How To Fight Winter Dirt & Corrosion: Motorcycle Maintenance

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Since I first swung a leg over a motorcycle, I knew I would never (ever) be one of those people who took pride in cleaning their machines.

To be honest, I haven’t got the patience or impetus to do it. For me, my bike plays one role – to be ridden.

If I’m not riding it, it’s tucked away. And I barely give it a second thought until the next ride.

This is fine in summer – because the next ride is generally tomorrow! But in winter, this plays merry hell with my set-and-forget mantra.

Nobody Wanted My Africa Twin

One of the problems for me is that my bike is a tool. It gets me to places, so I can write about them on this website.

And whilst I love my Kawasaki Ninja 1000 SX (it’s actually fricking awesome), I don’t molly-coddle it in the way many bikers would expect me to.

My Africa Twin, on the other hand, was something entirely different.

See, I’d already owned an AT and loved it. But when the second one came around, I was ready for something different. I shouldn’t have bought it, but the offer was so good on a new one that I couldn’t turn it down.

As a result, I never really bonded with it. I didn’t love it, and it really was just a tool. I didn’t look after it, per se. And I think the only time I washed it was when I took it to the dealership to be part-exchanged.

corrosion on motorcycle exhaust
Image: Rachel Claire

Pitting Pitted Problems

The first thing Honda did was look at the filthy, corroded lump of metal on their forecourt and wince. The underside was rank, and the wheels pitted beyond repair.

Honda threw a hissy fit and moaned at everything that wasn’t perfect (as usual). And then they proceeded to tell me the cost of the bill I would have to pay to give it back to them. A bill I politely declined.

Kawasaki was more understanding – and the only reason I got away with palming it off on them was that I was buying a brand-new bike from them. Kawasaki, in all honesty, took the hit on my behalf.

But the lesson here is that not looking after your bike can have real repercussions when you come to sell it. It isn’t a myth – it really can have an impact.

So what do we do? Well, read on – so you don’t find yourself upsetting the sales team in your local dealership when you try to trade it in.

rust on honda motorcycle
Image: Tim McErston

Why Winter Accelerates Corrosion

Well, winter riding isn’t necessarily the problem. The problem is when the gritters (or salters/sanders if you’re from America) come out and spray the roads with salt.

See, your bike is designed to withstand water ingress from regular riding – in normal conditions.

The problem with salt is that it speeds up the corrosive process when combined with water. So you need to get it off or put a protective barrier there in the first place.

Quick Rides

These days, I tend to leave the bike at home during the salty weeks unless I really feel the urge to go for a blast. As a notorious non-cleaner, this works for me!

But like everybody else, sometimes I can’t resist when I wake up early on a Sunday morning, the sun is out, and the temperature is manageable.

The problem is that salt lurks around on the road surface like a horny seventeen-year-old around a group of girls. It’s unwanted, unnecessary, persistent, and won’t take a hint.

So those Sunday morning blasts will still pick up the salt. And it will still accelerate the corrosion process.

salty roads accelerate rust
Image: Francesca Saraco

Preventing Winter Dirt And Corrosion

The first thing is to be ahead of the game. Treat your bike to a slather of anti-corrosion compound spray as the riding season closes.

There are a few to choose from – notably ACF-50 – which provides corrosion prevention, kills existing corrosion, and prevents new corrosion from forming.

You can buy and apply it yourself or find an ACF-50 specialist who will expertly apply it on your behalf. I’ve also heard people recommend Motorcycle Protectant and MO-94 (both by Muc Off), and many others.

Either way, give your bike a thorough clean before you apply your spray for the best results.

Likewise, apply another thin layer every time you wash the bike to keep the protective barrier topped up.

acf-50 anti-corrosion spray

Wash The Thing

As mentioned, I’m not the best cleaner in the world. But the easiest thing to do after a ride is to hose your bike down.

Some people advise warm water, but to my mind, this will accelerate the corrosion process quicker. Cold water straight from the hose pipe is quick and easy.

If you’re a persistent shit-weather rider, give your bike a proper wash every week or two between hose downs. Use warm water, a decent cleaning solution, and various brushes to get in all the nooks, crannies, and crevices.

Dry it off, clean your chain, and re-apply your anti-corrosion spray.

washing prevents motorcycle corrosion
Image: Ivan Oboleninov

How to Fight Winter Dirt and Corrosion: Conclusion

The best way to fight dirt and corrosion is to prepare before the weather turns – even if you don’t intend to ride. Do it when you do all the other tedious chores, like cleaning your leathers and checking your lid before storage.

Start by giving your bike a good wash, and apply your anti-corrosion spray of choice.

Give your bike a hose down after every ride, and wash thoroughly every week or two.

After each big wash, re-apply your anti-corrosion spray.

Top image: Ivan Oboleninov


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2 thoughts on “How To Fight Winter Dirt & Corrosion: Motorcycle Maintenance”

  1. Riding on salted roads seems insane to a simple minded Aussie rider, yes I agree two wheels and ice is a recipe for disaster. If the roads are so frozen you need Ice why in God’s name would you torture your scoot with ice, roadgrime, moisture and all the rest. I’d not drive a nice car on it, don’t you keep a s#-t box for that time of year. I’m impressed that some hardy folk ride all year round, but seriously what did your scoot do to deserve this. We go 4wheeling at the beach this makes two camps alone as some googs will drive into the salt water and some stay away as much as possible. Then as I’m the panel beater in the group the googs come on down asking if I can help with the rust, why I always ask, what’s the point. What’s the point is the response. Most don’t get that getting rid of the salt damaged metal is beyond repair. Anyway a couple of times I’ve given in and a year or two later it’s “I thought you got rid of the rust. How long is a piece of string is my response as where would you stop. It can’t be fixed, salt inside of joints enclosed panel and frame parts. Anyway my drivel is why would you do this to a love in your life. If this is how you look after something that gives you so much, how do you look after something that you don’t care about ????

  2. …because in the UK and Ireland the weather can drop close to zero for up to about four months of the year. You may well think you’ll put your bike away for the entire ‘off-season’, but a couple of dry, sunny days & you might well crack & pull the cover off for a quick sortie. I try to keep Acf50 all over my own all year round but some autumn / winter days when you arrive home frozen with completely numb hands, the last thing you want to do is stand outside for over an hour washing the salt & crap off the bike, then reapplying corrosion blocker. But if you put it off, the corrosion will indeed appear, usually underneath where you don’t see it …at first. Then again, Yamaha Tracers appear to rust on dry, sunny days so perhaps the lack of metal plating on more recent hardware is another factor at work as the factories sacrifice build quality for more profit….

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