How to Clean Motorcycle Spoke Wheels (3 Steps to Poke the Spoke)
You know what I’m tired of hearing?
That spoke wheels are “low-tech”.
Honestly, I love using cast wheels. And I know spoke wheels have their own drawbacks and aren’t ideal for high speeds. And broken spokes can be a real mess.
But they still have some technical advantages. Moreover, there’s that aesthetic appeal that’s beyond the reach of exotic cast wheels.
That said, cleaning spoke wheels can be a challenge. Those numerous hard-to-clean spots are a real pain.
So how do you clean motorcycle spokes?
Let’s find out.
How to Clean Motorcycle Spokes?
Nothing looks as awful as a Harley with rusted wheel spokes, period.
But here’s the problem…
Considering that each wheel may have close to 80 chrome-plated spokes, cleaning them isn’t an easy task.
And it’s not just Harleys. There are plenty of motocross bikes and dual-sports machines that still use spoked wheels.
Now, you may wonder why…
The reason is, spoked wheels offer extra strength and rigidity as the spokes create additional tension between the hub and rim. This also enables the wheels to withstand more radial forces.
Have you noticed that in some motorcycles, the spokes on the same side are laced together in a cross pattern?
This is done to increase the wheel’s ability to withstand aggressive forces of acceleration and braking. In addition, this also improves the torsional strength.
When you ride over rough terrains or rocks, the wheels need to have a certain amount of flex to withstand the deforming forces. And spokes wheels are great for this purpose without the rim getting deformed.
Do you still think spoked wheels are “low tech”?
(Well, I thought I was indecisive, but now I’m not so sure.)
Back to what I was saying. You need some plan and preparation to clean the spokes of a motorcycle.
Here are the things you will need for the job.
- A wheel cleaner or some dish soap
- A soft brush
- A soft cloth or microfiber cloth.
- Some warm water (use steam if possible)
- A spray bottle
- Rust cleaning liquid or gel if needed
- Gloves and safety glasses
Make sure not to use any abrasive materials or acidic chemicals for this purpose. They might damage the spoke material and remove any protective coatings on the metal surface.
That said, there are super fine steel wools or brass wools that cause minimum or negligible scratches. They can be used to clean rusty spokes.
Also, modern motorcycles have sensitive components and sensors in the wheel. So I wouldn’t suggest using high-pressure water or steam jets for cleaning.
Before you start, seek out the right area for cleaning. If your garage doesn’t have proper drainage choose a driveway.
Step 1: Wet It Up
Place the motorcycle on the kickstand. Engage the gear and turn the ignition off.
Use the wheel cleaner or mix the soap in warm water and spray it around the periphery of the wheel and on the spokes. This will loosen any hard deposits like scales or mud on the material. Rotate the wheel and spray the solution over all the spokes.
If you can use hot steam, it can be very effective in dislodging stubborn dirt and grease.
Step 2: Rub, Rinse, Repeat
When the spokes and the rim are thoroughly wet, you can use a soft brush or a cloth to wipe them. Another great option is using baby wipes to clean the surface.
You can wrap the wipes around the spokes and then slowly rub them by using a to and fro movement to clean up the deposits.
Obviously, cleaning the spokes will take some time. But if you do it right, the chrome will shine like new. Quite simply, the rewards are worth the effort.
Finally, wipe the wheel with a microfiber towel to remove any traces of moisture. Next, you can use a blower to dry them completely.
If the first round doesn’t yield the best results, repeat the process on the areas that are still grubby.
What if you don’t have enough time to go through this lengthy process of spoke cleaning?
Not to worry. There’s a faster way to do it.
(Now you’re talking.)
First, you need to spray the wheel with a soapy solution as usual. In the next stage, add a soft brush to a power tool and use it on the spokes to clean the deposits.
Keep in mind, this won’t do a thorough cleaning job like the original method.
You can also use fast-acting cleaners that allow touchless cleaning. You can simply spray it on the spokes, wait for some time and wash it off.
However, these cleaners are pricey and may not work for stubborn deposits.
Another effective motorcycle cleaner that you can use is kerosene. It’s easy to apply and does a great job of cleaning the grime.
Step 3: Terminate Rust
When there are rust deposits on the spoke, it’s time to bring out the rust remover.
If you’re using a gel or a paste, you can apply it to the spokes by using a soft brush. Leave it as per the instructions and then use a baby wipe or a sponge to scrub the spokes. Clean each spoke individually and use a brush on the areas around the spoke joints on the rim and axle hub.
In case you use steel wool, scrub softly to prevent any damage to the chrome finish.
After the rust has been removed, use a microfiber towel to clean the spoke and the wheels thoroughly. If you‘re using a high-pressure jet, avoid spraying on the hub area. Let the bike dry under sunlight for an hour to dry the wheel completely.
(All that hard work… I need a minute.)
Even if the spokes aren’t rusty, you can apply a preventive coating on them as a precaution. For that, use a soft cloth to apply the product to each spoke.
Another option is to use spoke covers or spoke skins to protect the spokes from rusting. However, if you’re moving through dusty or muddy terrain frequently, you may still need to clean the spokes.
Make sure to buy top-grade spoke covers that offer the right fit and the best protection.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you clean oxidized motorcycle spokes?
Oxidized motorcycle spokes can be cleaned with warm soapy water. Another effective cleaning agent is kerosene.
How do I make my motorcycle spokes shine?
You can make the motorcycle spokes shine by applying some metal polish over them. Simply apply the cream on a piece of a soft cloth and rub it over the surface of the spoke, including the joints.
Can you use WD40 to clean motorcycle wheels?
WD-40 can be used to clean the metals parts on a motorcycle including the wheel. As per reports, it does clean up dirt and grime effectively. But you should be careful as it’s not always friendly towards the tire rubber. Also, any residue of the chemical left on the wheels attracts a lot of dirt. So if you use it, make sure to clean the wheel thoroughly to remove any residue.