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Bike Trader

How to winterize your bike

14 December 2011
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BREAKING down sucks. But breaking down in winter when itís freezing cold, raining and dark is a miserable experience.


Do these suggestions if youíre planning on riding throughout the winter months. You might not want to add a shovel, ice axe, skis or rope though...but you can buy winter kit from




1. Look at your engine coolant level. Do this when the bike hasnít been ridden and the engine is cold. If the level is under the minimum mark then top it up with the correct concentration of water and anti-freeze as recommended by the manufacturer. The important part of this is making sure that thereís the right amount of anti-freeze in the liquid. You donít want it freezing up your radiator.


2. How long has your battery been on the bike? If you donít know or if itís looking old and corroded then buy a new one. Why? Well an electric problem is one of the most likely causes of breakdowns. Old batteries donít work too well in cold weather and will fail on you. Make sure the terminals are clean - a bit of wet and dry shines them up Ė and then smear a thin covering of Vaseline over them to protect them from dirt and rainwater. Reapply after youíve cleaned the bike.


3. Check electrical wiring for defects and that itís not exposed to the elements. Your electrics are important because you want your lights to be working on dark mornings and evenings. Fit new light bulbs and carry spare bulbs (and fuses) under the seat. Wiring in things like heated clothing or a GPS put extra strain on the battery so consider trickle charging the bike overnight.


4. Have a proper look at your tyres Ė the legal requirement is 1mm across the central 3/4 of the tyre, but come on, letís be sensible, you donít want to be riding through winter on tyres that are down at that. Consider fitting a touring tyre or one more suitable for winter. Bridgestoneís new Bikers Club is a good way of finding what you need. Even if the tread is ok, you still need to look for signs of cracking or cuts Ė itís a puncture which is going to get you stranded on the roadside. If theyíre looking ok, then every week make sure theyíre inflated to the right pressure as found in the bikes handbook. Buy new tyres here.

5. Clean your bike every week during the winter. They get absolutely filthy at this time of year. Now you might not be bothered about riding a dirty bike but when you want to sell it next summer, those weeks of riding it through dirt, grime and road salt is likely to ruin the condition of the metal parts and plastics and reduce the price you could get for it in a sale. SDoc100 has a great range of cleaning and protection products here.

6. Once your bike is clean, protect it. By that we mean spraying it with protectors which keep the dirt and grime from seeping into the nooks and crannies and give the bike a thin film shield. Even WD40 works. But avoid spraying the brake discs and calipers and tyres.

7. Chains break Ė particularly if theyíre old or have covered a lot of miles during the summer. A broken chain is a sure fire way to leave you stranded at the side of the road. Donít ride a tired looking chain though the winter because you donít want a new one to get filthy and salt-encursted. Nowís the time to replace it to ensure you donít have a weak link go on you when youíre on a long ride miles from nowhere. Consider fitting a Scottoiler too. This will keep the chain lubricated along its entire length as you ride. When you clean up your bike make sure you then re-grease and lubricate afterwards. Do this after every wash.


8. Dirt and grime loves working its way into tiny places and the clutch cable is one such place. In winter any water seeping down into the clutch cable can freeze and make the clutch stiff or even cause it to snap. Lube the clutch cable and it will seal it so water and dirt canít get in. 


9. Get into the habit of listening to the radio or watching TV for weather bulletins on a daily basis. Look ahead in the week and see which of your journeys might be affected. If you have a smartphone, then make use of the easy functionality to give you weather updates or to at least alert you when the really bad stuff is on its way.


10. Avoid the really bad roads. Seems like common sense but often getting stranded is the result of simply from picking the wrong road to ride on. Thereís so much traffic data and real0time information on road conditions that a few minutes spent researching may be all it takes to avoid getting yourself in a pickle. The shortest route may seem the best option, but actually riding on motorways which will have been de-iced with salt and cleared may be a better option.


11. If you do get caught in snow then it may well be best to push on and get yourself home before it settles. Ride especially carefully when snow has melted and refrozen and when turning from a clear main road in to an untreated side road and also when a road doesnít have trees or hedges lining it (it means itís less likely to be sheltered from bad weather).


12. Set out on every ride with a full charged mobile phone with a breakdown firmís contact details (both stored in the phone and written down just in case your battery runs out). Carry an extra pair of warm socks, a hat and gloves, some snack bars, change to use a payphone and enough cash in your wallet. Fit hand protectors or heated grips to make sure your hands stay warm. It may also be worth carrying a lock so you can secure your bike just in case you get stranded and need to leave the bike where it is until you can arrange to get breakdown or friends to help recover it.


Donít want to ride through winter? Consider selling your bike now and buying a new one in the spring.


NB: The bike shown here was a specially adapted Suzuki V-Strom at the 2011 Milan Show.



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