- The Washington Times - Friday, October 27, 2000

It was cold the other morning when I hopped onto the motorcycle to ride to work. Cold enough to feel with shivery gusts every opening to the wind my clothes allowed.

Cold enough that all I really wanted was a heater and windows to roll up. Truth be told, I will bundle up and ride through the year, but those less tough read: more sane are beginning to consider packing it in for the winter.

It's not a bad idea, but important to do right.

I did, however, once leave a 1980 Honda CB650 to hibernate beneath a fire escape in Vermont with the elaborate preparation of taking out the key. After three months, it now known affectionately as Frankenbike fired up immediately.

And Tim, chief mechanic for a relatively successful race team, says, "Just park it."

But for folks less foolhardy, or at least more concerned about resale value, Y.T. Lechner, service manager at Battley's Cycle, says there are some easy steps to make this spring's reawakening a little easier and with fewer nasty surprises.

First, do some of the normal tuneups: lubricate the chain and anything else that looks exposed and vulnerable to rust, and fill the tires to the recommended air pressure. A deflated tire that rests for too long will develop a flat spot over the winter.

Next, put fuel stabilizer in your gasoline tank and run the engine long enough to flush the entire fuel system, including fuel lines, carburetors and carburetor float bowls, with treated gasoline. A 10- to 20-minute ride should be more than enough.

Fuel stabilizer can be bought at most motorcycle or lawnmower shops. It prevents gasoline from breaking down into a greenish goo commonly, but chemically incorrectly, called varnish. Whatever that green stuff really is, it will not burn, and is a pain to clean from gummed up carburetors.

Next fill the gasoline tank back to the top with treated gasoline.

Refilling the tank avoids having water vapor condense on the exposed sides of a half-full tank, then settle below the gasoline (gasoline is lighter than water) and slowly rust through the bottom.

You could also avoid this rusting problem by draining the gas tank entirely. That allows water to condense in the cold and evaporate in the heat. But with a lot of gas tanks having dead spots, or places lower than the actual drain, getting the tank full can be a more certain proposition than getting it empty.

At this point, if the bike is going to sit idle for more than a couple months go ahead and keep the gas tank full, but drain the carburetors. The carburetors should have a drain screw and a drain hose or a place to which to attach one.

Now, change the oil. And if you really want to protect the long-term life of your motorcycle, remove the spark plugs (put them back when done) and put a couple drops of oil into each cylinder. You will probably foul the spark plugs when you try to restart the bike. Just put new spark plugs in. But the oil can prevent damaging mineral buildup on the cylinder walls.

Finally, over the months of storage, either hook up the battery occasionally to a regular charger, or leave it hooked to a trickle charger. The battery may not even have to be removed from the bike.

One last consideration is where to park the bike. The best place is an enclosed garage or carport. Be leery of some submerged garages, which can be incredibly humid and thus even more corrosive than if the bike were simply left outside.

Think dry.

If it is going to be outside, at least try to get a cover.

They can be found at any motorcycle store or catalogs cut to match the size and style of your motorcycle and pocketbook. Or you can use a simple tarp, but make sure you put it on after the exhaust pipe has cooled (that blue plastic melts fast) and anchor it well.

Also, park your motorcycle on something dry or, more to the point, something that will dry out quickly. Plywood, cargo flats, or even brick pavers make a far better pad than dirt or grass, which can quickly leave your tires dry-rotted.

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