has a fuel shut off valve, turn it to “off” just before you’re ready to shut her down and let the bike run until it runs out of gas. With carbureted bikes especially, this is important as it will keep the fuel bowls from gunking up. If you feel motivated to go one step farther, get a small catch can and remove the drain screw at the bottom/side of each fuel bowl. Let all the gas out, then re-install the drain screw. Dry-storing carbs is preferable to wet storing them. Modern fuels can be very chemically corrosive as they decompose and E10 (ethanol) blends seem to have a much shorter shelf life than straight-up 100 percent gas they used to sell did.
* Keep ’em charged up –
Bike batteries can be startlingly expensive for such little suckers. Not only that, we’re totally dependent on them. Even if your bike has a kick starter, you don’t want to ride it much on a weak or (worse) dead battery – because of the strain it puts on the much more expensive alternator/generator. Some guys disconnect the battery during the off-season months. That’s a good way to eliminate problems (discharge) arising from minor current draws that may not matter when the bike is regularly ridden but which can drain it dead over a month or two of just sitting.
I take it one step farther by hooking up a battery tender (AKA a trickle charger) to each of my five bikes. The tender feeds a low-amp charge into the battery, keeping it topped off and automatically shutting itself off once the battery is at full charge. Most tenders/trickle chargers come with easy-connect pigtails that make it a snap to hook up. I recommend this method over alligator clamps, which can spark and – if there is gas vapor – lead to a fire. Most bike trickle chargers will have three LED lights to indicate charging status: Green for fully charged, Yellow for charging – and Red for dead. You can buy these handy gizmos at pretty much any bike shop for about $30.
* The Wipe Down –
Once a month, at least, I give each bike a wipe down with a good spray cleaner (Honda detailer in a can is great stuff), paying particular attention to chrome parts but not neglecting the saddle (the spray detailer is great because it’s designed for metal and upholstered surfaces; rubber and plastic, too). This will keep things shiny rather than rusty – and will also help forestall cracking/premature aging/uglification of rubber grips and so on. A proper coat of wax on the tank/panels and other painted surfaces is good medicine, too.
Once all the above’s done, I tuck each bike in under an old bedsheet (I like cotton, because it’s pretty much scratch-proof and the material is very soft). This is a less expensive alternative to a custom cover and a good way to make use of sheets you might otherwise just toss or give away to the Salvation Army.
Just another few months now…
Throw it in the Woods?
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