Posted in Bits and Tips
December 11, 2012

Bike Detailing – Part One

Bike Detailing – Thank you to Sydney HOG for the following

The Essentials:

H-D: Despite good intentions, you can actually damage your motorcycle if you don’t clean it in the proper way. Dirty rags, harsh detergents and neglected areas can cause scratching, dulling and, yes, galvanic corrosion. Keeping your Harley clean is crucial to its long-term well-being and value. A clean bike is also easier to maintain and more likely to maintain its value.

James: After you’ve been riding in the rain, try and wash your bike as soon as you can afterwards. Don’t let it sit for days on end. Road grime full of chemicals eats into the spokes, the front end, the engine, so best bet is hose the bike down as soon as you get home.

Rider: Hey Amigos! You should wash your bike on a weekly or fortnightly basis. Me, I wash my bike every week.

Mark: I started my mechanical apprenticeship detailing new cars. I keep my bike in showroom condition with only a few products, but more important is the discipline to maintain the bike.

After a long trip or riding in the rain, the bike must be washed first, after it has cooled down.

After every ride, I blow off the brake dust with a compressor, from the calipers, discs and more importantly, the wheels. Brake dust is corrosive if left on surfaces so it must be fully removed, then I wipe the wheels clean using a damp towel.

Ivan: I have two golden rules: 1) just because you read it on the internet doesn’t make it fact, 2) do not use Mr Sheen. No matter how easy and shiny the result is at first, the petroleum molecules in the compound will eventually degrade your wax and polymer coatings.

Road and rain grime has a cumulative effect. The longer you leave it, the more intractable it gets.

That simply means it gets more difficult to remove with time. If you stay on top of it, then you can literally remove most daily grime with glass cleaner and a cloth.

James : Use S100 instead of Mr Sheen.

The Pre-Wash:

H-D: Remove rings, jewellery, watches and anything else that might scratch your bike as you clean. Motorcycle jackets with metal buckles, zippers and studs can be especially hazardous to your paint.

Don’t try to wash your bike right after a long ride. Make sure your bike is cool to the touch. Not only can a hot engine and pipes burn you, but they can scar your motorcycle by making waxes and cleaners act differently.

If your bike is caked with mud or heavy soil, rinse it off first. Sponging over crusted dirt can scratch your paint. Beware the old sponge — it may have dirt trapped inside that will scratch your finish.

Buy cleaning products made for cleaning motorcycles. Just because something makes your bathtub or toaster shine, doesn’t mean it will do the same for your Harley.

Ivan: Hose your bike down using a trickle flow. High water pressure causes damage.

Mark: A word of warning, if you use a pressure washer, be very careful not to cause damage, penetrate wheel bearing seals, electrical components etc.

The Wash:

H-­‐D: Dilute Sunwash according to the instructions on the bottle and wash the bike.
Sunwash contains special water softeners that allow it to be used in direct sunlight.
Rinse thoroughly from the top down, paying careful attention to the complete removal of cleaner, especially from nooks and crannies.

Barry: I don’t use soap or detergent to wash my entire bike, the chemicals can get trapped in tight spaces and cause corrosion. I just use plain water. However, for my wheels and whitewalls I use either the Harley Wheel & Tire Cleaner or Meguiars non-­‐acid mag wheel cleaner with the Harley cone brush for the spokes.

H-­‐D: During rinsing, you may splash cleaner from one part of the bike to another, so go back and give the bike a light misting. When drying the bike, pay close attention to the areas where water tends to puddle. Leaf blowers make excellent bike dryers. Again, make certain the blower is clean. Compressed air is not good for drying, because oil and rust particles are blown inside the tank. Clean your wheels paying special attention to the dreaded galvanic corrosion. In the course of normal use, particles from brake dust get on your wheels. If neglected, these non-­‐compatible metals can react to one another creating galvanic corrosion and produce pittng on your wheels. The result is costly refinishing of the wheels.

Mark: All bugs must be removed while they are still ‘fresh’, as they only need a damp towel and a bit of water to easily remove them.

Ivan: After it’s wet, spray the engine, wheels, underside and any high soil areas with a gentle (non-­‐acid) wheel cleaner. I use Armor All brand because I trust the result, but there are many others. Then, using a very gentle car detergent in a bucket of warm water (I use Meguiar’s), wash your bike from top to bottom with a lambswool mitt or soft sponge. To dry the bike I use a dedicated blower/dryer that warms the air as it blows. A leaf blower will do the same job but their size is ungainly. You can also do a first  run dry with a professional chamois and a second run with a microfibre cloth to remove the any dried water streaks.

James: Use two buckets and sponges: one for your wheels and brakes with Harley Wheel & Tire Cleaner for spokes, rims and whitewalls and the other bucket with Harley Sunwash for the rest of your bike. Beware not to mix the two as brake dust particles are corrosive to the rest of your bike. Wash from the top down.

Rider: After washing, run your bike and let it heat up for 10 minutes to evaporate water in the hidden parts we cannot reach.


There is more than one way to clean your bike and many different products to use and the Harley range of cleaning products are excellent! However, there is no ‘quick fix’ if you’re only washing your bike periodically and letting the road grime, brake dust and elements take their toll on your bike’s finish. After researching this article, I came home from a wet ride, (the Batemans Bay weekend away) and instead of parking the bike and going inside to get warm (and staying there), I kept my wet weather gear on and gave the bike a quick soapy wash in the light rain. It was a lot easier to clean the bike this way as all the road grime was still fresh and came off easily. This way my bike was parked in a pristine condition, ready for the next ride!