How to properly clean your motorcycle

How to properly clean your motorcycle

There are lots of us out there that would much rather be riding our motorbikes than spending a full morning or afternoon washing them, but eventually the dead flies and bug’s graveyard of a headlight or fairing means we eventually succumb to the idea of washing our bikes (although, we would like to add, that a lot of people also do actually enjoy washing their machines).

The idea of cleaning a motorcycle properly can be a nightmare for some of us, so the idea of hosing it down and giving it a quick wipe over with some soapy water (or even a trip to the jet-wash?!) is the perfect way of keeping our pride and joy clean right?  Wrong!  A regular bike wash should form an essential part of your bike’s usual maintenance… By washing your bike regularly, you will notice any faults or problems long before they can become expensive or dangerous, as well as helping to keep its value – if you keep it clean, then you have less chance of corrosion, brake dust eaten wheels and scratched dirty paint work (to name a few!) decreasing the value and desirability of your bike – I mean come-on, we all like to see a clean bike in the shop window drive-by glance don’t we!

So, before you go and waste a couple of hours of your weekend only to realise your bike looks no better, or actually looked better before you washed it, we have created a fool-proof guide to help you get it right first time!

Choosing the right products will help you to save time and achieve a better result in the end.  There are numerous variables with bikes compared to cars…  Chrome, matte paintwork, aluminium parts, baked on chain lube etc…  All of these different areas will require a different type of cleaning product, so make sure you are buying motorcycle specific cleaning products (a bucket of car wash and a hose just won’t cut it).  There are plenty of cleaning products on offer – Muc-Off, Motul, Putoline, Motorex, Rhino Goo and S-Doc all offer numerous motorcycle specific cleaning products designed to give great results…

Product Checklist:

Pressure washer (not essential), or hosepipe
Good quality bike wash
Buckets
Sponges
Cleaning Brushes
Chamois
Microfibre cloths
Silicon spray or similar (for rubber/plastic parts)
Degreaser
Chain Cleaner
Bike polish
Metal polish (if you have plenty of chrome or alloy parts)
Good quality protect – ACF-50, WD-40 or GT85 etc
Brake Cleaner
Chain Lube

Although this seems quite an exhaustive list, we all probably have most of this laying around our garage anyway.

Cleaning your bike

How to properly clean your motorcycle, step 1
Before you attempt to clean your bike, ensure it is completely cool first – if you’ve just come back form a ride and want to put your bike away clean, then its best to wait.  If you try to wash a hot bike, you ‘ll just end up burning yourself on a hot exhaust and just baking the bike cleaner to your bike and creating a streaky, dirty mess….  Once your bike is cool enough to clean, try to wash it out of direct sunlight (try to avoid washing it in the middle of the day) to help streaks, water marks and a poor finish.

It is always best to start with the dirtiest parts of the bike first…. Spray the chain with chain cleaner and leave it for a few minutes to do its magic…  While the chain is soaking, use a good quality motorcycle degreaser on your engines and other metal parts (swingarm etc).  Use a chain cleaning brush to remove the dirt and grime on the chain and a separate cleaning brush on the engine and metal parts (its often easier to but brushes as a kit).  At this stage, you can also clean your discs and pads use a disc brake cleaner.  After scrubbing, give these areas a good hosing off to remove the dirt and thoroughly pre-wet the whole motorcycle.

Now the bike is wet – grab yourself a bucket of cool water and soap, a fresh sponge for the bodywork and plastics and then completely cover your bike with bike cleaner (Muc-Off Nano Tech bike cleaner or Rhino Goo for example).  Once the bike is covered, use a sponge to gently wash all of the plastics, fairings and delicate parts of the motorcycle (never use a brush on plastics).  Agitate all of the other areas of your bike with cleaning brushes and leave the cleaner for 2-3 minutes to work its magic.  Be sure to give the bike a good rinse, whether its with a pressure washer, hose or bucket of clean water –  make sure all of the suds and dirt are rinsed free from your bike (taking care to blast or soak delicate areas, such as electrics and bearings etc).

Cleaning your motorcycle step 2

Always make sure you thoroughly dry your motorcycle to ensure a good finish and to stop water sitting on components when you put it away.  A Chamois or microfibre drying cloth is ideal – but if you have the budget, then a bike dryer from Bruhl is the perfect way to put your bike away dry…

Protecting your bike

Protection Your Bike

Once clean, a little work protecting your motorcycle not only leaves it looking clean and fresh, but helps to protect it while its not being used and also makes your job easier next time you wash it, as the muck and dirt have less to cling too.

Use a good quality multi-purpose spray (such as Muc-Off MO-94) over the chain and sprockets to drive out any moisture left in them and a good quality motorcycle protectant over your engine, metal surfaces and any exposed wiring connectors you can see.  Again, this helps to drive out moisture and help prevent corrosion (just keep these sprays away from any baking surfaces!).  Products such as HCB-1 or ACF-50 are perfect.

A good coat of silicone shine to any black plastics will make them look rejuvenated, whilst you should apply a good quality polish to the paintwork and fairings to give a good shine and prevent fading (there is no need for a full polish every wash – Muc-off’s Speed Polish makes topping up your bikes shine a doddle – just spray on, wait to haze and buff off!).  If your bike has a matt finish, don’t worry – there is a good selection of Matt Finish Detailers out there now to protect and detail your matt paintwork.

Give your bike some lube

After every wash and detail – one of the last things you should always do is get your chain lubed…  It is probably one of the most forgotten about, controversial, and dreaded jobs on a motorcycle!

Chain lubes can be perceived as a black art sometimes, or 1 chain lube stands out as being the best “non-fling” lube on the market…  Truth is – if you buy a good quality chain lube and apply it properly, they all work well…  If you only take your bike out on hot sunny days, then a dry chain lube is perfect, but on the other hand, if you are a “whatever the weather” rider, then a “wet” lube, such as Muc-Off’s Wet Chain Lube contains active ingredients to repel water and stop the lube being washed off.   Just make sure you lubricate your chain after every ride and then leave it overnight, giving it time to coat and penetrate your chain.  If you leave it until you get the bike out for a ride to apply it, then its just going to fling everywhere and make your job of cleaning it next time harder.

A final handy little touch is to give your cables a little lube with a good quality spray (ACF-50, HCB-1 or GT85 etc), again, this helps disperse moisture and ensure a smooth operation.

Use Motorcycle Lube

And that folks is it!!  Your bike should now be clean, dry and shiny! Time to put your bike away, ready for its next ride!