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Putting your motorbike into hibernation for the winter

Carlton Boyce / 30 October 2015

How to prepare your motorbike or motorcycle for storage to protect it during the cold and wet winter months.

Motorbike covered in snow during the Winter
You can’t leave your motorcycle for months on end in the cold and wet and expect a trouble-free start in the spring

If you are one of the ever-increasing number of recreational bikers rediscovering the pleasure that two-wheels can provide, the onset of autumn gives you one last chance to enjoy blue skies, sunshine and clear roads before winter. 

With ice, snow, salty roads and a gloomy commute on the horizon, is it any wonder that many bikers store their motorcycle away for the winter?

But you can’t just wheel your motorbike into the garage and leave it there for months on end and expect a trouble-free start in the spring. Here’s our guide to putting your motorcycle into hibernation for the winter.  

Wash and wax

The first job is to give your motorbike a good wash with a decent car or ‘bike shampoo. Be thorough – an old toothbrush comes in handy for all those nooks and crannies you don’t usually bother with – and rinse it well with plenty of clean water before letting it dry thoroughly, preferably overnight.

Then invest a couple of hours giving every square inch of metal or painted plastic a coat of wax, polishing it off when it’s dried. Give the frame and the exhaust a wipe with a WD40-coated rag too, which will help stop them rusting.

Your fuel tank

Unleaded petrol deteriorates over time, gumming up the fuel system and causing starting problems in the spring. For this reason you can either drain the petrol tank dry or use a fuel stabilizer.

I prefer the latter course of action as it’s less fuss and means you’ve got fuel in the tank should you need to start your motorcycle for any reason. If you do this, add it to the tank and then run the engine for a few minutes to allow it to circulate throughout the entire fuel system.

If you’ve got carbs, then turn off your fuel tap and drain them by running the engine until it runs out of fuel.

Read our tips for riding with a pillion.

Oil change

The next job is to change the engine oil and filter. Leaving dirty engine oil to sit and fester for the winter is a guarantee of future problems because the by-products of combustion are acids and other contaminants that will corrode the inside of your engine.

If you aren’t going to be using the motorbike for a few months you could remove the spark plugs and add a teaspoon of engine oil or Redex, turning the engine over on the starter (loosely holding a rag over the plug holes to catch any stray oil) for a second to coat the cylinder surfaces. Replace the spark plugs after you’ve done this to keep the inside of your engine clean and dry.

General lubrication

Now is a good time to break out the WD40, Vaseline and copper grease. Using your motorcycle’s handbook or workshop manual, work your way methodically from stem to stern ensuring that everything that can be protected with oil or grease is.

The battery

You can either invest in a decent battery maintainer, like the Optimate range, or disconnect the battery altogether. I prefer to keep it maintained on the ‘bike and the £50 it costs to buy a charger seems like a worthwhile investment to me.

Got a classic car? Read our guide to storing it away during winter.

Wheels and tyres

Your wheels and tyres are clean and dry, but not protected. Pump them up to the maximum recommended pressure to help prevent flat-spots developing. Storing your motorcycle on a pair of track stands is the ideal, but it is expensive and not absolutely necessary.

Don’t forget to give the wheels a coat of polish if they are alloy, or a careful squirt of WD40 – taking care not to get it on the tyres – if they are spokes. Don’t use tyre dressings, as they’ll inevitably get on the tyre tread, making it slippery.

Cover it up

You can now pop your ‘bike on its centre stand and cover it up with a motorcycle cover. Fix your lock into place and admire your hard work in the knowledge that you’ve done everything you can to keep it in tip-top condition!

Read our winter driving tips.


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.