Now that we've seen snow, riding season is pretty much over. Have you stored your bike properly? Here are some things to keep in mind.
Fuel: Fill the tank up and add some fuel stabilizer. With that done, run the bike for a few minutes to ensure that the new fuel is distributed throughout the system.
If your bike has a carburetor(s) and petcock, close the petcock while the bike is running until it stops. That way, any residual fuel in the system gets burned off and there will be nothing trapped in any of the various nooks and crannies.
Fuel-injected bikes are a little easier to deal with. Once you've added the stabilizer and gotten the new gas into the system, you can just shut it off and you're done.
Oil: Just change it. Used oil contains contaminants and minuscule pieces of crud that promote corrosion during storage. By installing fresh oil, most of this stuff is removed.
And once the new oil is in - with a fresh filter, of course - do not run the bike. If you do, that will just re-introduce all the bad stuff into the engine. And do not be tempted to give the bike a quick run halfway through the off-season. Unless you intend to take it out for a good long run and get it up to operating temperature, you'll be doing more harm than good.
If you start the bike and let it run for just a few minutes, all you'll do is line the cylinder walls with raw gasoline, and that is definitely not a good thing. In other words, once you've shut it off, leave it off until you start it up against next spring.
In the case of older Harley-Davidsons, there can also be up to three different types of oil in the bike: crankcase, transmission and primary. Change them all. Some riders also remove the spark plug(s), and squirt a little oil into each cylinder, but this is really only necessary if you don't plan on riding for an extended period of time.
Battery: Remove it from the bike and store it somewhere warm and dry, away from any combustibles. Even with everything shut off, a connected battery still drains a little and, over time, will become completely discharged.
Charging the battery up once in a while is a good idea, and prevents sulfating, and some people utilize a low-output trickle charger that feeds the battery just enough juice to keep it healthy, without overcharging it. I have mixed feelings about this; if you just charge it in the usual way about once a month, it should be fine. If your battery is more than four years old, get a new one.
Coolant: If your bike is liquid-cooled, drain the radiator. If the coolant has been in the bike for more than two years or 12,000 miles/20,000 kilometres, replace it. Hydraulic systems, like brakes, should also be flushed completely once every two years, but this is more maintenance than storage prepping.
Cleaning: When you've done all your maintenance work, give the bike a final wash and wax before you lock it away, to get rid of any road grime or crud you may have accumulated during the summer. If you're really keen, you can also coat any rubber or vinyl parts with the appropriate preservative.
Storage: Park the bike inside somewhere and away from areas of heavy traffic so it won't get banged around. If you can, keep it away from direct sunlight, which can affect paint and tires.
Some tire manufacturers also advise keeping the bike away from any electric motors - freezer, refrigerator, etc. - as these can emit ozone, which will hasten the tire's aging process.
Ventilation is also important, as condensation can form as temperatures rise and fall. Some people wrap their bikes up in plastic sheeting and seal it completely, which will also keep it from dripping various fluids onto the floor. But you should bear in mind that plastic tends to trap moisture, and the bike needs to breathe.
In my opinion, the best thing to do is to invest in a good-quality neoprene or cloth bike cover, with built-in ventilation panels. Most bike shops carry them, and they run from about $120-$150 for a full-size bike. Once you've covered the bike, leave it alone; continually taking the cover off and on can damage the paint.
It's also a good idea to put the bike up on a centre stand of some kind. Get both wheels off the ground so the tires won't flatten. If your bike doesn't have a centre stand, jack it up and put some blocks under the frame. Be careful when you do this, and don't break anything or squash any important lines. If you don't have one, you can purchase a hydraulic bike stand for around $200.