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How to properly winterize your motorbike is an ongoing question for first time riders. I know for me, the first winter I put my bike away for the year, I didn’t even think there were things I had to do. I just stopped riding it and parked it on the front porch. Boy was I surprised when I went to ride it a few weeks later on an unseasonably warm day and it wouldn’t start.
So when I got the offer of a guest blog post from Bobby Cleveland, the Gold Eagle Engine Answerman and spokesman for the STA-BIL® folks, I jumped at the opportunity to publish it as a service to my readers.
After getting my bike running again that first year when I didn’t winterize, my mechanic suggested I use STA-BIL® in my fuel tank during the winter to preserve the gasoline and make sure the bike started in the spring. I’ve been using it ever since; it’s good stuff that works. I’ve seen some debate whether it’s really necessary but for a couple of bucks, it’s well worth the investment.
And here are Bobby’s suggestions for proper winter storage.
Five Steps to Proper Winter Storage of Your Motorcycle
By Bobby Cleveland, Gold Eagle Engine Answerman
With winter rapidly approaching, most of us are bidding farewell to our joyous motorcycle rides in the warm summer breeze and getting them ready to store for the colder months ahead.
But, what most aren’t looking forward to is the process of getting this completed. In fact, a national survey conducted by Gold Eagle® Co., an industry pioneer of aftermarket fluids and additives, found that 97 percent of consumers know that properly storing their motorcycles in the offseason will actually help them run at optimal performance come springtime. However, almost 75 percent of people encounter issues when taking their motorcycles out of storage—which means they likely missed some important steps when storing them in the first place.
To help prepare for winter storage, Gold Eagle Engine Answerman®, Bobby Cleveland, has some helpful time-and money-saving tips to help ensure you properly prep your motorcycles for storage, so they are ready to rev up come springtime.
Step One: Block off a few hours in your schedule to ensure you have time to complete the process. It can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours, and it’s well worth the time, as you’ll be helping protect your motorcycle from corrosion, rust and other damaging elements and avoid repair costs in the spring.
Step Two: Clean your bike thoroughly to remove all residue and dirt from surfaces, so it doesn’t sit all winter long. Using a cleaner like 303® Fabric & Vinyl Cleaner to remove residue that could cause stains if it sat through the cold winter months. Also, using a protectant like 303® Aerospace Protectant will help keep vinyl and leather from cracking in lower temperatures.
Step Three: Clean beyond the surface, taking care to clean the INSIDES of your bike too. Fuel problems are a top issue that motorcycle owners run into during storage and it’s important that you complete this step properly, or you’ll face consequences come spring. With this in mind, when winterizing your bike, leave your gas tank full of fuel and add STA-BIL®Fuel Stabilizer. If you’re fuel is fresh, you do not need to drain it, but if you’ve had it more than a month, you should drain it completely and refill with fresh fuel.
Once you’ve filled your tank and added a stabilizer (use 2 oz to every 5 gallons of gasoline for storage), you should run your engine for a few minutes to make sure the fuel stabilizer gets into the carburetor and injectors. By filling the tank with fuel and stabilizer, you clean the carburetors and fuel injectors and ensure there is less air in the tank to prevent corrosion. If you leave air in the tank, it creates condensation, which can cause corrosion, so the more you eliminate water in your tank the better.
Here’s a video explaining why this is an important step in the winterizing process:
It is also a good idea to use a fogger to coat the inside of the engine when it is stored. You can use STA-BIL® Fogging Oil that you spray into your carburetor to coat the inner lining and prevent corrosion.
Step Four: Make sure your battery is properly charged, so you don’t end up with a dead battery come spring. You’ll want to make sure it has at least a trickle charge. Check your engine manual to make sure you are doing this correctly.
Step Five: Cover the bike properly and store it in a cool, dry place. This will help to keep any eroding elements away from the surface and keep it in the best shape until you are ready to take it out next spring.
Written by Bobby Cleveland – Bobby Cleveland shares his engine knowledge as Gold Eagle’s Engine Answerman. As a former technician, he shares his experience and advice with consumers on how they can obtain greater performance out of all things motor—from power sport vehicles and classic cars to household power equipment such as string trimmers and lawnmowers. Learn more from Bobby at his blog – On the Road with the Engine Answerman.
A few weeks ago I was on a date with a woman. It was pretty early in the dating process – that awkward stage where there’s preliminary attraction but you just don’t know for sure. We were at a coffee shop, groping for common ground, and it was becoming increasingly clear there wasn’t enough.
Then she sealed her fate by asking, “What’s with the motorcycle thing, anyway?”
I was caught off guard by the whole way she asked the question, in a semi-accusatory way. As if I had to justify my love of motorcycles to her. I thought for a moment about how to answer. Usually, I tell my story about how watching The Last Lecture had me thinking about childhood dreams, and how this led me to inventory my childhood dreams, and #1 on the list was riding a motorcycle, and how within 60 days of that realization I had a motorcycle license and a new Triumph America.
If I want to be charming, I’ll tell that story, and continue on to how motorcycling has since become my #1 passion and hobby and has changed my whole lifestyle. But I had no desire to be charming with this woman since it clearly just wasn’t there. Didn’t want to waste my breath.
So I simply replied, “It’s fun.”
And it’s true. Why do I ride, really? Because it’s fun. Why do I chose to go through the process of gearing up and stowing my briefcase and ride to work instead of drive? Because it’s fun. Why did I essentially give up golf because I preferred going for a long motorcycle ride on a Saturday afternoon to hacking my way around a golf course? Because it’s fun. Why do I take 10 or so days a year off from work to go on motorcycle camping trips instead of lying on a beach? Because it’s fun.
So there you have it folks, I ride because it’s fun. And that’s now become my standard response when someone asks about riding a motorcycle and how I got into it and why I ride. It’s simple: I ride because it’s fun.
I blogged about this fantastic trip earlier this month. Here are the rest of my pictures – well, at least some of the best. Between setting up the GoPro to take stills every 30 seconds and stopping around every bend to take a photo of another jaw-dropping view with my still camera, I had over 600 pictures.
This past Memorial Day weekend I had nothing to do, no plans, didn’t have my kids. I decided to take an impromptu trip out West and do some riding and camping. I’m not one to do things spur of the moment but something gripped me and told me it was right. So I told my co-workers I was taking Friday off, hopped online, booked a cheap flight to Denver ($300 roundtrip on Southwest), found a motorcycle rental place and reserved the cheapest bike they had (BMW F650GS at $135 a day) and decided to do something I’ve never done before. Just take off.
I’m so freaking glad I did it. Colorado and Utah are stunningly gorgeous. There is no such thing as a bad motorcycle road out there. The people are just fantastic. Even though it was just four days, it was the experience of a lifetime. I love being on a motorcycle.
The low points (there were a few):
- Work. My plan was to get the bike early in the AM and get started early-early Friday morning, but I had a client crisis blow up and had to work for a good chunk of the morning from my hotel room at the Denver Airport. I didn’t get on the bike until later than I wanted.
- I got a speeding ticket. There was exactly one rural stretch of Route 50 where the speed limit dropped to 55. The rest of it is 65. Guess where there were about 5 cops all up and down the road? What really galls me – I was doing 70 in a 55. Anywhere else on the planet, the cop wouldn’t look up from his donuts. Not this two-bit backwater deputy sheriff, no sireee. So there was a tax of $169.50 on my trip. Officer Turner of the Montrose County Sheriff’s Department: you should be ashamed of yourself for your part in this fraud perpetrated against unsuspecting Colorado tourists.
- Windstorms cut my day short on Saturday. My plan was to make it to Moab by Saturday but the wind as I got closer to Grand Junction was ridiculous. When I stopped for gas someone told me that this was due to a big windstorm and there would be 75-90 mph gusts. I decided against traveling any further that day, as I was having a hard enough time keeping my light 650 upright on certain stretches of open highway. I checked into a hotel and chillaxed.
The high points (too many to list but here are a few):
Pike’s Peak. Climbing Pike’s Peak on the 650 was a major accomplishment. At the top I met a fellow inmate from the Advrider forum who chatted me up for a bit and gave me some great tips for future trips.
- Gunnison, CO. What a cool town. An oasis in the middle of nowhere. Some of the nicest and friendliest girls on the planet, too. 🙂
- Arches National Park. Every American should see this in their lifetime. Jaw dropping.
- Moab, Utah. Sedona, but on a much grander scale. I told my daughter (who loves Sedona) to imagine Sedona, but 100 times larger.
- Reddit. I met up with a friend from the Reddit motorcycle forum in Grand Junction. He spent an hour with me giving me lots of helpful tips. The cameraderie of motorcyclists is pervasive!
Things I learned:
Offroading is way harder than it looks. Sand is evil.
- Acclimatize. Don’t go from sea level to 14,000 feet in the span of 24 hours. I was really struggling at the top of Pike’s Peak.
- The Lost Cajun. What a great little restaurant in Frisco, CO. Only 5 minutes off interstate 70. By all means, stop there and enjoy the company of the owner, Raymond Griffin. The food is wonderful but Raymond’s life wisdom and company was worth the trip all by itself.
I’ll be doing more impromtu ( and promptu ) trips like this. I’m already scheming about when I can do something like this in Ireland. Stay tuned.
I’ll post more pictures and video in the coming days.
One of my goals for this year was to get some experience offroading. I haven’t had a two-wheeled motorized vehicle offroad since my Rupp Scrambler circa 1975. At Saturday’s Kawasaki demo day I asked one of the guides who had offroad experience about how to get training, to which he replied, “I dunno. I’m one of those crazy guys who will just go and do it.” Mind you, this is a guy who claims he rode his KLR-650 to the Arctic circle last year. So I was inspired.
Yesterday I found some dirt roads to demo my V-strom on. Here’s some video of my first offroad experiences.
Somewhere on the mountain near Bear Creek Ski Resort:
Then when I got back to my hometown I had a realization. Lansdale is an old town with old-school back alleys behind the homes. These back alleys are all gravel. So I decided to take a few laps around town. “Urban Offroading” I called it. The trip ends with a lap around my yard. And you’ve gotta love the drunk stumbling down the back alley with a big jug of wine in his hand at the 34 second mark of the video. It was about 3:40 in the afternoon too, and he was weaving back and forth pretty good. Lansdale is also one of those towns where drunks stumble down the back alleys:
On a completely unrelated note, riding motorcycles on strange roads lets you see some strange things. Here’s a house I saw in my travels that is made to look like Noah’s arc. As a friend mentioned, Noah didn’t need a dove…he had a satellite dish.
I bought a GoPro HD Hero last fall for a motorcycle trip through West Virginia and North Carolina, and I’ve got to say I’m one of the few who’s not in love with it. The small form factor, rugged construction, and multitude of mounting devices are main selling points. But I have a few pretty big complaints about it:
- Battery life is limited. I’m only getting about an hour of life from the battery.
- Navigating the settings is a challenge. If I ever lose the users manual to this camera, I’m screwed. The settings are in a decision tree embedded within the camera and proffered up on a miniscule display in arcane codes. Every time I want to change settings I have to bust out the manual, which means I have to carry it with me on every ride.
- You can’t change modes on the fly. There’s no way to switch from video to still photography (or vice versa) on the fly, something I used to do with my old Flip video camera. (See below.)
- It’s hard to turn it off and on while riding. You have to firmly press the power button and hold it down for 7 seconds for the unit to power up. And there is no way from the rider’s seat to know if it has powered up successfully or not. If your finger wavers on the power button even for a moment it won’t turn on. There have been times I thought I was recording awesome footage, but I wasn’t.
- It’s hard to engage the shutter button while riding. Pressing the shutter button requires a firm press to engage, and there’s no way for the rider to know if the camera is actually recording. The red blinking LED that’s on the front, confirming operation, should be mounted on the back. Likewise, because of the tricky shutter button, there have been times I thought I was recording awesome footage, but I wasn’t.
I think the latter two complaints are because the GoPro is intended as a “set it and forget it” video recording device. The editing is supposed to be done when you’re done your ride and back at home. But I’m pretty limited when it comes to video editing, and prefer to record brief memorable segments of my ride, upload ’em and ditch the whole editing process.
Last weekend I shot some video of my ride on the Jersey shore and found one more limitation: because you can’t see what’s being recorded, there’s no way to know if there’s a bug on the viewfinder! Here are a few segments of my ride down the shore on NJ Route 47:
Nice clean view across the display. Pretty day, pretty ride:
Pretty day, pretty ride, ugly blotch of dead bug in the top right quadrant of the screen, at about 2:00:
As I noted above, on previous trips I jerryrigged a FlipVideo camera to my handlebars with a mini-tripod and electrical tape. The shots from these earlier trips look like their from the paleolithic era compared to the video footage from the GoPro, but I actually found that setup to be much more user friendly than the GoPro:
I’m going to keep experimenting with the GoPro and hopefully I’ll become a true believer like just about everyone else who has tested and reviewed this camera, but for now the jury is still out.
This is a question that comes up time and time again on the internet: what’s the best bike for a first time rider. And any time someone writes on the subject, it’s like whack-a-mole: you’re gonna get hit in the head by someone who disagrees with your list.
I’m doing it a little different and taking a page out of People Magazine’s formula with my list of the sexiest bikes for first time riders. Let’s face it. Part of the appeal of riding a motorcycle is the massive incremental sex appeal that it gives the rider. Someone who knows how to throw a leg over a two-wheeled beast and launch it is by definition sexier than someone who doesn’t.
I had a few criteria for this list. (1) the bike had to be less than 1000 cc’s, which I think is the upper limit for a first time rider. (2) the bike had to be available in the 2012 model year. And (3) the bike had to cost less than $10,000 out the showroom door (not hard to do considering criteria #1, but I’m putting it out there anyway.)
Normally I wouldn’t recommend anyone – let alone a first time rider – buy a brand-new bike. You end up paying dealer setup fees and shipping which can add another grand to your purchase price. There are so many bikes available used that if you don’t have your heart set on a bike that was just introduced, you can find low mileage late model year options on Craigslist or Ebay or the motorcycle forums and save thousands. But for the sake of setting a line in the sand, these are all 2012 models.
Here’s my list:
10. Honda NC700X. This bike is set to hit showrooms later this spring. I saw it’s debut at the New York Motorcycle Show and it’s very cool. Just please please please – if you buy one – don’t get automatic transmission, OK? It automatically eliminates the sexy quotient.
9. Triumph America. Cruisers are sexy, and the Triumph marque adds a little something-something. I rode this bike for three years and if you’re a new rider in the market for a cruiser, I can’t say enough about it. In a sea of homogeneous middleweight cruisers (take the badges off a Vulcan, Shadow, Boulevard, or Star and you’d have a hard time telling them apart), the America stands out.
8. Kawasaki Ninja 250. Many fellow riders think that a first time rider should consider only 250 cc and below motorcycles. I think this approach really limits choices. Nevertheless, the Ninja 250 is just a great looking bike that owners love. On the motorcycles subreddit (fantastic motorcycle forum – go there if you haven’t already) a Ninja 250 owner crossed the 30,000 mile mark this week, so it’s NOT a bike you’ll outgrow.
7. Suzuki V-Strom 650. The 2007 edition of the V-Strom is my current ride and I’m thrilled with it. It’s comfortable, versatile, nimble, easy to ride and easy to love. The 2012 version is less versatile (it’s off-road capabilities have been stripped away) but it’s still a great-looking machine and in fact is sexier than the 04-11 Weestroms.
6. Honda CBR250R. I saw this bike sitting on the floor at the NYC moto show and it definitely qualifies as sexy. It also tends to win all of the 250 cc shootouts that the motorcycle pubs do every year.
5. Harley Davidson Sportster Iron 883. So many people who get a M class license want to ride Harleys, and this is the only one that really qualifies as a bike for first-time riders. And my brother-in-law recently let me take his Dyna for a spin and I have to admit there is definitely something intoxicatingly sexy about riding a Harley.
4. BMW F650GS. Nice bike, looks great, goes off road, has that BMW logo on the tank that just gives it that extra boost of sex appeal. Plus riding a BMW Adventure-Sport bike automatically links you to Ewan and Charley, even if the tires never see dirt and you never eat The Stew of 100 Testicles. I tried out a 650GS last year and found it a bit small for my 6’2″ frame but still…gotta be on this list.
3. Kawasaki Ninja 650. Drop-dead gorgeous. Looks fast standing still. Getting great reviews from the motorcycling press. Comfortable to straddle with a neutral upright riding position. A flat-out winner.
2. Triumph Bonneville. Just one of the coolest bikes on two wheels. 60’s retro sensibilities and all of the modern technology, fun to ride, turns heads everywhere it goes, moddable to your heart’s content. A fantastic, fantastic machine.
1. Ducati Monster 696. The Monster is a work of art. There is some debate as to whether it’s really for first time riders (in fact there was some discussion about this very point last night on Reddit) but I vote yes. And it simply defines sexy. At Fast by Ferracci here in the Philadelphia area, you can get a Monster for $9,947.70 out the door ($8,795 MSRP plus 6% sales tax, $525 dealer prep and freight, and $100 documentation fee) so it just qualifies for the list.
Honorable mention: Husqvarna Concept Baja. C’mon, Kris Odwarka. Pull some strings and make this beauty a reality! If it were available today, it would be #3 on my list. And there would be one in my garage.
What do you think? Any contenders I overlooked? Fire away!
Yesterday I picked up the Rocket’s replacement at Ferracci’s. I considered a lot of different bikes – too many – and ultimately decided on the bike I’ve wanted in my stable and pined after since last summer, the venerable Suzuki V-Strom 650.
This is a big departure for me in a lot of ways:
- My first non-Triumph. Both bikes I’ve owned since getting my license in 2008 were Triumphs, first the America then the Rocket III Touring. As a result, I’ve got dozens of items of Triumph garb and all my motorcycle helmets have Triumph stickers. My name on at least a dozen online motorcycle forums is PersonalTriumph (a reference to both my allegiance to the Triumph marque as well as some personal accomplishments.) When I decided on the ‘Strom it was hard to face the fact that I would not have a Triumph in my garage. I suspect at some point in the future I may have another though.
- My first non-cruiser. Both bikes I’ve owned since getting my license were cruisers. The ‘Strom is my first sport bike.
- My first dual sport. The ‘Strom is designed for light-duty off-roading. I’m going to do some research and find some fire roads up in the Poconos to give this a shot. I’ve already experimented with a lap around my yard. (Don’t tell my landlord though!)
My first impressions after about 24 hours of owning the ‘Strom are extremely favorable:
- Twitchy. This bike handles like a dream. I think about turning, and it seems to turn. I’m sure other sport bikes handle better, but coming as I do from the land of cruisers this is a really welcome change.
- Fast. I was worried that going from the 2300cc Rocket to the 650cc ‘Strom would leave me longing for the days of plentiful roll-on power. It’s a non-issue. In fact, the ‘Strom feels faster than the Rocket. I was on the highway this morning, cruising along at what seemed like a comfortable and reasonable pace. I looked down at my speedometer and I was going…well…way too fast. I need to be careful.
- Light. After ‘rassling with the 900+ pound Rocket for the better part of the past year, it’s such a nice change to have a lightweight machine that I can easily roll around.
- A bargain. I bought my V-Strom used. It’s a 2007 with around 10k miles on it that I got for less than $4,000. (Bonus: I was able to bank several grand after liquidating the Rocket.) But a brand new leftover 2011 with ABS and a warranty can be had at your local Suzuki dealer for around $7 grand. Even a brand new 2012 is just over $8 grand. It’s a fantastic machine for the money.
- Its good to be in love again. After spending the past year falling in and out of love with the Rocket (and even feeling vague trepidation about it during the good times) it’s wonderful to once again have a bike that gets my heart pounding and my pulse racing every time I look at it.
There are a lot of folks who love the Rocket III, so don’t let my bad experience color you if you’re considering the bike. In fact, I think my friend Art will ditch me when I tell him the swap-out that I made, because he is so enamored with the Rocket. One of my fellow Rideitors on the Reddit motorcycle forum stated it best: “although you did enjoy it for a while I think you have eliminated a lot of the things you don’t want in a bike because they don’t fit your riding style. Its a little like dating the hot girl who turns out to be a superficial, high maintenance pain in the ass. Well said, my friend. Well said.
If you’re a new rider, definitely put the V-Strom on your list of bikes to consider. I’ll keep you all updated as I get more experience with this bike.There is also a lot of help online at Stromtrooper, the V-Strom owners forum, which I have found to be one of the most comprehensive, active, and friendly motorcycle forums on the internet since I started lurking there last August.
Today on Yahoo Autos there’s an article called Someday You’ll Wish You Owned These Cars. It’s about 10 cars that are most likely to become collectors items in the future, such as the Ford Mustang Boss 302 Laguna Seca and the Nissan GT-R Black Edition.
It’s timely because just last week on Reddit there was a thread asking, “If money was no object, what would be your dream bike?” One of the Redditors responded “Ducati Sport Classic. Hands down.”
I was curious about this, because when I was shopping for my first bike, one of the bikes I saw in a local dealership and seriously considered was the Ducati Sport Classic. It was in my price range (under $10,000) and was stunningly gorgeous. Ultimately I decided against it because I was nervous about owning a Ducati (I had heard stuff about them being expensive to maintain and there are only two dealerships near me – neither terribly convenient to my home or work). I ended up buying my Triumph America instead. It ended up being a good decision because the next year I got into touring on my motorcycle – something that wouldn’t have been particularly comfortable on the Duc.
Turns out that the Sport Classic was discontinued for the 2011 model year and have become extremely sought after and hard to find. I searched a number of websites including Ebay, Cycletrader, and Craigslist and found only two for sale this morning – one of them was at an asking price pretty close to the original sticker price. The other was highly modded and had an asking price over $16,000.
So that Sport Classic I threw a leg over and fell in love with at Eurosports back in the spring of 2008 is now a collectors item. Coulda, shoulda, woulda…
From a first time rider’s standpoint, I think I would have done all right on the Ducati. Granted, a Ducati isn’t a marque that’s typically thought of as making bikes for new motorcycle riders, but the Sport Classic was powered by a 1000 cc engine, which is about the upper limit I would recommend for a new rider. And I do think the current Ducati Monster 696 is a good bike for a first time rider – others who own it like it because it’s light, handles well, and has a peppy but not overpowering engine. And it is a sexy bike that turns heads everywhere it goes.
There are some in the motorcycling world who insist that a new rider shouldn’t buy a first bike with more displacement than 250 cc’s but I’m not one of them. I think I would have been quickly bored by a 250. I did just fine with my 865 cc America; it was nice and tame off the factory floor but modifiable to get more power as my riding skills grew.