A short while ago, just after the clocks had turned and the nights really began to draw in, I received a press release which, essentially, told me to stash my riding gear in a cupboard under the stairs and put my bike away for winter.
As it happens, the email in question was just explaining the various ways in which I could ensure that my bike would be safe and sound during winter storage, up until the time that the weather improves to a clement condition conducive to motorbicycling. But I felt that there was an unwritten message, suggesting that the winter months are a time that we shouldn’t really be out and about on two wheels…
In a somewhat entertaining fashion, the press release not only suggested that we should be putting our bike somewhere warm and dry – and covering it with blankets and sheets to prevent dents and scratches as well as stopping it from being covered in dust and spiders’ webs – but also that the bike in question won’t be used at all during the ‘hibernation’ period.
However, in the closing clause, we’re told that the prevention of condensation in the exhaust can be achieved by starting the bike on a regular basis, and allowing it to warm up, a method that is also suggested to ensure that the battery stays in a reasonable, close to fully charged, condition.
Now, I was always taught that the only way to get any internal combustion engine up to a reasonable temperature is by using it – not by leaving it plodding away on tickover for ages, but by putting it under load. In other words, by actually riding it.
There was also the mention that the petrol tank should be left full, rather than empty, if the bike is standing unused for a long period.
The reasoning is sensible – if the tank isn’t full of fuel, any air in the tank can result in oxidisation of the tank’s internal surfaces (i.e. rusting, providing it is made of steel) – but it ignores the increasingly common issues with modern fuels, that they ‘go off’, after even a short time. While this can make petrol a little less potent, the real issues are with the fuel that sits within the carburettors, with fuel turning into a horrid substance that can only be described as ‘gunge’.
These issues would, of course, be resolved if the fuel in question was being used and replaced with new fuel on a regular basis…
A mention is also made of the potential for flat spots being created on the tyres, thanks to them being parked in one position for weeks on end. There’s an easy answer to that, which I think you can probably guess, although the suggestion given is that the bike is put on stands so that the wheels are off the ground, or at the very least, the wheels are rotated every few weeks or so.
Going to all this effort is all well and good if you know, for sure, that there’ll not be even a single day over the winter months when the sun is out, the roads are dry and you fancy a ride out to blow away the cobwebs.
We’re already past the time for the Boxing Day meets and New Year’s Day runs, but you don’t need an excuse to ride your bike, nor a specific venue to travel to. You just need the opportunity to ride. Which is why the idea of putting any bike to bed for the winter irked me so.
But riding a motorcycle on even the driest and sunniest of winter days still requires considerations.
So, rather than winterising your bike as the press release so helpfully suggested, why not winterise yourself? My British Coal donkey jacket, rigger boots and fisherman’s jumper that once sufficed as winter biking wear don’t seem to keep me quite as warm as they used to, and it certainly isn’t down to the winters getting harsher (with the exception of last year’s Beast from the East).
People are perhaps getting softer, but the modern motorcyclist also has the choice of wearing some apparel that is significantly more effective than that available in the past.
‘Base layers’, electrically heated clothing, garments that are actually waterproof (and don’t hold half a hundredweight of water) and winter gloves that still allow you to operate the hand controls are all available nowadays at prices that aren’t going to break the bank.
I know that some folk mock the idea of electrical clothing – after all, having to plug your gloves in so that they can recharge isn’t something that comes naturally to many of us, and not being able to go out on your bike “because my jacket’s battery has gone flat” sounds like a rather weak excuse – but given the choice between plugging in a battery and being roasty-toasty warm, or of risking hypothermia, I know which my option is going to be.
And that is actually something that I’ll be trying out very soon, having joined the New Age of Motorcycling with the arrival of an electrically heated vest from Keis. Although if you happen to have a bike that is kick-start only, and is somewhat recalcitrant to burst into life, then maybe you’ll have your own, built-in, central heating system. And a great many classic bikes have their own way of ensuring that your boots and lower trousers remain fully waterproof.
But of course, those technological advances in clothing mean that, strictly speaking, we have no excuse to not use our classics through winter. Not that we actually want, or need, any excuse whatsoever.
There’s a pleasingly warm glow (however contrary that phrase is) that comes from riding a bike through the winter, and that’s one that is made even greater by doing it on a classic – it seems that some folk struggle to entertain the notion that classics can be used as regular transport just as easily as modern bikes, and heap a huge amount of praise on anyone that does so.
And it proves the naysayers who claim – nay, demand – that classic bikes are only for collections and should only be ridden on sunny Sunday mornings in months with four letters, that they’re very, very wrong indeed.
Happy new year, and enjoy the issue!