Spring is finally here, and along with it, the riding season! That means it's time for beginner riders, as well as returning riders to brush up on their repair and maintenance skills. Although most of us have been asked to stay home and practice social distancing due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we're sure that there'll still be plenty of time left to ride when this all blows over. Besides, motorcycles are the perfect social distancing tool. So, while we're at home, lets put in some elbow grease and free our motorcycles from the vexations of dirt and grime.Not only do dirt and grime make our motorcycles look unkept, they also pose a threat to the electrical system, and the service life of various seals if left unattended.
Die-hard motorcyclists would argue that the responsibility of keeping a motorcycle clean is bestowed upon the owner and the owner alone. They scoff at the hasty malpractice so many car washes employ and insist that a true motorcyclist must wash their own motorcycle. Here is a step by step illustrated guide, featuring my very own trusty 2018 KTM 390 Duke, on how to properly wash a motorcycle without having to worry about damaging any electrical components and oil seals.
Step 1: Initial Rinse Down
In a shaded area away from direct sunlight, set your bike up on a paddock stand and rinse it down with a moderate flow of water from a garden hose. Avoid using pressure washers as the pressurized jets of water could dislodge electrical connections and force water into sensitive parts–this is one of the main reasons to avoid having your bike washed in a car wash.
Work your way from the top to the bottom, and with your hand, or a clean wash cloth, gently nudge any loose debris off the surface.
Step 2: Soap And Scrub
Depending on the product you are using, you must next either spray on the cleaning solution, or, if you’re using automotive shampoo, gently scrub your bike with a sponge. Ensure to do this on a per-section basis, ensuring the surface is thoroughly lathered.
Take extra caution with how hard you scrub as scrubbing too much may slightly scuff up your paint. Be careful with electrical connections such as ABS lines, speed sensors, and other electrical accessories.
Step 3: Rinse Per Section
This procedure is done simultaneously with step 2. As you scrub your bike on a per-section basis, subsequently rinse the newly soaped area after a few minutes. Using the same moderate flow of water from a garden house, rinse the area until free of soapy residue.
Once each and every section has been rinsed, go over the entire bike with the hose, double checking that all the soap has been washed away. There’s nothing more irritating than white spots left by soap residue which was not rinsed properly.
Step 4: Dry Her Up
If you have a leaf blower or even a bike-specific dryer at your disposal, go over each section of the bike, ensuring you blow off all the water in those hard to reach spaces. Otherwise, you’re left with no choice but the old fashioned method. Grab a bunch of clean towels, and gently wipe each section of your bike dry. If you are more built or athletic, it helps to shake the bike from side to side, just to get more water off of it before wiping it.
As common sense dictates, start from the top, and work your way to the bottom. Ensure that the rags you use are non-abrasive, and are always kept clean. Never place the rags on the floor when not in use, as they may pick up sand or debris which might scratch your paint.
While you’re at it, it is recommended that you also clean and lubricate your chain. Ensure the chain is completely dry after, as well.
Step 5: Start It Up
Wiping your motorcycle ensures it is dry on the surface. But as almost all motorcycles have unreachable nooks and crannies, there will always be areas of the motorcycle that remain wet no matter how much you wipe. Starting your bike’s engine helps evaporate any excess water within the recesses of your motorcycle’s engine compartment and electrical connections under the seat.
If you have spare time, take the bike around the block once or twice to further help dry it up. Keep it running for around 3-5 minutes. Once finished, go over it again with a clean, dry towel.
There you have it! Keeping your bike clean–especially by washing it yourself–is one of the simple joys of motorcycling. It’s very satisfying to see your hard earned investment shining and shimmering in your garage, ready to get dirty again the next day.