Top Tips for Washing and Cleaning Your Motorcycle
There is something quite special about restoring your motorcycle to showroom beauty after a nice long ride or just to spend a Sunday morning in the company of your best friend: your bike.
We’d all rather be out riding, but having a clean bike is not only a good look but will help the bike to live longer. Here are our top tips on how to clean your ride.
Preparation is Key
The first thing you need to do, is remove everything you don’t want to get wet, such as luggage and GPS systems. Then you’ll need to get all your cleaning products ready. Here is a list of what you’ll need:
- Bucket with soap
- Bug and tar remover
- Degreaser/engine cleaner
- A brush to clean the wheels
- Microfiber rags
- Soft towels
Where and When to Wash
It is important to stay away from commercial washers and do it yourself. Don’t wash your bike on the street or a unit driveway if you can avoid it, as its dangerous. Also, never wash straight after a long ride, give the engine time to cool down, so you can avoid damage from spraying cold water onto a hot engine. Also avoid washing in direct sunlight and during the hottest part of the day, as it can dry detergents on the bike’s paintwork and leave streaks. If you can, wash on your lawn, as it will help the environment.
Wash Frequently but DON’T Overdo It
Washing your bike frequently can alert you early to developing problems, such as leaks, loose or damaged parts, etc. Leaving bugs on your paintwork for too long makes them harder to remove and can leave behind blemishes, and you will need high-quality professional motorcycle paint to fix them. So, washing frequently has many advantages, however, over washing can displace lubricants and expose grease points on old engines. Use common sense and judge when it is best to give your bike a full clean down and when a quick wipe over is best suited.
Wash with Water and the Right Cleaning Products
You won’t need a lot of water to clean your bike. Use the correct cleaning products for each job, as there is a product for everything. Be weary of abrasive cleaning products or general household cleaning products, as they can cause damage to paint and chrome. Check the pH balance of the products and if they are safe to use on all paint types. Also, wear rubber gloves when using harsh compounds to tackle the tougher jobs.
Pressure washers are an effective way of removing thick mud and tough dirt, but they can also force water into electrics or areas where it can pool and cause corrosion. If you use a pressure washer, make sure to keep it away from instruments, electronics, chains, brakes and vinyl seats which can be ripped by the high-pressured water. Use it only one wheels and bodywork and avoid using any washer with over 2000psi.
The Right Tools for the Job
Have a variety of sponges, one for each different area if you can. You should never use a clean sponge to get the grease off the wheels and then use the same sponge to clean your seat, as it will leave grease. Microfiber cloths are great at cleaning and protecting surfaces. A toothbrush is a great tool to clean those hard to reach spots too. Use fine-grade steel wool to clean off burnt-on grease from chrome exhaust pipes but test it first on an area of the pipe that can’t be seen to check if it leaves any marks.
Attention to Detail
Attention to detail is what makes a difference between a showroom bike and just a clean bike. Once you’ve finished washing and polishing your ride, spend a little bit more time going over it with a microfiber cloth. Wipe the cables, clean engine casings, rub the wheel hubs and do a thorough check to see if you have missed anything. Use an air compressor to blow away excess water from those hard to reach areas. Tire shine is great, but only use it for competitions, as too much spray can affect the grip in a negative way.
Avoid using cutting compounds, as they leave permanent swirls in the paintwork. Car wax is ideal, only if it is a soft wax that adds a layer, rather than taking one off. Modern bikes can be covered in a thin layer of plastic or lacquer which can be damaged. Always try a product on a discrete or non-visible area first, then look at it in direct sunlight to check for marks and swirls. High-quality wax with act like a sunscreen, protecting your paint with a UV barrier. The wax also needs to be reapplied regularly to provide on-going protection. Always put the polish on the rag, not directly on the bike. Buff off dry wax with a lint-free cloth.
WD40 is essential to any good motorcycle cleaning kit. It is great for getting rid of excess water and it helps remove built-up grease. Do not spray it where there is essential grease, such as the wheel bearings, as it will dilute the grease. WD stands for Water Displacement, and it does exactly that. However, it is not a great lubricant, so buy some lubricant for your cables, hinges, and levers. Use dedicated chain lube to coat the chain. Always follow the instructions on any product you use.
The Final Step: Drying Off
A well-rinsed microfiber cloth is ideal for drying off your bike. Avoid this cloth touching the ground at all costs, as it can pick up small pieces of dirt and grit which can easily scratch your bike. Once you have dried your bike, ride if around the block at a gentle pace and squeeze the brakes to pump out any excess water. We then recommend you go for a longer ride, up a highway, to blow out any excess water from those hard to reach areas. Although a leaf-blower does the same trick, going out for a ride is ten times better, isn’t it? Show off how clean your ride is and enjoy the looks.
Wipe the bike down again with a microfiber cloth when you get back from the ride. This is to get rid of streaks which the excess water running out of crevasses might have caused.