If you love riding as much as we do, you know how hard it is to sit idle during the long cold winter season when all you wish you could do is go for a ride. Why not use these winter months as an opportunity to detail your bike? It may not be a complete replacement for riding, but it sure will bring a smile to your face come spring when you pull that gleaming machine out of the garage.
These pro tips for cleaning and detailing your bike can give even the most tired-looking ride new life. From getting rid of engine grime to restoring the look of leather to scrubbing spokes and other chrome bits, these simple cleaning steps are easy to follow and guaranteed to deliver results.
- Warm up your garage. If you’re lucky enough to have a heated garage, then all you have to do is turn up the thermostat and slip on a t-shirt. If not, use a space heater that’s rated for garage use to take the chill out of the air. If you’re heating up a garage that was previously very cold, be aware that condensation can form as the air temperature increases on not only your motorcycle but on other surfaces in the garage as well.
- Remove the seat and leather saddlebags (if you have them); then either remove the battery or temporarily cover it with plastic to protect it from water and cleaning agents.
- Rinse the bike gently with plain water to remove light surface dirt and grit. While some professional detailers use a power washer set at the lowest setting, we frown on that practice as the increased water pressure can force water into engine components or wheel bearings.
- Once the bike is wet, use a gentle car wash soap and a microfiber towel or washing mitt to gently scrub the bike. Have separate buckets for soap and for rinsing water. Your objective here is to remove the lighter road dirt—don’t go after the really greasy areas yet, as you’ll attack those with special cleaning agents. Rinse off the suds and gently dry the bike using either a fresh clean microfiber towel or a special power blower made for such work (such as the Metro SK-1 Motorcycle Dryer).
- Clean the tires, wheels and spokes with an “aluminum-safe” cleaner such as Sonax Full Effect Wheel Cleaner.
- Clean the dash with an extremely gentle cleaner such as Leather Therapy Wash or Meguiars D180 Leather Cleaner & Conditioner; then polish it using Meguiar's M205 Ultra Finishing Polish. (You can use that same polish on the windshield to remove very fine scratches.)
- Now for the truly messy part. Clean the engine, transmission, chain or driveshaft housing with brushes and a spray cleaner such as S100 Total Cycle Cleaner or a heavy-duty degreaser that’s diluted 4 parts water to one part cleaner—never use full-strength degreaser. Put some elbow grease into the job and scrub until you’ve removed all the heavy grime.
- Switch to a 100% cotton rag such as an old t-shirt and use a good-quality chrome polish to clean the exhaust pipes and any other chrome areas.
- Clean the leather seat and saddlebags with an appropriate leather wash and then apply a leather restorer. Don’t use products such as ArmorAll or any product that contains silicone, as it will make the seat slick and you’ll risk sliding off on your next ride.
- Time for one final wash, rinse and dry to remove any last bits of cleaners. Once dry, apply a high-quality wax to the painted surfaces.
- Lastly, clean and treat rubber bits such as foot pegs or floorboard surfaces with a protectant such as 303 Marine/Recreational Aerospace Protectant.
Handy Tip – Use household oven cleaner to remove melted boot heel residue from hot exhaust pipes. Test it first on your bike by spraying it in an inconspicuous spot on the chrome. If it doesn’t discolor the chrome, run the bike until the pipe is warm. Spray the oven cleaner directly onto the melted rubber, let it soak in for a few minutes and then wipe it off with a cotton towel.