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IBMWR Bike Cleaning FAQ

How To Keep You Beemer Clean
a step-by-step guide for the anal retentive
by Bill Shaw (

1. Tools of the Trade
2. Bath Time!
3. Polish & Wax
4. Clear Plastic
5. Airheads
6. Oilheads
7. K Bikes & F-650's

8. Wheels

Cleaning Tips, Part 2...Bath Time

Regardless if you spent upwards of $17,000 for a new BMW motorcycle, or one costing a mere $1000, protecting your investment by giving it a bath with some degree of regularity is important.

Having the right tools helps (discussed in the previous post), but knowing how to use them is equally important…and it all begins with the soap and water. Remember that dishwashing liquid and laundry detergents are designed to remove the dried-on, and encrusted Lobster Florentine that you had for brunch 3 months ago, and they will attack the wax on your bike with the same gusto. Simply stated, wax companies love people who use Palmolive or Ivory Liquid on their vehicles.

After purchasing the proper liquid car-washing soap (I also don't like powder soaps since any un-dissolved particles can act as abrasives), read the directions carefully, and then use half of the recommended amount. I usually use about a cap full in 4-5 gallons of water. The stronger the concentration of soap:water, the more wax you are likely to remove. Also, avoid using hot water since this tends to soften and remove the wax.

Ideally the bike should be parked in the shade and cool to the touch before washing. Next, wet the bike down with nothing more than an ordinary garden hose, and avoid spraying water directly at any seals, gaskets or electrical connections. Even Holy Water will eventually find its way into wheel bearings if a 10,000 psi deck washer or a fire hydrant is used. I actually prefer not to use a nozzle at all since you don't need pressure to wash the dirt away.

Begin by washing all the painted and plastic surfaces first with one mitt, and then using a second mitt/rag, clean the engine and wheels last. Start at the top and work your way down. In this way, you are not transferring the heavy dirt, grease, etc., into bucket before you've washed the paint. I'll cover how best to clean the engine and wheels in a later article.

The bike should be dried as soon as possible, unless you enjoy being teased about those unsightly water spots by your motorcycle brethren while downing an A&W Root Beer at the Boot Hill Saloon. The best method to accomplish this is to use 100 % cotton baby diapers. If diapers are not available, the next best solution is to use a synthetic chamois, followed by a natural chamois, followed by any soft, clean cotton cloth you can find.

Protecting your investment will actually take less time than you might imagine, and it will certainly help at resale or trade-up time too. Until next time, keep the rubber side down, and Keep It Clean.


Bill Shaw

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