A Guide to Motorcycle Covers

Reviews on some of the newest and most advanced bike covers you can buy

Bike covers used to be the province of the have-nots-those of us who couldn't afford a measly garage space, a spot under an awning or the warm comforts of an extra-large living room, had to stash their scoots on the mean streets, wait for the bike to cool, then drape a tarp over the handlebar to keep pigeon poop and the occasional thunderstorm at bay.

When it came time to peel the wrap off, your bike's finish would often be the worse for wear. The covers we had to choose from were mostly cheap, ineffectual and in need of constant replacement. But then came plastic, polyurethane and breathable materials, and everything changed overnight. These days you can get a bike cover in different sizes and styles tailored to fit your bike, with such high-zoot ammenities as UV protection, non-scratching liners, rust inhibitors and heat shields.

Several companies make a heavy-duty outdoor cover that's a virtual garage, with heat shields, venting and a waterproof surface. These tend to be heavy and often come with lockable hems too, for protection at home. The mid-grade units are a bit more flexible and portable, but give up some protection for this convenience-outer material is often thinner, less puncture-resistant and tends to be water-resistant rather than waterproof.

The lightest-weight covers are positioned as either traveling covers-they're so light you can easily pack them on a tour-or economy models, offering basic, bare-bones protection at a low price. These can often be tarps or PVC covers. Another type of cover is made just for summer protection from the sun's hot rays-these are known as half-covers, bikini tops or shades.

We gathered up a few different grades of covers, pulled them over our long-term Honda VTX 1300C, and checked the features, fit and finish of each. Then we aimed a regular garden hose set 6 feet over the bike and dialed to the strong spray setting for 15 minutes to see how they'd deal with a little moisture.

More importantly, though, covers ultimately hide your bike from prying eyes, lending credence to the "out of sight, out of mind" theory. If they can't see what it is, thieves will likely pass up your bundled bike in favor of something they can more readily access. And isn't your pride and joy worth just a few bucks of coverage?

Later in the Year:
Once you're in the heat of the season, you may want to outfit your ride with less cumbersome Qwikshade Motorcycle Sunshades. Ranging in price from $39-$79, these simple woven nylon/lycra covers stretch over most popular motorcycle styles to prevent damage caused by the sun and condensation. Rubber-coated J-hooks attach to your bike's frame and fender rails for a stable fit. Medium and large sizes stretch to cover the front of your gas tank to the rear fender; the X-large size covers the front to rear fender including windshield and saddlebags. They also come with a carrying case. Get 'em at www.jcwhitney.com.

And Don't Forget:
Securing your cover thwarts thieves interested in your ride and also keeps the cover from blowing away. A cable and lock is probably the best bang for your security buck, and the Covercraft Cable and Lock is a good way to get started; the 31-inch plastic-covered cable comes with a lock and two keys. $10.99 at JC Whitney.

CycleShell $325-$425
Because of volume and weight we didn't get a CycleShell to test, but if you want solid protection and have the greenbacks for it, this fully enclosing shell may just pique your interest. With an exterior construction of polyester-woven marine fabric, the Cycleshell has a vinyl-coated topside for waterproofness and UV protection to resist fading and cracking over time. Inside, it's ventilated and sports a strong aluminum frame with a platform made of high-density polyethylene (which can be anchored to a surface). Neat features like vent panels, tie-down points, a wheel wedge, an aluminum-plated kickstand area and a Velcro seal probably make this a good bet for home storage or as an alternative to a garage. The patented Shell requires no assembly, claims to open in seconds, collapses to 5 inches thick and weighs 70 pounds, which makes it sort of portable if you're trailering. It's available in three sizes to fit most bikes (the cruiser height is 67 inches, with a 45-inch width on all models) and comes with a standard two-year warranty. Get more information at www.cycleshell.com.

CoverMax Deluxe Outdoor Motorcycle Cover $79.99 (Tucker Rocky)
The CoverMax covers come in four sizes; we opted for the extra-large Touring/Full Dress version. This heavyweight cover brings a water-resistant 420-denier polyester shell with a polyurethane coating up top in addition to a 65/35 polyester/cotton fiber mix on the bottom (the skin is PU-coated and has waterproof sealed seams as well). Plastic-framed vent holes are positioned on the top of the cover to combat condensation, and an elastic hem along the bottom keeps material tight to the bike. A heat-resistant coating along the inside bottom section allows use on a bike with warm pipes (though it's recommended you allow 15 minutes of cool-down before covering). Several large sewn-in grommets along the lower hem accommodate attachment of anti-theft devices, and the package includes a handy nylon storage bag (the Covermax is rather stout and bulky however, so it's not really a travel cover). In the hose test, water droplets were repelled readily, with no leakage underneath. There's no UV treatment so some fading is to be expected down the road, but a two-year warranty comes standard. Visit www.powersportrider.com for a dealer near you.

DowCo Guardian Weather-All Plus $85.99
DowCo's full-boat deal is the Weather-All, a high-end wrap that claims to offer "the ultimate in weather protection." With features like a Clima-Shield heavy-duty coated polyester fabric and double-stitched sealed seams, the Guardian easily passed our hose test (and the fabric also claims to resist fading). The sewn-in windshield liner was plenty plush to the touch (even though our bike was shieldless) and aluminized heat panels allowed placement of the cover over toasty engine components and pipes. DowCo's vent system, dubbed Moisture Guard, uses the same design as the other covers-a series of large holes at the front of the shell, covered with a plastic awning-allowing for dispersion of moisture. A shock-corded hem along the bottom of the Guardian lets you tailor the fit and a series of reinforced grommets accept a cable lock for extra security. A neat zippered storage bag is included if you want to stash it. The Weatherall Plus comes in several sizes so check applications before you buy. (DowCo is also rolling out a new cover with a built-in 130-db alarm system; check www.dowco-inc.com for info.)

CycleVault $170-$190
Billed as "the complete motorcycle anti-corrosion system," the CycleVault product appears to be focused on providing a complete waterproof enclosure for your machine, much like the CycleShell. There's no interior frame here, but the CycleVault is constructed of durable rip-stop polyethylene film impregnated with Zerust, a proprietary rust-resisting formulation. Once the motorcycle is placed into the Vault enclosure (there aren't any heat shields, so Cycle Vault recommends the bike be completely cool) the interior becomes saturated with Zerust vapor, which is said to form a corrosion-inhibiting layer that's invisible, odorless and non-toxic. When we doused the Vault with a steady stream of H2O, we found no moisture had penetrated to the bike (but there are no air vents either). When your motorcycle is removed from the Vault, the Zerust will then, to use the company's words, "revolitize into the atmosphere," thus leaving your vehicle clean, dry and ready for immediate use. A thick, durable built-in base can be set on most solid surfaces, and a sewn-in fleece lining is optional and sizing is specific to your bike model. A storage case is included. Go to www.cyclevault.com for more info.

Nelson-Rigg Falcon Cruiser Deluxe Cover $89.99New for '05 is Nelson Rigg's heavy-duty outdoor wrap, the Falcon Cruiser Deluxe Cover. Our black/silver XL model featured heat-sealed seams for serious waterproofing, and the durable Tri-Max nylon construction was stout to the touch (and also treated for UV protection). We searched in vain, however, for the soft windshield liner advertised on the outside package; the interior nylon wasn't as soft as we would have liked. Still, the built-in heat shields allowed us to use the cover on a warm bike.

This cover also incorporated Nelson-Rigg's Perma-Venting system-essentially a series of vent holes placed fore and aft, covered with a sturdy poly awning-which prevented condensation buildup. An elasticized bottom with sturdy grommets at the center and front wheel secured the cover, and when it was time to ride we could easily fold it into an included backpack-style pouch with straps. The Falcon Deluxe fits all cruiser-style bikes from Harleys to Viragos (a section to cover backrests is included too) and is available in black/silver and navy/silver in sizes L and XL, with a five-year warranty. Visit www.nelsonrigg for more.

Roadgear Jumbo Hibernator Indoor Cover $79.90
It's just a big flannel sheet with hems, but for indoor storage nothing's softer on your bike's finish than the Hibernator Cover. This bright red, super-soft, double-brushed heavyweight flannel cover is also breathable, which allows condensation to evaporate and leaves your bike ready to roll come spring. It's available in three sizes, and we found that the jumbo size best accommodated our super-sized but bagless VTX. (you might want to consider the mega size if you're stashing a tour bike with a full windshield and side bags, or if you want a fit closer to the ground.) The Hibernator doesn't have a heat shield, so forget about throwing it over a hot bike, but it's more than likely to keep your finish looking cool and nick-less. Once the riding season starts and your bike comes out of storage, the Hibernator can easily double as a nice blanket, too. Check it out at www.roadgear.com.

UltraGard Classic II Large Cruiser Cover $69.99
UltraGard makes three distinct levels of bike covers, and the company says its Premier Cruiser Cover-heavy-duty polyester with a durable water-repellent polyurethane undercoating for all-season protection-is the top-shelf offering. We didn't get a test unit, but the product description says a zip-out windshield and backrest pockets allows fit on most cruisers, along with an elastic hem, double-stitched seams, soft lining, rust-proof grommets, bungee cords and a storage pouch.

The UltraGard Classic II (4-469BB) is the firm's popular midline series, with a choice of blue/black, charcoal/black or red/black color schemes. With a breathable, water-resistant material, they offer enhanced lightweight protection while still retaining high-end features like a heat shield, double stitching with interlocking seams, an elastic hem with rust-proof grommets and zip-out pouches for the windshield and sissy bar.

The UltraGard vent system is said to keep condensation at bay, and a handy storage pouch with a bungee cord allows easy storage. Covers come with a three-year warranty. See www.bigbikeparts.com for applications and other details.

Oxford Rainex $69.95
Brit-based Oxford knows a thing or two about wet weather, so it was no surprise its Rainex unit (ours was a large size, for touring bikes and cruisers) came fully equipped with a PVC waterproof outer layer sporting taped seams. With all its exterior features, the Rainex qualifies as a full outdoor cover and passed our hose test easily; there was no residual moisture underneath and the integrated, covered vent holes allowed condensation to make its way out. The Rainex's interior layer is a soft inner liner that kept our paint job dust and scratch free. It also claims to release moisture, though we're not sure how moisture transfer is supposed to happen through non-porous PVC. An adjustable belly strap runs under the bike's chassis to hold the cover in place, but that soft inner liner also means you shouldn't use it on a hot pipe or engine, so allow 20 minutes of cooling before you strap 'er on. Two sizes fit most bikes, and you can find the Oxford Rainex at www.lockitt.com or www.castlesales.com