Keeping an old motorcycle looking brand new isn’t hard, and it’s a lot less expensive than buying a new motorcycle. Follow these suggestions and you’ll be able to keep your motorcycle looking as good as new for as long as possible.
In order to keep a motorcycle looking new for a long time you’ll need to use a combination of pro-active cleaning, good storage habits, and spending a little money when necessary. Pro-active cleaning means cleaning spots before they can become stains that ruin the finish of your motorcycle. Good storage habits include protecting your motorcycle from moisture and damage. Lastly, sometimes pending a little money can make a huge difference.
Read on to learn in-depth tips on how to keep your motorcycle looking new for the next twenty years or more.
Why cleaning your motorcycle keeps it looking new
Your motorcycle’s surfaces are protected by layers of clear coat, paint, chrome, and other finishes. These layers are designed both for aesthetic purposes, as well as for protecting your motorcycle from the elements. When you’re riding your motorcycle, or even leaving it parked, your motorcycle comes into contact with all kinds of particles on roadways that will deteriorate your motorcycle’s finish. Brake dust is one example, but there are many. Even regular road dust on your motorcycle can trap moisture and other damaging chemicals against the your motorcycle’s finish.
Chrome motorcycle exhaust pipes and chrome fork tubes are particularly prone to pitting. That is when something goes from a speck on top of your motorcycle, to something that has caused a chemical change permanently marking your motorcycle. This usually takes months to happen, but in bad conditions, or if the finish quality of the finish was poor or has already been worn down with time, pitting can happen in as little as weeks.
Even nature can be out to harm your motorcycle. UV rays can hurt a motorcycle’s clear coating, while bird droppings, tree sap, and rain are all known to be acidic.
Cleaning your motorcycle of any dust, dirt, grime, and debris, will keep damaging chemicals off of your motorcycle’s finish before they have time to do harm it. Cleaning your motorcycle proactively is fundamental to keeping your motorcycle looking new for years to come.
What if I don’t have access to running water where I park my motorcycle?
Many people live in condominiums or apartment buildings and don’t have easy access to a hose near where they park their motorcycles. That can make cleaning a motorcycle tricky.
If you don’t have access to a hose, you can take your motorcycle to a car wash (avoid using the pressure washer function) for big washes if it’s really dirty. For small tidies, you can use a waterless detailer spray bottle to hit the little spots your motorcycle gets.
How can I store my motorcycle to keep it looking new forever?
Good storage practices are just as important as good cleaning practices to keep your motorcycle looking like new forever. The best storage solutions are going to be sealed, insulated, and climate controlled, but that isn’t realistic for most of us. However, there is still a lot we can do to protect our motorcycles while they’re parked. First
Rain and moisture in the air can be very hard on your motorcycle’s metal components. The sun’s UV rays can damage the clear coat over your motorcycle’s paint and chrome, and it can dry up your motorcycle’s plastic components as well. You probably already know the sun can be damaging to your motorcycle’s tires, but for this article we’re going to focus more on the metal and plastic bits.
If you can’t have a climate controlled, sealed, insulated, ventilated space to park your motorcycle, a dry environment is the next best thing. First, you’ll want to put away your motorcycle clean. Once clean you should consider getting a motorcycle cover for it to keep dust and debris from landing on your bike, and to further insulate the motorcycle from any moisture in the environment. Then you can close garage door and walk away.
How can I protect my motorcycle’s finish if I’m parking it for winter storage, or for long term storage?
If you’re going to be parking your motorcycle for winter storage or long term storage, you can also consider coating some of the parts to avoid moisture or other crud resting on your motorcycle’s finish. WD-40 is a great for this, especially if your motorcycle is being stored in an environment prone to humidity or moisture. WD-40 is a blend of lubricants that forms a protective layer on whatever surface it lands on. It doesn’t displace water so much as it creates a temporary coating to come between your motorcycle and moisture in the environment. WD-40 also contains anti-corrosion agents and can assist with lubrication and soil removal.
WD-40 isn’t the right tool to protect your entire motorcycle though. For example, there are special cable lubrications, and motorcycle technicians prefer these over WD-40. Cable lubricators are made specifically for cables, and many techs believe that WD-40 is more likely to coagulate dust in the cables and potentially damage them. Likewise, you may see a general purpose grease used at pivoting parts of your motorcycle, such as foot pegs. WD-40 could cut through and clear out the grease, which isn’t something you want. It’s important to always use the right protection. The best way to start is by asking your local motorcycle dealership what products they recommend.
What can I buy to make my motorcycle look new for a long time?
Sometimes it just makes sense to spend some money above and beyond what you need for cleaning your motorcycle and storing it well. Sometimes spending some money can make an old motorcycle still look like new. There are three main ways to go about this.
If your motorcycle is just too messy, or you want to start with a clean slate, paying for a detailing is a good option. It’s much easier to keep a motorcycle clean, than it is to get a motorcycle clean. If your motorcycle is filthy, for whatever reason, and you’re short on time, it may be worth it to just pay for a detailing. Then all you have to do is maintain the clean finish, rather than spend hours scrubbing it down.
New motorcycle parts can really go a long way as well. My Vespa is over a decade old and I got it for a great price because the previous owner had really beaten it up. I was able to find two of Vespa’s damaged body panels on eBay for about $200. Swapping out the damaged parts for the new parts made a night-in day difference. Likewise, in this video (above) of a twenty year old Triumph Thruxton, the owner replaced their side engine cases from brushed aluminum, to a chrome finish. This really makes the motorcycle pop.
Will aftermarket parts make my motorcycle look better?
Another option to keep your motorcycle looking like new, once you’ve worked out a cleaning routine and a proper storage solution, and you’ve replaced any damaged parts, is to add little accent pieces that dress your motorcycle up. In the case of the previously mentioned Triumph Thruxton, the seller added many small touches which dress up the motorcycle. From the strap over the tank, to the clutch dress up kit, and some custom hand grips and levers, the little things add up. On this ten year old BMW G650GS, I added an LED headlight with an angel eye that completely modernized the look of the motorcycle (see here).
Adding aftermarket parts to your motorcycle looks best when all of the mods are consistent throughout the motorcycle. Make sure if you add any accent colors they are the exact colors that are on your motorcycle, otherwise, go with something neutral. For example, if your motorcycle has a red line through the tank, and you want to add red levers, make sure the shade of red is identical and not just another shade of red. If you can’t match the color, it will look cheap, and you’ll be doing more harm than good. In the case of the Triumph Thruxton mentioned earlier, there’s a chrome-with-circular cut outs theme repeated on many parts throughout the motorcycle. This adds aesthetic value because it creates a rich sense of consistency throughout the motorcycle.