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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 8...Cleaning Wheels

Hello again everyone,

I love all motorcycles: Ducati's, Honda's, Yamaha's, Moto Guzzi's, Bimota's, and yes, even Harley's and Ural's. My totally objective and unbiased personal belief, however, is that BMW makes some of the most aesthetically appealing bikes in the world…including the wheels. From the laced versions, to the aluminum three-spoked wheel, to the five-spoke rims which adorn the newest K bikes, they are some of the most beautiful found on any production motorcycle.

When viewing/appreciating any motorcycle, one of the first things I notice are the wheels, since they often reflect the owner's attention to detail. It takes time and patience to really do it correctly and clean every spoke or get into every nook and cranny. Let's face it, this is probably everyone's least favorite part on the motorcycle to clean. But I have heard it said many, many times by master detailers like Diaz and Traversa (actually too many times to count) that the wheels reflect the sole of the bike. Fact of the matter is, they are right.

The approach to cleaning a laced wheel or an unpainted aluminum rim is almost the same (I will cover painted wheels separately), but some of the tools are different. For laced wheels, I use a soft-bristled, double-sided brush, rag and/or sponge to clean the spokes, hub and rim. If the grunge is too heavily caked on, a tooth brush used in conjunction with Simple Green (100% solution), S-100 Wheel Cleaner or one of the after market automotive cleaners such as Eagle One is very effective. A thorough washing with warm soap and water (using a separate bucket and sponge) should immediately follow the cleaner. Again, keep the water directed away from the wheel bearings.

Frankly, the best way to keep laced wheels looking good is to just keep on top of them -- meaning every time you wash the bike, spend the extra 10 minutes on the wheels. And if you are very ambitious, Tim Bond ( recommends a window cleaner like Windex that can be used to remove all the water spots and put a further shine on the chrome. I suggest avoid using a chrome polish unless it's your intention to really make the bike shine prior to selling it, or you plan on entering it in a show, or it's your last attempt to remove a really stubborn mark. Remember that polish is an abrasive, and the wheels have to be absolutely spotless before using it, or you will risk scratching the finish.

Aluminum rims are a little easier since they do not have as many "spokes." Again, any of the wheel cleaners mentioned above will quickly remove the heavy grime, and I prefer a narrow paintbrush/toothbrush when cleaning the recesses and cavities on the wheel. I have also found, and I hope this doesn't come as a shock to anyone, that WD-40 (or the CRC equivalent - thanks to Bud Proven at Bob's BMW) works on removing whatever tar, grease or dirt is left over after the wheel cleaner. A word of caution - only used these products by spraying them on a rag first, and then rubbing them on with your hand. Any over-spray onto the tires could make them slippery, and therefore, potentially dangerous.

Painted wheels, like those found on the K1, require a little more care. Because of the harsh detergents, I NEVER use a wheel cleaner (even those designed to be safe with clear coats) since the color will fade over time. I have found the best way to clean painted wheels is to simply use soap and warm water, and WD-40.

Bill Shaw

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