A little time spent in the fall will save lots of money and frustration in the spring.
I will share a plan that will help get you riding in the spring, rather than waiting to get your bike in to be worked on. There are very few two stroke street bikes left in the world so we will assume, for the street, that we are working on a four stroke bike.
ROAD GOING MOTORCYCLES
1. Store your bike with a full tank. Fill your gas tank with the best gas you can get. Go to a popular gas station and top up on premium. Add the recommended amount of fuel stabilizer (Sta-bil®) or a like product. The ride home will mix the stabilizer and transfer it throughout the fuel system. The main function of this is reducing the volume of air inside the tank. The tank can’t rust if it is full of gas. The fuel stabilizer keeps the gasoline in the tank from going stale which means that the part that burns well evaporates off. The stabilizer also keeps a strange form of living organism from growing in the gas.
2. Carbureted machines need to be stored with the carburetors dry! Tune the fuel valve to the off position; you should do this any time you are not riding. If you look at your fuel valve and see no off position to select, place it in the on or run position (this valve style is automatic and shuts it’s self off when the engine is not running). On the very bottom of the carburetor you will find a drain screw, turn this screw out three or four turns, do not remove it just loosen it. The fuel that is in the carburetor will drain out on to the floor so place a rag or bowl under the drain tubes to catch this gas. Then turn the screw back in snugly. What you are trying to avoid in this step is having to clean your carburetors do to the residue left after the gasoline evaporates away. Be cautious of the fuel igniting, do not drain the fuel in the presents of any source of ignition, like a lit cigarettes. I personally know a mechanic that was burned when static spark from a shop rag ignited gasoline on his hands and face, so this is not a mater to be taken lightly. Fuel injected bikes are some easier in that the fuel remaining in the system is under pressure and cannot evaporate away like it can in a carburetor float bowl. Filling the tank and draining the carbs (when applicable) should take care of the fuel system.
3. Now on to the battery. The Batteries that any good brand of motorcycle come with are of very good quality and with proper care can last astonishingly well, I have seen fifteen years, however most do not get the care they need to give this service life. What the manufactures recommend is remove the battery from the bike, then charge it, place it in a cool dry location, and put it on the charger about every three weeks. Since that is not going to happen, there is the battery tender or (float charger). This is a charger that you can put on your bike and leave it there till spring. You install the lead wires for the charger on to the battery in the bike, then whenever the bike is setting for a week or two just plug it in an forget it. For less than $35.00 you can protect your battery for many years.
4. Storage. Carefully pick the place you store your bike. Will there be stuff moved around it? Many bikes come out of storage with dings and dents that they didn’t go in with. Are there mice? Mice find air filters to be the perfect composition for nesting and wiring to be a delicacy, so some poison around in the area is a good idea. Is their electricity for the battery tender? If your storage options do not include electricity, then pull the battery out and store it somewhere that you can hook it up a forget it until spring. Next consider the floor in the pace you plan to put the bike. If it is not made of concrete there is a chance that the floor may get soft and allow the side stand to sink in and allow the bike to tip over. This can easy happen on a dirt floor when the frost goes out, water runs in and softens the floor. So if you are storing on a dirt floor put something under the kick stand to keep it from sinking in.
5. Oil changes. Many people consider an oil change to be part of the process in preparation for storage, and there is a fair argument for this practice. I favor a spring oil change; this removes any condensation from the crank case. So you can forgo the oil change until spring, but don’t forget to do it and to use a motorcycle grade oil and high quality filter.
OFF ROAD MOTORCYCLES
For off road bikes, four stroke motor the process is the same as road going bikes with one exception. If you have a plastic gas tank you should drain it. Most newer off road bikes have plastic tanks, where older units are likely to be steel that will rust. A plastic tank will have gas vapor escaping through the sides of the tank all winter, this will stain the plastic and loosen any decals on the tank.
Two stroke motors are special; all the other rules apply plus a new one. Because a two stroke doesn’t have oil in the crank case, the crank shaft Barings need protection from condensation while stored. The process for protecting the crank is called fogging. Fogging is done by removing the air filter and spraying “fogging oil” in to the intake of the carburetor, with the motor running, do this until the engine quits. This fowls the spark plug, so the spark plug must be replaced when you restart the bike in the spring.