The RIDE Prod­uct Test: washes, pol­ishes and waxes

Bet­ter weather means more miles on the bike… which means it needs clean­ing. What’s the best way to look af­ter it?

RiDE (UK) - - Welcome... - Words Si­mon Weir Pic­tures Mark Man­ning, Tom Critchell and Ja­son Critchell

IT’S HARD TO feel proud of a dirty mo­tor­cy­cle. You might be able to pull it off if you’re on a mud-en­crusted ad­ven­ture bike at the end of an off-road odyssey… but even that can quickly go from look­ing charis­mat­i­cally care-worn to just plain ne­glected. The fact is that bikes look best when they’re shiny.

Wash­ing bikes isn’t purely about aes­thet­ics, though. A good, deep clean gets you close to every bit of the ma­chine and lets you check its con­di­tion. It’s the best chance to get in front of any po­ten­tial prob­lems, let­ting you tackle mi­nor jobs that need do­ing be­fore they de­velop into a headache.

Clean­ing prin­ci­ples

There are two ex­tremes of the clean­ing scale: the deep clean and the quick-and-dirty rapid wash. A proper deep clean can see fair­ings re­moved to give en­gines an ex­tra bit of TLC, tooth­brushes em­ployed to get into hard-to-reach cran­nies, mul­ti­ple coats of wax to fin­ish and an over­all level of de­tail and time de­voted to the task that most of us would strug­gle to muster more than once a year. The quick-and-dirty hose­down may not do much more than dis­lodge the largest, most ob­vi­ous chunks of muck — and hope­fully it’s an ir­reg­u­lar last re­sort, when it’s chuck­ing it down out­side but the bike needs some kind of at­ten­tion rather than just be­ing left to fes­ter in its filth and grime.

Most of the time, most of us will be wash­ing some­where on a spec­trum be­tween these ex­tremes. There is a host of wash-and-go prod­ucts that prom­ise to make the process eas­ier — but which de­liver the best re­sults for the least ef­fort? That’s what we’re here to find out, with 21 washes on test.

Af­ter the wash

A clean bike is a good thing. A clean, shiny,

pro­tected bike is bet­ter. That’s where pol­ish and wax come in. Essen­tially, a pol­ish will ap­ply a shine to the bike and im­prove the fin­ish of the paint by ‘cut­ting’ out small im­per­fec­tions (some big­ger scratches can be taken care of with spe­cific cut­ting prod­ucts). A wax will also give a shiny fin­ish, but while it won’t cut the paint like a pol­ish, it will form a longer­last­ing bar­rier layer on top of the paint, pro­tect­ing it un­til it’s worn off — and how long it lasts de­pends on the qual­ity of the wax and how thickly it’s lay­ered on.

There are plenty of prod­ucts that com­bine both ef­fects — a pol­ish el­e­ment to add lus­tre, with a wax el­e­ment to pro­tect it. Clearly, these are quicker to use than sep­a­rate pol­ishes and waxes, both of which need to be rubbed on then buffed off. Pol­ishes and waxes can come as liq­uids or aerosols — there should be no dif­fer­ence be­tween the way they work, just the speed of ap­pli­ca­tion. At least, that’s the the­ory. We have 18 pol­ishes and six waxes on test to find out which re­ally work.

“Wash­ing a bike isn’t just about looks”

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