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Too Damn Clean

Blog Date - 20 July 2020

Is it me?

Of course it's me. It must be me. I appear to be the exception rather than the rule. So yes, it is me. 

What is this obsession with the aesthetic? From Sharon's garden filled with nik-naks and trinkets and plants that need delicate nursing through to fretting about the rust on a swingarm or the size of a number plate. I get this feeling that the world is obsessed about how things look, perhaps more so than they are with how things function.

Take Sharon's garden. Even a Luddite and uncouth yob such as I can see it is "very nice". And yet, we invested much energy and effort to create a route from the front of her abode to the large shed in the rear garden. This route is such to create a path for unwieldy motorcycles to reach said shed with minimal fuss. Great! Then... then she puts potted plants, trees in tubs and ornaments on this path to hinder access.

Sharon's garden is quite small but filled with plants and flowers and shrubs... and pots
Sharon's beautful garden. And them BLASTED pots in the way!

WHY! Why oh why oh why? Because they are pretty or nice or smelly or something. 

Bogger's swingarm. Yes it was rusty and if left too long could become a structural problem. OK so either cover it in grease or give it the once over with a wire brush and slap some hammerite on it. Bogger himself claims he didn't want to over-do the paintwork and yet it still looks almost new on completion. Sanding discs of various coarseness, pfffft!

Innove swingarm repainted so well it looks new
"Oh, just a little light touch up." Looks like new. 

I caught up with Ross again when I was at my Dad's place the other week. We now have matching CB500Xs, but the term matching is rather abused here. They're the same model year and the same colour but mine is, well, erm, more "looking used". I could feel Ross wincing as he cast his eye over my dirty dawg while his is concourse.

On one side are dirty parts on Rens 500, on the other are the same clean parts on Ross's bike
Can you tell which is mine and which is Ross'? Hardly any difference...

I do clean my bike. When I changed the front tyre last week I cleaned the rim to fit the balance weights otherwise they won't stick. I cleaned the spindle and bearings and seals ready for fresh grease. I even cleaned those awkward bits of the forks that you can't reach when the wheel is in place. But that's all. The rest will be cleaned when next worked upon.

Sharon cleans and polishes her bikes, as it seems most of the motorcycling world does. Why? You clean it, then you ride it and it gets dirty again! Is this a part of the pleasure of motorcycling that has escaped me? I used to clean the bike when I was a younger man but every time it felt like a fruitless and thankless task. The bike still rusted, the bits still broke, things still wore out. I'd rather spend my none-riding time checking, fixing and possibly improving things rather than buffing them to a shine.

The reggy reccy wires are connected with spade connectors
I use the term "fixing" in the broadest sense.

I've had a moment to think. I do have some degree of the aesthetic in me. Take BMW's Nine-T or Ducati's Superleggera. They are indeed pleasing to the eye and as a picture on a wall or a millionaire's plaything they're smashing. Both are entirely impractical for my purposes though and unless I had an endless pot of gold I wouldn't buy one.

Ducati Superleggera supersports bike
Beautiful and entirely useless to me.

There is one other problem with clean shiny polished motorcycles. I could be wrong but I suggest these pristine examples of 2 wheeled loveliness attract the unwelcome attentions of those who would steal your beloved from you. We are oft told that if your bike is locked, chained, bolted, alarmed and secured then a tea-leaf will seek out easier pickings. If said tea-leaf spots 2 motorcycles, one is sparkling in the sun while the other is languishing in crud, I wonder which one will catch their eye in the first place?  

I have to accept it's just me and perhaps a handful of other slovenly types that think like I do. By all means with joy in your heart - polish away! While you're all doing that I'll be riding down a muddy lane in the rain.

As a brief aside Bogger dropped into my equally scruffy abode the other day. I sensed a disheartend tone of reluctant inevitability in his voice when I pulled out the decrepid 125 from the shed and he witnessed it's glory in the flesh. "Do you ever clean your bikes?" he asked, seeking out hope. No hope was to be found here.

If you want Bikes And Travels to review your motorcycle cleaning product, erm, errrr, I'm sure Sharon would be happy to oblige. Contact

Reader's Comments

Upt'North. said :-
If life should teach us all one thing Ed it's that we should be more tolerant of others; yes we will come across stupid, strange, weird and even slovenly, sometimes in the same person.
I won't judge you for having a dirty bike Ed, but, others will.
I remember my old skipper who said (I don't think it was aimed at me), you can be a crap copper but if you have shiny shoes no one will notice. He was right too, or at least he was then but it's a different regime today.
So maybe it's the same with shiny bikes.
Is it a bit like that starter for ten thing?
20/07/2020 12:36:50 UTC
Bogger said :-
I seem to remember the reason you gave me, for you not cleaning your bikes, was to stop the swinging arms from dropping off? And it makes the bike last longer. However I may have got that wrong?

20/07/2020 02:11:13 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
You are quire correct Bogger, the more crud and oil the less rust. Sorted. By the way how was your weekend excursion?

20/07/2020 03:28:52 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Upt' - did you just suggest I am "stupid, strange, weird and even slovenly"? No, of course you didn't, I'm your hero!
20/07/2020 03:30:19 UTC
Upt'North said :-
Hero? That might be pushing it slightly. It's a strange status, don't you think, Hero?
One mans hero is probably another mans stupid.
No Ed, I see you more as my mentor and life coach......unpaid of course.
20/07/2020 05:24:47 UTC
CrazyFrog said :-
I'm not anal about it, but I do keep my bikes pretty clean. One reason is that over the years I've found and fixed quite a few potential problems whilst cleaning bikes. Better to fix them in front of your shed / garage than kneeling at the side of the road in the cold dark hissing rain...
20/07/2020 07:19:03 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Upt' "mentor and life coach". I can only assume I am a shining example of all the thing you endeavour to avoid becoming. "If Ren did this, then it's likely best I don't otherwise I'll end up like him." As for unpaid, I'll send you the bill.

CraztFrog. In the lifelong tradition of being a good tutor - "do as I say, not as I do" - I used to teach my CBT students of the benefits of cleaning their vehicle.

"As you clean you see things. One day you'll see something looks different. That thing never wobbled, this part looks cracked, that wire never used to hang down like that. You don't have to know if it's good or bad, right or wrong, you only need to see it is different. Once you see it's different then ask someone who knows if this different is a problem."

20/07/2020 08:44:44 UTC
Bob said :-
My KLX is lovingly coated in a mixture of chain lube, mud and various types of agricultural dung.
I usually clean it when the garage begins to smell.....
20/07/2020 10:43:38 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
You just need better ventilation in the Garage Bob.
21/07/2020 08:36:10 UTC
Bogger said :-
I've got a mate who hates, with a passion, anything new or shiny. Now patina is fine imo. Neglect is not. Said mate will actively go searching for rusty nuts and bolts for his bikes?

Why fit something crap, when you can fit something good.

To coin Ed's phrase, 'is it me? It probably is'.

21/07/2020 01:26:50 UTC
Bob said :-
Two sides to it.
I extoll the virtues of bike cleaning, it's surprising how many little things you find that need attention when cleaning a bike, bolts coming loose, wires chafing and so on.
On the other hand you have shiney bike syndrome, once at Matlock there was a crowd gazing at an immaculate GS1000, polished, shiney and beautiful - then he started it up - bag of spanners it was.
In my case the bike gets so much attention mechanically (you have to when riding off road a lot) that the muck doesn't bother me, I know it doesn't hide any nasties.
Each to his own
21/07/2020 05:46:58 UTC
Ross said :-
I enjoyed our natter and cuppa in the sun, even if I did have a bright red sunburned face when I got home!

I don't know how to break this to you but I purposely didn't clean my bike before the trip to Sussex so it didn't upset you too much...I felt there were a few areas that could've done with a bit of attention! I think the difference between us is that for you a bike is a 'tool' to do a job and as long as it's functional at that job it fulfils it's main roll, where to me a bike is more of a hobby to be enjoyed occasionally rather than as everyday transport all year-round. For me, part of the pride of ownership is having it look its best and I have the time to clean it regularly...and I'm probably a bit OCD, too! Different strokes for different folks!

By the way, according to the on-board gadget on my 500X, it returned 94mpg for my trundle through the Sussex countryside, I'm happy with that.

Bogger, I thought I was a bit odd, but your mate who goes 'looking' for rusty stuff to attach to his bike...that's very weird!!
22/07/2020 10:38:44 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
You got sunburned! I must be less prone to it as I was fine. Maybe my hair keeps the sun off my face.

Awww you do the kindest things, fancy that not cleaning your bike in case you upset the scruffy oik. I must admit myself it took a lot of self control to not run off with your 500 and take it through a muddy field. Just think how much fun you could have cleaning it all up again. It's a broad church is motorcycling so you do your thing and I'll do mine(or not when it comes to cleaning).

Over 100mpg on the way down, overall about 96mph for the whole trip. I can get it down to 75mpg with consistent 70mph motorways with luggage and a headwind though.
22/07/2020 04:12:01 UTC
nab301 said :-
@ Ren , I tend to clean on a reasonably regular basis (without being obsessive) as a means of catching any potential problems before they develop.
That's impressive mpg on the 500x . Are the older and new model similar for economy ? (Asking for a friend...!!)
26/07/2020 05:04:04 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
The '16 I had previously and the '18 I own now are practically the same, certainly from a visual point of view and as far as I can tell, fuel consumption too. The super good consumption requires a tail wind and a huge degree of Zen inner peace and calm thoughts to achieve. Under regular riding I expect 80 to 85mpg, as stated if I'm pushing on it drops to 70 at times. Tell your "friend" it's a great bike.
27/07/2020 08:41:49 UTC
nab301 said :-
Thanks Ren, did some you tubing and it seems the '19 on bike is the one that changed ( reviewed by you too) 19" wheel but interestingly more mid range , not sure if this'll affect the mpg. I rode the current model and it certainly felt good , generally I don't like 19" front wheels , but it handled fine.
I taxed My DL250 this weekend after a 2 month lock down lay off. Compared to my 125 it feels like a comfortable armchair and after putting some serious miles on the 125 in the last 2 months I was doing more of an economy run on the Suzuki. Pre lay off mpg had dropped to under 80mpg, currently the usually accurate mpg gauge is suggesting over 96mpg. That requires some effort and restraint though! I'd have to shift the Suzuki if I was to change and it seems my local friendly bike dealer hasn't surfaced/ survived since lockdown... maybe i'll be putting some miles on the Suzuki yet ,locally, the "new " 3 party government coalition includes the green party and already there's talk of reduced speed limits!
03/08/2020 05:16:33 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
The 19 inch front wheel 2019 model is "slightly" better, that bigger wheel will be better off road and on road I couldn't really tell the difference.

I can understand the desire for a larger bike, particularly if you're 2-up with a lot of luggage but there ain't much that Suzuki 250 can't do that the 500 can. Maybe, just maybe it's a little less buzzy on the motorways but anywhere else, if you're planning to keep your licence, then the 250 is plenty. I've not ridden the DL250, I must see if I can cadge a ride on one someday. 96mpg is good going squire, kudos to your frugal ways.
03/08/2020 08:20:56 UTC
nab301 said :-
Ren , I'm happy enough really with the Suzuki , and if i want to lose my licence I still have my BMW which at this stage doesn't stand me anything after more than 15 yrs and wouldn't be worth much to sell .
If I select the fuel consumption display on the Suzuki it's relatively easy to see as the tenths of a mile per gallon /or litre drop when climbing or riding into a headwind , it's amazing though if you roll off the throttle occasionally on the downhill bits you can regain what you lost on the uphill bits ! I never saw the appeal before, but maybe I'll start hypermiling!
03/08/2020 10:01:15 UTC
Sharon said :-
Wow that garden is lovely, just look at them gorgeous pots.

Also something strange has happened to me. I don't know if it is a result of the pandemic or the sheer fact that no matter how much I polish and clean the damn bike it is still bloody rusting but either way I no longer clean my bike as much. Now don't get me wrong it does not in any way resemble Ren's bike but if not too dirty it has been going away unwashed. Yep standards are slipping as the Parker household.

Now must go to the garden centre I think I need another fern to add to the collection.
04/08/2020 01:21:43 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
nab301 - I have learned to stop monitoring the fuel consumption on the display as it was having a detrimental effect on my riding! I was looking at the readout and not the road. It will cost a lot more if I crash then I'd spend in fuel. But yes, it is remarkable the difference between uphill and downhill, into and with the wind. I think to my cycling. I forget all to easily how much harder it is to ride up even a gentle incline or a light headwind. On the bike it's another degree to two of throttle, on the pedal bike it's the difference between normal breathing and puffing like an old steam train. The motorcycle subtly hides this from the rider until you see the consumption figures.

Oh sheeeez, not the blooming garden centre...AGAIN!

04/08/2020 02:51:47 UTC
RobEll said :-
I also see bikes moreso as tools having commuted variously around 16000 miles in the past two years. Cue lockdown, endless homeworking and now they appear less utilitarian, and finally get thoroughly cleaned, for about the second only time, for sale in the case of the Keeway. I see little point in repeated deep cleaning when I rode past a cement batching plant by the sea, daily. Now a monthly jaunt to work takes me on a different route trying to eek out a few extra minutes on two wheels. Or maybe I should try and socialise a bit more with bike-types at weekends.
24/08/2020 10:51:21 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Gosh yes RobEll, my 125 used to cover between 150 and 250 miles a week, these days it'll be lucky if it sees 50 due to homeworking and the general reduction in "life happenings". In fact I've had time to clean some bits of the bike and take it apart. I guess things change and there ain't much we can do about it except enjoy the rides we can take.
25/08/2020 07:56:10 UTC
RobEll said :-
The Keeway sold well, and now I'm the proud owner of an Sv650s, which is now up for sale as it's racey ergonomics are awful even with raised clip ons. And an even prouder owner of the bike I should have bought in the first place, a 2017 cb500f.. love that bike already and I've only had it a few weeks, so good on fuel, comfy and makes life easier so I can take in the Welsh countryside. I hope you're all well this lockdown season
13/11/2020 10:05:46 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Cheers RobEll. Physically I'm well enough but I'm rather bored of this whole Covid thing. Just want to go for a ride with friends, go camping and simply pop over to a mate's house for a brew and talk poop about bikes.

I have ridden an SV650, an earlier one. They're a great bike but if the ergonomics are no good for you, then they're no good for you! We're all quite unique in shape and size and indeed the way we like to sit so there ain't no one size fits all bikes. The Honda is a cracker too though ain't it.
14/11/2020 10:52:40 UTC

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