Motorcycle cleaning made quick and easy

Team OD Updated: July 23, 2013, 03:05 PM IST

Just like many of you, we don't like cleaning our bikes either. It sounds like sacrilege, even treason, but the fact is that riding is more fun than cleaning.

But that doesn't mean we ride dirty bikes, it means we have a clever, devious plan. A plan that requires minimum effort. Like what you ask? Read on.

The equipment

A weekly clean-off 'tool' kit is easy to assembleA weekly clean-off 'tool' kit is easy to assemble

First, assemble a small 'tool' kit that will help you breeze through the clean-up. The base of a good clean-up kit is rags. You'll want to have clean ones to start with. Dirty ones will just end up leaving scratches. Use old, soft tee shirts, ideally without prints. The holy grail, if you can get them, are old, used dhotis; they make the best lint free cleaning cloths. If you can get microfibre stuff, that's great, but so far, they are expensive here in India.

Other than rags you will need old toothbrushes, a set of chain sprays (cleaning spray and lubing spray), an automotive paint shampoo and some wax to give the clean paint protection and extra gloss. Most importantly don't forget two buckets.

The weekly clean-off

Look for bug splats. These are hard to get rid of and can cause significant damage, including cut fork seals when they bake on to your fork stanchions. The expensive way is to get your hands on (expensive and usually imported) tar and bug spray. The cheaper solution is to leave a damp cloth on the bugs for a while to soften them out. And now you're ready. Try and get lukewarm water to wash the bike down. Remember the two buckets? Well, one gets clean lukewarm water and the other the soap solution from the shampoo. Avoid regular detergents as they can harm automotive paints and finishes.

A quick rinse helps loosen up dirtA quick rinse helps loosen up dirt

Begin by giving the bike a quick rinse with clear water to remove any loose dirt. Next, wash the rag in clean water, then dip it in soap solution and start soaping up the bike starting from the bottom and work your way to the top. Remember each time you start by washing the rag clean in the clear water and then pick up fresh soap solution. This ensures that the rag has a minimum of gunk in the soap solution. The toothbrush and a larger brush (a soft bottle brush is a good idea) is to loosen gunk stuck in hard to reach areas.

A soft brush for areas that are difficult to reachA soft brush for areas that are difficult to reach

Once the bike is soaped up, rinse it off and then dry the bike quickly with a clean cloth. Pat dry if your can - it leaves behind less of the circular scratches. Also, don't wash the bike in direct sun light or go off for a long ride soon after the wash as these will leave more water spots baked on the paint.

Dry the bike soon to avoid baked water spotsDry the bike soon to avoid baked water spots

Finally you do two things. Put a spot of water or two on a painted flat surface of the motorcycle or scooter. A clean surface that still has wax on it will cause the water to take a more or less a circular form. Oblong means you need to wax, circle means you're done. For the chain, use a brush - we don't intermix the chain toothbrush with the bike cleaning toothbrush - to scrape off gunk on the chain but do not use too much force. Spray chain cleaner, wipe off and then lube the chain.

Final steps are the black plastics. They will slowly turn grey thanks to our harsh sun and dusty conditions. You can add a plastic spray or finish to re-blacken them if you like. Tyre polishes are best avoided, though. And do not, polish the seat - it'll only make your next ride very squirrelly.

Daily clean

With this good a weekly clean out, the bike will be shiny anyway and the daily cleanup is super easy. Remember you don't have to wash the bike everyday. Just a quick, thorough wipe with a clean cloth while the bike warms up is enough. If you build the wipe into your pre-ride inspection  you'll kill two birds with one stone.

The really thorough clean

CleaAn old, soft tee-shirt is great as a cleaning ragAn old, soft tee-shirt is great as a cleaning rag

Once a year - we like ours at the end of the rains - take the bike to a professional. Avoid the guys who pressure wash cars and reluctantly wash two-wheelers. A pro, most authorised service centres for example, will give your bike a thorough cleaning, paying attention to areas you might neglect and give you a level of thoroughness you may not be able to manage on your own. It's well worth the money. Finish with a pro wax job and you'll have a concourse condition ride.


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