In a perfect world, every motorcycle would come with its own free, secure, locked garage to store it in. But the world isn’t perfect and not all of us are fortunate enough to have a safe heated space for our pride and joy. So the question is, how to store a motorcycle without a garage?
There are few easy options, cover it with a motorcycle cover or a basic tarpaulin. Another option is using a shed in your garden. Or you could ask a family member or friend if you can use their garage. Whichever method you choose, make sure it’s properly secure to prevent theft.
While that might seem straightforward and all there is to it. It’s not, there are a ton of factors that you need to consider before you make a big decision like this. Read on to learn more.
Do I need to store my motorcycle in a garage during the winter?
While you do not necessarily need a garage to safely store your motorcycle during the winter, it will certainly help your motorcycle in the long run. The biggest problem is rust.
In some places the winter climate can be a hellish experience for all the various chrome and metal components on your motorcycle. The snow mixed with salt will make quick work of chrome, spokes, mirrors, rims and basically anything shiny.
If this is left long enough, it will actually start to eat away at your exhaust systems. Requiring an expensive repair bill or worse, a full replacement.
Even if you manage to keep the rust at bay, the outside world can still have lots of dangers for a motorcycle. Thieves, vandals or just your average careless person moving around your motorcycle can all spell disaster.
So while you do not need a garage, it’s in your motorcycle’s best interest to store it somewhere safe if possible.
What alternatives are there to a garage when storing your motorcycle?
The optimal solution would be a private, secure and heated garage. Sadly a lot of us simply don’t have this option. Here are a few alternatives to using a garage to store your motorcycle:
Cover it with a tarpaulin. This is the absolute bottom of the barrel solution. Yes it will work to keep rain, snow and sleet off the top of your motorcycle, but that’s all it will do. It’s basically just one step up from leaving your motorcycle completely exposed to the elements. Protecting your motorcycle involves so much more than just that. As mentioned before you also have to be wary of thieves and vandals.
Another big problem is rust. If you store your motorcycle outside only protected by a tarpaulin, you will start to get rust issues. Tarpaulins won’t breathe at all, so moist air will be trapped and this will form into condensation. This will lead to metal rusting and pitting off your chrome. One good thing they will do is prevent most UV from getting through. So I guess that’s a bonus. I would only go for this if I had no other options. It’s really a last resort type solution.
Covered with a motorcycle cover. This is probably the most common solution. That doesn’t mean it’s the best. While it will keep snow, dirt, debris and the showers from above off your motorcycle (just like with a basic tarpaulin), it will do nothing to protect your motorcycle from those intent on harming or stealing it.
That’s not to mention zero protection from being knocked over by a careless driver. Who, trust me on this, will not even leave a sorry note. You’ll just come out to find your bike laying there like a sad beached whale. Peg broken, shifter bent and mirror all messed up.
But let’s assume this is the solution for you. For whatever reason. There are many types of covers on the market. For brevity’s sake, let’s just say they come in two categories.
Category one is light weight, these are designed for travel and to be taken with you. They tend to be made from a lightweight material, similar to what you would make a tent out of.
This is great when you need to pack it for a road trip, but it will do next to nothing to keep your motorcycle protected from the harsh winter weather. So avoid them for winter storage. They also usually don’t protect well against UV rays, so that is something to keep in mind as well.
Category two is heavier weight or heavier duty ones, these are designed more with protection in mind as opposed to portability. They tend to offer full UV protection, as well as the ability to keep away most of the rain, sleet, snow and other annoyances mother nature will throw at your motorcycle.
However they are generally not suited to take with you on a road trip. I guess you could try, but it might be more hassle than it’s worth.
One problem they both can suffer from is condensation, same as a tarpaulin. During the winter, or over long periods of time, condensation can form on the inside of the cover.
While better, heavier weight covers will have all kinds of design features built in to prevent this, these features will not be 100% effective. So you may start to experience some issues.
You can try to offset this problem by applying wax and spraying metal and chrome components with something like WD-40. However I’ve found that, no matter how hard you try, you will not get every surface covered.
Unfortunately condensation has a very annoying way of working its way into every nook and cranny, leading to rust and chrome pitting issues. Others will say if you simply put some carpet, or a bit of cardboard underneath your motorcycle it will prevent this.
But once again from personal experience, I would say this doesn’t work. Well at least it didn’t work for me.
In your carport. This can be a pretty good solution. Combine this with a heavy duty motorcycle cover and most of the dirt, debris and winter sludge will be kept away from your motorcycle. It also has the advantage of keeping your bike away from thieving eyes and vandals.
Seeing how car ports have a roof, most of or all the winter snow should be kept off your motorcycle. You just have to worry about any snow that may blow into the car port.
You can prevent this by securing a tarp or some plywood or something similar around 1, or more sides of the car port to cut down on some of the wind. Now, while you will have less snow around the motorcycle, it won’t prevent condensation from creating moisture underneath the cover.
On the other hand, depending on your carport and the amount of coverage, you might not even need a motorcycle cover at all. I’ve had friends who have stored a motorcycle like this all year round without issues. Maybe the lack of cover allows any moisture to evaporate preventing rust.
Under your deck. If you have a deck, and it has enough space underneath to fit your motorcycle, you might be able to fashion a make-shift storage shed for your motorcycle. Depending on a few factors, it might actually work just as well as an actual shed. For the fraction of the cost of building an actual shed.
Storing in a friend or family member’s garage. This is really the next best thing to having your own garage. It will be covered from the elements and safe from thieces.
Try to think of anyone you might know well enough to ask them if you can store your motorcycle in their garage. If someone says they can’t or simply are not willing, don’t be upset or insulted.
Nobody owes anyone anything in life. Either move on to the next person or ask them if they know anyone that might be able to help you out. Don’t be shy about it. Your baby needs a roof over its head.
Be prepared to pay a bit of money in order to compensate the person. Offer to rent some space from them. Don’t just ask them to give you the space for free.
It will greatly increase your chances to find a winter home for your motorcycle. I have personally done this for friends before. I had the space and it felt good to help a buddy out.
Bonus was the free beers and company in the garage when spring rolled around and we were getting our bikes ready. On the flip side, if you are going to store your motorcycle in your own garage and have some extra space, why not offer that space to a buddy who isn’t so fortunate?
When you are looking for a space, if you can’t afford to actually offer them any money (money can be tight sometimes), maybe think about a barter deal. Is there something you can do for them?
Perhaps you’re a landscaper or a chef, offer to help them get the garden ship shape or maybe teach them to cook a special meal for their family or loved ones. If you can swing it, its a win-win situation. You get your garage space and your buddy gets something helpful in return. Win-win.
Build or buy a shed. Don’t have a garage? No problem. Got enough room for a shed and a bit of cash? Yup. See where I’m going with this?
A garden shed is really the next best thing to an actual garage. It will keep all the elements off your motorcycle and keep it safe from prying eyes and “no-goodniks”. If you are going to go the buy a shed route, there are many different options for all price points.
I find that the end of summer and early fall is a good time to shop around. Lots of places are going to be moving towards offering winter products, meaning they will sometimes offer discounts and sales on summer items. If you get lucky you might save a buck or two.
When looking for a shed there are many to choose from, but try not to go too overboard. Get what you need. Do you have a lot of garden furniture and a big beefy smoker/grill combo? Well, you might need to get a bigger shed so you can fit it all in there during the winter.
Otherwise a smaller shed is enough. I would say if possible, try to get one that has a wooden flooring that is slightly raised off the ground. This will help better insulate everything inside from ground moisture seeping up and on to your stuff. This is just a personal preference of mine.
If you have the skills, time and motivation, then maybe going the “build your own” route might be more up your alley. All the power to you. You’ll probably save some cash and also enjoy the pride that only comes from making something with your own two hands. Man, just realized I sounded like Ron Swanson there.
Even though It may sound a bit excessive, building or buying a shed is really the only substitute to storing your motorcycle in a garage. It also comes with the added bonus of being a place to store all those other garden and seasonal knick-knacks.
In a storage unit. This can actually work pretty well. They are usually pretty secure with cameras and the whole 9 yards.
If you are going to do this. Try to find a place that has 24 hour access, security, climate control and the ability to drive up to the unit.
There are few reasons for this. First, you need to make sure it has proper security. This is a no brainer. You don’t want some meth-heads stealing your motorcycle. Wouldn’t it be a crappy way to start the riding season? You pull up to your storage unit only to find your motorcycle was stolen a few months earlier. So proper security is a must.
Climate controlled. If you are going to be spending your hard earned money, you might as well do it right. It usually will cost a bit more, but if you have the extra cash then go for it. Rubber bits, seals etc. They all do better when stored long term in more-favourable conditions.
24 hour access. This is important. If you are like me and your schedule is not the most consistent, the urge to get out for a short ride might come at less than normal times. Sometimes at 1:00am or even 4:00am when you can’t sleep. Wouldn’t it be a bit of a bummer to show up and find you cannot get to your bike?
Being able to drive up to the unit. No point picking a unit inside a building full of hallways and 90 degree turns. Not the most convenient when you need to drop off or pick up the motorcycle. So make sure you can easily drive up to the unit.
One more important thing to remember; make sure you don’t forget to pay the bills. You don’t want to see your pride and joy being auctioned off along with your Star Wars collectible croquet set on the next episode of Storage Wars!
At your local motorcycle dealership. Most dealerships will allow you to store a bike on their premises for a small fee. This is a foolproof way to keep your motorcycle safe. It also is good if you aren’t the type of person that does your own maintenance or winterizing.
You can simply drop the motorcycle off and they will handle it all for you. Then when spring, that most wonderful time of year, rolls upon us, you simply just call them up, tell them you want to pick up your motorcycle and they will get it ready for you.
Then you show up, pay your bill and off you go. Your motorcycle is fully serviced and in ship shape for the upcoming season.
If you are thinking of getting any work done on your motorcycle, engine, suspension etc. or maybe just cosmetic work, you can usually work a deal that will include storage for the winter.
It’s also a good chance to fix those minor problems before they become a bigger issue, causing you to lose riding time during the short riding season. Might just save you a bit of cash.
Inside your house or apartment. While not the most practical. Your house does check all the requirements. Climate controlled, safe and secure. If you have a spouse, it might be a bit of a hard sell to them and in that case best of luck.
Whether or not it is a good idea is another story. I can’t really comment on that, as I personally have not done this. Nor do I know anyone that has. But I guess it would work in theory. Perhaps you could even do some work on your motorcycle while you binge watch the next season of Better Call Saul on Netflix. Maybe there are some upsides to it.
How to keep your motorcycle secure without a garage?
When deciding how to store your motorcycle, always think about ways you can build multiple layers of defence against would be thieves and other bad apples.
If you go with an outdoor shed, make sure you lock it up good and tight with a high quality padlock. Don’t go with some cheap crap, many times they can be easily picked or opened in a matter of seconds. If you don’t believe me, check out the lockpickinglawyer on YouTube.
Inside, there are a few things to do as well. Don’t rely on just one layer of defence. You want multiple layers. Put a wheel lock on the front wheel, the same one you might use when out and about.
Locate a secure part of the shed that you can bolt or chain your motorcycle to. I know it might sound like overkill, but it’s not. If thieves do try to steal your motorcycle you want as many barriers to that as possible. This will give you more chances and time to hear or see them.
If you can also install floodlights with a motion sensor and aim it right at your motorcycle, carport or shed. Next to a big scary dog, or an angry owner with a baseball bat, nothing scares a thief away faster than a sudden flood of light.
They are relatively cheap to install and will do a good job keeping your motorcycle, and even whole property, more secure.
As with a shed, you need to make sure you create as many deterrents or obstacles for anyone wanting to do harm to your motorcycle. Wherever you decide to store your motorcycle, try to find a sturdy and secure point to chain or lock your motorcycle to.
Invest in some heavy duty chains that cannot be simply cut with bolt cutters. The same goes for locks, spend a bit of money and get one that will stand up to a determined thief.
While no lock or chain will keep your motorcycle 100% safe, if you make it too much of a hassle to steal, most thieves will probably move on to easier pickings.
That’s the key, you want to create as many problems for the thief as possible. This gives you and others more time to notice and take correct action, whether that is calling the cops or a more direct and personal approach.
How to store a motorcycle without a garage in the winter?
If you decide to store your motorcycle not in a garage for the winter, then there are some steps you need to take to winterize it. So what specific steps have to be taken to winterize? First, as discussed above, find the best possible place to store your motorcycle.
Once you have done that, it’s time to get the bike ready. This includes changing the oil and filter, brake fluids, clutch fluid and coolant. You also should top up your fuel tank right to the top and add a fuel stabilizer to it.
The fuel stabilizer will just prevent the fuel from spoiling over the winter. Failure to fill up the tank completely can leave a space for moisture to form and this can cause rust inside the gas tank. Not a good thing.
If you have a fuel injected engine. Not much more needs to be done to the engine. If you have carburetors, then ideally you should shut off the petcock and drain any remaining fuel from it.
This can be done by just running the engine until it shuts down. Just make sure you top the gas in the tank back up. Remember you don’t want any space in the tank that will allow moisture to create rust.
Next thing you need to do is clean and lube your chain. This is extremely important. If you don’t do this it will rust. Best way is to take the bike out and run it a little bit, so you warm up the chain.
This will make it easier for the lubricant and wax to get into the chain better. After you get it back to home, clean it thoroughly. Then apply a generous amount of lubricant and wax and wipe off the excess. You need a good barrier to protect it from the winter elements.
Now it’s time to clean and protect your exhaust and plug it. Make sure you let it cool first if you just got back from a ride. To start, what I like to do is give the outside a nice clean. I take my time and really clean it well.
Next, take some WD-40 and give it a little spray inside, this helps to expel water and will prevent rust from forming inside the exhaust. Next it’s time to plug it, this is important.
Little furry creatures love to make homes inside exhaust systems. You need to prevent this. You can go and buy job specific motorcycle exhaust plugs, or you can create makeshift ones. If you do make your own, just make sure they cannot be easily chewed through by vermin.
Ok, here comes the actual cleaning. It’s time to scrub your motorcycle cleaner than it’s ever been in its life! Your goal is to make it as clean as the day it rolled off the assembly line if possible.
Afterwards dry it well, you don’t want any moisture left on the bike. Remember, moisture can lead to rust, so dryness is key. Now it’s time to wax, lube and treat your motorcycle.
Focus on doing a good job and giving a nice protective layer for the winter. If you want you can also treat the leather on your seat as well. Or you can just take the seat off for the winter and store inside your home.
So you’ve cleaned your motorcycle, changed all the fluids and oil filter, what’s next? Tires. Yup. It’s time to make sure your tires are inflated to the correct pressure. This is also the time you can apply a tire treatment to keep the rubber happy over the winter and protect it.
A good practice, if you can, is to rotate the tires every 3-4 weeks or so. This will prevent flat spots from forming.
So what else? Well you need to look after your battery as well. There are a few options here. Which one you choose will depend on what works for you. First option is to take the battery out and store it inside your house with a battery tender.
A battery tender will make sure the battery stays charged and in good health. Another option is to just disconnect the battery and leave it in the motorcycle.
Or you can leave it in the motorcycle and hooked up to a battery tender. Which one you choose all depends on what will work for where you decide to store your motorcycle.
One thing to mention. If you store your motorcycle in a closed area such as a shed, make sure you don’t store strong solvents or fertilizers in the shed as well. They can actually cause corrosion to form on your motorcycle.
How to store a motorcycle without a garage in the summer, spring or fall?
If you are only planning to store your motorcycle for a short while, then apart from security issues, you don’t really need to worry about too much. If you think it might be a few months or more then you might want to think about using a battery tender and adding some fuel stabilizer.
As far as summer is concerned, you need to keep harmful UV rays off your motorcycle. They tend to not be so kind to certain motorcycle components like your seat. So covered up with a heavy duty motorcycle cover would be best.
Spring and fall. Again not much to worry about. Just keep it covered to keep any wetness off of it and you should be fine.
Should I start my motorcycle during the winter?
If you are storing your motorcycle during the winter. Then store it. Starting it once and a while will only hurt your motorcycle. If you run it, you will cause moisture to build up in places where you really don’t want it while the engine cools. If you are going to ride it, then fine, but just starting the motorcycle and letting it idle does nothing good for a properly winterized and stored motorcycle. It will only harm it.
This started out as a simple question, but It’s not a simple answer. There are lots of things to take into consideration when you think about how to store your motorcycle without a garage. As discussed above much of it depends on your storage options and season of the year. I hope this article helped you and answered your question. All the best and safe riding!