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How to clean a motorcycle correctly - Rookie to Rider 5 by Courtney

A very clean bike

Rookie to Rider Series by Courtney

The Rookie to Rider series is written by experienced rider Courtney, who first hand has faced the many challenges and fantastic experiences that two wheels has to offer. The series aims to help all riders improve their skills and get more out of life on two wheels.

The fifth part of the Rookie to Rider Series can be found below. Enjoy!

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Cleaning your motorbike is just hosing it down with some water and soap, right? Wrong! If, like me, you’d rather spend more time riding your bike than washing it, I understand. But the splattered bugs across the headlight should eventually compel you to give your bike a clean. If not, you should know that a regular bike wash should be a part of your usual bike maintenance – so before you waste two hours of your Saturday only to realise your bike looked better BEFORE the wash, let’s get it right first time.

Choosing the right products and tools ahead of washing your bike is vital. First, you need to assess the situation (and go shopping, most likely). Is your bike gloss or matte? Does it have a lot of chrome? Each requires a unique cleaner so be sure to thoroughly read the labels of the cleaning products before you buy. Also, make sure the products are designed specifically for motorcycles and not cars.

The products you’ll need are an appropriate bike wash/soap (you may need more than one for the different finishes on your bike), bug remover, tyre cleaner, degreaser or engine cleaner, paint/metal polish, chain lube and WD40/ACF50.

You will also need some basic materials to get the bike clean – think a couple of buckets, sponges, small brushes (such as a toothbrush) to get in those tight spots, cloths, and chamois and micro fibre cloths. You don’t need to spend a fortune, but ideally get motorcycle-specific cleaning tools to ensure you don’t damage the bike in any way.

Rule number one: never wash a motorcycle while the engine is hot. Ideally clean it when the bike is completely cold, but if you’ve just been for a ride and want it to go back in the garage clean, then wait at least until the engine has cooled down enough for you to touch it without burning yourself. Washing the bike while it’s cold and out of direct sunlight will help prevent water marks, streaks and a poor finish, so ideally you would avoid washing it in the middle of a hot day.

As for pressure washing versus the good old bucket and sponge? Either will work just fine. Pressure washing is great for removing the worst of the mud and grime, but just be careful to avoid the engine and electronics. If bucket-washing alone, you’re going to need at least two buckets to avoid putting the dirt you’ve just washed off back on the bike. It’s best to have one bucket filled with cool water and soap, and another only with clean water for the rinse-off afterwards.

Always be gentle with your bike and don’t scrub, as that can easily damage the paintwork. Use a small brush to get in the nooks and crannies. Again, be sure to use the right products in the right places if your bike has partially matte or chrome areas.

Drying the bike is equally as important as the wash if you want a good finish. Chamois and microfiber cloths work perfectly fine, but you can also use an air compressor if you want to speed things up. For shiny-finish bikes, you will also want to wax or polish the paintwork to keep it protected and looking good as new.

Lastly, lubricate the chain and any cables and levers that will have lost some lubrication in the wash.

The best way to finish is… to take your bike out for a ride! Start by riding slowly close to home and testing your brakes though – gently squeezing the brakes will pump out any excess water. Once you’ve tested your brakes and ensured they’re working efficiently, take it for a proper spin to get rid of any excess water and avoid any future corrosion.

Read more of the Rookie to Rider Series by Courtney:

How to improve your clutch control - Rookie to Rider 1 by Courtney

How to change gears on a motorbike - Rookie to Rider 2 by Courtney

How I learnt to corner better - Rookie to Rider 3 by Courtney

How to deal with poor conditions on a motorbike - Rookie to Rider 4 by Courtney

This information is given to you as a guide to support you in your choice of licence and RideTo has made every attempt to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the information provided about motorcycle licence and training requirements. However, RideTo cannot guarantee the information is up to date, correct and complete and is therefore provided on an "as is" basis only. RideTo accepts no liability whatsoever for any loss or damage howsoever arising. We recommend that you verify the current licence and training requirements by checking the DVSA website.