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?
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.
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”