Motorcycle Cleaning


There are riders who swear a drop of water from a hose has never and will never touch their bikes.  Then there are those who pay detailers big bucks to be sure their bikes are as spotless as humanly possible.   The majority of us are probably someplace between those two extremes and the following is for us, riders who enjoy an hour or two of quality time with our bikes, a sponge and, as you'll soon learn, a leaf blower.

Most of the following was originally posted on home of other motorcycling tips, events calendars and a forum for discussion of motorcycle related issues.

To the true motorcycle enthusiast your bike is more then mere transportation, it's a part of who you are, not to mention a substantial investment. That's why keeping it looking good is just as important to you as keeping it running good.

Even with the best intentions, you can actually damage your motorcycle if you don't clean it correctly. Dirty rags, harsh detergents and neglected areas can cause scratching, dulling and, yes, corrosion.


Before you soap-up and wash your bike, remember to take a few simple precautions that can make a huge difference and help you avoid dreaded scratching:

The Wash

We recommend using cleaners made specifically for motorcycles which can be found at your dealer or motorcycle accessory store. Cleaners that make your dishes clean or toaster shine, don't work as well on your bike.

Drying Your Bike

The Final Touch

While cleaning and rinsing your bike, pay attention to how the water reacts. This will give you an indication of what to do next.

If your bike requires waxing, use a high quality wax available from your dealer or favorite auto parts store. Most waxes are designed specifically for the painted portions of the bike, not the chrome, so be sure to wax only these parts and polish the chrome separately.

Even if your bike doesn't need waxing at this time, you still want to add the finishing touches to give it the best look possible.

You're ready to hit the road with your bike looking it's best. One final suggestion is to carry a soft rag with you on your first rag after washing your bike. There is certain to be a little hidden water blowing out on your painted surfaces, simply buff out these spots at your first stop.

Caution: Your tires and brakes may be wet and may not immediately obtain their maximum traction or grip. Be sure to ride very slowly at first and test your brakes several times before you NEED to stop.

Other Cleaning/Drying/Waxing Aids

There's no substitute for a good soft sponge and a pile of rags for cleaning and washing but there are some things that'll make reaching into those nooks and crannies simpler and cleaning products that help reduce the amount of elbow grease needed to remove grime from your bike.

In addition to the simple modification of a leaf blower shown above I've found a small/files/includes/images/hfvac.gif (42188 bytes) vacuum cleaner/blower sold by Harbor Freight is very handy.   It comes with a bunch of extra hose and attachments designed, if not for motorcycle drying, then at least cleaning small objects in tight spots.  It isn't quite as powerful as some purpose built vacuum/blower units but they usually cost a couple of hundred bucks.  This one is under $40. The vacuum looks like the photo at right and is frequently on sale.  Check Harbor Freights' website for more information.

/files/includes/images/brush_clean.jpg (196655 bytes)For reaching areas between frame and engine, between spokes down into the swingarm and between cylinders it's sure hard to beat the Bike Brush.    Dip it in a bucket of soapy water and the brush will slip easily into almost any crevasse even between cooling fins.  You'll find a more complete review of the Bike Brush on this Gadget page.

For cleaning spokes (wadda pain) there's nothing better than spoke cleaning strips These are available commercially (check your local bike shop) or you can make your own from strips of cotton cloth that you've dipped in polish.   Just wrap the strip around the spoke and pull the strip back and forth until the spoke is nice and shiny then move on to the next spoke.  This exercise is one of the best reasons ever created for making sure your next bike has cast wheels.

Finally waxes and cleaner.  This is kind of a trial and error process that sometimes depends on the way you prefer to clean/wax your machine but it's hard to beat products made specifically  for the purpose and never use soaps made for washing dishes, hair or even babies.   I've found Meguiars soaps, polishes and waxes are hard to beat but a lot of people have their favorites.   Plexus  is the bar none finest product for cleaning plastic like windshields.