Winter Bike Survival

None of my bikes have left the garage in more than a month now. Single digit temperatures – and lots of gravel on the roads – have seen to that.

But I do my best to keep them ready to ride – so that when the weather finally does break, I won’t be sidelined for reasons thataren’t weather-related.

* Roll ‘em around/keep the tires aired up – 

Bike tires seem to need more TLC than car tires. In my experience, they are more prone to air loss and flat-spotting. It may have something to do with their construction – which is very different from car tires. Bike tires, for one thing, have a rounded rather than flattened contact patch. This is why they get damaged when they lose air – and sit for awhile. You may have had the experience of going out for a ride on a bike that has fairly new tires but had been sitting for a couple of months. You immediately notice it doesn’t feel right; the bike won’t transition smoothly from upright to leaned over in a curve. It’s the tires. And often, there’s no fix but to toss ‘em and get a new set.

This can be avoided by checking air pressure every couple of weeks – and walking the bike around the garage to avoid having the bike’s weight pushing down on the same section of tire for months of just sitting.

Another thing you can do is find a shop that will fill the tires with nitrogen – which leaks less and also (assuming the shop has good equipment) will contain less moisture, which will help reduce internal corrosion – a fairly common problem with bike wheels, which are often chrome-plated steel.

* Keep ‘em fueled up –

One way to dodge fuel system problems is to keep the tank as topped off as possible. This reduces the formation of condensation inside the tank. Ethanol-laced gas (which attracts moisture) is particularly prone to this; by keeping the tank full rather than half full or three quarters full, you’ll have taken a big step toward reducing if not eliminating this issue. I also dose the tank with the Marine Grade (green bottle) of Stab-Bil fuel stabilizer. This stuff is much stronger than the pinkish-red Stabil and specifically designed to mitigate problems associated with high-moisture environments. It’s not just a gas issue, either. Using the stabilizer (and keeping the tank full) will retard the formation of rust on the inside surfaces of your bike’s fuel tank.

The other thing I do is run the bikes even if I can’t ride them. Ten minutes is enough to fully warm up the engine and purge old gas from the lines and carburetor bowls – and fill both with fresh (or at least, fresher) gas. If your bike has a center stand, you can also run it through the gears, which is good for the transmission/clutch as well as the driveline (including the chain). On the latter (chain): This is another good reason to “walk” the bike around as it moves the chain around, so all the tension isn’t focused on one spot while the bike sits.

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