How to

Winter’s coming. What do I do?

The bike has been sitting in its little spot beneath a cover for about a week now. The last time I rode, it was just a collection of very short jaunts –– from the house to work, work to the city centre, city centre to Cardiff University, the university to home. That’s less than 11 miles, spread out over a space of 15 hours. So, effectively I’ve not ridden since my road trip to Mid Wales.

Going too long without riding makes me antsy, and I start to worry about all kinds of things. For example: is the bike clean enough? I have a fear of the next time I pull away the bike’s cover finding it has somehow transformed into a great indecipherable pile of rust. After all, I didn’t clean it before putting it away last time. Though, it was a dry day and I had cleaned it after the road trip.

“Clean” is a relative term, perhaps. I had invested £2 to buy 5 minutes at the power washer in the Morrisons car park. They say (whoever “they” are) that you’re not supposed to clean your bike that way. I figure it’s fine because I just use the soap brush and the misting settings, never hitting the bike with a full spray. Besides, I can’t think how else I would clean the thing. When I first got Aliona I would invest time filling a bucket with water and cleaning her with a sponge, but that was: a) in the summer when it was warm and dry; and b) before I realised how much I hate washing my bike.

The other day, I saw a post on a motorcycle forum where a dude proudly confessed to spending an afternoon detailing his “baby.” And I thought: “Good lord, man. That’s an afternoon during which you could have been riding.” I cannot think of one thing –– ever –– that I have spent an afternoon cleaning.

But cleanliness of the bike does play in my mind. It’s a part of the equation, they say, to ensuring your bike makes it through the winter.

The coming of The Long Dark and its effect on my motorcycle and my motorcycling has been playing on my mind. If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you may know that one of the instigating factors in my becoming so obsessed with motorcycles was a desire to fight against the feelings of confinement and homesickness that always result from The Long Dark. That’s what I call winter in Britain, because “winter” doesn’t properly describe what one experiences.

Handling winter like a boss.

First of all, The Long Dark is longer than winter; it generally stretches from late October to early May. The weather is not so terribly cold, certainly not by the standards of someone who spent his formative years in Minnesota, but its capacity to break you down emotionally is so much greater than anything else I have experienced. It is grey and dark and wet and windy every day. No, dude, listen: when I say every day, I mean EVERY day. Day after day after day after day of the same miserable routine.

And for some inexplicable reason, the peoples who have lived on this archipelago for thousands of years have not figured out how to build homes and structures that combat this misery. It is drafty, cold and damp in my flat. At my workplace. At the pub. The Long Dark is inescapable.

I’m wandering off the point here, sorry. Here’s what I’m trying to say: Winter’s coming and I’m a little worried. I learned to ride in the cold and as such, I consider myself an all-season rider. Plus, I think I need to be for the sake of my sanity. So, there will be no sheltering of Aliona for months on end. Which means that the articles I’ve been reading recently about preparing your bike for winter are pretty much irrelevant to me.

But that’s exactly what I want to know: How should I prepare for The Long Dark? I plan to get heated grips put on as soon as I can find the money, and I’m very seriously considering putting on some engine bars, as well. I’ll be asking my parents to buy me a pair of these gloves for Christmas. I’ll probably buy a balaclava just for kicks. But these are things done for my physical and psychological comfort. What about the bike? How should I be treating Aliona?

Britain is a land of myth and legend, and that’s an attitude that extends down to what people tell you to do with motorcycles. So, I’ve been struggling to find any particularly good advice. Search the interwebs and stuff seems to be half made-up –– steeped in the intraceable “truths” of dudes who grew up in the 60s –– and comes from the same sort of people who complain that antilock brakes are somehow evidence that the socialists are winning control.

But what truths I have gathered are this: I should do my best to keep Aliona clean, and I may want to consider regularly dousing her in GT85. OK. Done. Is that it, though? Keeping in mind that I don’t have access to a nice, warm, dry garage and that the best I can offer Aliona is a sturdy all-weather cover, what else should I be doing? Any advice? How do you keep your bike going year-round?