Bike cleaning is different depending on which herd of motorcyclist you talk to. For some, it’s just a quick rinse with the hose. Others, washing a bike is like washing a car, with soap in a bucket and a quick ride to get all the water off. Others yet laugh at the mere idea of cleaning the bike. After all, it’s washed every time they go through a rainstorm. Or perhaps you’re as cripplingly fastidious about paintwork as I am. If you want to get detail-oriented and avoid the mistakes, here is the guide.
Before you start, make sure the engine and exhaust is cool to the touch. Give the bike an initial rinse to clear off major road grime and accumulated bugs. Your basic wash can be done a few different ways. Most people use standard car wash liquid and a sponge, or even just dishwashing soap. This can work, but using a sponge can pick up loose dirt or particulates missed in the initial rinse and cause scratches as they’re pulled over the paintwork. To avoid the guesswork in continually using new sides of the sponge, I use a spray-on, rinse-off wash like S100 Total Cycle Cleaner. This works especially well if you clean your bike semi-regularly, as there is never enough time for the gunk to build up to necessitate a sponge.
Just before your final rinse, clean the wheels with some wheel specific spray cleaner. Meguiar’s, Mothers, and more all have equally good options. Take note if the cleaner has a warning regarding its use on powder coated, bare aluminum or magnesium wheels. Give one final rinse, and get to drying. If you have access to an air compressor, use it to blow out any water in those hard to reach places. Rolled up microfiber towels work equally well getting into nooks and crannies to absorb water. Get a decent chamois towel, wet it thoroughly, wring it out, and pull the water off the body panels and seat. As you work your way around the bike, notice when the chamois gets dirty. Make a note of it for next time. That’s where you didn’t wash thoroughly enough.