How to detail a motorcycle like a pro, for less

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A Triumph engine in a Norton "featherbed" frame, polished to a shine.

Motorcycle care should always include a bout of detailing. (Photo Credit: CC BY/Triton/Wikipedia)

Think that cars and trucks are the only vehicles on the road that need to occasionally be detailed? Think again. Motorcycle care has evolved to the point that there are numerous techniques and specialty products that help clean, protect, maintain and accommodate a motorcycle’s unique needs. Here’s how to detail a motorcycle like a pro, but for less.

How to detail a motorcycle step 1: Shade and steam

To begin with, any motorcycle detailing work that is intended to restore the bike to factory shine should be performed out of direct sunlight. The surfaces should be cool to the touch before any cleaning solutions are applied, DetailXperts recommends. Get the motorbike off the ground, too, as this makes it easier to detail the wheels. If you’re using a bike lift, have a second person around for safety purposes.

Basic cleaning can be done with water, but for an outstanding shine, liquid cleaners and steam cleaning are better routes. Spraying liquid cleansers on the surface of a motorcycle will help take care of any built-up dirt and grime, as well as oil and tar (although a specialized tar-cleaning product may be necessary for the latter). Do not use petroleum-based cleaners, as they can cause the vinyl and rubber to break down and are bad for the environment. After a few seconds, rub the surface with a sponge, then wipe with a cotton cloth. None of this takes very much time.

Steam cleaning is perhaps the very best way to remove sticky substances from your motorcycle. The steam also sanitizes the saddle, seat and hand grips.

How to detail a motorcycle step 2: Divide and conquer

Motorcycle detailing should begin by removing a number of parts that will get in the way of the cleaning process. The windshield, sissy bar, side panels, saddlebags and other after-market accessories are examples of this. Once parts are removed, divide your motorcycle detailing session into zones. That is, work on small parts of the motorcycle at a time, so that you can focus on fine detail. On the right and left sides of the bike, a useful way to do this is to divide the detailing zones into front (wheel, fender and fork); middle (gas tank, engine, exhaust and seat); and back (rear wheel, fender and suspension).

Start on one side and work your way around, rinsing and buffing after each session with your liquid motorcycle cleaner of choice (such as this one from Motorcycle Superstore). Spray on some tire cleaner and let it soak while you scrub the sidewalls.

How to detail a motorcycle step 3: Clean the body

Now that the motorbike is scrubbed up and bright, wash it wish soap and water and a soft cotton cloth. Rise with a fine mist, including the parts you removed earlier. Dry things off, and go for the wax and lacquer if you want that show-quality look. A little Carnauba wax is all you need.

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