The pride of owning a smart looking bike is often taken for granted – that is until either you (or worse still someone else) spots a part that is corroding or is generally grubby.
But how many owners really know how to clean a bike properly and how often?
It is neither simple or easy to properly clean a bike – not without a few simple do’s and don’ts anyway. So please read on, we’re sure everyone will learn something from this.
Below are a few basic rules to put into practice the next time you lovingly lather up your Triumph. Adoption of these will give your bike the advantage in keeping up appearances.
Before Cleaning – Prepare Yourself!
That’s right, are you prepared? Have you taken off your watch (it will scratch even the best quality paintwork Triumph can provide), so will those rings or any bracelets you might have on. So take them off and put them somewhere safe.
Will you be sitting on the bike? Do you have belt buckle on or zips on jackets or fleeces that may make contact and cause scratches?
OK, you’ve checked you are scratch-free, what about the sponge or cleaning rags in the bucket? Are they grit free?
With a bike you need a sponge and soft nylon bristled brushes for the non-bodywork areas to shift the grime and hardened insect corpses that inevitably accumulate and separate sponges and good quality cleaning cloths for the painted panels. So give them all a good rinsing before you start. Only use cleaning equipment that is good to go. If in doubt, use nought! Buy some new equipment, it’s a false economy not to.
So your now scratch free and you’re sure the equipment you have to clean your bike with is clean and ready to use. What cleaning agents are you going to use today?
Well what’s under the kitchen sink? That stuff fetches the grime of the roasting tin every time, so it will work a treat on my bike, won’t it?
NO. NO. NO. Never, ever, ever use any washing up liquid, detergent or anything else that you would expect to keep and use in the house on your bike. Leave it under the sink for the dishes. Most liquids have salt diluted into them and well, you try not to ride your bike on salted roads in the winter months for sound reasons, so why sprinkle sodium chloride over your bike when you wash it? So if you haven’t already got an automotive shampoo, you need to obtain some before washing your bike.
Do you own any restorative-cleaning agents? You know the sort. They promise to turn that lack-lustre aluminium into a gleaming shine simply by brushing on, walking away and then come back 5 minutes later. A simple effortless wipe and by magic, the shine is back. BEWARE of such products. They tend to be by nature highly acidic or alkaline and are corrosive by nature. If applied to plated surfaces, the protective covering Triumph has carefully selected is likely to be eaten away by the very product promising to help you. The result is obviously that those parts that have lost their protection will deteriorate more quickly in the future.
Leave any wire brushes or abrasive pads in the garage. Enough said.
OK, so now, having sorted ourselves out, our equipment and have appropriate automotive cleaning agents, we can safely approach the bike.
1. Am I free of things that will scratch my bike?
2. Are my sponges, cleaning cloths clean and grit free?
3. Do I have automotive cleaning agents? Don’t run to the kitchen sink!
Cleaning – a Few Generalities
Frequent, regular cleaning is an essential part of the maintenance of your motorcycle. If regularly cleaned, the appearance will be preserved for many years. How regularly? Up to you. The more often you clean your bike, the better it will withstand what the world throws at it. A weekly clean would be appreciated by any bike.
Cleaning with cold water will prevent increasing corrosive action of any salt that your bike may have already picked up - including exposure to sea breezes, sea water, dusty or muddy roads and in winter when roads are treated for ice and snow.
Although, under the terms of your motorcycle warranty, cover is provided against the corrosion of certain items, the owner is expected to observe this reasonable advice, which will safeguard against corrosion and enhance the appearance of the motorcycle. Do not use household detergent, as the use of such products will lead to premature corrosion.
Prepare the Bike for Washing
Before washing, precautions must be taken to keep water off the following places.
- Rear opening of the silencer(s) / mufflers: Cover with a plastic bag secured with rubber bands.
- Clutch and brake levers, switch housings on the handlebar: Cover with plastic bags to prevent excessive water getting into the wiring beneath the switch cubes.
- Ignition switch: Cover the keyhole with tape, again to stop water draining into the electrical connections within the switch assembly.
Where to be careful. Avoid excess water the following places:
- Brake cylinders and brake callipers.
- Under the fuel tank.
- Headstock bearings.
- Air intake duct above the headlights.
Any excess water around the air intake duct could enter the air box and engine, causing damage to both items.
Hand wash or Pressure Washer?
Use of high-pressure spray washers is not recommended. When using pressure washers, water may be forced into bearings and other components causing premature wear from corrosion and loss of lubrication. Its not worth the risk. Hand wash every time.
Ensure the bike is cold. Start at the top of the bike. Roll up your sleeves and apply via your clean bodywork sponge. Soak those areas that have dead insects etc and leave them for a few minutes, they will come away once the water has done its job. Return to them after a few minutes. Gentle use of a soft nylon brush will dislodge the most stubborn debris.
Once you have washed the bodywork, change to your other sponge and use nylon brushes to wash the other areas. Those areas that catch the grime (for example under the rear mudguard need to be soaked and left before you can normally wipe away the road muck.
Take your time. A selection of different nylon brushes will ease the task.
When you think you have dislodged the dirt, use clean cold water to rinse the bike down. This will swill away any loose dirt still settled on the bikes various surfaces and rinse away any traces of shampoo, which may cause unsightly staining if not removed.
Use of soaps that are highly alkaline will leave a residue on painted surfaces, and may also cause water spotting. Always use a low alkaline soap to aid the cleaning process.
Remove the plastic bags and tape, and clear the air intakes. Lubricate the pivots, bolts and nuts. Use a dry cloth to absorb water residue. Do not allow water to stand on the machine as this will lead to corrosion. Test the brakes before motorcycle operation.
Once the bike is dried, we have an opportunity of applying substances that will provide a barrier to deterioration. There are a host of products on the market and your dealer will be able to offer you local advise.
An auto bodywork polish is appropriate for painted panels. A light lubricant (AKA the oily rag treatment!) is fine for most non-painted bodywork area. The obvious areas not to apply any light lubricant to are the working (swept) surfaces of brake discs and exhaust system areas (see below for exhausts).
Never wax or lubricate the brake discs. Loss of braking power and an accident could result. Clean the disc with a proprietary brand of oil free brake disc cleaner.
Unpainted Aluminium Items
If you are not sure which parts are unpainted aluminium parts on your particular bike, ask your dealer.
Items such as brake, clutch levers and unlacquered wheels must be correctly cleaned to preserve their appearance. Use a proprietary brand of aluminium cleaner, which does not include caustic elements. Clean aluminium items regularly, in particular after use in inclement weather, where the components must be hand washed and dried each time the machine is used. Warranty claims due to inadequate maintenance will not be allowed.
Cleaning of the Exhaust System
All parts of the exhaust system of your motorcycle must be cleaned regularly to avoid deterioration of its appearance. These instructions can be applied to chrome, brushed stainless steel and carbon fibre components alike.
NOTE – The exhaust system must be cool before washing to prevent water spotting.
Prepare a mixture of water and mild soap. Do not use a highly alkaline soap as commonly found at commercial car washes because it leaves a residue. Wash the exhaust system with a soft cloth. Do not use an abrasive scouring pad or steel wool. They will damage the finish. Rinse the exhaust system thoroughly. Ensure no soap or water enters the mufflers.
Dry the exhaust system as far as possible with a soft cloth. Do not run the engine to dry the system or spotting will occur.
When the exhaust system is dry, rub ‘Motorex 645 Clean And Protect’ into the surface.
The use of silicone products such as WD40 will cause discolouration of the chrome and must not be used. Similarly, the use of abrasive cleaners such as Solvol Autosol will damage the system and must not be used.
It is recommended that regular protection be applied to the system as this will both protect and enhance the system’s appearance.
When removed from the motorcycle for any reason, care must be taken to ensure that the seat is placed where it cannot fall or slip over. It is strongly advised that the seat should not be leaned against the motorcycle or nearby wall. Instead, place the seat base-side downwards on a generally flat surface that is covered with soft cloth, carpet etc.
If the seat is allowed to fall over, it is possible for the external seat cover to become torn or split. This is because the external cover is stretched tightly across its base for reasons of rider/passenger comfort and cosmetic appearance. Impact on the tightly stretched material with a hard surface may result in damage or splits.
Wheels and Tyres
Cleaning your bike is a good opportunity to check the condition of the wheels and tyres.
Check tyres for any damage or wear and ensure pressures are checked and any extra air is added as required.
Check wheels for any impact damage to rims or (if fitted) spokes. Laced spokes may be checked either by squeezing a pair of spokes together (between thumb and finger) or by gently striking each spoke with a small metallic implement (such as a small screwdriver). Either method will identify any damaged or loose spokes. In the case of squeezing the spokes, you will ‘feel’ a noticeable movement in a spoke that is damaged or loose. The striking method will produce a different note, which you will ‘hear’.
If you discover any damage to the bike as a result of these checks, we recommend you make immediate repair arrangement with your local Triumph dealer.
Your dealer can of course provide any further information.
Regular cleaning is obviously essential to keep the bike looking fine. It not only gives you the satisfaction of having a good looking bike to use next time you go for a ride, but you also get technically closer to the bike, noticing how things are connected and operate, which parts move in what direction. So your technical appreciation and learning will grow.
Cleaning bike Checklist.
1. Prepare yourself, your equipment and use only approved cleaning agents.
2. Prepare the bike for washing.
3. Wash the bike and soak .
4. Rinse the bike with cold water.
5. Dry the bike.
6. Apply corrosion inhibitor to metal parts and polish to painted parts.