Washing a Motorcycle

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Yamaha Motorcycles Street Event - AMS


Motorcycle Detailers Notebook

Part 1: Perfecting The Basic Wash Job

As part of our ongoing effort to support the excellent line of cleaning and detailing products we carry from Griot's Garage, the Motorcycle Detailers Notebook is designed to assist you with keeping your motorcycle looking great. Most of the tips and tricks here can also be used when washing your car. Griot's products work great with both cars and motorcycles and all their cleaners are bio-degradable making them safe to send down the drain. A list of all Griot's Garage products used in this writing is included at the end with convenient links to the Sound RIDER! store.

I recently sat through a motorcycle maintenance course. The instructor advised the class that when washing the bike - 'just use dish soap.' Yow!!! Now there's one of the most detrimental things you can do to your paint job. Is your motorcycle a dish made of porcelain with crusty egg all over it? If you're looking for a quick way to strip your wax and clear coat, scrub your bike with dish soap often. For the rest of us...

Washing your bike is the most common cleaning job you'll do throughout the year. While you may only wax it once or twice each year, detail the wheels and chrome every now and then, washing your bike becomes a regular activity as you get into your riding season (which for some of us means all year long).

Photo: For general purposes, a nylon brush with split bristles, a nylon detailing brush, some gentle soap and some oil & grease cleaner are about all you need to get your bike, sans the tires, clean

With the motorcycle we are faced with a number of challenges. There are many different surface types, lots of little nooks and crannies, and if we don't wash the bike properly we can do more harm than good. Depending on what kind of bike you ride, paint, plastic, chrome, alloy, rubber, leather and other surfaces are combined together to create your motorcycle. Each one requires various types of care and caution, so washing your bike should accommodate all these surface areas in a gentle way.

But before you turn the water on, ask yourself 'Is my bike hot from a ride, or cooled down enough to zap it with some cold water?' Hitting a bike with a big splash of cold water when it's hot can play havoc with engine parts and seals causing them to warp or crack from the burst of the temperature change. If you need to wait a few minutes before you wash the bike then use that time to get all your cleaning supplies together and inspect the bike for things like tire wear, chain play and locating dirt blobs you'll have to deal with once you begin to clean it.

Now is a great time to spray the underside of the bike, chain and sprocket with some Oil and Grease Cleaner, use some Wheel Cleaner to soak into tough spots on the rims, or spray your tires with Rubber Cleaner and scrub them with a Tire Scrubber.

Get your bucket filled with warm water and a shot of Car Wash soap, one ounce to two gallons. The Griot's Car Wash soap is far more gentle than most other car wash soaps on the market and really gets the job done without harming the wax and finish of the various surface areas on your bike. Don't even think about using dish soap which is too harsh for cleaning vehicles in general and strips wax like nobody's business.

Your three primary tools for cleaning today will be a small 4 Finger Lamb Skin Cleaning Mitt, a Short Handle Cleaning Brush with split end bristles and a Nylon Detailing Brush for tough spots. Have them ready to go by placing them in your bucket of warm water and Car Wash soap.

Photo: Tires require a little TLC. The wheel cleaner loosens brake dust, the rubber cleaner loosens dead rubber on the tire. Spray on the two and scrub with the tire scrubber and tire brush shown here.

Let's consider our water source - the hose you use to wash the bike with. You're best off using a gentle flow of water over and around the bike, rather than a harsh jet spray which can send dirt deeper into cavities where you don't want it, such as an air filter, transmission box, cables or under the seat. High pressure can also send water where you don't want it like into instrument gauges, the exhaust, or under the seat soaking your registration and insurance papers.

Begin by running a gentle flow of water over the bike from top to bottom. Once the bike is soaked down, shut off the hose and use the 4 Finger Lamb Skin Cleaning Mitt to clean the painted and plastic surfaces of your bike. Always clean from top to bottom. Then pick up the Short Handle Cleaning Brush and go around the bike, top to bottom, and scrub out the motor areas, any other non-painted or non-plastic surfaces and finally clean the dirtiest areas such as the wheels and tires and the underside of the bike. Save these two zones for last so you don't contaminate your wash water with all this filth until the point you don't need it anymore.

Photo: The 4 finger lamb skin mitt shown is gentle and small enough to get into tight spots unlike a full size one you might use on a car.

The Short Handle Cleaning Brush is great because it's gentle enough to use over most of the bike, and the bristles are long enough to get into areas such as the front wheel assembly, brake discs and suspension springs. The old trick was to use a long bristled paint brush.

If you need a little more muscle on getting various kinds of dirt blobs out, use the Nylon Detailing Brush which will provide a little more stiff pressure. Bikes with a radiated unit placed behind the front wheel tend to need the nylon brush extensively in this region so as to remove all the mud and gunk from this heavily soiled area.

With the bike all scrubbed and clean, rinse it gently with water and then dry it. It's okay to use a cotton towel, but they usually leave fuzz behind. We like Griot's Micro Fiber Drying Towel for both bikes and cars.

With the bike dry, consider these two things. If you used Rubber Cleaner on the tires, you'll want to dress the outer edges with a little Vinyl & Rubber Dressing, being extra careful not to get any of the liquid onto the pavement contact area of the tire. The best way to do this is to spray the dressing onto a stiff Blue Detailing Sponge, then apply it to the tire edge.

Photo: Griot's micro fiber drying towel sucks up water far more effectively than a cotton bath towel. On each end are handy pockets you can slip your hands into for better gripping as you dry.

If you used the Oil & Grease Cleaner on your chain, dry it off and re-lubricate it so it's ready for your next ride. We like the Motorex 622 Chain Lube, which goes on light and leaves very little residue to wick off onto your tire.

Finally – go for a ride. This will insure you dry the hard to reach areas of the engine and blow out any water that may have accumulated in the exhaust. If you don't take this step, you may end up putting your bike away with water in the pipe which will begin the process of rusting it from the inside out.

Griot's Speed Shine is great to have around when you don't need to wash the bike, but want to remove any dust and dirt in between washes. They even make a nifty eight ounce version that's perfect for taking with you on the road. Spray it onto a 100% Cotton Cloth.

PT/Spring 06

Basic Bike Cleaning Supplies - made by Griot's Garage and available in the Sound RIDER! Store now.



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