Cleaning is important

Cleaning the bike - I hate it. Especially during winter when it's cold. But unfortunately it's necessary. Apart from removing all the bugs from the windshield, the main benefit is getting rid of all the dirt and salt from underneath the bike which can cause corrosion if left unattended. Besides, a nice shiny machine looks good!

There are mobile valeters who cater for motorcycles, but being a stingy git I would rather do it myself.

Don't just plunge a sponge into a bucket of soapy water and slap it onto a dry bike; spray the bike with a hosepipe first - this removes the surface layer of dust which would otherwise be scratched into the paint/plastic surfaces by the sponge. Or you could use a microfibre cloth instead of detergent. Microfibre cloths are quite an amazing invention; they contain thousands of microscopic fibres which trap dirt, and are designed to be used without detergents. But old habits die hard, so I use a soapy sponge.

Make sure you clean the front forks all the way up to the top yoke; as this area can get quite grimy. A soft 1" paintbrush can be quite useful for attending to the brake caliper area.

Once you've washed the bike, rinse it off with the hosepipe; then use a chamois leather to remove the water droplets which remain, or you will be left with a spotty finish. For the same reason you shouldn't wash the bike in direct sunlight - the water droplets evaporate too quickly.

I usually pop the bike onto its centre stand before washing, and remove the panniers for easier access to the rear wheel. Once I've rinsed the bike off, I normally put it onto the side stand so any water left inside the engine cover and on the radiator fins can drain out.

By washing the bike regularly you tend to notice whether any rust spots are appearing anywhere, whether there are any oil leaks, if any bolts are coming loose or missing, or if there is any external damage to, for example, the radiator fins.

Once the underside has stopped dripping, I spray some furniture polish onto the plastic bits and windshield, and shine it all up with a soft cloth. I don't do the seat though! The advantage of the polish is that it makes the bike easier to wash next time, as dirt and bugs come off more easily.

I also tend to use a few drops of Rain-X on the mirrors and lights. It's not recommended for use on plastic though, so you're not supposed to use it on the windshield - although I have done this a couple of times without noticing any ill effects.

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