The Ultimate Guide to Motorcycle Storage

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man cleaning his motorcycle in preparation for motorcycle storage

Fitting a motorcycle in a small [and already-cramped] garage can be a big task. Sure, you can park your motorcycle perpendicular to your daily drivers (or wedge your bike in the space between your two vehicles), but what about ease of access? 

While a motorcycle won’t take up nearly as much space as the vehicles parked in your one or two-car garage, they’ll require more space than you think. If you were to store your motorcycles in a storage unit, you’d need to rent out a 5’x10′ space, at the very least—meaning you’ll need at least 50 square feet in your garage (if opt for at-home motorcycle storage). Note: Some larger-sized motorcycles will require up to 75 square feet, like a Harley Davidson or Ducati.  

Whether or not you have that kind of garage space to spare, you’ll need to follow the proper motorcycle storage protocol. Otherwise, storing your motorcycle (whether overnight or for the winter months) may go awry. 

It doesn’t matter if you’re a long-time motorcycle owner or are just thinking about purchasing your first one; following the steps in this guide is a must. 

    two motorcycles stored outside under motorcycle covers

    How to Prepare Your Motorcycle for Storage

    Your motorcycle might be out of commission for a few weeks or an entire season, or you might need to store it indefinitely. The steps you take to prepare for storage highly depend on how long your bike will sit unused.

    Instructions on how to properly store your motorcycle will vary according to the storage duration

    • Two weeks to two months
    • Three to six months
    • Over six months or indefinitely

    Before You Store a Motorcycle

    When preparing your motorcycle for storage, there are a few things you’ll need to remember. 

    Whether you’re storing your motorcycle for weeks or months, recognize that motorcycle storage is more than just wheeling your bike into an outdoor storage shed or traditional garage. You’ll need to perform pre-storage maintenance tasks.

    How you prepare for storage depends on the length of time your bike will be stored, but the desired outcome is the same.

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    Choose the Type of Motorcycle Storage Space

    Regardless of the amount of time you plan to store your motorcycle, a storage unit that’s secure, humidity-controlled, and temperature-regulated is recommended.

    After choosing the right storage space, ensure no loose items are stored in your motorcycle’s vicinity. For example, if you’re storing your motorcycle in a standard garage setup, secure items like ladders, lumber, and other construction materials. Fail to do so, and these items could tumble onto your motorcycle, leaving behind dents and scrapes.

    Prevent Oxidation

    Oxidation is a chemical process, more commonly referred to as “rusting.” If your motorcycle isn’t stored properly, aluminum and chrome parts will begin to oxidize. What starts out as mild discoloration may lead to patches of reddish-brown rust.

    When rubber oxidizes, you won’t even notice a color change. Instead, rubber components on your motorcycle will become hard and brittle, which can lead to cracking.

    Fight Fuel Degradation

    If the gasoline in your motorcycle sits for too long in the tank, it can go bad. Without the proper precautions, damage can occur, thanks to the presence of ethanol, Ethanol can damage your motorcycle in multiple ways:

    • When gas is left unused for long periods, the ethanol begins to absorb water leading to the development of condensation and, by extension, mechanical failure.
    • Ethanol leaves a thick layer of gum on the internal components of the fuel system.
    • Ethanol is a powerful solvent that dissolves lubrication and causes wear.

    While you can opt for gas that doesn’t contain ethanol, as a preventative measure, this type of gas can be difficult to find. Typically, you can only find pure gasoline at airports and boat marinas. If you’re in search of ethanol-free gas, check out this map.

    How to Prepare Your Motorcycle for Storage

    Your motorcycle might be out of commission for a few weeks or an entire season. Some motorcycle owners may even need to store their bikes indefinitely.

    Remember, proper motorcycle storage protocol hinges almost entirely on how long your bike will sit unused.

    Steps for Storing a Motorcycle for Two Weeks to Two Months

    If you only need to store your motorcycle for a few weeks, you don’t have to do too much to prepare your bike for storage. In fact, for short-term storage purposes, you can get away with storing your motorcycle in a residential garage, driveway, or parking lot. (Although, your motorcycle is best if it is protected with a garage door).

    The following steps will ensure your motorcycle is ready for a joyride as soon as you return:

    Step 1: Clean your motorcycle to prevent rust and mildew.

    Step 2: Wax your bike to protect its paint.

    Step 3: Empty all compartments and saddlebags.

    Step 4: Cover your bike. (While a motorcycle cover is the best option, for this short span of time, even a cover or a simple cloth tarp covering the entire bike would suffice).

    Step 5: Use a rubber conditioner to protect your tires from the sun and dust while in storage.

    Step 6: Elevate your bike so both wheels are off the ground.
    This is especially important if you plan on storing your bike for a month or more and can help prevent flat spots from forming.

    Pro Tip:
    Even if it’s short-term, if you’re planning on storing your motorcycle during colder winter months, you may want to take a few extra considerations into mind and properly winterize your motorcycle it so it’s in proper working order when you take it out to ride again.

    Steps for Storing a Motorcycle for Three to Six Months

    If you intend to store your motorcycle for a few months or an entire season, you will have to take more steps to prepare your motorcycle to prepare it for winter storage.

    Perform these steps when temporarily storing your motorcycle over several months:

    First: Follow steps 1, 2, and 3 from the previous section.

    Step 4: Change your oil and filter.

    Step 5: Check all of your fluids. This includes checking the coolant, hydraulic fluid, and brake fluid (and changing them if necessary). Also, top off your battery fluid, as low fluid levels can cause internal plates to malfunction. If you don’t remember the last time you changed a particular fluid, use the color of the fluid to guide you. Change any fluids that appear cloudy or milky and use lube if necessary.

    Step 6: Fill your gas tank with ethanol-free gasoline if available. If you only have access to gasoline with ethanol, add a stabilizer to all the fuel.

    Step 7: Elevate your bike when you store it for the season. Ideally, both wheels will be off the ground, with the help of a center stand or a hydraulic lift. When you get your bike off the ground, you remove static pressure on the bearings and bushing.

    Step 8: Reduce air pressure in your tires. If you’re unsure how much pressure to leave in your tires, check the owners manual that came with your motorcycle, but the recommended reduction is usually 20 percent.

    Step 9: Remove your motorcycle battery. If you want to keep your battery in its best shape, consider removing it altogether. At the very least, hook your battery up to a trickle charger or a battery tender.

    Steps for Storing a Motorcycle Long-Term

    When storing your motorcycle for multiple seasons or years, you’ll need to go the extra mile to ensure your motorcycle doesn’t suffer any irreparable damage.

    When preparing your motorcycle for long-term storage, here are the steps you’ll need to follow

    Step 1: Create a maintenance log. Jot down dates and record complete notes about what you did to your bike.

    Step 2: Replace all fluids you haven’t changed in the current riding season.

    Step 3: Clean your motorcycle. Take extra special care to ensure it’s completely dry so mold and mildew don’t grow during storage.

    Step 4: Wax your bike twice. The first time, buff the wax thoroughly. The second time, buff lightly to leave a little wax for protection.

    Step 5: Empty the saddlebags, if applicable, and all compartments.

    Step 6: Lubricate the chain and any controls. That way, they don’t dry out when in storage.

    Step 7: Drain all the coolant from the engine block and radiator. Coolant turns highly acidic after a few years and can cause major damage. Because your gaskets can dry out when you drain the coolant, consider skipping this step if you’ll be able to stay up-to-date on regular bike maintenance (i.e., changing the coolant and running your engine every couple of years).

    Step 8: Add a stabilizer-conditioner and run it through your fuel system to lubricate and protect the bike.

    Step 9: Drain all the gasoline from the tank and fuel system. This step is recommended whether you fill your tank with ethanol-based gas or pure gasoline. Much like ethanol, pure gasoline can also cause damage when your bike sits idle. Gasoline breaks down, evaporates, and leaves deposits in your fuel system.

    Step 10: Lubricate your engine by “fogging,” which is the injection of an oil mist into the running engine.

    Pro Tip:
    Fogging is common, but it leaves gasoline in the fuel system. Another way to lubricate your engine is to pull your spark plugs and add a small amount of automatic transmission fluid, put rags over the holes, start your engine several times, and replace your spark plugs. This prevents corrosion on the cylinder wall. Transmission fluid does not oxidize and rust.

    Step 11: Spray a rust inhibitor, like WD-40, inside your exhaust system to protect it from any rust caused by condensation. When removing your motorcycle from storage, you’ll want to start your bike outside, as these rust inhibitors will make your exhaust smoke heavily.

    Step 12: Check your tires and reduce the air pressure. As a best practice, elevate your bike and reduce your air pressure by 20 percent. However, if you plan to keep your motorcycle in storage for more than five years, you may need to replace your tires, post-storage. Motorcycle tire manufacturers recommend changing tires every five years, even when they are sitting. This is primarily because of rubber oxidation, which causes the tires to become brittle and can lead to a blowout and a dangerous motorcycle accident.

    Step 13: Remove your bike’s battery. Batteries are continually deteriorating. In fact, the average lifespan of most motorcycle batteries ranges from four to seven years. When temperatures are over 77° F, batteries deteriorate even faster. When storing your motorcycle long-term or indefinitely, remove the battery altogether.

    Pro Tip:
    Use our battery storage guide to learn how to properly store batteries of all types. For vehicle batteries especially, it’s important to avoid storing in extreme temperatures (both cold and hot), and never place them directly on a cement floor.

    Important Motorcycle Storage Mistakes to Avoid

    Here are helpful tips on some common mistakes to avoid that can jeopardize your motorcycle:

    DON’T Leave the Battery in Your Motorcycle in Cold Conditions

    This can lead to a frozen battery. A fully charged battery typically won’t freeze until it reaches more than -50°F. Batteries that aren’t fully charged will begin to freeze once it reaches 32°F.

    DON’T Forget to Reduce Tire Pressure

    The static pressure can cause damage over time

    DON’T Periodically Start Your Motorcycle to Circulate the Oil

    This creates moisture. If you let your bike run for 30 minutes or more, you’ll need to redo each of the steps you completed to prepare your motorcycle for short-term or long-term storage.

        Motorcycle Storage FAQs

        man maintaining his motorcycle before putting it in long-term motorcycle storage

        There are also a lot of questions that come with the topic of motorcycle storage, so we’ve provided helpful answers to the most popular inquiries.

        How Do I Protect My Motorcycle from Rodents and Pests?

        The best way to protect your motorcycle from chipmunks, rats, mice, and other critters is to block off any open spaces. Use steel wool to plug your exhaust pipe, which rodents can’t chew through. Also, make sure to close all compartments and saddlebags tightly. You can also place a chunk of wood in the battery box to prevent critters from building nests.

        Should I Cancel My Motorcycle Insurance If I’m Putting It in Storage?

        It’s better not to cancel your bike insurance if it is in storage. In fact, doing so can cost you more money in the long run. Insurance companies often institute harsh policies to deter bikers from canceling seasonally. These incurred fees will counteract any savings generated by canceling your policy.

        Plus, most traditional storage facilities require some form of storage insurance; oftentimes, your standard motorcycle insurance policy will provide the coverage needed. You can use our storage insurance guide to learn more about protecting your stored items.

        Look into Neighbor’s Motorcycle Storage Options

        There exist different options when it comes to indoor or winter motorcycle storage. You can store your bike in your personal garage, a dedicated motorcycle shed, on an outdoor driveway, or, even better, in an indoor storage unit. While each option has its pros and cons, it really comes down to how much you want to invest to protect your bike and avoid unnecessary damage to it while it is not in use.

        Whether you are looking for seasonal, winter motorcycle storage or longer-term storage for a classic bike you rarely use, peer-to-peer storage options such as Neighbor are the way to go. The peer-to-peer self-storage platform not only ensures the protection of your vehicle but is also more affordable than traditional storage options.

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