Thursday, December 24, 2009
Put her to bed ... well, sorta
Since we got hit with about a foot of snow last weekend, I resigned myself to the fact that the 2009 motorcycle season is definitely over. The only thing left to do was put my motorcycle "to bed" for the winter. These days, there's not much involved to winterizing a motorcycle - just put some fuel stabilizer in the gas tank, plug in the Battery Tender (trickle charger) and maybe throw a cover over it.
I was running errands today and had to buy some fuel stabilizer at the local Auto Zone, so I looked for a product called Sea Foam. Several motorcyclists swear by this stuff, which, besides stabilizing fuel, cleans carburetor jets and can cure problems like rough idle and lack of power. My local Auto Zone does carry it, and three of the guys there also sang its praises. It was $9.99 for a 16-oz. can, not much more than Sta-Bil, the most well-known brand of fuel stabilizer, which sold for $6.99.
So I bought the Sea Foam, went home and poured two fluid ounces in my Yamaha Virago's gas tank, which, at about three-quarters full, only had about two gallons of gas in it. I backed it out of the garage and went to start it. The battery was low since I haven't ridden it in about two weeks, and it had barely enough juice to start the bike.
It was cold out, so I had to fully open the choke, and then stepped it down to half-choke after a minute or so, but I have to say, the bike DID idle much smoother. Usually, if I don't ride it for a week or longer, it tends to stall unless I hold the throttle open. It will also stall the first time I put it in gear. But, after the Sea Foam treatment, the bike never came close to stalling, and it purred like a kitten. I was impressed!
As the bike idled in my driveway, which is mostly covered with packed snow, I walked out to the road, which is down to bare pavement. The road was a bit wet from the sun melting the snow. To watch a perfectly good motorcycle running in the driveway seemed like a shame, so I impulsively decided to take the Yamaha out for a quick spin on my street (I wonder if the cages I passed coming the opposite way were surprised to see a motorcycle this time of year). I wasn't behind any vehicles, so I didn't get sprayed with salt, but, if it was a Harley, I would not have taken it out. A little salt on a 22-year-old metric bike I can deal with ....
The ride lasted all of half a mile, and less than three minutes. But, I had problems pulling into the garage. I eased the clutch and the throttle ever so gently, as the rear tire slowly spun and fishtailed, left then right. There's a first time for everything, and this was the first time I had to rock a motorcycle stuck in snow. Bet not too many guys can say that ....
Anyway, I did get it inside with no harm to the bike or myself. I will throw it on the Battery Tender (it already has the quick-disconnect permanently installed on the bike) and wait for God knows how long before another opportunity to take it out.
In the spring, when I can take it for a real ride, I will be curious to see if the Sea Foam will cure the lack of top-end power I've been experiencing with my bike for the past few months (it won't go faster than 70 mph, when it should be good for 95-plus). Over the winter, I may take the carbs apart and see if there are any holes or cracks in the vacuum diaphragms, which, I've read, can also rob top-end power.