If you are like me, you would rather spend your free time riding your bike as opposed to washing it. At the same time, having our bikes looking in top condition is an obsession for many of us.
We created this guide to help you get your motorcycle looking its best. Now you can save time not stressing over all the little details. You can get back out there quickly doing what you love the most. Riding!
Why It’s Important To Keep Your Motorcycle Clean
Grit, bugs, salt and dust. These are the enemies of your pride and joy’s paint and appearance.
A buildup of dust on your bike will lead to scratches in your beautiful (and expensive) paint job. Your knees and crotch are constantly in contact with your bike’s tank. When full of dust and dirt, you may as well use a low grit sandpaper on it. It’s practically the same thing!
After a bug goes kamikaze on your bike it leaves an acidic residue. If not removed in a day or two, it can stain the bike’s paint finish. This could lead to you needing paint correction down the road.
Salt is bad for any and all components of your bike. It is super corrosive especially to your alloy parts.
Washing our bikes allows us to get up close and personal with them. It gets us interacting with its components and parts. We are getting into areas we wouldn’t normally pay much attention to on a daily basis. This gives us the added benefit of inspecting things as we go over the bike during the cleaning process. Things like seals and fasteners can get more of our awareness. I have always believed that cleaning and inspecting are synonymous.
Finally there is pride of ownership. We are the fortunate ones. We have motorcycles in our garage! There is a feeling we get when we walk away from our bikes and look back at them. It’s something only us riders understand. That feeling is definitely enhanced when it’s shining in the sun all clean and sparkling. Like I said earlier, for some of us it’s an obsession. We wouldn’t dream of meeting up at the coffee shop without our machines looking their best. I myself prefer my bike looking like it did the day I rode it off the showroom floor. Some are a little more lax about the whole washing thing. Again the inspection aspect of washing is reason enough to get her clean. It’s easy to kill two birds with one stone
Do’s and Don’ts
To do any job properly, you need the right know-how and the right tools for the job. Washing your motorcycle, although seemingly very simple is no different. You can potentially cause unintended damage to your paint’s finish over time. By following a few simple steps you can avoid this and your bike will look fantastic for years to come.
First off, use a detergent that is specifically for automotive use. Don’t use dish soap. A general rule would be to avoid any soap that’s marketed for some use other than automotive washing. I’m sure you’ve heard it before but in case you haven’t, you don’t want to strip the paint’s protective finish. That’s why automotive quality detergent is recommended. It’s designed for paint and clear coat finishes. Dish soap is for removing grease from your pan when you were frying bacon. Big difference.
For washing and drying we recommend using microfiber. Microfiber wash mitt and microfiber drying rags. This material traps tiny particles that could be abrasive to finishes. It keeps the dirt from inadvertently rubbing into the paint. Not all microfiber cloths are equal. I don’t recommend buying the cheapest ones. Decent quality ones are not too expensive, does a better job of trapping particles and will last. They also won’t leave lint all over your bike. Buy microfiber cloth where the microfiber material is on both sides as opposed to one. You can wash them regularly in the washing machine and continue to reuse them fresh and clean.
For harder to access areas, especially in the motor, consider using a paint and/or toothbrush with soft bristles. Think about the fins on an air cooled motor. A brush is ideal here.
Avoid spraying your bike up close with a high pressure sprayer like the ones at the coin op car washes. Your bike has seals and exposed electrical components that are not designed to withstand crazy amounts of psi blasted at them. Be gentle.
Finally, it’s a good idea to let the engine cool before wetting it down. Drastic temperature changes can put added stress on the block and possibly cause it to crack. You don’t want that.
Let’s Get Started
Start by wetting the bike thoroughly. Get a nice coat of water dripping off it. I would avoid any kind of single point pressure setting here. Set your hose’s nozzle selector to shower or a rainfall type setting. You don’t want to blast the dust into or off the paint. A gentle shower is all you need to wet the bike. You are not cleaning the bike here. You are simply preparing the surfaces to accept the soap.
Here it’s a good idea to buy your bike washing soap in a bottle that attaches to your garden hose. This will allow you to spray your entire bike in a soap water mixture and cover the whole bike. If you can’t get one then toss a bucket of soapy water over it . Get every area as soapy and sudsy as possible. After, let it sit for two or three minutes. This allows the soap to go to work lifting the dirt and carrying it away as gravity does its thing.
Now grab your microfiber wash mitt. Slam it into a bucket of soapy water and GENTLY start caressing your bike with it starting from the top down. Do all the painted parts first. Then hit the engine, the components such as shocks and head stock and then the underbelly. Lastly hit the rims. The rims are usually the dirtiest, thus you want to avoid using a contaminated mitt on the rest of the bike. Once you feel you’ve hit every area let it sit again for another minute or so to allow the suds to carry the dirt away again.
Rinse the bike off. Again, a nice gentle shower from the top down is enough to let the soap run down and off. If you notice, there is a bit of a theme here of minimal touch and minimal water pressure. Allow the soap, water and gravity to do most of the work. You are simply helping it along with a gentle rubbing of a wash mitt. This agitates the suds, lifting the tiny particles of dirt up and off the surfaces. Once the motorcycle is suds free it’s time to dry it.
Find as shady an area as possible. Drying in direct sunlight is counterproductive and pointless. The sun will dry your bike in a flash leaving water spots all over it. This is especially problematic on darker colored paint. If shade isn’t possible you will need to re wet a section of your bike at a time and work rapidly to dry it before the sun does. I like to use a quality microfiber drying cloth in both hands. Start with the painted parts first. Lightly glide the cloth over the paint and let the absorbing ability of the microfiber do its job. There is no need for much force here again at all. Wring the cloth out once they become saturated. Get into the head stock and all the controls. Do the seat, the engine and finally the rims. Again, you don’t want contaminated cloth on your bike’s delicate paint. I keep a separate set of drying cloth specifically for the grimiest areas of the bike. I never use them anywhere else, ever, unless fully washed in the washing machine. Take your time to get into all the little books and crannies. This gives a more thorough cleaning and allows you to inspect the bike by default. I find the rear rim takes the most time to wipe clean. It receives the most grime. With the chain flinging off lube and oil and road grime sticking to it like glue. Take your time. A clean rear rim is a symbol of extra care of your bike.
I like to use a quality spray polish with UV protect-ant. This gives your bike an extra shine and added protection from harmful UV rays. You can find these at motorcycles shops or auto parts stores. Read the instructions of your particular spray polish for best results. These give your bike a finished detailed look and can bring out the shine and depth in your bike’s paint job.
It’s also a good practice at this point to clean and lube the drive chain of your bike if applicable. Some motorcycle are belt or shaft driven and this maintenance isn’t required
There you have it. Simple! Your pride and joy is clean and protected. Throwing a leg over it feels extra special at this point.
Spend a good amount of time admiring how sexy it looks. Then, it’s time to fire it up, crank the throttle and get that thing dirty and bug riddled again.