So, you’re a bike owner who actually rides your bike rather than letting it sit in the garage like a trophy. Congratulations! Now the bad news, it’s dirty. Well, here are a few tips on keeping your ride in showroom condition.
First, the essentials…
- Make sure you have a good quantity of soft, terry cloth towels.
- My personal favorite drying tool is a chamois. A genuine leather chamois isn’t abrasive at all and has been the go-to drying solution for cars, tuck, boats, and motorcycles for decades. There are some very good synthetic versions as well.
- This won’t come as a surprise, but you’ll need some soap. While you can use household soap, be wanted that these soaps are designed to remove stuck-on grime. That’s good and bad. It’s good if you have a lot of stuck on grime on that new OEM fairing. However, it’s bad if you don’t because it will deteriorate any existing wax you have previously applied to your fairing. Also, some dish and other household soaps can corrode aluminum. I prefer motorcycle-specific cleaners because they are intended not only for paint but for the various metals, plastics, vinyl and other materials on a motorcycle
- Thinking about using a power washer? Think twice. The pressure create by power washers can blast water through seals. Also, rust can develop around the axles from water getting past the wheel-bearing seals. Don’t use that pressure sprayer near hydraulic brakes and clutch components to avoid contaminating the fluid. Keep them off of electrical parts, instruments, gas caps and chains. It’s just not worth using a pressure sprayer. They can even damage the custom painted sport bike fairings.
- Make sure you have a clean sponge, plastic brush or pad. Did I mention that it needs to be clean? Yes, that’s right. It needs to be clean. If you have a sand, grit or a pebble caught in that sponge or brush…it’s going to leave a nice swirly scratch. So, if you drop it on the ground while washing your motorcycle make sure you hose it off before using it again. That is, unless you like swirly scratches in your nice new motorcycle fairing.
- Consider a motorcycle jack, especially if your bike is over 400 lbs. Getting the bike on a lift, such as the Craftsman Motorcycle Jack, makes it easier to wash since you can get the bike off the ground and turn the wheels. Now you can access more of the bike. And it makes it a breeze to clean the tires.
- Make sure you have a good hose, and preferably a plastic nozzle (sometimes those brass components can leave a nick or scratch if the nozzle accidently knocks the fairing.
- You’ll need a bucket, however I often use two buckets; one for the motorcycle fairing and the other for the really dirty parts (like the tires and wheels).
What you don’t need…
- Get rid of your rings, watch, and jewelry. They make nice, deep scratches in your motorcycle fairing as well as other parts.
- Think about what you are wearing. Do your clothes have brass button (e.g., jeans) that will scratch the paint?
- This may be a no-brainer, but remove anything you don’t want to get wet. For example, that navigation system you have mounted on your handlebar may not be totally waterproof.
- If you’re not using a motorcycle jack, then make sure your bike is on level ground…and out of the street.
- Before you start washing your motorcycle, make sure you give it time to cool down (otherwise, you’ll be sporting a very interesting tattoo in the shape of something hot on your motorcycle).
- Pay attention to the sun. No, I’m not talking about sun screen (although skin cancer is real). Spots can become hard to remove in the direct sunlight.
- Cover your pipe(s). Usually tin foil with a rubber band does the trick. But if you don’t cover them, then make sure any water that is accidentally sprayed into your exhaust pipes will drain effectively.
- Hose the bike down (avoiding any areas that are sensitive to water…see my comment about navigation systems above). This helps removes some grime and dirt before you take a sponge to your motorcycle. Removing this prior to washing helps reduce the chance that you’ll drag sand or small pebbles across that pretty paint job.
Wash and Dry
- Pour a small amount of general motorcycle soap into a bucket and mix with water. A little soap goes longer than you may think, so you shouldn’t need to add too much.
- Wash your bike from top to bottom with a sponge or soft cloth (this isn’t exactly rocket science) and make sure to rinse the sponge frequently to remove any sand, grit or pebbles.
- You should use a different sponge on tool on the wheels and rims. These are usually the dirtiest parts with the most captured particles.
- After you have washed all of your motorcycle parts, spray the soap and dirt off.
- After your motorcycle has been completely rinsed, dry with a chamois. Dry from top to bottom.
- Remember to rinse the chamois immediately if it drops on the ground. If not, you risk picking up sand and other particles that will scratch your motorcycle fairing.
- You can use a leaf blower or compressed air form a can or compressor to dry off the areas you can’t reach.
Wax on – Wax Off
- When it comes to waxing your bike, always use a high quality product. Remember my comment about sunscreen above? This of wax as sunscreen for your fairing. It adds a protective UV layer between the harsh effects of the sun and the surface of your motorcycle’s painted surfaces. Wax needs to be reapplied regularly since the sun breaks down the protective properties of the wax over time. If you notice that when your bike gets wet, water on the surface of your fairing or other painted surfaces is not beading into round balls then it’s time to wax.
- Make sure that you have a very clean and soft (non-abrasive) sponge or cloth to apply the wax. Pour a small amount of wax on the sponge or cloth and apply to a small area to test how even the wax applies. Once the wax has dried to haze, use a different soft, clean cloth to remove the wax.
- If you are satisfied with the test results, then apply the wax to the rest of the bike. Allow the wax to dry and then remove the wax with a clean, soft, dry cloth (did I forget to mention that the cloth needs to be clean?).
- Beware of rubber gaskets and unpainted plastics. Often times it will be difficult to remove was from rubber and unpainted plastics.
Chrome, mirrors and windshields
- There are a number of products on the market to clean chrome. Thoroughly read and follow the instructions.
- Clean your mirrors with your preferred glass cleaner (I still use Windex and a paper towel). Careful not to overspray cleaning solutions on that nice new wax job.
- Removing the dirt and bugs from your windshield should have occurred during the Wash and Dry. However, sometimes it can be difficult to remove streaks in plastic polypropylene windshields. Try at first with just water and paper towels. If that doesn’t do the trick, then there are a number of products on the market to clean windshields. Some of them will apply a small protective barrier to help bead water.
Last Step – Go ride!