A clean dirt bike sounds like a paradox but in fact describes a well maintained motorcycle that helps lands its owner on the podium.
Hosing your bike down after every ride is a necessity but it doesn't stop there. A day of riding puts dirt, mud, and muck in places you wouldn't imagine and after many rides it's often necessary to strip the bike down a bit and give vital parts a good overhaul. Getting into the nitty gritty is also a great way to find problems before they become problems.
Just about every part of a dirt bike needs cleaning at one time or another. Some parts need cleaning after every ride, other parts every month or so and some just once a year or when the grime begins to cake. A thorough cleaning is vital to the longevity of your dirt bike and the various parts but it also looks good. For the dirt bike owner, there's really nothing more beautiful than a pristine 2- or 4-stroke ready to ride.
Your cleaning kit should include at a minimum Maxima SC-1, Brake Cleaner or Contact Cleaner, grease and a wash/degreaser like Maxima Bio Wash or similar. The Maxima SC-1 is for your plastic, the brake clean for the grease and oil, and the cleaners to make the cleanup easier and for those parts that don't like abrasive chemicals. Riders also use Simple Green which is a viable alternative. The grease of course is reapplied after cleaning.
Now, for which parts to clean, let's start with the usual and in many respects the easiest.
The fenders, radiator shrouds, number plate and side panels all need cleaning after a ride. Spray down the fenders with whatever wash detergent you're using and then apply a power washer or even just a regular hose with a strong stream to remove most mud and dirt. The best product to use once dry is Maxima SC-1. This not only keeps the plastic looking great, but offers protection and a layer of film that prevents dirt build up on the next ride making the clean-up easier. Check out How To Make Your Dirt Bike Plastic Look New Again.
Slip-on or Muffler
Be sure to pop in a muffler plug before starting the cleaning process! Once in, this is a relatively easy part to clean since a power washer or strong stream of water works. Always rub it down with a coat of WD-40 or a polish like Pro Honda Glare Polish. This keeps your exhaust looking fresh and prevents rusting or cracking. For more information read How to Clean Dirt Bike Exhaust.
Now we're getting into some detail. Remove the suspension linkage to get it cleaned and greased regularly. You don't need to after every ride but if you're heading out every weekend try and get this done once a month. Use the brake clean or contact cleaner to remove any build up and apply grease before putting back together.
Bearings, bearings and more bearings
Bearings make your dirt bike go 'round. So clean them using a degreaser. Steering stem bearings and wheel bearings are the main sets and keeping them clean and well-lubricated helps provide optimum performance for your bike.
Cleaning the airbox makes perfect sense since it houses the filter which traps dust and debris. But, we're not talking just the inside. You want to clean it all around. This requires removing the subframe off the bike. Once the subframe is off you can get at the entire airbox as well as other places grease and grime build up. Try using No Toil Airbox Cleaner for best results.
Chain and Sprocket
This list wouldn't be complete without adding the chain and sprocket. It's a no-brainer since that's probably next on your to-do list after plastic. The chain and sprocket need cleaning after each and every ride, then lubricated. The grunge brush is an excellent time saver to cleaning the chain and this kit of supplies provides everything you need to get your chain and sprocket ready for the next ride.
Engine and Transmission Casing
If you've ever looked inside the hood of your car and, assuming it's not brand new, you'll see a lot of build-up around the engine. This happens around a dirt bike's engine casing too and though not an immediate necessity it's not a bad idea, once a year or so, to clean it. Some owners soda blast their bike which uses industrial grade baking soda in a pressurized container and sandblasts your bike clean. Fun times, but you'll need the blaster, just one more expense, otherwise use one of the cleaners mentioned above and spray down the bike, let it sit for 15 to 30 minutes and hose off right back to a showroom shine.
Lots of riders begin every cleaning job by spraying the whole bike down with a surfactant like the Bio Wash or Simple Green. Others find success with using the cheap route of a mild dish soap and water. But using the surfactants make the job easier and help break down hardened grease and grime in the most difficult spots and prevent you from using high powered water on sensitive areas like the brake and clutch cable connections.
Once the bike is sprayed down, let it sit as noted above when cleaning the engine casing, and then get to work. It's a thorough method to degreasing the obvious parts but the more detailed work like on the suspension and bearings take more time and require the harsher chemicals.