Well, it’s for sure summer here in the Deep South, and the other day, I had my first attack of “Bacon and Legs” when I sat down on the bike after it had been out in the sun for an hour.
Yeah, I did the “burned ass” dance in the parking lot.
That got me to thinking, though, about all the things that can be done to protect our investments from the elements as we (hopefully) spend too much time on them in the great outdoors.
For starters, I know that a lot of us are driving one of two kinds of bikes – either one we are fixing up or one we don’t want to get dirty. News flash – if you ride, your bike is going to get dirty! How you take care of that will dictate how much drama you have to handle and how painful that process is when you decide to clean and detail your bike.
First things first. If you can store your bike indoors, out of the weather, that is always a plus. Rain, UV light, exhaust emissions from other vehicles, you name it – they can all wreak havoc on paint and hard finishes, so any time spent away from those is “good” time. My next choice, and one that I’ve used locally, is a high-quality bike cover, especially when I’m traveling and will be leaving early in the morning and the scoot is covered with dew and condensation. All that moisture can play Hell with old (pre-1994) electronics on Harleys and, if you ride a British or European bike, that wiring has always been sketchy.
Cover it up to keep it clean and make early morning rides more fun.
Next, “Wax on, wax off!” Polishing chrome sucks, and the very stuff in the polish that makes it shine is slowly taking the finish off. One of the smartest things I ever did was to quit polishing chrome every month and instead, to polish it bright and then wax it thick.
Truth be told, I don’t even use a car wax, but rather, Johnson’s Paste Wax – the stuff that your Mom or Grandma probably used on their wood floors. The Armorer on the police force when I was a rookie told me about it and I used it on highly polished blued guns for years to protect those finishes in the field. I’ve found that it works miracles on a lot of surfaces that won’t be overheated. I don’t use it on the tailpipes, but I do put it on about every other piece of chrome on my bike. Pro tip – it works pretty nice as a cable lube, too…
A lot of guys have spent a small fortune on paint, and like chrome, it needs help, but the polishing process takes off a little bit each time. You can’t get past that, but a high-quality carnauba wax, applied to a polished surface, can last a long time and give you a lot of protection. My own rule of thumb, especially during riding season, is to wax at least once a month to give me plenty of protection – I don’t have a great paint job, but I’m not ready to have a bad one yet, either.
What about the leather on the seat and the bags? Personally, I usually don’t ride with saddlebags, but they have their uses and applications. There are a lot of products out there that do a great job, but I still clean my seat and my bags (and my leathers) with old fashioned Saddle Soap. One tin can last forever, but used frequently, it has done a great job of keeping salt and crap out of the pores of the leather for years at a time. Like my jacket and vests, though, I have my bags dry cleaned once a year and, even though that can be costly, the result has been leather that lasts years longer. Admittedly, seats can be a challenge, since you can really only get to one side easily, but half-cleaned is still better than not cleaned.
There are a lot of leather treatments on the market for protection, too, but in most cases, I stick with mink oil that has been absorbed in a warm environment and then buffed out. I’ve found that this gives me about as much waterproofing as I plan on needing and I can treat all the leather at once. Whatever you do, don’t go too “old-school” and use Neatsfoot Oil – it will break down the fibers a little too much and you’ll lose shape and rigidity in all the wrong places.