How to: Store your motorcycle for winter

We’ve already gone over basic motorcycle winterization, but that’s only part of the problem. Not only do you have to get your motorcycle ready for winter, you’ve also got to find a place to store it, if you aren’t going to be riding it on a regular basis.  Here are your options:

Store it at home

Keeping your motorcycle under your own control throughout the winter is the best option, because nobody cares more about your motorcycle than you do. Plus, if you want to get out for a mid-winter ride, it’s much easier if the bike is stored at your house. If you like to work on your bike over the winter, it’s better if you’re keeping it on-site.

Ideally, you’ll have a heated basement with a walk-in door, and you’ll roll your bike right in there for the winter. If you do this, remove all the fluids or you’ll probably void your home insurance.

If you’ve got underground parking as part of your rental deal, you can even get in some mid-winter riding! A ride around the parkade is better than nothing, right?

Some of us actually are that lucky, and others have to make do. If you can get your bike into a heated storage area, try to do so, even if you have to recruit a buddy to help you push it through your home’s laundry room in order to stash it in your office. Not that any of us CMGers have ever done that.

If you don’t have heated storage, then at least try to get it indoors — a shed, a sunporch, whatever. If you have the capability to run a propane or electric heater out there, all the better. It’ll make it easier for you to tinker on the bike in the cold; sometimes that’s the highlight of a motorcyclist’s week in mid-January. You want a place that’s dry, as moisture is the enemy of motorcycles.

If you are absolutely broke, and you don’t have any indoor space, you can store the motorcycle outside. If you really must do this, use a bike cover to keep the wind, rain and snow off your bike, and try to keep it as sheltered as possible. You can also buy rustproofing products to keep the corrosion at bay (treat the exhaust, fork tubes, any chrome trim). This is a mess to clean up in spring, but at least it’s better than rust.

You really should avoid outdoor storage if possible, though.

Storing bikes at a friend’s garage is standard practice in the motorcycle community, although it comes with some potential drawbacks.

Store it with a friend

Ah, the classic “store it with a friend” trick. Most motorcyclists are good guys/girls, and ready to help a fellow rider in need of mid-winter storage. This arrangement comes with the potential hassles of all “bro deals.” Stuff like, “Hey man, you need to come get your bike, my girlfriend got mad because she thought I bought another one.”

It also has the general inconvenience of off-site storage. Want to go for a ride? Better check with your buddy, to make sure there isn’t an SUV and 14 boxes of Christmas decorations in front of the bike in the garage. Want to work on your bike? You’ve got to haul all your tools over, or borrow your friend’s tools. Want to keep kids from playing on your bike and scratching it? Better hope your friend doesn’t have some school-aged children who like to play motorcyclist.

Whatever you do, don’t be “that guy” who leaves a bike outside all winter, uncovered.

That’s worst-case doom and gloom, though, and most of these scenarios can be worked out.

After receiving a favour like this, a sensible motorcyclist will pay it forward somehow. That should go without saying. But what if it isn’t a favour? What if your friend is charging for the service?

If you’re paying to keep a bike at a friend’s house, then there may not be much advantage over the other option:

Store it at a business

Pay-to-play motorcycle storage is available in most towns and cities, and this may be the only option available for you. Many dealers offer this service, as well as other general vehicle storage operations.

Pricing will vary depending on your length of stay, and whether you’re paying for other services to be added to your storage. Many dealerships will also do an oil change and otherwise prep your bike for spring as part of the storage deal. Depending what services you’re getting, pricing seems to be consistently in the $200-$300 range, no matter what part of Canada you’re living in.

Moto Revere offers combined shop space and storage for the winter in Toronto. Similar DIY-themed garages are popping up in cities all over Canada. They can be more expensive than other storage options, but offer the chance to finish a project bike over the winter.

This arrangement has the standard disadvantages of off-site storage — it’s hard or impossible to get out for off-season rides. It can be tricky to do bike maintenance: some businesses won’t allow any off-season access at all (with DIY outfits like Moto Revere being a notable exception). Generally speaking, you’re just not able to keep an eye on your bike over the winter.

The flip side is that a business offering storage services will most likely have the heat on, it should be dry, there should be a burglar alarm, and it should have proper insurance. That’s better than many home storage situations.

Insurance issues

Smart motorcyclists won’t leave their bike without insurance during riding season, and the same goes for the off-season. You can take collision off your bike if you won’t be riding it, but chances are this won’t save you any money — insurance companies are hip to this move, and generally charge you up-front anyway. They’ll get their money out of you one way or another.

Leaving your bike in your friend’s basement? Better make sure you’ve insured it, in case of trouble.

What you want over the winter is comprehensive insurance, which insures your bike when it’s not being ridden (this is stuff like fire and theft insurance). If your shed, or your friend’s shed, or the dealership that stored your bike burns down over the winter, then you know you’re covered. Don’t assume this is covered by homeowner’s insurance; typically, some sort of automotive clause means the insurer won’t pay out if your bike gets burned up in a housefire.

If you’re just storing at home, at least the only insurance situation you have to worry about is your own.

Insurance gets to be even more of a headache if you’re storing the bike at a friend’s house, or if you’re storing a friend’s bike at your house. According to an insurer we contacted, the best way for the homeowner to protect themselves from insurance woes is to write up an agreement between the two parties (the owner of the bike, and the person storing the bike) called a “Hold Harmless Agreement” that they both sign. This agreement would say the bike owner agrees to maintain insurance coverage on the bike and would agree to not sue the homeowner should the bike be damaged. These agreements are not a guarantee that the bike owner’s insurance company won’t hassle the homeowner if there are problems, but it would certainly help the case of the homeowner.

If you’re leaving your bike at a dealership, make sure your insurance, or theirs, will cover the bike if the worst happens.

If you’re paying to store the bike, whether at a private residence or at a dealership or other business, then the person or business storing the bike should have commercial general liability coverage through what the insurance industry calls “warehouseman’s legal liability” coverage or “bailee’s” coverage. This won’t be cheap for a homeowner, though, and may end up affecting their homeowner’s insurance.

If you’re storing the bike at a dealership, you should check into its insurance situation. Remember the fire at Hully Gully in 2017? Some customers lost stored bikes in the fire. This stuff happens. Make sure you cover your bases.

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