Washing your car is simple—you just clean the glass and paint. Washing your bike? There’s a lot more to contend with. Dirt bikes don’t need much more than a blast with the powerwasher. They lead a rough life, and who’ll notice a dull finish? A high-priced streetbike needs a little more attention. At every step, of this process, gravity is your friend. Washing, drying, detailing—work from the top towards the bottom.
STEP 1 Treat painted surfaces (gas tank, fairings, fenders) gently—use mild detergent, a soft clean cloth, and warm water.
STEP 2 Chrome parts can be treated like paint, but follow up with chrome polish.
STEP 3 Wheels invariably need brushwork, just like your teeth. Brake dust is tenacious, but soap, water, and a cleaner with a brush will do the job.
STEP 4 Bikes have plenty of nasty, greasy parts, too. Here, the solution is chemical warfare. Some of your best friends aren’t cleaners at all, but oils and solvents like WD-40. Spraying down really manky bits like final-drive sprockets, the underside of the engine, the swingarm, etc. can help loosen that nasty black grime. Follow up with a power washer and a solvent-based cleaner. If you need to do any localized scrubbing, use brushes you’ve reserved only for this purpose—never use the gunk brushes on the cleaner parts of your bike.
STEP 5 Dry off smooth, painted surfaces with clean towels or a chamois. With all their nooks and crannies, most bikes will look better if you first blast them dry with compressed air. If nothing else, the exhaust hose from a shop vac (an industrial vacuum cleaner) will blow most of the water off. A leaf blower works great for this.