Protect Your Motorcycle for Desert Riding

Spring and summer bring some sweltering heat to the Arizona area. It’s a great season to ride a motorcycle in the Mojave Desert, and Arizona and Nevada desert regions. However, even in the winter, this area is famous for its heat, and in summer it reaches up to 120 degrees. So how do you prep your bike for desert riding so it can handle that sort of heat without letting you down?

Engine Specs

What has the shortest lifespan in Vegas? If we’re talking bike brands, the answer’s a Harley Davidson, because they are air-cooled and the hot summer air is not enough to keep them cooled efficiently. That’s the advice of Susan Wells, a Vegas motorcycle enthusiast who’s been biking since 1991. So avoid air-cooled engines, and choose a water-cooled bike, says Wells. Brands such as Yamaha with water-cooled engines tend to survive longer in a hot, arid climate.

Panheads and shovelheads may sound great, Wells adds, but are best avoided. As well as being air-cooled and vintage pre-1965 bikes, these engine designs can suffer from a scarcity of replacement parts, particularly in this region, she says, as many locals consider them obsolete.

Riding Habits

The most enthusiastic bikers ride all year round and rack up some mileage. They’ll probably get 10,000 miles of road under their wheels in an average year. A well-maintained bike can run for about 20 years before the owner needs to rebuild it, according to Joe Franklin, who organizes the annual Motorhead Festival nearby.

Vegas bikers tend to do most of their desert riding from September to May, when highs range from about 45 up to 85 degrees Fahrenheit, according to Wells. Outside of these reasons, she adds, fairweather riders should consider trickle charging the battery. Wells recommends a slow, continual charge for long periods of storage when the bike is not being ridden for weeks and months at a time, to keep the battery alive.


Tires also take some punishment in an arid climate, says Wells. The sun’s rays can damage them, and so you should make a point of inspecting those tires for cracks and signs of dryness, and treat them regularly with rubber protectant to keep them supple.

She recommends indoor storage too: Keeping your motorcycle in a garage will keep it safe from the sun, dust and wind – and out of sight of thieves. Use leather conditioner to protect your motorcycle’s accessories such as saddlebags, and keep the paint at its best by keeping it clean, dry and applying wax.

Other Maintenance Tips

Keep dry parts full of air, and free of water. “A full gas tank is best for keeping moisture out of the gas tank,” says Joe Franklin.

The wet parts? Keep them full of fluid. “Keep the inside of the motor wet,” Franklin adds. “Keep the rings wet. Keep up the oil pressure.” He recommends using heavier, 50-weight oil for desert riding, as “it doesn’t break down so fast in the extreme heat.”

He recommends plenty of degreaser, and to clean mud-like deposits off the outside of the engine, using o use a blend of solvents and surfactants. Surfactants are surface tension-reducing compounds that can act as detergents. This combo can keep the engine running better, and help make maintenance a less messy job.

Take care of your motorbike while you’re not riding it, and it will take care of you while you are.

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