How to Wash/Detail A Motorcycle
I really like to put the motorcycle up two stands so I can spin both wheels, to clean the wheels. Because, to me, clean wheels are like a clean floor in your house. When you clean the floor, the whole house looks clean. It’s important you put the bike in the shade, not in the sun. Don’t ever let anything dry on the motorcycle while you’re cleaning it.
And the very first product I like to use is Motul’s Insect Remover. You just spray this on and it softens all the bugs and grime. Makes it way easier to get things off, because, especially with touring, bugs are kind of the biggest problem to deal with. They are the grossest, stickiest, nastiest things. It takes a lot to get bug guts off a motorcycle.
The Motul Insect Remover works great. Really focus the bug cleaner on all the leading edges, especially around the radiator. Up underneath the triple clamp. The leading edges of the forks, they just get coated with bugs. After the Insect Remover has sat on the bugs for two to three minutes, I just give the bike a low-pressure rinse.
This is my power washer. I cannot recommend it. It’s a piece of junk, but it was cheap and it’s lasted about five years. I tend to always run the nozzle in the most gentle position, and don’t hit any sensitive area with high pressure. Your gauges, you gas cap, and electronic component. Be mindful. Don’t just hammer it with the high-pressure wash.
Next I use just some Meguires Car Wash in a foam canon. And just let everything get soapy and sudsy and soak for a second. With everything soapy and sudsy I’ll use a clean microfiber, I’ll start from the top, the gentle surfaces first, before I go down to any of the dirtier surfaces. Usually starting with the painted surfaces. Headlights. Anything delicate that will scratch easy is typically where I like to start.
Be sure not to let the soap dry, but I like to let is soak for a minute and then give it a good thorough rinse.
Now, this may seem redundant, but after rinsing I really love to use the Motul Moto Wash. Spray it on and then just let it sit for two minutes, then give it a rinse. I know it’s weird to wash it and then wash it again, but there’s something about this stuff that really makes the bike shine.
If your bike is especially filthy, or you’re trying to bring back a bike that’s really in bad shape, or even if you just have some places with some oil build up or grime. Nothing really works better than Simple Green and a small scrub brush. And hit those problem areas. Usually it brings most things right off.
One of the things, too, is don’t let grime get totally caked and baked on your motorcycle. That just makes it harder to clean. You’re more likely to scratch surfaces. Typically after a road trip I try to clean the bike within a day, before everything congeals and gets hard. Let it soak for a minute and then just rinse off the Simple Green.
Next is drying the bike. Another clean microfiber. Get rid of the tag. It’s amazing how much extra dirt and grime you’ll pull off a bike as you dry it. And again, it totally mitigates spots and those weird things.
Another little trick. Don’t use circles. Usually paint is laid on in straight lines, so I always rub the bike in straight lines. And I always rub it the same straight line for the life of the bike. I don’t go up and down, and then side to side. That creates all that swirling. But it seems like straight lines; you’ll never really notice them and you’ll have a nice looking paint job for years and years and years.
Don’t neglect the wheels, but I try to these after the paint. I’m always working from top to bottom or from clean to dirty. I don’t want to carry missed dirt or grease back up to a more delicate painted surface.
At this point, I’ll pull the saddle bags, your bike probably doesn’t have saddlebags so I can get everything that’s behind it. In my case that’s the exhaust pipe, and the underside of the back wheel. That always gets really dirty. Spend time there making sure everything is clean.
Alright, now we are into the polish phase. Pro Honda Polish. This stuff works great. But… I think the Griots Ceramic 3-in-1, this stuff just works, I think, worlds better. Most motorcycles are paint on plastic and this just seems to really make the thing shine. Just follow the instructions on the back. To avoid overspray, I spray directly onto the rag. Shake the bottle. Spray directly onto the rag and then wipe onto the painted surface. Again, no circles. Try to use the same straight strokes everywhere.
I get my microfiber’s from Costco. They’re really cheap for a big giant pack. But you can also get them on Amazon. A lot of the environmental talk says don’t ever wash and reuse these things. They put incredible amounts of microplastics into the water. So I use them in different stages of grime until they are so filthy I just throw them away.
The Giots, I’ll only use on painted surfaces. Wheels. Paint, obviously. But then there’s the black plastic. It’s unfortunate motorcycles now are covered in this black plastic. Again, we’re going back to Motul. Their Shine & Go is the best stuff I’ve used. It makes everything black look fantastic. I’ll use the same microfiber rag, but a different corner. Same thing. Spray onto the rag to reduce overspray and wipe down all the black surfaces. And then you have to polish it so it’s on evenly.
Full disclosure. We are sponsored by Motul, but what that means is that I pay slightly less for it than you do. All my sponsorship means is I get it at a discount. But I was using this stuff long before the discount. If it wasn’t something that I believed in, I wouldn’t sell you guys on it. But this stuff really works great. And this stuff in particular, the Shine & Go, it smells like Fruit Loops. So thats nice.
As my dad always said, if you want nice things, you gotta’ keep things nice. This is a much easier process if you never let your bike get super grimey and filthy. Even though people tease me because I’ll stop mid-trip sometimes and hit a car wash and rinse it off, letting dirt build up, even just dust, are just opportunities for scratches. Once things start to lose their luster it’s really a lot of work to get it back.
This bike is pretty old. It’s eleven years old now. A lot of miles. She’s starting to show her age, but when most people come look at it, especially compared to other motorcycles of the same age, this thing looks almost showroom fresh. If you have a better technique than me, which I’m sure a lot of you probably do, please share them. I’m always looking to get better at everything in motorcycling from cleaning and detailing to how I ride. So share your comments.