Okay, it's below zero now what?
Normally this time of year we still get out and ride a bit. But this winter has proved to be a little more stubborn. Most of our winter riding areas have managed to get more snow than we have (which is very unusual) and then the temperature decided to drop below zero (-14 according to the car thermometer). So, needless to say the bikes have been hibernating waiting for a break in the weather. While we wait for it to warm back up to, you know..20, what can we do in the meantime? This time of year is actually the perfect time to go through your gear and make sure it is ready for the riding season, also doing those little things on your machine like checking the valves, replacing body plastics, tires, etc. The reason I say that this is the perfect time of year is not because you are not riding anyway, rather it's all about money. Many places that sell parts and gear need to unload old inventory or last year's gear. Which means that they start marking things down dramatically. For example, I have an older YZ250f that needs new radiator shrouds. Normally a cheap aftermarket set is about $45.00, thanks to a clearance sale I was able to get them for $12.00, along with a discount set of graphics I was able to give this old bike a facelift for about what I would have paid just for the shrouds. Over the years I have gotten some great deals on all kinds of things like hand guards, gear, parts, you name it. If you wait until spring (when many people start looking at their bike and gear again) you will be paying full price and may have to wait longer to get your stuff. Not to mention, if you are taking your bike in for someone else to work on it you will probably end up paying more and waiting longer to get it back.
Some other things to keep in mind about your machine in this cold weather. If it is not stored somewhere heated you should make sure that your anti-freeze is up to snuff and if you have a battery bring it inside. If you try to start your machine make sure you crank it over several times before you actually start it. The oil in your crankcase is very thick from the cold and is going to be practically non-existent in the top of the engine. Cold starts are probably one of the worst things for an engine. Even better put it somewhere warm for a bit (if you can), give it some hot chocolate and say nice things to it (okay that last part might be a little extreme).
I do recommend starting your machines at least once a month through the winter and let them at least warm-up. Doing this will help make sure that the gas in carburetor does not go bad and plug jets, helps remove the condensation in the engine and exhaust and circulates oil to the top of the engine. Going months in between starts is not good for the machine or your sense of peace when you finally do try and get it started.
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