Walking through the pro pits at any outdoor MX national, GNCC, or WORCS event and what do you see? CLEAN Bikes! Every single one of them is clean. Some look like new, and the truth is that some are, most are not and many have a lot of hard hours of racing on them. Sure most of the pro’s do have the luxury of replacing plastic bits and pieces each race, nonetheless their attention to detail will leave them always looking like a clean showroom bike! So we walk away saying, “Man, I wish my bike could look like that after I ride every time.” Well, it’s not a mystery how to clean your bike, but it does require some time and the right “tools.” You might even think it takes too much time. Enough excuses, make time after every ride and you too can have a clean looking bike to show off every time you unload it for your next ride. It won’t make you faster, or jump farther, or help you avoid that tree in the trail but in the long run it will help you maintain your bike’s value, improve reliability, and expose possible failing parts on your bike. You might even impress someone parked next to you…
Let’s get started!
The enemy is accumulated dirt and trapped moisture. This enemy causes corrosion, deterioration and the staining of metals and alloy surfaces. Sometimes the enemy is weak, and can be driven away by low water pressure from a garden hose, but more often than not the enemy is tough, hardened, and stubborn – dug in for a long hard battle against your forces of pressure, chemicals, and spiny brushes. Your army against this enemy consists of you, the dedicated determined rider/mechanic – and your water pressure, such as a garden hose with a spray nozzle or heaven forbid a powerful pressure washer. Your infantry is right in step behind you with a bucket, sponge, several brushes, and the secret agent cloaked in red orange, green, clear or whatever type of cleaner you have chosen to weaken your enemy with. Remember, the more often and thorough you attack the enemy, the easier it will be to win your battle against this beast each time, for you shall learn the weakness of your enemy. Cleaning your bike soon after a ride will leave less time for corrosion to set in and the dirt will not dry and set like concrete.
The first attack will be with water. The pressure of this water is up to you. Increased pressure will decrease your cleaning time. However, it will also INCREASE the chances of having moisture invade sensitive areas of your machine and will create new battles to fight with another enemy. Using gas or electric pressure washers is what we are speaking of, and yes sometimes the mud and dirt is caked on so thick, and hardened that it will seem almost impossible to clean your bike with any other initial method. Just remember what you have already heard over and over, water under high pressure has a huge tendency to cause issues with bearings, electrical connections/modules and fluids, not to mention blowing a half gallon of H2O up your open exhaust pipe accidentally! Heck even a garden hose with a spray nozzle can cause havoc if aimed towards the wrong areas.
So be smart and think when you wash with any type of pressure. Avoid the back of you exhaust, the carburetor, wheel hubs, swing arm linkages and pivots, throttle assembly, gas cap, chain and rollers, and any sealed or gasket surfaces on your engine. So what’s left to clean you say? Well, start with all the plastic…”Oh wait…the water pressure will blow off all my sexy decals and factory look graphics!” Then, your riding buddy says “Don’t listen to any of this nonsense, I use the 50 cent car wash on my bike every weekend and NOTHING has ever happened.” Well, it will eventually and a little initial care and concern will far outweigh the hassles, inconvenience and expense of a mechanical failure – and there is NO good time or place for that to happen right?
So we attack the enemy with water, gently, all over the bike to soften/ loosen up the dirt enemy. This is also where we want to start to break out our infantry, the plastic scraping tools specifically made for this that are available and work very well. A bristled brush such as a long handled car wash wheel brush or spoke brush will speed up caked on dirt extraction. In a bind a thin long flat piece of wood is a “better than nothing” weapon of choice. Continue to loosen the dirt with your choice of water spray, work off the caked on mud with your tools until you have rinsed off the heavier dirt accumulations.
If you wish, you may continue to toil way with the water, slowly eroding way the dirt and if you had just a “dusty” ride it will easily do the job, as long as you have not accumulated any considerable amounts of mud. When the enemy is much more heavier and stubborn it’s time to take advantage of the newer chemical warfare available to you, the rider/mechanic soldier. Without getting into each and every specific brand and type of cleaner remember one very important thing: READ THE DIRECTIONS FIRST! And use only as directed just like it says and on that stuff for your headache…
Most of these products are made to be used diluted which is a good thing. Diluting the cleaner properly will not only avoid damaging your bike with possible etching and discoloration of alloys and plastics, it will also SAVE YOU MONEY! (You are paying a little more attention again right?) Properly diluted cleaners should only be applied on wet surfaces, at cool temperatures. Don’t use them 5 minutes after you got off the track, with a red hot motor and always keep them wet, do not allow to dry! This will depend on many factors such as ambient temperature, humidity, sunny or cloudy day etc… The first time you use a new cleaning product after properly diluting it, get to “know” it by wetting the front wheel, spray some cleaner on, wait 20-30 seconds and rinse it off. It should be that easy, with little brushing or high water pressure need. Just spray cleaner and rinse your bike in sections, front wheel, rear wheel, swingarm, engine and lower frame etc.
Always keep it wet, remember to rinse well, and don’t spray the cleaner on and go make a phone call inside, when you come back out it will be dried out and you will do it all over again, and run the possibility of etching surfaces regardless of he dilution ratios.
A good cleaner (like the ProClean1000 line of products) will easily remove stubborn stains quickly. Under no circumstance you should even think about using harsh chemicals which are solvent based, flammable or non-biodegradable. No need to damage your skin, your bike or the environment. If your cleaner isn’t cutting the dirt, look for another brand. Motorcycle specific cleaners generally will work fastest with the safest and best results, not to mention by using motorcycle specific cleaners and chemicals you are supporting the sport and those who support the riders you cheer for.
So we have attacked the enemy with chemicals and really rinsed off the bike with low pressure water, at least two times. There still may be a small spec of dirt here and there, around the carb or other delicate areas we already mentioned. Just take a bucket of water, with a wash mitt, small brush a little detergent suds and water to safely remove any remaining crud (the enemy remember), at this time more detail oriented riders/mechanics can clean the airbox (use a proper sealing cover), under the seat if removed, handlebar controls, exhaust, radiators, steering head, shock linkages, chain and roller area.
Also use this time to really look over the bike for any possible problems or issues which potentially may curtail upcoming rides. Writing them down on a notepad at this time will help your mid week maintenance routine instead of thinking “what was I going to fix this week? “
So your bike is now cleaner than you are, yet your battle is still not quite won.
You just subjected your bike to gallons of additional moisture which is now feasting away on all that trick alloy and metal. Blow drying the bike with medium air pressure helps if you have that luxury, otherwise a nice big soft dry towel (or lots of little ones like we use) will have to do. You still haven’t removed all the moisture however…this stuff is still hiding in cracks, crevices, behind covers etc. Using more chemical warfare will be to your advantage, and products which are designed to displace moisture such as WD40 or similar will inhibit corrosion sufficiently. Spraying on items such as footpeg hinges, exhaust pipe, and frame rails will help fight the battle. At this time also inspect sealed areas such as ignition covers for moisture, remove, clean, dry and reseal if necessary. Spray your exhaust and use a scotch brite pad to knock off any corrosion and give it a little gleam again. Last but not least on the cleanup list is your drivetrain meaning chain and rollers. Avoid using high air pressure to dry, especially on O-ring chains. Lightly towel dry off, wipe off any remaining dirt or gunk accumulations around the swingarm, countershaft sprocket, roller and tensioner area. Using a moisture displacement chemical on your chain is optional; you certainly want to remove all corrosion causing moisture so check with the chain manufacturer before using, as these recommendations vary and some chemicals can damage the O-rings. Inspect your chain and sprockets for wear, proper tension and lube properly if required at this time as well, it’s a quick task you will have out of the way. Also take a minute check and lubricate swingarm linkages and pivots if your have grease fittings.
Now you’re done right? But your bike still isn’t shining like those factory bikes!
Hopefully you do care about that, and if you do once again there are chemicals to completely finish your battle. Motorcycle specific products such as ProClean1000 Plastic Shine, it will leave a gleam – just don’t spray any of this stuff where you want grip (seat, tank shroud areas) or surfaces you plan on reapplying decals to. So coat it with some ProClean1000 Plastic Shine, stand back and admire!
You did it the right way, and won the battle! Now go take a shower yourself…
David A. Kimmey, President
CycleLogic Products, Inc.
Mfgr of Engine Ice Hi-Performance Coolant and ProClean1000 Products