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5 THINGS YOU'RE DOING WRONG WHEN CLEANING YOUR BIKE


MXEditor

Off-road riding means getting dirty, not just the rider but also our machines…and while we take a quick shower and we’re ready for a night out, our motorcycles don’t have it as easy!

There are many different schools of thought when it comes to how to properly wash your dirty/muddy/sandy motorcycle after riding, so we took a look at some of the popular techniques and did some investigation into “what’s right and what’s wrong” when it comes to cleaning your ride.

Although most of our readers are pretty sharp, most of us aren’t detailing experts so we reached out to some industry experts for their insight and advice and they are quoted here.

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#1: YOU’RE HARMING THE EXPENSIVE FINISHES ON YOUR BIKE

Modern motocross bikes (and even older more exotic machines) can have a myriad of different types of metals and plastics that can present a problem when you want to quickly wash your bike after a day in the dirt. Materials like titanium, aluminum, magnesium, carbon fiber and hard/soft rubber may have different requirements when it comes to cleaning.

We spoke first to Boris Mahlich at Motorex who stated “Certain cleaning chemicals are harsh on the finishes, glossy and matte finishes in particular and metal surfaces. Aluminum, magnesium and titanium in particular are susceptible to staining, etching and corrosion from harsh cleaning agents not suitable for such metals. Another thing to consider (is that) rubber seals which can dry and crack when continuously cleaned with harsh cleaning products or solvents.”

“Solvents and cleaners that are overly acidic or alkaline (high and low pH values) are not good. Stay away from extremely alkaline cleaners and extremely acidic cleaners typically used for industrial and household applications.” 

Andrew Hodges at Bel-Ray offered this insight: “Highly caustic chemicals can damage certain surfaces if left on for too long, so it is a good idea to either spot check a cleaner before applying it, or checking with the chemical’s manufacturer for their usage guidelines. Solvent based cleaners can also have a negative effect on some painted and plastic surfaces.”

Brian Wilkinson of Slick Products said: “Any cleaning product that does not have a neutral or low pH of 7-8 should be used with caution. High alkaline products are very corrosive and will etch soft aluminum and will discolor those expensive anodized parts on your bike.” 

In talking to these experts, it seems a safe way to go is to use cleaners that have a neutral PH not too high or low, and stay away from your rubber components where possible.

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#2: YOU AREN’T USING THE RIGHT PRODUCTS ON YOUR MOTORCYCLE

Walk down the automotive aisle at any big-box or automotive store and you see many offerings in the vehicle washing section. They are cheap and have great marketing…in fact I use them on my power equipment, but not on my motorcycles.

What are the pros and cons of using some of these more popular mainstream “general purpose” products such as Power Purple and Simple Green? We asked our experts their honest opinions and here’s what they said. 

Hodges: “General purpose cleaners usually fall into that highly caustic group I mentioned before so using them should be done with care. They are generally very good at cutting through grease and soils, but they don’t stop there. So if they are left on a surface for too long it will eventually start affecting the surface. If a part such as a plastic guard has any surface defects in the clear-coat, those highly caustic cleaners can get under the clear coat at the damaged area and spread the damage. So, they can be used, but there is more generally more risk in doing so compared to a buffered, surfactant based cleaner.”

Wilkinson agreed and added: “The simple answer is that (these products) are not designed to be used on motorcycles. Industrial and household cleaners often have higher pH making them more corrosive on soft aluminum. In some cases etching and discoloring will occur in seconds while other cases corrosion tends to slowly occur after every wash.” 

“In addition, do not overlook the fact that a motorcycle needs lubrication (and) using a degreaser as an overall bike wash will strip lubrication from bearings and pivots points. Unless you’re a professional mechanic who takes their bike apart every week to re-grease you should be using a product like our Off-Road Wash that removes heavy dirt and mud without stripping lubrication.”

Other industry experts mentioned they were concerned with not only potential harm to the end-user of these more aggressive cleaning products, but also the effects on the environment as a whole. As with all off-road chemical products, it’s important to not only remember proper application and usage, but also think about where these products may end up, so always observe proper containment and disposal requirements.

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#3: YOU AREN’T PROPERLY WASHING YOUR MACHINE

Is there a right and wrong way to clean your bike? We’ve always felt as long as it looks clean at the end that what matter, right? Well, we’ve heard a lot of different advice when it comes to washing your bike. 

Use pressure washer, don’t use pressure washers, stay away from all seals, never wash o-ring chain, etc. 

Some of these tips seem to make sense and some may be based on old-school habits that die hard so we asked the panel their thoughts on this topic.

Eddie Cole from Matrix / 1.7 Cleaning Solutions offered some tips on washing your motorcycle correctly:  

“It's best to let the motorcycle cool down before washing it and lube the things right away that need to be lubed after washing. (Don’t) get water into the exhaust system and into the air filtration system, there are exhaust plugs and air filter covers on the market (that are) designed to keep water out of those areas, and use a Spray and Shine with rust preventing agent.” 

Cole continued: “We think it's (also) important to dry the motorcycle properly and make sure everything is dry and in working order and we recommend cleaning the air filter right away before restarting (making sure to) remove the exhaust plug before starting the bike.  Check that that the controls, brakes and the throttle are in good smooth functioning order before starting and/or riding the bike again.”

Hodges from Bel-Ray elaborated on mistakes they see riders make when cleaning their machines and this includes:

“Not spot checking cleaners on aftermarket parts before coating the entire bike in cleaner. If the parts utilize a unique or uncommon surface finish, this can be problematic for cleaners that are designed for the more typical surface finishes. These parts may need some more individual attention for cleaning. Using a pressure washer to rinse the bike - the pressure washer risks pushing water and displacing lubricant or flooding into places you don’t want water.”

He continued: “Thinking that a bio-based cleaner is fine to just drain into the soil or a drain. Just because it is bio-based doesn’t mean it isn’t detrimental to the environment. Water based, biodegradable cleaners are generally safe for that practice, but any solvent based cleaner (bio or not) should be disposed of properly.”

Wilkinson from Slick added: “The worst mistake is a permanent one. Since being at Slick Products we have so many customers who used a product that (has) caused damage and want to know how to fix it. You can't un-corrode metal, so when you spend $8-$10K on your dirtbike don't spray a $2 cleaner on it.”

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#4: YOU MAY NOT BE USING A MOTORCYCLE-SPECIFIC CLEANER

Some products made “for motorcycles” can be expensive when compare to their automotive counterparts, so we’ve been somewhat reluctant to buy them as frequently and figure many of our readers feel the same.

We asked the experts what makes their off-road products “motorcycle specific” so we could gain some insight into what products to buy and why.

Hodges from Bel-Ray went first: “Bike Wash is a water-based, buffered, and the cleaning power is based on surfactant technology. It penetrates and lifts grease and soil from surfaces allowing for easy rinse off. A short time on the surface is all it takes for the dirt to be loosened, so by the time you spray the last area of the bike or ATV, you can begin rinsing the first area and work your way around. Unless the machine is extremely dirty, it usually requires no scrubbing or physical cleaning.”

Hodges also mentioned the Bel-Ray Foam Filter Cleaner & Degreaser is designed specifically to remove dirt and the high tack filter oils common in motorcycle and ATV applications.

Mahlich from Motorex explained: “Motorex products are engineered and designed by our in-house laboratory in Switzerland specifically for motorcycle applications. That means they are not industrial products that may just work on a motorcycle. The sole purpose for these products is for the care and maintenance of your motorcycle and that is what they are designed to do.”

Cole from 1.7 Cleaning Solutions offered: “1.7 Cleaning Solutions were developed specifically for motorcycles,  we spent months interviewing and testing with the top mechanics in professional racing to develop a product line to meet their professionals needs and expectations.”

“We needed a multi-purpose cleaning product that would attack the dirt, oil, grease grime quickly but leave a bright finish when dry. The wash needed to work and be compatible with plastic, aluminum, steel, magnesium and titanium without harming or attacking powder coated finishes, anodized finishes or chrome, (so) we developed motorcycle specific products for specific purpose that include our Formula 1 Wash Degreaser for motorcycle finishes, our Formula 2 Spray and Shine for the complete motorcycle (plastics, motor, suspension and components) that gives a factory "new look shine" and light silicone lubricant finish.

Wilkinson of Slick added: “We have worked very hard to create specially formulated non-corrosive cleaning products designed for motorcycle riders, by motorcycle riders to offer a faster, safer, and easier cleaning experience. Each one of our cleaners serves a unique purpose in the cleaning process to help maintain the life, look, and value of your bike.”

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#5: YOU AREN’T DETAILING YOUR MOTORCYCLE BEFORE STORAGE

Many riders wash their bikes and stick them in the garage…don’t. Putting a motorcycle away for any length of time makes them susceptible to oxidation and corrosion and that’s not good. This is more of a problem for riders in colder climates with shorter riding seasons like the Northeast and there is more than one school of thought on how to put your bike away.

So we asked the experts why and how to clean your motorcycle before storage.

Hodges from Bel-Ray offered: “A thorough cleaning is always a good idea, but more importantly it’s what you put on rather than what you clean off when storing a bike. Cleaning the chain and applying fresh chain lube with strong anti-rust properties is the first and easiest thing to do.”

“A rubber preservative for any external hoses or seals is a good idea for long term storage (and) cleaning grease and grime from electrical contacts and applying a non-conductive protectant or grease to electrical terminals is advisable. Any protective surface coatings for plastic, metal, rubber or vinyl surfaces can only help in preserving the condition of the bike.”

Mahlich from Motorex added: “To keep metal finishes from oxidizing while a motorcycle is stored, cover the surfaces with a protective spray. Motorex Moto Protect is formulated to protect all painted and metal surfaces from corrosion and oxidation. Simply spray the surfaces leaving a thin protective film that will ensure your motorcycle comes out of storage looking as good as it did when it went into storage.”
 

In conclusion, by observing some simple protocols and using common sense when cleaning your motorcycle, you can keep that factory look and that not only makes you feel good but also preserves your hard-earned investment for future resale. Today’s motorcycles are expensive and use exotic materials that are important to the overall look and function of the machine, but there are products available that can not only clean your ride properly, but help preserve these materials so they can perform as they were originally designed.

Have a though to share? Hit us up in the comments section below! :blah:

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A couple years ago, my buddy used some 'Brand A' cleaner. No idea what it was but it definitely wasn't motorcycle friendly. He had a new GasGas with the black anodizing on the forks. The cleaner was so potent, and stripped the black anodizing off the forks. It looked so dam bad... 

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Always used a product available locally sold as "Super Wash". Works very well on all parts of the bike. and can be used in various concentrations for different jobs.

I'll often dry w/ compressed air depending on how much time I have, and then spray anything that can corrode with a local version of WD40.

The absolute worst thing you can do is leave mud on there.

 

 

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16 hours ago, Monk said:

A couple years ago, my buddy used some 'Brand A' cleaner. No idea what it was but it definitely wasn't motorcycle friendly. He had a new GasGas with the black anodizing on the forks. The cleaner was so potent, and stripped the black anodizing off the forks. It looked so dam bad... 

Wow that sucks!!

7 hours ago, BushPig said:

Always used a product available locally sold as "Super Wash". Works very well on all parts of the bike. and can be used in various concentrations for different jobs.

I'll often dry w/ compressed air depending on how much time I have, and then spray anything that can corrode with a local version of WD40.

The absolute worst thing you can do is leave mud on there.

 

 

I also like to use WD-40 as a finisher 

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Pressure washer, awesome orange from dollar store, exhaust plugs, wd40 after wash. Blue painters tape over air slots (put under practice stickers too, some track's stickers otherwise leave residue).

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I have found that a pressure washer if enough to remove all dirt after a ride. A spray with WD 40 or similar to store short time is beaut too.

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I use a high pressure hose nozzle (still much less pressure then the weakest pressure washer) with hot water. I plumbed a hot water mixing valve to my bike wash area just for the purpose of cleaning my bikes.

Buy a cheapo electric leaf blower, they make great bike blow dryers, doush everything metal with WD40 except brake rotors and pads

 

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I rarely use my power washer, normally the hose with a sprayer. I warm up the bike and ride up the street drag the brakes a bit. That gets the chain warm and the brakes hot, then lube it all up. I also spray the spoke nipples with Maxima MPPL being careful not to get any on the brake disk.

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Back when i first got a dirt bike i thought it would be a great idea to use dish soap on my KTM's plastics, my bike went from dirty with glossy plastic to a clean bike with completely stripped plastics, the dish soap was so bad it stripped all my plastics of their oils and made it look so dull......Now i use simple green and life could not be more simple :D

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Vp power wash and garden sprayer is all you need. Rinse with hose and dry with blower. Of course plug silencer and air box. Vp $25 per gal. Love this stuff

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1 hour ago, TheKX500boi said:

Where do you spray the WD-40? Just the chain?

I use WD40 on the chain, and any pivots. footpegs, brake lever linkage, clutch and front brake lever pivots.

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I spray with high pressure hose, taking care around seals, chain, bearings, intake, exhaust. Then Meguiars soft car wash. Dry. Vinylex on rubber and plastic parts. Clean chain with kerosene then lube with synthetic Mobil 1 gear oil. Once in a while re-lube pivot points like levers, side-stand, etc with white lithium grease.

WD40 is not a lubricant and as a solvent will remove lubricating agents like grease. I never use it except as a water displacer (WD, get it?) on areas that I can't dry properly. It also works great for removing sticky residue from stickers.

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3 hours ago, TheKX500boi said:

Where do you spray the WD-40? Just the chain?

I use a water dispersant on pretty much everything but the brake rotors and calipers... for obvious reasons. Silicone spray on the plastics is poor man's bike shine. 

We have a lot of humidity here... and the bike suffers otherwise.

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2 hours ago, sprok said:

I spray with high pressure hose, taking care around seals, chain, bearings, intake, exhaust. Then Meguiars soft car wash. Dry. Vinylex on rubber and plastic parts. Clean chain with kerosene then lube with synthetic Mobil 1 gear oil. Once in a while re-lube pivot points like levers, side-stand, etc with white lithium grease.

WD40 is not a lubricant and as a solvent will remove lubricating agents like grease. I never use it except as a water displacer (WD, get it?) on areas that I can't dry properly. It also works great for removing sticky residue from stickers.

I'll second most of this, very careful use with high pressure garden hose (avoiding electrics ecu, air intake cover & exhaust plug fitted etc). Using soft car wash because its designed to work with all plastics, metals, rubber etc. I'm only using a pressure washer if the bike is completely covered in mud and clay with caution around seals & bearings because pressure washers can drive water in. Wd40 on chain because it removes water, then lube chain with chain specific product, dry off bike with compressed air, silicon under guards and in places mud will stick to make easy cleaning next time, generally winter riding in mud. (caution silicon nowhere near brakes).

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I've used simple green for years.  It works fantastic as a cleaner and degreaser,  but it does take the polish off of the shiny parts over time.  I noticed it first on the rims, they go from polished silver to a faded  matte finish pretty quickly. 

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I forgot mention it other than the chain but I use kerosene as a general purpose degreaser because it's cheap and relatively friendly to almost everything (compared to harsher chemicals). Of course it can leave a film itself but usually it doesn't matter. Obviously I don't use it on things like brake rotors.

Edited by sprok

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 I don't tend to use cleaners, just water.  If the bike is really dirty, even if not, I use the pressure washer without power to re-wet the surfaces and rinse off as much mud/dirt/dust as possible without pressure.  It's time consuming but you'd be surprised at how much you can rinse off this way.  After that, I turn the washer on and clean off the dirt as best as I can.  I'll use a long handled brush to help with the stubborn areas.  Unless I know I'm hitting a part (fenders, rims, skid plate, swing arm (not bearings), I keep a distance from the areas I'm spraying, for those I mentioned I'll move in closer if needed.  Under the fenders always seem to need more time I guess, and I always like my rims looking fresh.  Every so often, I do go over the rims with a special motorcycle rim cleaner and I have a plastics polish I use then too, but maybe once a month.

In the summer, when its mostly just dust, I only use the garden hose, no pressure washer at all.  To me, it's overkill for the cleaning.

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Regarding pressure washers, you can hold the nozzle some distance from your bike to keep pressure down.  ON places like the frame rails I'll use quite a bit of pressure but in most areas I only use enough to force the larger chunks of dirt off the bike.  Then I'll wash it by hand with a mild soap.  From there it is towel dry most surfaces and then run the bike for ten minutes to help moisture evaporate away form areas I cannot dry.  I'll also ride the bike around a bit and drag the brakes to keep the rotors from getting rusty.

NC

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Good tips, but here is where I land in all of this...

1) Harming the expensive finish. hahaha. I hammer the expensive finish before it ever gets near a hose and washed.

2) Not using the right products. That is correct. I use Dawn in a bucket of warm water with a brush when my bike is lucky enough to have some soap used. Usually I just rinse the crap off so when I need to wrench I am not dealing with clods of dried dirt.

3) Not properly washing it. To be sure. I even start it with the bU## plug in it because every time I wash it I forget the thing is in there. I grab it out and toss it into my garage. I don't use a pressure washer, and avoid direct spray on the seal areas as much as possible, yet still rinse off dirt.

2 4) Not using a MC specific cleaner. Uh, isn't that the same as #2?

5) Not detailing before storage. N/A Bike doesn't get stored. Occasionally, if I do use soap I will spray "New Bike in a Can" all over except for the dicey bits like the discs or the tires. It's sort of slippery so it's a double edge sword because the bike gets slippery and is harder to grip with your legs.

 

So yes, I have permanent spooge coming out the bottom of the airbox from using No Toil, it tends to settle out more, and haven't really made it a priority to de-grease that with hot water and/or major degreaser. Does my bike good as new? No, but if I was posting it on CL it would be "mint".

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I found it is better to ride my bikes rather than wash them.  Clean the weeds out of the skid plate and the rest of the dirt falls off.  

It isn't a fashion show, and I don't care, I just ride.  

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I use power washer set on a wide spray and am very carefull around the engine and air box.    I use a special chain lube to lube up my chain and I also use a leaf blower to blow off as much water as I can and also run the bike up the street to warm it up and dry off the brakes.

 

 

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My routine is wet bike, pressure was the big stuff off, Spray with pump up sprayer Simple Green mixed 50/50 with water and pressure wash again. I then install a fresh air filter, start the bike up and run it to operating temperature while blowing off the bike with compressed air then hose every moving part on the the bike with WD-40.

Everyone has their method and in my opinion as long as you run it, dry it and lube it right after washing you shouldn't have any corrosion issues.

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Last year I went and saw my first ever supercross live at Gillette Stadium.  My friends and I walked the pits and noticed a large number of mechanics washing bikes with a fluorescent green cleaner.  After realizing how many mechanics were washing bikes with this stuff I went up and asked what it was.  Much to my surprise it was not a purpose made bike cleaner but instead they were using Mr. Clean All Purpose Cleaner.  After reading this I wanted to see what the pH of this cleaner so I looked it up on the MSDS which states that from the bottle this stuff has a pH of 10.3 (alkaline).  Compare that to Simple Green which has a pH of around 9.5 (Alkaline) and Purple Power which is 11.2 (alkaline).  I've had issues with Simple Green and Purple Power leaving a haze on silver rims but I don't seem to have that problem with the Mr Clean stuff.  Kind of odd considering the pH levels are similar.

I also looked up what aluminum's natural resistance to acid and alkaline solutions are and from what I can find the oxide layer remains stable from 4 (acid) to 9 (alkaline) pH levels.  I don't think I am really doing any damage due to the fact that I slightly dilute the Mr. Clean stuff with water and also don't let it sit for very long.  I will say that it does seem to get the bike cleaner than anything else I have tried.

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I just cant take advice from someone with a manbun.

I just cant take advice from someone with a manbun.

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6 minutes ago, nickmell said:

I just cant take advice from someone with a manbun.

I just cant take advice from someone with a manbun.

Lol, it pisses my wife off too...

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