|Maintaining fully specked out wheels and sharp looking tires are a major challenge of motorcycle ownership. Many factors come into play, especially the design of your wheels. Consider the types of metals – chrome, alloys, stainless steel. Is it anodized? Polished? Painted? The variety of intricacies involved in the design of motorcycle wheels today is amazing. Some bikes are sporting 120 spoke front wheels and 240 spoke rear wheels! Looks incredible... incredibly difficult to clean that is. But even if your wheels aren’t quite that intricate, you still have to contend with road grime, brake dust, tar residues and everyday pollutants that bond to, and contaminate the wheel finish and dull the tires.|
Understanding the contaminants:
Before we even begin the process of cleaning the wheels, it’s important to know exactly what you’re up against. Brake dust is every wheel’s worst enemy. Considering that the brake pads themselves can be manufactured from a range of materials including Kevlar fibers, Monocarbon fibers, Polymer based adhesives and metal filings – all of these factor into the cleaning process. The polymer adhesive residue portion of brake dust can actually turn acidic, etching and pitting the wheel finish. Have you ever noticed tiny spots on your wheels that appear to be road tar? You might be surprised to learn that what you’re seeing may not be road tar at all. In fact, it is more likely re-polymerized brake pad adhesives that have combined, congregating in tiny droplets that settle on the wheels. Tar is actually easier to remove than re-polymerized adhesive, which virtually cements itself to the surface. The metal filings are a different kind of menace altogether. These particles become super-heated during braking and can punch tiny holes into the wheel finish.
All this potential for damage just from the simple act of braking? Well, yes – and since you have to brake sometime; there is no avoiding it. You can combat the effects of brake dust acids, burning metal filings, and pollution through proper wheel detailing.
Wheel detailing should be performed regularly – at least every time your wash your motorcycle. This helps prevent the build-up of the above mentioned assailants. At Bike Depot we always recommend detailing your wheels using the least aggressive methods possible.
Begin with a gentle non-acidic cleaner. DP Gel Wheel Cleaner is a remarkable gel formula that works its way into all the tight corners, crevices and decorative nooks to get the job done quickly and efficiently without using toxic solvents. Most wheel cleaners contain a chemical irritant known as Ethylene Glycol Monobutyl Ether, which is harsh and damaging to painted and clear-coated surfaces. DP Gel Wheel Cleaner is water based and does not contain Ethylene Glycol Monobutyl Ether, yet it penetrates grease, brake dust, and road grime faster than traditional surfactant wheel cleaners. You can’t make a mistake with DP Gel Wheel Cleaner – it’s safe for all wheel surfaces.
S100 Wheel Cleaner is also safe and effective. It does a great job of tackling grease, oil and brake dust. Both of these cleaners will perform well – without worry of doing harm to any wheel surface.
Another favorite is Pinnacle Gel Wheel Cleaner. Non-corrosive and phosphorus free, it’s 100% safe for all chrome, painted, anodized alloy, aluminum and steel wheels! A combination of gentle Spun Tallow and Castile Soaps with citrus turpine, spearmint oil and other natural ingredients get rid of the grease and grime while remaining safe. A little more money – but worth it!
Of course, when you have a wheel with a lot of spokes and details you’ll probably need to do a bit of gentle manipulation with a scrubbing tool. The type of material you use to loosen dirt around the edges in the crannies is crucial to protecting the wheel finish. One of the best wheel cleaning tools we have found is the EZ Detail Brush. Its coated tip and Nylex bristles have a super-soft touch and won’t scratch, abrade, or gouge the wheel. The long handle makes reaching deep into the wheels easy, and the handle is comfortable in your hand while working. The stem and bristles are flexible to clean wherever brake dust may hide.
Another great choice are the New England Wheel Brushes. These were designed specifically for wheel cleaning. The acid-resistant bristles are clear coat and paint safe – and will never scratch polished metals. Available in short or long handle to meet your specific cleaning needs – these brushes help loosen and remove dirt, brake dust and road grime quickly.
Now that you’ve got the cleaner the tools chosen, it’s time to discuss the process. Spray off the wheels to remove any loose debris. Then spray on your wheel cleaner, paying special attention to crevices. Let the cleaner settle for few minutes (up to 3 minutes), allowing it time to break up the residues. Use your wheel brush or a designated wash mitt to agitate the wheel surface. Rinse thoroughly.
Now spot-check. Use a combination of an additional application of the cleanser and gentle manipulation with your wheel scrubber/brush to dislodge any residual grime. Rinse thoroughly. Your wheels should come clean. Continue to wash the rest of the motorcycle, and follow with a final rinse of the entire bike.
Drying the Wheels
It’s important to dry your motorcycle as quickly as possible to avoid water spots settling on the surfaces. The best method we have found is using a powerful blower like Metro Motorcycle Air Force Blaster. Developed specifically to serve the needs of motorcycle enthusiasts – this versatile machine utilizes a peak 4.0 horsepower to jet dry your bike.
If you must hand dry – forgo traditional cotton towels. They leave lint trails and can even be abrasive. Use a high quality microfiber towel like the Cobra Supreme Guzzler Waffle Weave Towel. It measures 20”x 40” – giving you over 5 square ft of drying power! The 80/20 polyester /polyamide blend is lint free, ultra-absorbent and 100% hypoallergenic. The advanced microfibers are softer than silk – so they won’t harm any of your bike’s surfaces.
Once the wheels are cleaned, dried, and perhaps polished – you’re ready to protect them. Protect against corrosion with S100 Total Cycle Corrosion Protectant Aerosol developed specifically for the motorcycle industry – you can’t beat it for preventing damage. Even salt air cannot penetrate this incredible product! The aerosol makes it easy to apply. Remember that the prevention is always cheaper than the cure.
Now, if your tires are looking a little under the weather, or if your bike has just come off a lengthy ride or long distance road trip you may wish to clean the tires. Some good alternatives to basic shampoo and water are DP Cleanse-All – this thorough cleaner is tire-safe. It will remove built-up tire dressings and road grime, restoring the like-new appearance of tires. Wolfgang Tire & Wheel Cleaner is another great tire cleaning product. You can safely use this one over and over again without concern of degrading the tire surface. It tackles all your sidewall sludge with ease.
Note: Because of the potential slickness of tire dressings, we do not recommend dressing motorcycle tires.
Wheel and tire detailing should be an integral part of your motorcycle care regimen. The right products and tools make the job easier, quicker, and a lot more fun. The process demands a time commitment, but the results are always rewarding.