How to clean your bike

By MCN -

 14 May 2010 17:32

It’s Sunday morning. You were due to go for a ride, but the weather’s naff and you’ve got a hangover. So what are you going to do to spend some quality time with your baby? Clean the thing.

Most of us either love or loathe this particular facet of motorcycle ownership, but if you want your bike to look good all summer – and retain its value – you need to give it more than a 99p shower at the local jet-wash.

If you really want your pride and joy to shine, you need to use a variety of cleaners – and a bit of elbow grease.

To find out the most effective way to do it, we spoke to Guy Attard, valeting supervisor at On Yer Bike in Aylesbury, Bucks, and a self-confessed cleaning addict.

We’ve broken the process down into stages to tell you the best ways to clean each part of your bike, plus we’ve given examples of all the materials you’ll need – just always make sure you read the instructions on any product before using it.

Then all you have to do is put our advice into practice and you’ll be amazed by the results – I was.

1: BODYWORK
Jet-wash your bike first, but keep the nozzle at least eight inches away from decals as they can get damaged. Don’t point it at the wheel spindles, swingarm or headstock either or you could blow grease out.

Then use a de-greaser to clean the really grimy parts, especially the bellypan, before shampooing.

Choose a shampoo with a low acidic content. Each manufacturer lists a different grade of content on their products, so use the lowest you can find and mix it with warm water.

Use a soft cloth and make sure it’s perforated – this allows grit particles to escape which could otherwise scratch the finish. Be careful not to drop the cloth as well as it will pick up grit.

Finally, coat the bike with a high-gloss wax and buff to a shine. There’s no substitute for a bit of elbow grease here. To get rid of wax trapped along the side of decals, stick a thumbnail in the cloth and scrape it out.

2: FORKS
The forks require plenty of attention because they’re often covered in flies and brake dust.

De-greaser works well after a jet-wash, but don’t leave it on for too long, especially in warm conditions – it can stain forks in just five minutes if the weather’s hot.

A radiator brush is the key to getting into all the awkward parts. They’re available from most DIY stores and are designed for cleaning behind your radiators at home.

3: CHAIN
Contary to popular opinion, it is possible to clean a chain – but it’s vital that you thoroughly lube it afterwards

 Any de-greaser and an old toothbrush should remove all the old lube and grime, but do not use a jet-wash on it or you could blow out a lot of the internal oil.

If you hose it with the jet-wash by mistake, lube the chain again as soon as you can.

4: WHEELS
Jet-wash the wheels before applying a de-greaser. Again, use a radiator brush to clean around the spindle.

To clean the back wheel, put your bike on its centrestand (or paddock stand) and simply shampoo the wheels using a bucket and soft cloth. You can also put some of the shampoo/water mixture into a spray bottle to reach the nooks and crannies.

If your bike has smooth wheel rims, as most do, use a high-gloss wax to create a shine, or if they have a slightly rough surface – like Ducatis – use silicone spray.

5: EXHAUST
Exhausts can get covered in all sorts of grime from the rear wheel and the heat can bake it on.

You can buy tyre and glue remover to get rid of bits of rubber which have stuck to it, or you can try spraying furniture polish on to the can – leaving it for 20 minutes and wiping it off should do the same job.

Again, there’s a danger of scratching, so use a new cloth and be careful. Downpipes can be buffed up with a bit of chrome polish and some effort.

6: SWINGARM
Painted or polished aluminium swingarms will stain easily with shampoo, so make sure you water it down more than normal.

Again, use a de-greaser first applied with a radiator brush, which will get in among the shock and swingarm. Finish off with a high-gloss wax for the best effect.

7: SCREEN
You don’t want to scratch the screen, so always use a fresh cloth and not the one you’ve just used to clean the swingarm.

Use a normal car shampoo, but be careful not to let it dry under the sun or shampoo may leave a residue which requires even more effort to remove.


What you’ll need
There are loads of specialist cleaning products available, but these are the ones used by the pros at On Yer Bike.

All are available from your local motoring superstore:
Car shampoo £2.99
Valeting cloths £3.99
Gunk de-greaser £4.99
High-gloss Turtle Wax £6.99
Auto Glym silicone-based
solution £4.99
Tar/bug remover £5.49
Radiator brush £1.99
TOTAL £31.43 

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