Friday, January 4, 2019

How I wash and wax my 1999 Royal Enfield Bullet

No costly wax for my precious Royal Enfield. I use this stuff.
But this is not an advertisement.  Find any product you like.
So I take my 1999 Royal Enfield Bullet out to get gas, since I plan to be away from home for a couple weeks, and I like to leave the tank full to fight rust.

I get the bike good and warmed up. I love the way it shifts now. It took a lot of work to make my left-shift four-speed Bullet shift better.

Once back home I let the motorcycle cool for awhile and then wash and wax it.

I use Zip Wax, my usual. It cleans and leaves a shine. Since it's a liquid, not paste, I'm confident it won't damage the paint or leave swirls. This is not an advertisement. This is not sponsored content. I use this stuff, but you may find something you like better.

I apply the soapy solution from its bucket of water, using enough on the cloth to soak off the dirt but not enough to seep into the electrics. I start on the tank, and work down to the dirtier parts.

I dry the bike as I go. There's no need to hose it down — I'm thinking about not soaking those electrics again. There's no need to buff the wax. Once wiped with a damp towel the bike simply air dries.

As the towel moves over the fender it detects a loose screw holding a stay. It's always the same one that gets loose, from vibration. I tighten it. The screw has moved around enough to wear off the paint around it. I make a mental note to remove it and touch up the paint when time allows.

With the Bullet now dry and shiny I put some fresh motor oil on a rag and go over the chrome. It's the only sure way to avoid rust. For now the oil sheen adds to the shine, but it will get dirty fast. Better that than rust.

The final step is to wipe clean and oil the chain. I apply used motor oil with an old toothbrush, trying to work the oil into the rollers. That's where wear happens that can ruin sprockets. Replacing sprockets is expensive.

The process of oiling the chain feels more like basting than lubricating. I wipe off the excess — oil left on the exterior of the chain does nothing but attract grime.

With the bike now ready to sit unused in the garage for a couple weeks, I pull an old bed sheet over it. The old cotton sheet is worn thin and soft from a hundred washings. It won't trap moisture the way an expensive motorcycle cover might.

I switch off the garage light and close the door. I'm already thinking of our next ride. It was a good day.


  1. I wonder if yours is an o-ring chain... Mine is an o-ring chain and I too lube it with a toothbrush. I clean it with Simple Green and one of those brushes that scrubs three sides of the chain. I let it dry, then I spray a bit of lube on the toothbrush bristles and lube maybe eight inches of chain at a time. I like to see a clean chain glistening with lube... We're easily pleased, huh, and grateful for it!

    1. My 1999 uses plain old industrial chain for the final drive. Just a big bicycle chain, really. Unlike o-ring, it doesn't effectively seal lubricant inside the links. So I just slather on the oil.

  2. Only o-rings for me on later model motorcycles. I sure miss master links...and centerstands! No more bikes for me w/o centerstands...

  3. Back in the days before modern O and X ring drive chains most motorcycle shops used to sell those big flat tins of some kind of waxy oil that you'd heat up on the stove and toss the chain into it. This was best done with the wife visiting her mother out of town. The really fanatical would typically have two chains that they used alternately. It worked, but was obviously a huge hassle. Nowadays, I'm led to understand that a good scrubbing with a firm brush and either kerosene (UK: "paraffin") or diesel followed by a spray-on chain lube like Motul is best, even for our Enfield's old style chains. I don't do this of course. Every couple-few months as needed I'll hose down the whole run with WD-40 or similar just to rinse off any grime, then liberally apply gear oil (motor oil's a bit thin) that I saved and strained through a coffee filter from the last gearbox oil change, kept in a wide-mouthed plastic jar with a little.cheapo 2-inch Harbor Freight chip brush in it for this purpose. After most runs on the bike, I'll just daub on a bit of this gear oil along the easily-accessible bottom run of the chain near the rear sprocket. After about 5,000 miles I have yet to need to adjust the chain even a notch. So I guess it's doing the job.


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