17 Practical WINTER Motorcycle Projects

Winter for most of us means putting away the bike and dreaming of spring. For those of us without a heated workspace, the wait is extra-long. To make the most use of this off-season I looked around and found 17 ideas for useful winter projects that will keep you in the game and coming out ready for the first riding day in spring.

1.0 Warm Work Space

A project that should begin well before the cold weather sets in. This can include a garage or even a basement area. The entire garage doesn’t need to be heated, you can use curtain and space heaters to warm up a section large enough for motorcycle work.

If the garage is not an option, then consider a base area workspace. Or even a spare room. Of course, moving inside means no fuel or solvents, and limited sanding, etc. You can consider a dust collection/containment system if you are doing any sanding, filing or such.

Knowing what type of work, you want to accomplish will help with your warm workspace design. A room inside the house is fine for electrical work, disassembly/assembly, cleaning & polishing.

If you have no opportunity to set up a workspace look for rental space. Some larger population areas have businesses that offer dedicated workshops. You can store your motorcycle and work on it when you feel like it. Alternatively, look for shared space with a friend/relative or even advertise what you are looking for.  This rental market is sparse, so you have to go looking for it. The landlord may not even know they have the opportunity until you make them aware of it.

2.0 Motorcycle LED upgrade

LED technology is a fantastic leap forward, for the applications that are not direct plugins some time to fit and wire in new circuits is required. Instead of taking up valuable warm weather riding time save these extras for the winter. Assemble the components for LED ground lighting and running light stripes for the cold weather when you can take the time to do it right.

3.0 Ergonomics

Plan ahead and get all those adjustments done and add anything that will make it more comfortable while on the open road. Some suggestions, add highway pegs, install floorboards, seat replacement or add padding, install backrest, get the bars in the right place, replace grips, or add heated ones.

4.0 Paint it

Painting is a perfect off-season job since your bike will be out of commission for an extended period. Upgrade the looks of old faithful. You will have the time to do the time-consuming sanding, dent removal, bodywork and then final primer and paint. The gas tank, fenders, side covers, fairings are all candidates for this beautification project. Even if your fenders are chrome they can be reworked to a bright finish to match the other painted items. If you do not have the tools or skills for final painting take the entire lot to a paint shop and have them do the final paint. Ask for advice while you are scoping out the price, they can advise on how to prep, prime and sand prior to final painting.

5.0  Removable Repairs

Mechanical repairs on removable components are perfect for a winter project. Stuff like valve work or cylinder re-boring /honing is great for the winter season. You can pull the heads, or cylinders and take them to a shop for completion. You may want to consider sand/bead blasting first and possibly painting first. Carburetors removal, cleaning, and re-jetting can be done by yourself, taken to a local shop or even mailed off for remote service. Once repairs/refurbs are done re-assembly is a good one for this time too.

6.0 Wheel Assemblies

Wheel assemblies can have multiple projects in themselves. Are you are considering new tires? Once the old tires are off the rime this is the best time to do a do a complete cleanup and polish, maybe a sandblast and repaint. If you have spoked wheels this is the time to true up the rims. It’s also a great time to learn the art of wheel truing. Also Check, or just replace (on high mileage machines) the wheel bearings at the same time. Brake work is also another mini-project to review while it’s all apart.

7.0  Donor Bike

If you ride an older classic, winter is a great time to first get a super deal on a “parts bike”. It doesn’t have to run, but it should be in fairly good-looking condition, lower mileage and or has recent new parts. You can even pick up an insurance accident write-off. Take your time in the off-season to thoroughly disassemble, check that each part is in specifications, then catalog and store them as spares. Or you could even sell some on eBay. I did this recently with Yamaha 650XS, that came with a spare motor. The proceeds of parts from the spare paid for the overall purchase of the motorcycle and the spare motor!

8.0 Build Brackets

Brackets, hangers, and fittings all take time to make, so plan on doing these in the winter. Add extra gauges or fix a temporary setup to something more solid and better looking. Plan ahead, make a mockup from cardboard, plastic or wood while the weather is still warm, then retreat to your warm space to create your masterpiece. You may need to take a quick dip into the cold to check fit though.

9.0 Ice Racer

If you have a dirt bike, or almost anything you can put knobby tires on you can make an ice racer! This is a ton of fun, all you need is a box of sheet metal screws and some time to fill your knobby tires with them. If you can, but do not have to, drop the suspension – usually letting the front fork tubes slide up in the triple trees, and build shorter struts for the rear will do fine. Next, you need some bare ice, often the wind blows a lake clean, or you can arrange for a buddy run a 4x with a plow around a course.

to speed up the metal screws get a speed handle and matching socket. You will lose a fair number out there having fun, so take lots with you. This is a great 2nd use for a motocross or old dirt bike. If you get hooked you can move up to spikes and well-guarded fenders.

10.0  Snowbiking

Check into these kits that convert your large bore dirtbike for some serious winter excitement. Companies like Mototrack or Timbersled make radical bolt-on front ski and rear tracks, that turns your large bore motocrosser into a snow-bike. The kits are not cheap, but still less expensive than buying a separate snowmobile, and they are a lot more manurable and fun to ride. These things are catching on, snow-cross races are being held all over the country.

11.0 Biking Vacation

You can stretch it and call this a special project. So instead of doing the standard all-inclusive resort where you sit around in the sun and eat & drink, consider a motorcycle adventure vacation. You can go almost anywhere and find these nowadays, from Flordia to Vietnam. Prices, accommodations, motorcycles, and risks vary to suit your appetite.

12.0 Install Saddle Bags

At first, this sounds too easy but look at all the possible designs out there, from OEM to aftermarket. Then consider transplanting across manufacturers or models. Since most hard bags are typically rectangular or trapezoidal shaped, and all have a flat-ish mounting surface on the rear mounting side the challenge will be mounting bracketry. The possibilities are endless. First determine the 3D space you have to work with, decide if you will take a set off another model similar to yours or fit another design. Do some serious eye-balling then start building the brackets that will attach the saddlebags.

You can get fancy and add integrated turn signals and running lights too. Or maybe a nice paint job is in order.

13.0 Stereo Upgrade

Lots of not-too-old touring bikes have some outdated stereos. Look for marine or waterproofed designs that will fit in the space you have. Wiring and possible speaker upgrades will take some of your off-season time. Make sure the new stereo has an Aux and or Bluetooth to play tunes from your phone or portable MPS player.

14.0 Speciality Tools

Time to fabricate and hand finish some of those specialty tools that you have been working without. The weird thin offset wrenches, or sockets that need special cutaway sections to work correctly. Now’s the time to get these made and stop risking disaster using vise grips and screwdriver. You can always break down and order the tools online also, no shame in that.

15.0 GPS / Trip Planning Practice

Nows the time to tinker and learn all about your GPS, especially how to download maps to local your local device. When you head out in the car, take the gear and practice using it as if you were motorcycle touring. It’s far easier to learn and experiment in the car where you can spread out, then on the road with your bike moving along.

Take some time and plan out your next long tour. Use all the features of your GPS (or smartphone GPS app) to set points of interest, daily travel targets. Research points of interest, preferred routes, best accommodations, and eateries you would like to visit.

16.0 Learn New Skills

Just owning a motorcycle allows you to take up new skills. DIY approach to small, then progressively larger jobs opens the door to learning lots of useful new skills. Many local community colleges and such offer courses in motorcycle maintenance and repair. Or you could take ones for welding, machining or electrical fundamentals, all would be helpful in expanding your knowledge base and making you a more effective DIY’er.  Of course, actually working on a job is the place to start, just don’t bite off too much.

17.0 Books & Video Collection

Not a project but so what, time to upgrade your collection, do some reading and kick back and be entertained. There are many good books on how and where to ride, and adventure documentaries you may want to have or watch. Youtube is loaded with hidden gems, it just takes time to find them. And don’t forget the technical manuals, an OEM shop service manual is miles ahead of most Chilton’s or Clymers versions. It never hurts to browse through and get an understanding of how your motorcycle is constructed, even if you never dig in and work on it at that level.

Closing Thoughts

  • Get ready for winter by anticipating the next spring!
  • If you start a “small project”, do not fall into the “while I am at it” trap. In other words, do not go too far, or you may end up with an unrideable motorcycle come springtime
  • To boost confidence and gain experience take on one job at a time, only move on once you have once successfully completed the first job or task
  • Beware that disassembly is way too easy, take a lot of photos and notes, keep all pieces separate and label everything, note the part’s / fastener’s positioning when mounted.

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