How Long Can a Motorcycle Stay Idle? Without Riding

Motorcycle sitting idle

Many bike riders say if you leave your motorcycle to sit for too long, the motorcycle will get damaged.

While there is some merit, I don’t fully agree with this.

But I do agree there will be problems if the motorcycle sits idle for too long.

So how long can a motorcycle sit idle? A motorcycle can sit idle for around 2 years if stored and winterized right. But without preparations, the motorcycle starts showing problems after 2 to 3 months.

But what happens if the motorcycle stays too long?

Here are the effects:

  • Deteriorated gasoline
  • Battery discharge
  • Deflated tires
  • Stale oil
  • Rusting components
  • Dirt accumulation
  • Starting problems

Lets deep dive into these effects. And also look into what should be done if you are leaving your motorcycle to sit for long.

How long can a motorcycle be left without riding?

If stored and winterized properly, the motorcycle can sit idle for around 2 years.

But without precautions, the motorcycle starts showing problems if left sitting for more than 2 to 3 months.

Motorcycle sitting idle outside

What kind of problems?

If the motorcycle sits idle for too long, the components start getting affected.

The dust starts to accumulate. The consumables (fuel, coolant, and oils) deteriorate. Battery discharges. If the motorcycle is exposed to the atmosphere, the components start to corrode slowly.

These are all the consequences that a motorcycle can face if it sits without care for too long.

So, in case you are not going to use your motorcycle for a long time, you must store it and winterize it properly.

What happens if a motorcycle sits too long?

If the motorcycle sits too long, here are the major effects:

#1. Deteriorate gasoline quality

Motorcycle gas tank with the cap open

If the gasoline sits in the motorcycle gas tank for more than 6 months, the gasoline deteriorates in quality.

In fact, the quality degradation starts after 30 days itself.

The old idle petrol will have varnish deposits. Slime formation. Water absorbed by the gas. And overall – poor-quality, low-combustible gasoline remains in the motorcycle tank.

How to check if the gasoline has gone bad?

The petrol in the tank will no longer be transparent in color. Bad gasoline will have a frothy, non-transparent appearance.

In addition, the bad gasoline will have gums and varnish formations that can be clearly seen.

So what do you need to do?

Flush the old gasoline out of the motorcycle tank.

And pour in fresh gas.

#2. Battery discharge

Motorcycle battery opened and tested with multimeter

Discharged battery is the main concern if the motorcycle has been sitting idle for too long.

If the motorcycle is left idle for more than a year, the battery charge will be drained and can even result in a dead battery.

You can start checking the battery condition step by step.

First, try starting the motorcycle.

If the motorcycle does not start, the battery is most likely drained in this case.

Second, use the multimeter to check the battery voltage.

For a good and well-functioning battery, the multimeter volt reading should be above 12 Volts. Something around 13 Volts is preferable.

Third, try charging the battery.

You can use a battery tender or a charger to recharge the battery. If the battery charges, then well and good. You can use the battery again.

If not, you have to replace the battery.

The old battery in all likelihood is dead.

The only solution remaining now is to replace the old battery with a new one on your motorcycle.

#3. Deflated tires

A flat bike tire

Deflated tires are not that big a deal. When the motorcycle sits for long, the tire loses its pressure.

Also, check if the tire is punctured. Just in case.

With too long an idle time, both the motorcycle tires would have gone flat.

The flat tires on the motorcycle here most likely be due to lost air pressure. And not due to punctures.

Still, it’s better to check the tires for punctures.

Once you have confirmed, it’s time to make the tires work back to good condition.

All you need to do is fill the air to both the motorcycle tires.

The recommended PSI for the tires will be explicitly mentioned in the bike’s user manual. You can refer them.

Note: The PSI recommendation will be separate for the front tire and the rear tire. The rear tire will have higher PSI than the front tire.

Make sure the tire pressure is at the optimum PSI levels.

If the tire PSI is less than the required PSI, then the tire contact surface with the road will be higher. And when this contact area increases, the friction between the road and the motorcycle increases as well.

The tire problem is the easiest out of all others. So fix it fast.

#4. Stale oil

Checking motorcycle engine oil level with dipstick

Stale and regarded oil is a concern if the motorcycle has been sitting for more than 2 years.

If the idle time is only around 6 months or a year, the engine oil is not that big an issue.

But if the bike is sitting idle for years, the oil would have gone bad.

So, what to do?

Check the oil quality.

Take out the oil dipstick and apply the oil to your finger or tissue paper.

Look into the color, smell, and stickiness of the engine oil.

The oil should be brown or lighter in color, should not have a burnt smell, and should not be sticky in condition.

If not, it is no longer in good condition.

The solution? Change the engine oil.

#5. Rusting components

Motorcycle chain rusting along with other components

If you have not covered the motorcycle and let it sit out in the open, then the bike components will start to corrode slowly.

The exposure to the outside environment and possibly even rainspeeds up the rusting process on the motorcycle.

Not to mention, the painted surfaces can have their paint peeled off as well.

The dust that starts to accumulate on the motorcycle’s surface will add to the misery too.

Overall, the exposure to outside air, dust, and water droplets – either rain or condensed water – all results in the motorcycle components rusting over time.

#6. Dirt accumulation

Motorcycle handlebar covered in dust and rusted

If the motorcycle sits for days and months without properly covered, then dust and dirt are going to accumulate on the motorcycle.

This is common sense.

Yet, so many riders leave their motorcycle open and out when they know their bike is going to sit idle for quite some time.

For the dust and dirt to accumulate, it doesn’t even need months.

A few days are more than enough.

Settled dust will cause nuisances in the form of speeding up corrosion, penetrating into the components, and eventually becoming tough to clean with simple methods.

So, makes sure to use a bike cover next time.

#7. Starting problems

Motorcycle Kick Start with a rider on it

A major pain point of motorcycles that have sat for too long is their starting problems.

Most times the starting problem is because of one of the above problems mentioned. Stale fuel, drained battery, etc.

But even if you fix those problems, the starting problems still exist.

This might be either because of cold starting problems or because there are other starting issues despite a good battery.

Here is a detailed guide on motorcycle starting problems that you can refer to.

Things to do if you are letting your motorcycle sit for long

Now that we know the problems, here are the things you need to do when you are going to let your motorcycle sit for a long time:

  • Drain the fuel: Gasoline gets stale. Gums and varnish form if left for months in the gas tank. So, drain the gasoline from the tank.
  • Take out the battery: Disconnect the battery from the motorcycle. Else it will drain the charge fast. Alternatively, you can use a battery tender as well.
  • Use a bike cover: Use a motorcycle cover to cover it. This helps the bike from dust, dirt, and rain. Also slows down the corrosion and paint peeling.
  • Park in the garage or a closed space: Park in a closed space so that the motorcycle is not exposed to air, dust, or rain that could affect the bike.

Thats it. That’s the 80% you need to take care of.

Once you are back to using the motorcycle again, pour fresh gas, change the oil and coolant, check the tire pressure, and refit the battery.

You should be good to go.