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You’re at the end of riding season or you just don’t have a garage, and you need to store your bike outside. Here are some tips and recommendations on how to store your motorcycle long term and keep your baby protected, safe and secure.
If you’re like most motorcycle owners who don’t have a garage, you’re probably worried about leaving your beloved bike outside without any form of protection. That’s a reasonable concern considering the possibility of theft, vandalism, and exposure to the elements and severe weather.
Fortunately, just because you don’t have a garage that doesn’t mean you have to park your bike in your living room or frequently peek out the window to make sure it’s okay. As you’ll discover in the following guide, there are plenty of ways to give yourself peace of mind concerning your bike’s safety and condition, even if you’re forced to park it outside during the winter.
Before we get into the specifics, here are some of the main things you can do to safeguard your motorcycle from the elements, potential thieves, and other negative consequences:
- Prep the bike for outdoor storage
- Build or buy a shelter or protective pod
- Use a disc lock
- Attach a heavy-duty chain to an immovable object
- Use chain lube
- Install one or more alarm types
- Install a GPS locator
- Practice frequent cleaning and maintenance
We’ll also be covering all the measures you can take to safely store your bike outside during the winter, including but not limited to:
- Change oil and check fluids
- Fill gas tank
- Clean the bike
- Applying protective wax
- Use a weatherproof cover
- Build or buy a winterized shelter
- Put the bike on stands
Now that we’ve given you a brief overview of what to expect, let’s dive into the details.
How to Store a Motorcycle Outside
When compared to the alternative of parking in the garage, leaving your motorcycle outside can seem like a bad idea all around. However, with the right precautions in place it’s really not such a risky endeavor. Here are some detailed instructions for storing your motorcycle outdoors:
Prep Your Bike for Outside Storage
A bike stored outside will experience frequent temperature fluctuations as nights are usually significantly colder than days. Furthermore, during prolonged periods of cold weather your bike could have parts frozen, flooded, or affected by rust if not properly prepped and tended to. Here are a few steps you can take to decrease unnecessary repairs and maintenance:
- Change the oil and check all fluids – Exposure to the elements can be a problem for the bike’s internals and moving parts if any of the fluids are low or need to be changed.
- Fill the gas tank – Too much empty space in the gas tank will eventually cause corrosion, and keeping a full tank improves gas mileage.
- Wash the bike thoroughly with a car washing soap – Removing dirt, dust, debris, grease, traces of gasoline, and other surface pollution that builds up on the bike is a necessary preliminary step before waxing.
- Wax the entire bike – You have several options when it comes to choosing a wax, but generally Carnauba wax and synthetic waxes like paint sealants are the most popular. Using a standard bike wax will protect the paint and other components from heat, UV rays, cold temps, water, and wind.
- Spray WD40 one exposed hard components – Displace moisture to prevent rust and other water damage.
Those are the main things you should be doing if you’re planning on storing your bike outside for more than a few days. Other than these preliminary steps, be sure to heed the tips below for the most well-rounded approach to bike protection and security.
Get an Inconspicuous Yet Durable Cover
You’re probably aware that leaving a motorcycle in the rain or snow can cause rust and wear and tear, leading to the need for premature maintenance and replacements.
Even the sun’s heat and UV rays can fade paint, crack seats, and ruin plastic and rubber components. Whether the weather is good or bad, leaving a bike outside without a cover is never advisable, and that should seem obvious to any responsible bike owner.
Plus, leaving a valuable bike uncovered is like asking to have it stolen or damaged. Very nice motorcycles have a way of standing out.
Unfortunately, statistically you can be sure that a small percentage of the people who notice your bike will be criminally minded, and you don’t want to tempt one of them into thinking it might be worth the risk to steal your ride while you’re inside the grocery store.
Thus, a cover serves two essential purposes – protecting the bike from the elements and keeping it hidden from would-be thieves. Most people who buy a nice motorcycle want a nice cover to go along with it, but having an unimpressive, cheap-looking cover is actually a safer option when you’re parking in public.
In other words, if you park a brand new Road King at the mall in a city known for high crime, don’t make it obvious with a fancy Harley Davidson cover.
Consider a DIY or Homemade Shelter
Creating a makeshift shelter for your motorcycle isn’t too challenging and you can use a variety of cheap materials to get the job done. There are also plenty of tutorials online that will show you how to build a bike shelter with minimal tools and building experience. For the most part you’ll have to research or use some ingenuity to find a design that works best for your situation, but if you’re the DIY type you could start by taking some inspiration from the videos below.
Compare Bike Shelter and Pod Storage Options
If the DIY approach isn’t your thing, fret not because there are plenty of premade options starting as low as a couple hundred dollars. Although the exact model you choose will depend on your budget, bike size/shape, and personal preference, here are some good recommendations to start you on a comparison of your own:
- Cycle Shell
- Speed-Way Sport Shelter
- The Bike Barn
- Nelson-Rigg Deluxe
- Lifetime 8 x 15 Shed
- Roughneck 7 x 7 Shed
- Arrow Shed Yard Saver 4 x 10 Shed
- Gardener 10 x 10 Shed
- Steel Sheds
Of course, these are just a fraction of what’s available, but for the most part the sheds and pods listed above are the most popular motorcycle shelters on the market.
There really is no limit to what you can use as a motorcycle shelter. Some people even store their bikes in a cargo trailer. However, if you choose to go that route be sure to secure it with multiple locks to keep someone from hooking up and riding off with your trailer.
All of these ideas are great if you’re trying to figure out how to store your motorcycle long term.
Motorcycle Storage Theft Info and Additional Anti-Theft Measures
Most of us can deal with the idea of having to do some minor maintenance or repairs due to exposure to the elements, but having your bike stolen is a far more disastrous scenario.
Statistically, around 45,000 motorcycles are stolen in the United States each year, according to a report from the NICB. That number has come down more than 30% from almost 67,000 in 2006. Theft is on the decline, but even still every 11 minutes a motorcycle is stolen in the U.S.
Fortunately, the vast majority of stolen motorcycles are left outside uncovered, unchained, without an alarm, or in an otherwise vulnerable spot. Bike thieves typically look for easy steals, so by securing your bike with multiple methods of protection you can significantly decrease the chances of your bike becoming a dreadful statistic.
Keeping your bike from being stolen isn’t about making it impossible to steal, it’s about making it look extremely difficult to steal, and giving yourself the opportunity to catch the thief in the act.
Here’s an all-inclusive list of tips you can use to keep thieves from taking off with your motorcycle:
Install Alarms and/or Surveillance
Perhaps the most effective way to keep watch over your bike is to install a motion sensing alarm that will send you a text message, phone call, or email alert as soon as someone comes close enough to your bike.
Disk lock alarms and under seat alarms are also great options if you don’t want to deal with frequent false alarms that are often caused by the motion sensing variety. However, installing a option sensor on a shelter or pod gives you more time to react because the alarm sounds as soon as someone comes within feet of opening the shelter.
Don’t forget to post a sticker or sign that lets them know the bike is being guarded by an alarm or surveillance. Cameras and alarms alone won’t stop a thief in the act, but you’re more likely to deter them from trying if they’re aware the bike is being watched.
Use a Quality Lock and Heavy Duty Chain to Secure the Bike
If you can’t find something that is completely immovable, at least chain the bike to an object that is sturdy and would be very challenging to pick up or move. You can have the fanciest bike chain in the world but it won’t do much good if you attach it to a flimsy fence or bike rack.
The quality of the lock you use is also incredibly important. You need to choose a padlock with an enclosed shackle that can’t be compromised by liquid nitrogen. Although it’s best to choose an uncommon brand since criminals tend to try and familiarize themselves with popular locks, as a good rule of thumb try to look for something similar to the locks made by Squire.
If you don’t have a suitable anchor to attach the chain to, there are plenty of ways to get creative with what you have. For example, you could fill a rubber trash can with concrete, place an anchor at the top of the concrete block, and chain the bike to the anchor.
It would take a lot of effort for a thief to move something like that and even if you live in an apartment building, a rubber trash can shouldn’t be unsightly enough to upset neighbors or landlords. This method is widely used and is a great way to make sure your bike chain is attached to something very heavy and conspicuous.
Don’t forget to lubricate the chain with chain lube to make breaking it with a chain cutter more difficult. Thieves will have a hard time creating the necessary friction to break the chain if it’s thoroughly lubed.
Most chains can be easily broken with some bolt cutters or chain cutters. However, there are large security chains like the Kryptonite and Almax that can only be broken by power tools. If you’re going to settle for a cheap and flimsy chain that’s easy to break then you might as well not use one at all.
Use a Disc Lock
A disc lock, also referred to as a wheel lock, attaches to the rotor on one of your motorcycle’s wheels to prevent it from turning. A key is needed to remove the disc lock and some models are equipped with built-in alarms that can let you know when the bike is moved.
However, some motorcycle owners prefer to use a disc lock without an alarm and then use a separate alarm to avoid false alarms, as this can become a nuisance with certain disc lock models. On the other hand, the alarm also serves to help remind you when the disc lock is engaged so it’s a useful extra to have.
Install a GPS Locator
As a last resort, if a thief does manage to get away with your bike, a hidden GPS tracker can help you locate and reclaim the bike with the help of law enforcement. There are plenty of options in this category, so you should be able to find something that works regardless of your budget.
There are real-time GPS trackers for motorcycles on eBay starting at around $15. Alternatively, you could go with an expensive yet more secure option like LoJack. Something like TrackR would also work if you could hide it in one of the bike’s compartments.
However, keep in mind that some thieves will attempt to dispose of GPS trackers, so you’ll want to use something that isn’t easy to find or remove. For this reason many motorcycle owners go with LoJack because it offers a 24 hour theft recovery guarantee.
Other Anti-Theft Tips Worth Mentioning
- Trick people into thinking your bike isn’t worth stealing – Don’t use a fancy cover or anything else that screams “hey look, this is an expensive bike.” Try to use a very generic looking oversized cover that effectively conceals the shape and brand of the bike.
- Use the bike’s built-in steering and ignition locks – Criminals can get around these, but you might as well use them as first line of defense to create extra hassle for a would-be thief.
- Out of sight, out of mind – Utilize off street parking if available. The idea is to keep your bike as hidden as possible.
- Motion-activated lighting – As mentioned, alarms are great options, but you can take the intimidation a step further with motion-activated lights that put will automatically put the spotlight on a would-be thief.
- Rent a storage unit – If you don’t ride everyday or your don’t mind picking the bike up from a storage building, renting a self-storage unit is a notable security option.
- Have insurance with adequate theft coverage – Never put yourself in the position to take an unrecoverable loss.
Finally, look at your parked bike from the perspective of a thief and honestly decide whether it looks like you could get away with stealing it. Remember, your job is to make a bike thief go through an absurd amount of hassle while also increasing your chances of stopping the theft or recovering the bike if it is stolen.
How To Winterize Your Motorcycle
Leaving a motorcycle outside in the winter with no protection is one of the dumbest things a motorcycle owner can do. If you foresee the need to store your bike outside for an extended period of time during the winter, it’s important to take the necessary preparatory steps to minimize the risk of damage or theft. Follow the advice below and your bike should still be functional come spring time.
Prepping a Motorcycle for the Winter
Luckily winter doesn’t just show up by surprise, so everyone should have plenty of time to get their bike ready for the cold temps. Many of these steps are the same things you would do when storing a bike outside at any time of the year, but we’ve also covered a few specifics that you’ll need to know before leaving your bike out in the cold:
- Change the oil and check all fluids. Low or ineffective fluids can allow for corrosion. Be sure to top up the coolant/anti-freeze. Change the oil filter as well.
- Fill the gas tank. Use a fuel stabilizer like Sta-Bil to keep your gas fresh and ready to perform come spring time. Follow the instructions on the fuel stabilizer bottle. You may also want to drain your carburetor float bowls if your bike has a carburetor.
- Lubricate all moving parts thoroughly. Clean and lubricate the bike’s chain if it has one. Put a dab of oil onto the front fork’s stationary tubes to prevent the rubber seals from drying and becoming rigid. Lube the driveshaft and all cables and pivot points.
- Spray WD-40 on all exposed metal surfaces – The WD-40 will displace water from the surface of hard components, thereby preventing frost, rust, and other moisture-related problems.
- Disconnect and remove the battery. Hook it up to a battery tender to keep it from self-discharging. You may also want to remove the spark plugs and apply some motor oil to the cylinders.
- Clean and wax the bike. Use car washing soap and apply wax coating.
- Put your bike on motorcycle stands if you have them. It’s important to keep the tires from sitting in the same position all winter long, as this could cause flat spots an the need for new tires. If you have to leave the bike on the ground, be sure to rotate the tires at least once per week. You can also put plywood or carpet underneath the tires instead of letting them sit on concrete the whole season.
- Plug up the exhaust pipes. Use an exhaust plug or plastic bags to cover any openings that rodents could crawl into. Vermin have been known to crawl into exhausts and ruin components.
- Cover the tail pipe. Spray some WD-40 on it before covering it with a rubber band and plastic wrap.
- Put a weatherproof cover on the bike. Make sure the cover is properly secured.
If you follow the ten steps above you should have no problem hopping on your bike and enjoying a long ride as soon as spring arrives.
Winterizing Your Motorcycle Shelter
If you’ve already built or bought a shelter, you can take steps to further winterize it by adding insulation, using an extra layer of covering, and properly sealing all openings. You can use weatherproof caulk to seal any cracks that are letting air in. Install new weather stripping on the doors. To make sure you’ve got everything covered, find a guide that shows you how to winterize a shed and go from there.
Consider Winter Storage Services at a Shop
Finally, if none of the options above seem secure enough for your liking, you also have the option of paying a shop to store your bicycle for the winter. Most shops will also offer a winterizing service before storing your bike for the season, which entails changing all the fluids and performing the steps above. If handling all of the above by yourself sound intimidating and you’re willing to a spend a bit to keep your bike warm and safe throughout the winter, these services are definitely worth considering.
Try to get yourself several estimates and then take a look at your monthly budget to see what you can handle.
De-winterizing your motorcycle; Prepping To Ride
Now that your bike has been cleaned, waxed, maintained, and covered, you’re probably wondering if there are any special steps you should take before letting her back on the open road. Here’s a quick step-by-step guide you can use to get back on the road safely without damaging or forgetting anything:
- Wipe off all wax using a large towel. Use gunk degreaser to clean off fogging oil if it was used during the winterization process.
- Remove rubber bands and plastic bags from air intakes, exhaust pipes, and drain hoses.
- Check and adjust tire pressure.
- Wipe off all plastic and rubber parts with large towel to remove Armor All or other coatings that were used.
- Sit on the bike, hold the front brake, and move the front suspension up and down.
- Check all controls and cables
- Wipe down the battery terminal and reinstall the battery
- Turn the engine over a couple of times to get the oil circulating
- Prime the carburetor by letting gas enter float bowls.
- Crank up the engine and adjust the choke if needed. Ensure that it is idling properly.
Don’t forget to perform any necessary maintenance if you discover wear and tear or something wrong during your inspection. If you’re not confident in your ability to assess your bike’s mechanic condition, seek the assistance of a mechanic or local repair shop.
The Importance Of Conducting A Safety Check Before Riding
This should go without saying but –
Your biggest concern should be returning your motorcycle to the road without accidentally ruining one of the parts due to improper winterization or de-winterization.
The last thing you want is to ruin a perfectly good bike because you forgot to check something minor before hitting the road. To keep yourself from being stranded and/or having to pay for repairs, be sure to follow all of the steps in this guide and conduct further research in your spare time.
A lot of people buy brand new motorcycles and then leave them to the elements to rot over time. Hopefully with these tips you can not only keep your motorcycle secure but get a heads up on how to store your motorcycle long term and prevent damage to your baby.