Whether on a bike or in a car, the pleasures of the road are immense for those who like to get outside for a journey to an unknown place or an old, longed-for destination. Yet, for those who prefer to enjoy the road from the two wheels of their motorcycle, the thrill of riding is second to none. When it comes to a sense of adventure, there’s nothing quite like feeling the wind on your face and seeing the city and countryside fly by with nothing between but you and the air!
But, even with all the excitement of owning your own bike, there are responsibilities when it comes to caring for it properly. In order to keep all of your bike’s many parts in good shape, from bike accessories to your radiator guard to the chain, you’ll need to make sure you’re treating them right.
Given the nature of the open road and all of the myriad weather conditions that can come up unexpectedly, knowing how to clean your motorcycle so that you can get the most life out of it is key. Pressure washers and soap may seem like they’ll do the trick, but it’s very important to have the right products and necessary materials to clean your wheels the way they’ll require.
Whether you happen to ride a Honda, a Kawasaki, a Suzuki or a Yamaha, it’s important to familiarize yourself with how best to clean your motorcycle before you decide to get out the hose. You’ve already invested a good chunk of money into your wheels, so taking care of them properly is what’s required to get the most bang for your buck.
Prepping Before the Clean
Much like cooking, one of the hardest parts of cleaning your motorcycle is going to be getting all of the materials together that you’ll need to get the job done. Instead of doing it piece by piece, ensure you’ve prepped beforehand so you won’t have to search for any missing items! Start by removing any luggage or accessories that you don’t want to get wet, whether it’s your saddlebags or any other bike accessories.
It can be a bit of a drag to realize halfway through the task that you’re missing something, so ensure you have the right motorcycle cleaners on hand, along with any degreaser or tar remover you’ll be using. You won’t want to get to the middle of your task and realize you’re low on cleaner, so getting out all the materials is the best idea for doing it right the first time.
Where (and When) to Wash
It might seem like any old time works when it comes to washing your bike, but it’s important to make sure that you didn’t just come from a ride so that your motorcycle has had enough time to cool down. Instead of taking your bike to the local car wash, it’s best to use your own backyard hose whether you choose to clean it in the yard, in front of the house or in the back driveway.
A hot day may seem like the ideal time to get outside and enjoy the rays while you work away, but it actually means any leftover soap will more than likely dry on the body of your motorcycle and leave unsightly splotches. It’s better to choose a day that is neither too cold nor too warm so that the temperature doesn’t have an adverse effect on the clean you’re trying to complete.
The Material’s You’ll Need
Cleaning your motorcycle might seem little different from cleaning up your house, but the rags you wouldn’t think twice about using to scrub up the kitchen may actually be damaging for your motorcycle. So, instead of taking the right cleaning cloths for granted, invest in terry-cloth towels that will give you the soft fabric required to ensure the finish on your bike isn’t damaged by a too-tough texture.
While we can’t underscore the importance of the right cloth, some other things you might need to get at all the myriad parts of your motorbike are a kitchen scrub brush, a toothbrush, a paintbrush, some sandpaper, cotton swabs and even a scouring pad. In addition, if you’re looking for a thorough clean you may even want to consider investing in a motorcycle jack so you can get at the wheels and acquire access to all your motorcycle’s parts.
Pick the Proper Cleaner
Dish soap may be ideal when it comes to washing your plates and glasses, but for one of your most prized possessions you’ll want to invest in something that is specific to cleaning up your motorcycle. In addition to purchasing the kind of cleaner that is safe for paint, make sure that it can effectively deal with metals, plastics and vinyl without causing any damage to your bike.
Not only will these be safe for your wheels, they’ll also get rid of dirt, grime and all the other things that can accumulate on the road. Once you’ve started to wash your bike, ensure that you are rinsing frequently as any leftover soap can dry on the surface and leave stains behind that you might not notice until the job is done.
Don’t Leave the Leather
When it comes to a thorough cleaning of your motorcycle, it’s important to leave no stone unturned. This means that you should also be removing any leather pieces, like saddlebags or seat covers – even luggage racks – so they can be cleaned separately.
It’s easy to think that any leather cleaner will do, perhaps even the one that you have for the interior of your car; however, given the fact that the leather on your bike is often exposed to the harshness of the road and the unpredictability of the weather, the right cleaner is a necessity.
While you may want to do some research on available cleaners and conditioners, you may also want to pay a visit to your local bike dealer and see if they have any recommendations for you.
When It Comes to High Pressure
There’s nothing more powerful than high pressure when it comes to deep cleaning your motorcycle. But, it’s important to be aware that while this type of clean can certainly help to remove some of the more powerful stains present on your bike, it can also cause the kind of damage that’s difficult to undo.
Because high-pressure washers are so powerful, they can actually force the water stream into parts of your bike where it can lead to things like rusty axles and a degreased chain. Instead of risking degradation of parts of your motorcycle, ensure that you keep it away from the hydraulic brake components, chain, seats, instruments and electronics if you absolutely must use a pressure washer.
And, if you do want to use it for something like your chain, ensure that you regrease it after. You will also want to choose a model that, while still giving you the pressure wash you’re looking for, is not too powerful.
The Stains that Stick
Even if you use all the elbow grease you’ve got to scrub with your terry cloths, there’s a good chance that a few determined stains will be left behind once your bike is dry and the big clean is all over. If you’re dealing with tar, you may want to try something like WD-40, which works great in getting rid of this kind of tough build-up.
For stains on parts of your bike that are not too fragile, like unpolished metal or unfinished parts, you may want to get out the scouring pad or the sandpaper to put the friction to good use. This won’t adversely impact the look of your bike if it’s hidden away, so you won’t have to worry about any unsightly damage.
As long as you stay away from finishes and polished chrome, you may come out with a better-looking piece of machinery once all’s said and scrubbed.
Cleaning Chrome and Bare Metal
When it comes to cleaning your chrome, it’s important to have a chrome polish or cleaner available that will keep it shiny and looking good. By using a polish, you can probably buff away any stains with a chamois and a little elbow grease. But, if you’re dealing with plastic chrome it’s important to be cautious as you’ll want to use the appropriate cleaner instead of trying to polish it, since this can wear it down.
When dealing with the bare metal on your bike, it’s a good idea to use a protectant that will get into all of those hard-to-reach nooks and crannies that might be unseen but still need protection. This way, instead of having to dig deep with the wax, you can ensure your bike is protected and avoid any issues with metal corrosion.
Do the Dry
It might seem like a fairly straightforward concept to dry off your bike after you’ve finally finished a thorough clean, but it’s important to do it the right way so you don’t have to deal with streaks or damage to the finish.
While it’s best to use a soft terry cloth or chamois so that your bike will be left looking streak free, it’s very important to get out a new towel if you happen to drop it on the ground.
It might seem like a little thing, but this type of towel can actually pick up grit and other fragments very easily if it’s dropped, and if you use it again it may damage the finish on your bike and cause scratches.
Ensure that you dry your bike with speed and efficiency so that water doesn’t have a chance to dry on the surface and cause streaks. Once this is done, take it for a spin around the block so that any excess water will run out.
If you’ve undergone quite a clean, you may even want to drive a bit further for added benefit. You can then wipe it down with a chamois upon your return home to ensure the bike’s body is dry, shiny and streak free.
Finish Off with Wax
Having a shiny, clean motorcycle can feel like you have a new lease on life and a brand new toy to play with, but all is not done simply because your bike is clean. While you’ve scrubbed and polished everything that can be cleaned away and buffed, you’ll want to finish off with waxing your motorcycle to ensure that it’s protected from unpredictable weather and all the other elements out there on the road.
Before you begin your wax, make sure your bike is out of direct sunlight as this can impact the quality of the job. To start, you’ll want to strip away the old wax with a pre-wax cleaner. Then, you can take a cleaning clay and spray to really get down to the nitty-gritty and get rid of any fragments that have been trapped in your paint.
If you want to polish your motorcycle, you’ll want to do so at this point, but if not you can take a waxing pad or buffer to apply the wax evenly to the body of your motorcycle. While you may want additional coats of wax, a once over may just do the job!
Whether your love your Honda or your Kawasaki is your favourite toy, cleaning your motorcycle effectively so you can get the most out of it doesn’t have to be complicated. But, it’s still one of those things that will need to be done the right way so you can avoid causing damage to your much beloved bike.
By following the simple rules of using the right products for your motorcycle and staying away from things – like pressure washers – that can erode away at its pieces and parts, you’ll be well on your way to a piece of machinery that will stand the test of time and hold up to the road ahead.