Back in October, we wrote about some strategies to keep you and your bike out on the road deeper into the fall and winter. But for everyone but the most courageous (or warm blooded) riders, there always comes a day when it’s time to put your bike into hibernation. We had our first snow up here in the northeast this week and we’re sure there are more soon to come, so we’re turning our attention away from the pavement for now.
That said, winter is anything but a slow time for us. We keep ourselves busy and feed our motorcycle obsession by spending the cold months developing new products and improving existing ones. We keep our personal collection, sample bikes, or loans from customers in our shop so that we can tinker with handlebar placement, refine our easy installment process and ensure that maximum comfort will be achieved. So even though you won’t find us cruising the northern Maine backroads amidst a blizzard, it’s a great way to stay connected to the sport we love so much. Which got us thinking…
Maybe you, our customers and fellow bike-obsessed, would also enjoy a few projects that get your hands a little greasy and keep you close to your beloved bike. For this blog, we’ve brainstormed 5 motorcycle maintenance projects you can tackle on your own this winter. So, grab a space heater and a good Bluetooth speaker for your garage and get started!
Change Your Filter
Your filter keeps debris and gunk out of your engine. During the summer, much of this nasty stuff gets burned up by your engine but if you happened to continue riding into the fall, the colder temperatures may have caused more buildup in your filter. If left, that gunk can contaminate your engine’s oil and cause it to break down. At the end of the season, it’s a good idea to switch to a clean new filter even if you haven’t reached the recommended mileage yet.
Depending on your bike’s build, you may need to remove a few components like the gas tank to reach the filter, and while you’re in there, do some surface cleaning. Switch out the filter and reinstall all the parts that you removed.
Spiff Up That Battery
Even when your motorcycle is parked and covered, its battery is still working, discharging small internal loads. Long periods of “self-discharge,” like winter storage can lead to permanent damage. Additionally, your battery’s terminals can also develop corrosion that will reduce the performance of the battery. Nobody wants to uncover their bike in the spring only to find that it won’t start. So, cleaning and maintaining your battery properly over winter is key to having a good start to next year’s riding season.
Start by looking for corrosion on the terminals. The positive terminal can have a buildup of blue or greenish flaky crud while the negative terminal can have a white or brown substance. If you see corrosion, remove the battery and clean. Mix a few tablespoons of baking soda with water to form a paste and scrub the terminals and wires using a toothbrush or another tool with stiff bristles. If you have an unsealed battery, be extra careful not to get any baking soda inside the battery. For old-school, flooded batteries, check the water levels and refill with distilled water to the fill lines. Wipe clean with paper towels and then make sure both terminals are tightened.
Now onto maintenance. The best way to prevent your battery from kicking the bucket while out of use for the winter is to invest in a high-quality charger. Smart chargers like the Harley Davidson 800mA Battery Tender or the Noco Genius Smart Charger monitor and maintain the optimum charge level. Connect directly to your bike or remove your battery and store it somewhere with moderate temperatures if your garage tends to get frigid.
Adjust Your Suspension Sag
It takes time to make your bike fit your body like a glove and measuring and setting your rider sag are essential ingredients to a comfortable ride. If your bike is relatively new, you’re above or below average height and weight, or your body size has changed recently, it’s a good idea to take these quiet months as your opportunity to set up your bike’s suspension for your unique measurements. Checking sag is a two-person job so grab a friend of your aspiring apprentice biker to help you out.
Start by getting outfitted in your typical riding gear like your helmet, boots, and any heavy clothing items like padded jackets or pants so that your weight is more accurate. Hey—at least you get to dress up mid-winter! Arm your assistant with a metric measuring tape and get to work.
You can follow this simple step by step guide to measuring rider sag from Motorcyclist and then finish up by adjusting the spring preload so that your sag falls within the proper range.
Perfect Your Riding Position
While we’re on the topic of adjusting your bike to best fit your body, there are a few other things we can cover. Your seat and your handlebars make some of the biggest contributions to your riding position and comfort and winter is great time to evaluate and adjust.
“Sit down on your bike and think about these different elements. What angle are your arms at when your hands are on the bars? Is your back upright or leaned forward? How much do your knees bend when your feet are on the foot pegs?”
Riders who are above or below average height can have a harder time achieving a comfortable, upright riding position with stock components. But have no fear! Modifying these elements to improve your ergonomics are perfect winter motorcycle projects.
You can purchase a replacement seat from our friends at Corbin that is larger or smaller than your stock seat. With handlebars, you can achieve a super custom fit and maximize comfort using a pair of motorcycle handlebar risers like our Horizon multi-axis adjustable handlebars. But most motorcycles will also allow for a small range of movement in the stock handlebars. Just loosen the bar clamps and rotate your handlebars forward or back until your arms and wrists rest in a comfortable position when sitting on your bike.
If you’re anything like us, chilly evenings in front of the fireplace or nestled in your favorite chair are often spent daydreaming about the two-wheeled trips you’ll take when the warm weather returns. Take it to the next step and start planning what gear, modifications, and accessories you might need.
Thinking about taking your first motorcycle camping trip? Look for motorcycle touring luggage that will fit your camping supplies. Planning to start using your bike to commute? A new Bluetooth headset might be in order. Heading to a rally over the summer? Invest is some quality tie down straps to make trailering your bike easier. Shopping for accessories in the winter can give you more time to consider your options and plan your needs while also taking advantage of off-season pricing.
We Promise Spring is Around the Corner
There are too many other customizations and winter bike projects to name here but if you’re struggling to come up with ideas, don’t be afraid to hit up your local bike community or jump on an online forum to ask for pointers. Beyond fixing up your bike, you can also work on stretching and exercising so that you approach the spring as a stronger rider, ready to challenge yourself. It's these little touch points that help keep the winter blues at bay. And if you have any stories about how you spend your winter as a biker, let us know in an email!