Admit it – there’s something very satisfying about cleaning machinery…working hard to reveal the mechanical art obscured by grime and filth. Sometimes, I love cleaning my motorcycles – because you get see that mud covered monster emerge as a it once was, rising like a metallic phoenix from underneath the obfuscation of oils , to be reborn, shiny, clean and free. Ok – I’m going overboard – but it will definitely give your day a boost : clean your bike, and feel that pride of ownership coming back. 😎
Just be clear before we continue, cleaning and lubricating your chain is more important than any of the general washing below. I would recommend, you inspect, clean and lubricate your chain at the very least once a week. A natural time to do so is when you are cleaning the rest of the bike. Be aware that when washing the rest of your bike the water & soap you use can strip off your chain lubricant anyway, so this definitely a good time to reapply. Look out for a separate article coming soon with some guidance around how best to inspect, clean and lubricate your chain correctly.
Get your bike onto a piece of ground that you do not mind getting some muck / oils onto (or put down some ground protection). Get the wheels on paddock stands / center stand. (Obviously not required – but extremely helpful to get around those wheels and the chain).
Make sure the bike is cooled down – soap on a hot bike (or on hot chrome) can do strange things.
Get your cleaning products laid out and within easy reach – simply so that you are not running back and forward to the shed, it sounds simple , but it really does the whole job much less of a chore.
A sponge / wash mitt
A bucket of warm water
A proper automotive (liquid) soap (you can use the soap you use for your car!)
If your bike is really really muddy – give it a quick once over with the sponge/soft brush and just some warm water. When done – refresh your water bucket, and measure out the required amount of soap as directed on the bottle.
Start working down from the top of your bike, downward. Do this in a logical fashion, finishing each item ‘as a whole’ before moving to the next. I usually do things in the same order every time so that I do not miss anything. I usually start with the tank, seat, under seat, handlebars, any plastic fairings, engine / engine covers, lights, then other exposed areas, finishing on wheel rims.
Be gentle around the radiator – you can use the soft brush, to dislodge those bugs, but you want to take care not to be bending fins or puncturing the mesh. Try to not get soap and cleaning products on your brakes discs or calipers, a quick wipe with just warm water is often all that is needed, be sure to rinse off any soap that does get onto them.
As I mentioned above, I’ll write a more detailed article on chain care separately- but please do make sure you clean it thoroughly , using a proper chain cleaner product (and these cheap chain brushes are awesome), spend some time here: chain care is an important piece of maintenance, this is much more than just cosmetics.
This cleaning method that I am describing here is deliberately quick, because one of the main reasons we (myself included) let our bikes go unwashed for so long is that we take so long over the process of washing them. We do not want to give up two hours of our Saturday morning to wash a motorcycle when we could be riding it! I treat washing my motorcycle like a race – start a timer & see how fast you get this done! From start to finish I can get a really thorough wash done in 30 minutes. (On the other hand there are definitely some riders who enjoy the whole process and find it therapeutic to take it slowly – which is great !)
After you’ve soaped down, agitated, and dislodged all the dirt and grime – get the garden hose and gently rinse the whole machine. Get a dry chamois (clean with no grit!) – and give the whole bike a quick rub down to dry off the most of the remaining water – start with the tank in case you pick up grit on other parts.
I’ve had great success using a bike dyer (or if you have a leaf blower, or compressed air) to be sure that you are getting all the little difficult to reach places dried out thoroughly.
If you want to, you could wax the paintwork, it’ll add extra shine and protect the finish – consider polishing the chrome too, but use the specialist chrome and metal polishes for the job. Titanium pipework can also be a little temperamental (when titanium it heats up – some patterning can occur where residual surface oils and products can leave marks) so be sure to wash off all that excess soap and do not use your ordinary bodywork polish on those areas.
Consider applying a protective coast of ACF-50 – an anti corrosive I use on everything – originally developed for the aerospace industry – this is amazing stuff.
Let the engine run for 5 minutes and if you can to go for a quick ride to help blow out any remaining moisture that hasn’t already been removed.
Can I use a power/pressure washer or jet washer?
The short answer is yes – if you use common sense. Turn the power pressure down to the lowest setting, do not concentrate the jet on anything that resembles a seal, a bearing (like a wheel bearing) or is an electrical item. Again, for me, it is more bothersome and hassle to get the pressure washer rigged up – which might put me off getting starting the job at all!
Enjoy your clean machine, make sure you get out there and get it good and dirty again as soon as possible.
Ride Safe. Ride Smart.
Smart Motorcycling Guide