ADVANCED BIKE CLEANING FOR BEGINNERS
ADVANCED BIKE CLEANING FOR BEGINNERS
Many years ago when I first came to the USA I went to the local dirt bike shop and that was exactly what
I found, Dirt or rather DIRTY bikes, as though it was some “Macho” thing never to clean them. Every
machine,other than NEW was in exactly the same state that it arrived after it’s last outing?
This never ceases to amaze me as with a little care and a few drops of water a few $100 can be added
to any competition machine especially if it is being traded or sold.
I frequently see questions on TC asking what should I clean and how? Well of course that depends on
where you ride and what the local conditions are. If you ride events in AZ or SCal then in all probability
you are in dust, sand, loose dirt and rocks and are unlikely to encounter mud, slime and water.
As a general rule all machines, trials or any other discipline, leave the factory in a nice clean state and
that should realistically be your objective so KEEP THEM CLEAN. As a MSF Instructor we preach the
“Pre ride checks” and anytime I take a road bike out I take a soft rag and quickly go over the entire bike
with a quick dusting. This completes all your basic pre ride checks and at the same time you will be able
to see anything that has come loose, fallen off or gone out of adjustment. The same is true with a trials
bike when you wash and light service it.
When I was a kid there was no question of the bike being put away dirty and after the trial, or practice
session my cousin Tom and I would ride back to Uncle Tom’s Motorcycle business and start up the
pressure washer and give the bikes a full “once over” and then with that done turn the hose on ourselves
in turn and wash off the barbour suits and boots that we were still wearing. Of course pressure washers
can remove just about anything and care had to be taken otherwise transfers and decals would be long
gone as would those little plastic letters on the registration plates!
My Cousin TOM in the Kentish Mud
Washing and cleaning a bike are part of being a Trials Rider, it’s another basic skill of maintenance
and machine preparation. What I currently do on my “Vintage” bikes is to wash them as soon as I can
after the event with warm soapy water and them rinse them off with the garden hose. With that
complete set up the air line from the compressor and blow all the water off everything before it gets a
chance to “water spot” the polished alloy or creep into places where it can sit and set up the dreaded
rust and corrosion. Depending on how muddy the event has been will determine how much washing
has to be done and what variety of brushes and sponges are required.
A huge mud hole and the rest of the setions were SAND !
Difficult places to keep clean are between the fins on the barrel and head and the center of the wheel
hubs so find yourself the right brush for the job.Try and save yourself some “water ingress” aggro by
perhaps “bunging” up the exhaust and keeping “it” away from the airbox, filter or whatever inlet system
you are using. Probably not a great idea to overdo the water around the electrics unless you are very
confident with your waterproofing techniques.
Now with the machine clean and dry time to think of the required maintenance to get it ready for the next
event. I usually start with the wheels and quickly dry out the brake hubs and after having checked the
condition of the bearings. With the wheels out a little wire brushing of the brakes and check the cams for
action and smooth operation (nothing nastier than a brake that locks on and won’t release due to a bit
of muck on the cam!) Lightly grease the wheel spindle and after reassembly check the spokes for
tension. Also while the wheel was out check for any movement of the tire and if necessary take the cover
off and reset. You will be amazed at just how much mud can get inside the tire.
Of course you cleaned the inside of the fender while the wheels were out ? Now with the wheels back
in do a test on the brakes for a nice smooth action and clean release. With the front brake on compress
the forks a few times to check the oil seals and wipe off the excess “stuff”. Most likely the seals will be
good and what you think is an oil leak is nothing more than excess water and mud that has got in the
cover or wiper.
The Carb will need a full going over so dismantle, clean it and blow everything through with the airline.
Check whatever air filter system you are using for all the nasties and if in doubt fit the spare while this
weekend’s one is drying out.
Downstairs a little lubrication of the footrests, chain tensioner and check the 2 most expensive nuts on
the bike, the shifter and the kicker. How many shafts have been ruined and caused expensive and
untimely repairs all because these bolts slackened off on the shafts???
Nearly done, just the chain to refit, having given it a good wire brushing to remove all the grot. Lots of
different thoughts on chains and I’m not sure which way to go these days. It used to be considered to be
esssential to keep the chain lubricated with chain oils and periodically boiling it up in the “goop” which
got into all the rollers and did a good job. Some of the new oils do just as good a job but they then fly off
leaving spots all over the rear wheel and in dusty conditions act as a magnet and now collect all the gritty
stuff which then gets it and does more damage than you were trying to prevent. I’m currently leaning to
the run it drier school.
Clean but unpolished……..
Finally out with the Solvol-Autosol for all that alloy and this will give you the showroom finish you were
looking for and as father once said “Bullshit baffles brains” and as a general rule is worth 5 points at
any trial as the opposition are still annoyed that your bike is so clean…… and the dazzling chrome might
blind a checker while you take a sneaky dab! Remember mud sticks to mud, and slides off polished
alloy and in a “real” muddy trial you can save about 20 lbs in excess mud getting trapped in the fenders,
frame and on the engine cases.
Just as a final touch in the UK with all the winter dampness from fogs and drizzle things tended to start
rusting very quickly so I used a mixture of some 2 Stroke fuel (half full in a mister bottle and then topped
up with a light fork oil. Spray the entire bike, yes everything, and then wipe off the excess, a bit like a
modern day Armorall but a lot cheaper.
PRIDE, Gentlemen, PRIDE!
…..of couse you might get lucky and have someone wash it for you?
and as a guide the 2 worst conditions to be riding in are Wet Chalk which sets like concrete and
Bayou Mud and water which with all the decaying vegetation releases tanin which seems to eat alloy
and takes forever to polish off.