August 25 2009 by Jason Fogelson
I get a lot of pleasure out of keeping my motorcycle clean. My SUV usually looks like it just came back from a race through the desert, but my bike always gleams like new.
Keeping your ride clean isn't just a matter of vanity, it's good preventative maintenance. As you clean your bike, you'll have the opportunity to inspect every square inch of machine. You'll notice any loose fasteners before they fall off. You'll discover fluid leaks before catastrophe hits. You'll be able to solve problems before they keep you from riding safely.
Over the years, I've developed a number of tips about bike cleaning that I will now share with you:
- Keep it covered. The best way to keep your bike clean is by keeping it from getting dirty in the first place. Buy a high quality motorcycle cover and keep your bike covered when you're not riding. Not only will your bike collect less dust between rides, a good heavy cover will protect the paint from scratches and incidental contact.
- Use motorcycle-specific cleaning products. Forget about using dish soap and Windex to clean your ride. Motorcycle-specific products are formulated to clean and protect the delicate paint, chrome and metal on your bike. Household chemicals can be too harsh, or can leave residue that's difficult to remove. Harley-Davidson makes a complete line of bike cleaning products, available at your local dealer.
- Ditch the t-shirts. If you have a bag of old t-shirts that you use as rags, avoid using them as applicators and polishers for your bike. Instead, invest in new high-tech microfiber cloths which will be much less likely to abrade and scratch motorcycle surfaces.
- Feed your leather. If you have a leather seat and/or leather saddlebags or other trim on your bike, don't neglect it. Leather requires special care, moisturization and treatment to maintain a supple appearance and feel.
- Easy on the dressing. It's tempting to make your tires look slick and new with a slippery tire dressing. Just remember, unlike a car, a motorcycle needs traction on the sidewalls of the tire during a turn. Avoid slicking up those sidewalls with gloss, and you will be able to maintain maximum traction.
- Consider a dryer. For the absolute minimum friction while drying your bike, you can use a motorcycle-specific blow dryer, like the Hog Blaster from Harley-Davidson ($119). A hair dryer is too hot and too cumbersome for the job - but the Hog Blaster, with its flexible hose and warm flow of air, can expel moisture from the tightest crevices on your bike without scratching paint or chrome.
- Save up your old toothbrushes. The one non-motorcycle cleaning product that I use on my bike is an old toothbrush. Its soft bristles are perfect for small cleaning jobs, like getting the grit out of my instrument panel.
- Clean while you travel. Don't wait until the end of that week-long ride to get the bugs off of your bike. If you stay at one of the over 1200 Rider Friendly Best Western Hotel along your route, they'll be able to provide wipe-down towels at check in and access to a wash station at no additional cost . In addition, some properties offer designated parking, tar remover, sunscreen and lip balm.