Growing up, I lived on farm. I remember washing the family car a grand total of never while we lived there. We moved to the city when I was 14 and I regularly saw people in their driveways spraying, sudsing, and waxing their car presumably to make it look shiny and again. Although the idea of making a 20 year old car look new again was lost on me.
But for some reason I wanted to try this car washing thing. So one day, our family’s unsuspecting brown ’85 Toyota Carola station wagon got a wax and pollish. Notice I did not say “shine” but “pollish”. Because it did not shine. Not even close. Dull lustre perhaps. It was probably what we would now call “matt” finish, which has been a recent trend in motorcycles (and guitars too). It seems that I didn’t really know that I had to actually buff the wax to a shine rather than just leave it on, which required far less time and way less energy. It rained the next day anyways and was mostly gone, although I do remember seeing wax in the corners and ridges around the doors for years after that.
Washing the motorcycle has become a chore that is not bothersome or boring in any way. I’ve done it a few times now and have been getting better at it the more I do it. My 6 year old daughter even washed her little pedal bike with me once and had a great time.
I start out by removing the panniers (I wash them separately) and then stuff a little wad of shop towel into the tail pipe to limit any water going into the can. Then I hose down the whole bike – blasting the wheels, chain guard, fairing, wind screen, lights, and mirrors. I don’t dwell on the brakes, chain, or seat that much. Then it’s into the suds bucket with warm water and a marine-grade gel detergent that has worked really well for me so far. It’s good on multiple finishes and is good on the grease too.
I live in an extremely dry climate. When we first moved here 7 years ago, I once took a load of laundry outside to hang up to dry and started a load in the drier at the same time to see which dried faster. The drier lost. So washing the motorcycle is really not a long chore at all. I know some people wash their bikes and then take it for a short ride to dry it off but so far everything dries out pretty fast right there. By the time I get to work on scrubbing the back of the bike, the front is nearly dry. And that’s still what happens when I wash it in the shade. I should probably work it in sections (scrub – rinse, scrub – rinse) and maybe I will try that next time.
Once the scrubbing is done, I’ll rinse it next and then get out the shammy to dry off the water spots. The dry climate is quick but the hard water will leave spots if I’m not careful. I’ll pay special attention to the fairing, wind screen, dash, and mirrors at this point. I love clean mirrors and they were a big selling feature for me with this bike because they don’t vibrate at all. Really. IT’S AWESOME! The only time I’ve seen them get a little twitchy was in a strong head wind going into Vancouver and it was only the left mirror.
I usually bring out the panniers and scrub, rinse, and shammy them down carefully. I won’t remount them to the bike until both are dry. No reason really except that it’s easier to lube the chain with them off.
Once the bike is dry, I’ll get out the metal polish and work it into some of the shiny bits until they gleam. By that time, even the ground under the bike has dried off and I’ll roll it back into the garage where I’ll lube the chain and apply and protectant (Formula 304) to the seat. The panniers get remounted and then it’s usually off to mow the lawn or do something other more chore-like chore.
The value of a clean bike is deeper than that however and maybe I’ll explore that a bit more in the future.