Waiting for Spring

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When the priests sealed the door on King Tut’s tomb, the Pharaoh was left to sleep for the next 3,000 years. Spring often feels that far away in late December, as the sun dips low in the sky, the night coming faster and colder.

The bikes rest in the garage for the long sleep, like Tut.

When the days begin to lengthen and the warmth returns, they will be ready. Tut’s priests left their king unattended for his long sleep. I am a more devoted priest than they. Each bike has been prepared for the long sleep – but not left alone for the long sleep.

Each was, like Tut, made ready for the sleep prior to being tucked in. They were washed and polished and waxed. Engine oil drained and filled with fresh. Then run with the fuel tap set to Off, so as to burn off the fuel in the bowls – so as to avoid the fuel turning to goo inside the carbs during the long sleep. If your bike is fuel injected, this form of pre-sleep care will not be needed as there are no fuel bowls to empty. But emptying the tank might not be a bad idea, either way – if you intend to leave the bike asleep until the spring. Gas is not what it used to be and even when it was still gas – and not 90 percent gas plus 10 percent ethanol alcohol – leaving it sitting for months in the tank risks feeding your machine soured gas come that first start-up attempt in Spring.

Several options present themselves.

The first is to drain the dank, which will assure it isn’t full of soured gas come Spring. The second is to dose the gas in the tank with fuel stabilizer and fill the tank – so as to reduce condensation formation within the tank. The next thing to do after that is make a commitment to start the bike’s engine once a month during those dark and cold months.

Let the engine fully warm up. If the bike has a center stand, you can run it through the gears, a hint of actually riding it. Do this for 15 minutes at least (especially if the bike is water cooled, so that it definitely reaches normal operating temperature). Then turn the tap off and let the engine return to sleep. You will have circulated fresh (treated) fuel through the system and fresh oil through the engine and transmission, too.

I keep my charges on the charger, as well.

This assures the batteries will awake at the end of the long sleep – and so will the bike. If you have multiple bikes, as I do, having enough trickle chargers for each is also a sound investment as each of the latter costs a lot less than a new battery – or several – and by using the trickle charger religiously you will get more life out of each battery. I managed to get 12 years out of my ’03 Kawasaki’s original factory battery. But if you rotate the trickle charger religiously – never leaving any bike unattended for more than a couple of weeks, maximum – you can probably get by using just one trickle charger.

Just remember not to forget!

Which reminds me of something else I do that Tut’s priests didn’t – because they didn’t need to. Pharaoh doesn’t flat spot even after a 3,000 year sleep. Motorcycle tires will, if you leave a bike standing in place like a statue of Pharaoh for the long sleep. The lethal combination of weight and time. The weight of the bike pressing down on the tires – in just the one place, that relatively small contact patch – compounded by the probability, during a long sleep, of the tire losing pressure, gradually, imperceptibly – leads to a bike that doesn’t roll as it should come the Spring.

So I roll mine around during the sleep. Once a month, religiously.

They are not awake and probably do not know. But I know that by shifting them around, all the weight does not rest on that one spot. It also give me the chance to check the tires and inflate them, if low. This procedure assures the bike will be ready to roll, come the Spring.

A cover is also a marvelous thing.

Tut’s priests understood the value, too. It is why Pharaoh was so well-preserved after his long sleep. For the same reason, I shroud each bike for the long sleep – using a soft old bedsheet. These are easier to deal with than a motorcycle cover, which can be hard to wash. A dirty cover is as unwanted as grime on Pharaoh. You want him shiny when the cover comes off, as if it had been only yesterday when he was put to bed and not 3,000 years ago – which is how long the sleep feels when it’s only just begun and there are at least three months yet to go before the Spring.

. . .

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  1. I am starting to see the first bikes of the new season. the mountains of snow are thawing. Most of the main roads are free of snow and, during the day, free of ice.
    Meanwhile my bike sits in storage.
    Ice and two wheels are never a good mix. Riders need to be cautious because the shaded segment of a road could be where the ice that dumps you lies.
    Although I could ride from my main road to work and back without a problem, the parking lot at work still has three inches of rapidly melting snow.
    In addition, I would need to traverse 1/4 mile from my home to the main road and my driveway and street have at least 8″ of packed snow that will take at least a month to go away.
    For now, I will leave the Norton in storage, peruse motorcycle magazines, buy new gloves and maybe boots, and dream of rides to come. It’s better than sliding down the road after dumping on the ice.

  2. Mine is stored in an unheated garage. After a wash and dry. I change the oil, Stabil and some 2 stroke oil in the tank, pull the battery and hose all the shiny bits with WD 40. It’s what has kept my bike looking good for decades.

  3. Ahhh, good one Grasshopper. Not talking about the bike stuff, since I don’t know a thing about them. Did enjoy the King Tut, long sleep, ZZ Top analogy, going flat. Very hard not to go flat after 3000 years.
    But…..to be fair, you should include the King Tut video by Steve Martin SNL version. I can’t think of King Tut without thinking of that video. Never gets old, but I am entertained very easily.

  4. My grandfather always bought every drop of his gasoline ration during WWII, and saved the excess in old oil drums in the truck barn. When he moved off the place in the late 70s, we found those drums, and the gas was still good. Can’t do that with 0% ethanol fuel today.

    Probably all those newfangled additives and detergents…

  5. Today is the winter solstice, so tomorrow the days will be getting longer all the way to June 21! Old Man Winter has arrived right on time.

    Another bleak and dreary day out there. First day of winter and everything is wrong. As always. It’s colder than hell out there.

    Yesterday morning the low temp at six o’clock was minus 18 below zero. At eleven o’clock the temp dipped to minus 19 F.

    A ride on a motorcycle won’t be any fun.

    Bone chilling dangerous weather, you stay home and drink.

    Why go anywhere when you really shouldn’t?

    Current conditions say so.

    “Well, my dog died just yesterday and left me all alone
    The finance company dropped by today and repossessed my home
    That’s just a drop in the bucket compared to losing you
    And I’m down to seeds and stems again, too

    Got the down to seeds and stems again blues” – Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen

  6. Off topic, but look at that rope quality in picture 1, looks like modern machine made rope. Stuff we take for granted – today could we figure it out from scratch? History of rope goes back further than that, seems there were some bright bulbs eons ago.

  7. That ZZ Top album was the first tape I ever bought! Or really, my first tape that my parents bought, since I was a bit young to earn money… But I never had seen that video. Far out! Was that the original Bigfoot? That made the morning worth it.

  8. I bought a Cadet “The Hot One” electric unit heater for my garage. Keeps the mancave, Datsun Roadster, Norton Commando and BSA above 55F all winter. You might need some minor wiring but a really good heater. Will add to your electric bill.

  9. Local Co-op has real gas, so the fuel injected Harley gets a full tank of that with StaBil and a nip of Marvel oil, go for at least a 30 minute cruise to work in the gas supplements and most of all, heat up the oil to drive off the moisture. Park it till Spring with a battery tender. Dunlops on the HD don’t flat spot. Also I use a boat dehumidifier underneath and a dust cover, keeps all the metal a bit warmer than the surrounding air for no moisture inside or outside surfaces.

    Winter here in central WA is getting brutal, we’ll be negative temps tonight.

  10. Suppose a person didn’t have the time, or was just plain lazy, and didn’t drain the fuel from the carb, what is the longest a motor can sit and then be fired up yet still avoid gumming up the carb?
    I.e. once a month? 15 days?

    Talking worst case environmental conditions as I imagine the time varies according to humidity levels and such.

    Just wondering if there’s a good rule of thumb to go by.

    Also, have any of you encountered any downsides to leaving a battery hooked up for long periods of time (a year or more) with the fancy tiny battery tenders on the market?

    For example, like this one:


    • helot,
      I once sold a boat, and had a 9 hp motor i threw in the deal. The buyer wanted to see if it would start. It had been sitting in a barn for several years. I hung it on a 55 gal barrel full of water, and it started on the second pull, and ran perfectly. With the same gas it had in it when I put it in the barn. So no, there is no hard and fast rule about how long gas will keep. In fact, I have rarely had a problem with old gas, except in bowl type carburetors. Which is simple to prevent by running them dry before storage.

      • John, it had to be non-ethanol fuel in the boat engine. E10 now starts going bad in 2-3 months. It’s nasty stuff and has ruined a few small engines of mine before we figured out the E10 stuff was a problem.
        And now they are pushing E15, what a friggen disaster it will be for small engines and storage.

        • ChrisIN,
          Your right. It was. Since that was some time before there was E anything. Also, being two cycle, the oil may have helped preserve it. As are most of the engines I tend to neglect.

    • Hi Helot,

      I’ve found it varies – probably because of various factors such as the age of the gas when it was bought, the materials it comes in contact with (chemical reactions) and environmental factors, among others. I have had had carbs badly gunked up after sitting with fuel in them for as little as two months. Bad enough had to soak them in pieces in solvent and really clean them out. It’s a hassle I try to avoid!

      • Eric, it’s also most likely geography as well. Our race bikes in the NE need rear brake fluid changes twice a year. We get them so hot that if there’s any moisture in the line it can boil, and when it boils it creates an air pocket, and no brakes bad. In the west, much drier, we don’t have this problem. Have gone 3-4 years on the same brake fluid there. I can guess that this would play into how geography effects the effects of ethanol fuel as well, since it attracts moisture.

      • My friend runs his small engines on a small amount of seafoam until they stall, then stores them for winter, so only seafoam in the fuel system….

    • I had a lead-acid from a wrecked car that I put on the Harbor Freight equivalent. When I needed it about 18 months later, the battery was junk. Alternatively, I have an AGM on my sump that is always plugged into a cheap maintainer, and it does fine, year in, year out.

    • Helot, I give it one month. If its more than that, I run my trimmers/ walk behinds/ mowers, and loader completely out of fuel. If my riding mower still has anything left, I pull it in the barn, close the doors, and wait for the fuel to run out. This eases my barn cat Sammy’s workload and keeps the critter population down. sort of suicide by Husqvarna.

  11. Good advice Eric. Some of my bikes I put to sleep I am not around for 4-5 months, so I overinflate the tires to reduce the flat spot problem. I put a sticker on the tank “check tires”. And the garage they are in can have the temps vary from 35 to 55 so I put a rag in the exhaust thinking it will keep the air from going in and out the cylinders. good news at this place in non-ethanol fuel is readily avail., but I still use star-tron on the bikes/chain saws and have never had a problem.
    Some batteries are are lithium some are AGM, and I do not leave them on a trickle charger and also have never had an issue. After 4-5 months the lithiums still have a full charge and the AGMs takes a trickle for a couple hours.

  12. Eric,

    My Royal Enfield has a center stand, so I put it up on the stand. That removes weight from the back tire; for the front tire, I lift up the front end and turn it every so often. I didn’t leave the tank full, because I have to pull it to check the valves during the winter; the less fuel in the tank, the easier it is to deal with when servicing. The fuel was treated with fuel stabilizer though. Unlike the Big Four Japanese manufacturers, RE was thoughtful enough to install an AGM battery, which can hold a charge for a long time. I gave the bike a wash when it was still warm. Finally, though the bike is downstairs in my basement, it has a dust cover. I got a lightweight one from Hitchcock’s Motorcycles in the UK; it’s a great cover for storing your bike inside or in the garage.


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