The lazy biker's guide to cleaning

Can the dreaded weekly (ok, monthly) chore be made quick and easy?

IN a perfect world, we'd all have half a sunny Sunday every week to spend patiently and painstakingly cleaning every inch of our beloved bikes, a garage to store all our equipment, a backyard to work in... What, you already do? Perhaps you should go read a different Visordown feature.

This one is for the rest of us, who live in that sadly imperfect world where we have neither the time nor the facilities, or indeed, often, the inclination, to get all the accumulated muck, grit and grime off our bikes.

Many cleaning products promise to solve your dilemmas with a spray-on, wipe or wash-off swipe of their magic wands. Do these really work? How little equipment do you need to be able to clean your bike to a good standard? How quickly and easily can you be done, dusted and on the road, astride a sparkly, shiny bike?

We borrowed three filthy bikes, and sought to find out.

If your bike only ever gets clean once or twice a year when you give it in for a dealer service, read on...

The kit

We armed ourselves with a selection of cleaning products that promised to be quick and easy, and tried out these:

ACTIV8 chain cleaner: light spray along the chain from a few inches away, allow to dissolve grime, then respray heavily. Chain lube: use after the cleaner; spray from a few inches away and allow to dry.

AUTOGLYM motorcycle cleaner spray: rinse with water, spray on liberally, agitate with brush or sponge, do not let dry, rinse off. 

CASTROL Greentec cleaner spray: spray, leave for 5-10 minutes (not more than 20), rinse with fresh water.

MUC-OFF Fast-Action Bike Cleaner spray: pre-wet, spray on, leave for 3-5 minutes, agitate and rinse off. (chain) Degreaser spray - dry: spray, agitate. Bike Spray shine and protect: after washing, spray to disperse moisture, wipe excess, leave to dry.

FUCHS SILKOLENE spray on wash off cleaner: hose with water, spray, agitate if necessary, do not let dry, hose down.

SDOC100 Total Cleaner power gel spray: spray complete dry bike, leave for 5-30 mins, rinse with strong water jet. 

We also armed ourselves with a Muc-Off brush kit, and some household bits and bobs from the local Poundland - medium plastic buckets, latex and rubber gloves, and soft cloths and mitts for wiping down. Our work site: the corner of the office parking lot, on a balmy 7-degrees-C March day. No paddock stands, bike hoists, heated garages, warm water or interns here...

Rich's GSX-R600

RICH Meese loves his K8 Gixxer, but that didn't stop him bringing it to us with a healthy dose of muck on it. "She's a little dirty right now," he said, pointing at his helpfully white bike. The swingarm, rear shock and exhaust all boasted plenty of dried mud, as did the forks, radiator and exhaust downtubes; both wheels were coated with baked-on grime; the bodywork sported dust and water stains, and the rusty chain was gunky.

After suitably wetting the every inch of the GSX-R, I sprayed one side of the bike and the front wheel with Autoglym cleaner spray, and let it sit for a few minutes while I sprayed the other side of the bike and the rear wheel with Muc-Off Fast Action Bike Cleaner Spray. I half expected to see the dirt begin dissolving as if by magic, but it now merely looked like a wet and dirty bike, with the added presence of a few bubbles.

So I scrubbed the whole bike vigorously with a medium-sized Muc-Off brush, getting it all sudsy. This is not the easiest process in the world, seeing as motorcycles have so many contoured surfaces – you really have to get in there and make sure you agitate the dirt. Once the whole bike was suitably soaped-up, I rinsed it off. There was still some lingering soapiness, more so on the Autoglym side, so I rinsed it off again. The Muc-Off spray side on the other hand needed a couple more blasts and a scrub in some of the crannier nooks. Both wheels needed a double dose of spray-and-scrub as well.

On the whole, after half an hour, the Gixxer was looking healthy again, like an overenthusiastic labrador that's just been hosed off. I then liberally doused the bike's bodywork, plastics and engine in Muc-Off Bike Spray, said to dispel moisture as well as make it shiny and protect surfaces. A few minutes of hard polishing with my soft cloth and the bike indeed had a newfound glow to it, though swiping a finger down the tank revealed a slightly greasy film. Perhaps I had sprayed too much on. Anyway, by now the GSX-R was looking pretty good.

The last step was to spray the chain with Activ8 chain cleaner. I could really have done with a centre stand here, but I settled for moving it a couple of feet forward and back. I emptied a good quarter of the can onto the rather sorry-lookiing chain, and after a few minutes' rest, gave the whole thing another good blast. As the liquefying gunk dripped off, there was a noticeable improvement in the appearance of the chain; I could see more bare metal than grease. A second spraying, this time with Activ8 chain lube, and I was done with the bike.

I spent an hour on the Gixxer, and it certainly felt like it, but the end result was pretty good.