How to: Stave off winter salt & slime
This simple cleaning regime will stop salty conditions rotting your pride and joy
1 Perfect your pre-soak
Winter use can be tough on your bike as road salt and moisture combine to form a happy breeding ground for corrosion. But you can prevent the ravages of rust with a solid cleaning regime – and it’s worth rinsing the bike after any salty ride. Place the bike on stands so both wheels are off the ground then pre-rinse with water to remove any loose road dirt. Ensure you thoroughly soak the bike.
2 Squirt then soak, don’t scrub
Modern cleaning products are intended to do just that – clean the bike for you. If you choose the right product, such as Rock Oil’s Dirt Blaster (£6.99), there should be no need to do any aggressive scrubbing and brushing. Apply the solution all over the bike and agitate lightly with a soft brush (see right), then leave the product to dwell for a couple of minutes but avoid letting it dry out.
3 Time to get agitated
Work the cleaner into the chassis parts and engine first. Using a suitable brush, agitate the cleaner lightly; there’s no need to scrub aggressively as this will cause scratching and may give corrosion a foothold. The cleaning compound will loosen the dirt and make it come away with little effort. For particularly dirty areas rinse off and reapply the cleaner as many times as needed.
4 Go to work on your body
Using a dedicated bodywork brush, Oxford’s Big Softy (£4.99) is a good choice, work the cleaner in without being aggressive on the painted surfaces. Use a long-reach brush, like those sold in DIY shops for painting radiators, to work the cleaner in on the inside of fairing panels. Give the radiator a generous squirt of cleaning product but don’t brush it in.
5 Is it squeaky clean?
The final stage of cleaning should be a thorough rinse with a hose or jet washer, with the aim of removing all traces of dirt and any remaining cleaning product. Back-flush the radiator so dirt will leave through the front and not get stuck inside. Run your fingers over the surface; if it feels even slightly slimy there is still product left on.
6 Get wheelie clean
Use a dedicated wheel cleaner for your rims as they are better able to remove the complex compounds found in brake dust. Apply the cleaner and let it soak in for a few minutes, then agitate with a brush while turning the wheel, making sure the entire surface has been covered. Rinse off with a hose or jet washer, using a brush if necessary.
7 Blast off
Dry the bike off with a quality drying cloth, starting from the top and working down. Turn the cloth as you go and wring out as necessary. Make sure there are no pockets or hidden pools of water lurking anywhere, such as under the fuel filler cap or behind the header pipes on the crankcases. Use an airline to blast the water out if you have one available.
8 Wax on, wax off
Wax polish not only makes your paint look great but can also act as a protective layer. Apply as per the instructions, taking care not to get any directly on top of raised or embossed lettering, bolts or trim, as this will cause the wax to leave white deposits which can be unsightly. Remove and polish the wax with a good quality clean cloth, and buff to a high-gloss finish.
9 Wipe away rust
Next, treat exposed metals with an anti-corrosion barrier solution such as ACF50. Apply the ACF to a cloth and rub it onto the surface you want to treat. Use another cloth to remove and buff afterwards. You can apply it to many parts, such as wheels, chain adjusters, and sprocket carriers. It can even be used to rejuvenate faded black plastic trim. Always remember to apply sparingly and not direct from the can.