Not every motorcycle owner has the luxury of storing their bike in a dry, cozy garage. Some riders have no choice but to park their motorcycles outside in the elements. If this is you, then you have more things to be concerned about, such as, security, hot summer sun, rain, snow or winter cold. In this article I’ll talk about how to store your motorcycle outside in winter, summer, short term and long term.
Parking Outside During Summer
Summertime is riding season and, for most motorcyclists, the bike doesn’t stay parked in one spot for too long. But, the summer heat and sun can take its toll. So, here are some steps to take if you have to park your motorcycle outside during summer.
Keep it out of the sun. Prolonged direct sunlight can fade the paint. The color on plastics will fade more quickly and will often fade to a different color than metal parts. Giving your bike an uneven color. Also, plastics can become dry and brittle when exposed to sunlight and they will begin to crack. You may not see it right away, but when you try to remove a plastic cover, it is more likely to break if it is brittle. The seat cover will also take its toll from exposure to the sun and will begin to crack and peel.
So, try to park your motorcycle out of direct sunlight. Under a carport, a covered porch or patio, or under a breezeway is ideal.
Parking under the shade of a tree is also a good choice, however, you will have to deal with other problems left by birds or the tree itself. Bird droppings are nasty and gross and can destroy your paint. During spring and summer, most trees are blooming and many will drop fruit or seed pods, not to mention sticky sap.
A motorcycle cover is your best bet if you park under a tree or if you have no shade available. Purchase a cover with UV protection, one that is waterproof, and made specifically to fit the shape and size of your motorcycle.
Arguably you could throw a tarp over it, or a cloth cover such as an old sheet. But, even if you live in a dry, hot climate, you want to be prepared for the unexpected summer rainstorm. And, what if you throw a sheet over your bike thinking it’s good enough, and the sprinklers come on during the night? So, a cover specifically for a motorcycle is your best bet. Here is our top recommended cover.
Parking Outside During Winter
During the winter, riders are more likely to store their motorcycles for weeks at a time, if not all winter long. Probably the biggest concern, depending on where you live, is protecting your bike from rain and moisture. Just like in the summer, it’s best to park your motorcycle under a structure that will protect it from rain.
Additional protection from a cover is also recommended. If you know your bike is going to get rained on, choose the right cover for it. Make sure it is waterproof. It’s also important to purchase a cover that fits your bike properly. For example, if your cover is too big for your bike, it can sag in the middle and rest on the seat and tank. Add some rain to this scenario and the cover could become saturated. Now, you’ll have a wet cover sitting directly on your bike’s paint which could cause discoloration even within a few days.
Another winter concern is wind. If you use a cover, you want to do what you can to prevent wind from blowing the cover off. So, make sure the cover is secured over both front and rear tires, and use the cover’s bottom straps to secure it to the bike.
What if the temperature is below freezing? Will your gas freeze? No. Don’t worry about your gasoline freezing. The freezing point for gasoline is somewhere below -40 degrees fahrenheit. Even the average arctic winter temperatures don’t drop quite that low.
Over-inflate your tires. When the outside temperature drops, the air inside the tire will compress causing the tire pressure to lower. If you do any riding in cold weather you will want check your tire pressure to make sure it is up to the recommended PSI. It is often necessary to add more air to your tires for the winter.
Storing your motorcycle outside requires more than just protecting it from the elements. Theft can be a serious problem. There are several things you can do to help keep your motorcycle home where it belongs.
Cover it. Often covering your bike will be enough to discourage a bike thief by taking away the temptation or adding a level of inconvenience, but a cover alone is not going to be enough.
Lock your motorcycle. Ideally you should lock your motorcycle to an object, like a post, or an anchor. Kryptonite makes an anchor that secures to the ground with concrete anchor bolts and it has a low profile when not in use. They can be found on Amazon. Check the current prices here.
If you’re not able to install an anchor, then use other locking methods. A disk lock is a good start and many come with motion sensor alarms for added protection. Some motorcycle covers come with grommets where you can insert a U-lock through the cover and through the front wheel. Also, a heavy chain with a good lock, like this one, is an excellent investment.
In addition to covers and locks, you can also take the extra step of parking your motorcycle in a well lit area. If you live in an apartment complex, it’s actually better to keep your bike parked in an open area where people can see what’s going on around it.
Parking your bike in a hidden area is not always a good idea. Keeping it hidden from view might deter the opportunistic thief. But, the thief who plans ahead to steal your bike, would love to do his work out of sight.
Long Term Motorcycle Storage
Storing your motorcycle for longer than 30 days involves some additional steps whether you store it in winter or summer, inside or outside. Here are the steps you should take whenever you store your bike for more than 3 months, 6 months, or even a year.
Wash the Bike Before Storing
Wash the bike before you store it. Get all the hidden chain gunk and road grime out of all those hidden areas and dry your bike thoroughly after washing it.
Lubricate your chain and apply anti-corrosion oil to any metals that are more susceptible to corrosion, such as chrome. marine grade vinyl conditioner to prevent it from drying out during storage. Good lubrication will prevent moisture from penetrating and rust forming.
Fill up the Gas Tank
In just a matter of a few months, gasoline will begin to deteriorate, causing build up of gunk. Once that build up hits your carburetors, you’re engine could start to have problems. A lot of people say you should empty the gas tank prior to long term storage, but condensation and varnish can still build up inside the tank. Instead, fill the tank as full as possible and use a fuel stabilizer, like Sta-Bil. This additive will keep the fuel fresh and prevent corrosion. When long term storage is over, you’re not as likely to have any fuel problems when you start it up for the first time.
Tender the Battery
Remove the battery from the motorcycle, or at least disconnect the terminals. Keep the battery plugged into a battery tender, or trickle charger to keep it fully charged while the bike is not being ridden.
Drain the Carbs
If you have a fuel switch or petcock then you can drain the carburetors dry. Turn off the fuel and run the motorcycle until the engine runs out of gas. Draining the carbs dry will help prevent corrosion from building up over time.
Plug the Exhaust Pipe
Small critters, like mice, are always looking for dark, cozy places to make a home, so it’s a good idea to plug up any holes in your exhaust. Often tape will not be good enough. Moisture could cause the tape to come off, and any determined mouse can tear right through it. Instead use something plastic, or rubber to insert into the pipes.
Protect your wheels
Ideally you should put your motorcycle on its center stand, or on front and rear stands. If you can’t, then inflate your tires as much as possible according to the manufacturer. This will help prevent flat spots from forming. Invest in some wheel covers and keep them on the bike during long term storage. You can find a good set here on Amazon.
Keep it Covered
Again, a cover is an important part of long-term storage and you may want to consider a cover that is a bit more permanent.
Shell style covers, or motorcycle shelters, come with a rigid frame that folds over the bike like a clam shell. It’s like a mini-garage for your motorcycle. The solid frame will protect it from wind and the waterproof material will protect it from the rain. They often come with vents to prevent condensation inside the shelter. You can also lock the shelter closed to prevent theft. The Bike Shield is an excellent choice in motorcycle shelters.
Tho wrap it all up, it looks like the most important thing to do when you store your motorcycle outside is to use a good, quality cover designed specifically for your bike. In winter, summer, long term or short term, covering your bike will provide you with the protection your looking for.