Your motorcycle spends at least part of its life filthy. As our planet and the people on it grow, change, expand, and contract, water usage is becoming a greater concern every day. Some places are already feeling it more than others, but it’s something we all need to think about and prepare to handle. Royal Enfield is addressing this concern now in Chennai, by switching its 20 service centers there to a waterless bike washing system. Chennai is currently undergoing a major water crisis, and the popular local manufacturer is trying to stay on top of the situation.
Closer to home, California has already been dealing with drought conditions of varying severity for years. So, there’s a problem. Cleaning your bike isn’t just aesthetically pleasing to the eye because it gets rid of grime—doing it promptly after a particularly bug-splat-filled ride helps protect your paint from some of the more acidic insects you may have picked up. (It’s good to clean up your lid right after a ride for this reason, too—those acidic bug guts don’t only mess up your paint.)
Whipping out the hose reel and using your favorite bike cleaner, sponges, detailing tools, towels, chamois, and any other preferred secret weapons to help you get your bike shiny is the traditional option. Unfortunately, it uses a lot more water than you might want or need. Royal Enfield hasn’t given specifics on how exactly how its dry bike wash technique works, but it’s safe to say that it’s probably nothing like this, and more like the next paragraph.
Your Mileage May Vary With Waterless Bike Washes
Waterless chemical bike washes may or may not clean your bike to your liking. Much like pretty much everything you ever use on your bike, everyone has their own opinions and preferences. Water is regarded as the universal solvent for a reason—so when you take it out of the equation, there’s no exact match.
The biggest problem there is that when things don’t completely dissolve, you end up rubbing particulate matter into your bike’s finish with your sponge/mitt/other cleaning tools. That’s a great way to get scratches and scuffs—or at the very least, a light sanding. No one wants that—unless it’s intentional because you’re planning to repaint your bike. It works that way on your windscreen (if you have one), too—and I don’t know about you, but a whole bunch of tiny scratches in your windscreen is pretty distracting and annoying.
Here's What To Do Instead
There’s no perfect solution, but there is a middle ground: Using the two-bucket system to clean your bike. You may do this already, or at least have heard of it before. It does a great job with a lot less water. It’s also a lot easier to use if you live in an apartment, or any place where a hose reel setup just isn’t practical. Simply fill one bucket with soapy water for cleaning, and one bucket with clean water for rinsing. Keep track of where you’re dipping your sponges and other cleaning implements and you’ll be golden.
When your bike is especially filthy, you may still need to change your wash water at least once — but at least you’re better controlling your water usage instead of just overspraying the water everywhere with your hose blast. Remember, there’s always your local weather forecast and a good rain shower, if all else fails—just be sure to pull up a real-time weather app and watch for hail warnings.
Photo by Sean MacEntee on Flickr.