See how the author cleans up this old damaged bike. Find out the best wax for motorcycles and what motorcycle spray cleaner and polish worked.
When scientists first saw a baby woolly mammoth that had been frozen in Canada’s Klondike permafrost for 30,000 years, they must have been ecstatic. That’s about how I felt, too, after discovering the timeworn, 5,100-mile Yamaha YDS2 twin seen here earlier this year.
Unbelievably rough, it was also magically original, with only the tires changed and the two-tone black-and-white gas tank repainted, rattle-can style, long ago. Abhorrent to some, such crusty authenticity electrifies me instead, due to the opportunity it presents for real time-traveling. In this case, to 1964, when The Beatles toured the U.S. for the first time, Yogi Berra steered the Yankees to the pennant, and A.J. Foyt scored the last-ever Indy 500 win for front-engine roadsters. Context is everything.
Regarding classic bikes, I honor the adage that “it’s only original once.” Which means, when restored, a machine’s “time and place” are erased forever. And that’s why, for this ancient moto-artifact, instead of taking the restoration route, I decided to embark on a process of finding out just how far “back” I could bring it by using the right products and practices. And if there was ever a litmus test for such a mission, this bike would be it. The ample chrome was more than just rusty — it was shot, and in places, absent altogether. The paint on the frame was pitted, but looked savable on the headlight, fork, shocks and air cleaners. The aluminum was dull, and the factory clear-coated parts were yellowed and blotchy. Ironically though, the vinyl seat cover, although wearing a few small tears, looked savable.
Shopping for solutions
Thinking that Motorcycle Classics readers might be interested in currently available products that might help return this rust-bucket — and maybe their own present or future fright pigs — from a “100-footer” to perhaps a “10-footer,” I concocted a plan. Which was not merely to rescue but, if possible, revive the chrome, aluminum, iron, steel, paint, rubber and vinyl on this sorry ride. To suit, I tried three dozen products from Harley-Davidson, Jay Leno’s Garage, Meguiar’s, Motul, Summit Racing and Yamaha.
While choosing and assembling these items — which also included various polishing towels, brushes and the like — a small, unrealistic, the-glass-is-half-full part of my reptilian brain imagined that a cheerful hour or two on a shady Saturday afternoon, wiping on products and doing light buffing while enjoying some tunes and a pitcher of iced tea, would turn this pitiful pit-bull into a Westminster winner. Of course, I was wrong. Really wrong. And the reason is that such cosmetic trouble goes way beyond just surface deep. Here is my experience.
Motorcycle Spray Cleaner and Polish
To begin, a general cleaning seemed in order. I experimented with Yamaclean Pro-Wash Spray ($14) on one side of the bike and Meguiar’s Snow Foam ($20) on the other. The Yamaha product sprayed on easily, bonded with the dirt and grime, and after modest scrubbing washed off cleanly and left brighter-looking surfaces. Then I found the Meguiar’s foam — a viscous liquid until mixed with water in a bucket — excelled because it lathered up great, clung to the bike, and made washing fun. Quite literally, this product provided the first rays of hope that the old twin could be rescued.
Polishing metal and crusty chrome
Of all components on this forlorn street twin, the exhaust pipes were most depressing to behold. Quite honestly, examining them and feeling the coarse rust patches made me think, “No way, no how.” And initially, this proved to be the case when trying various metal polishes with the nice oversize microfiber towels from Jay Leno’s Garage (five for $10) and Meguiar’s (three for $8). In doing so, the areas that were simply grungy cleaned up fine, but the rust patches were rougher than a Philly salt pretzel and wouldn’t submit. That is, until desperation set in, and I applied All-Metal Polish liquid ($20) from Jay Leno’s Garage to the jaded surfaces with fine bronze wool. Shockingly, with this careful metal polishing the rust almost totally disappeared. The same happened on the bike’s chromed fasteners, handlebar, and fork and shock bodies. These surfaces remained rough where pitting had occurred, but they’d become silver again. Nothing I tried particularly helped the fenders, which must have been plated differently in period; the best I could achieve was simply lightening them.
This chrome work — the biggest challenge of all, really — didn’t turn the YDS2 into a show bike. But in my view, it did sidle the Yamaha up to “survivor” status. I followed up with Harley-Davidson Chrome Clean & Shine ($11) and Meguiar’s Metal Polish ($12) on the other chromed components, to satisfying effect.
Best wax for motorcycles
Clearly different processes applied the frame and bodywork paints back in ’64. The best result in bringing back the bodywork paint was a three-part process of first using Meguiar’s Ultimate Compound ($17), applied with microfiber towels, to cut through the oxidation. Then followed applications of Ultimate Polish ($12) and Ultimate Liquid Wax ($26), the best wax for motorcyles in this test, applied with fresh towels in each case. The results were dramatic, turning 58-year-old original lacquer into a lustrous, elegance finish befitting a grand piano. Naturally, the various chips and scratches remained — but the overall result pleased.
Unfortunately, this didn’t hold true for the fuel tank; its quickie amateur-hour paint job included runs, fisheye and plenty of orange peel. Accordingly, I switched to Meguiar’s Mirror Glaze Unigrit Finishing Paper (25 sheets for $24 to $38). It’s extremely fine wet sandpaper, ranging from 1,000 to 3,000 grit. Used wet, with plenty of care, it slowly rectified some of the terrible properties of the rattle-can finish — so much so, that not only did a gleam appear, but so did some of the original black-and-white tank paint. It’s long, hard work, but I was intrigued to discover that the YDS2’s tank could be saved.
Then came the frame, which proved so dull, rusty and troubled that nothing I tried made it presentable. That’s when, in certain areas, Yamalube Marine Spray Paint ($10) got called up. Gloss black like most vintage frames, it quickly added “10-footer” appeal to the numerous trouble spots.
Restoring aluminum components
Who knew than in 1964, Yamaha was already clear-coating some aluminum components to keep them fresh looking? It’s true, but now decades later, the European practice of leaving aluminum bare allows easier rectification. Fortunately, on the Yamaha only the brake drums and backing plates seemed to be treated this way, but with the coating compromised by time, a dilemma surfaced. Laboriously sand or polish off all traces of the original clear-coat, or make do with cleaners and surface treatments? In the spirit of this project, I chose the latter approach.
My method started with Summit Racing‘s All Wheel Cleaner ($5), a translucent green viscous liquid that dabs or sprays on and clings tenaciously to the surfaces, like some sort of green Hulk snot. Working the product in helped brighten the surfaces noticeably. I then followed up with Yamalube’s aerosol Silicone Protectant & Lubricant ($10), which helped return the parts — yellowed clear-coat areas excepted — to closer to a new appearance. Other aluminum parts, particularly the hand levers and other small castings, responded brilliantly to all three metal polishes.
Motorcycle engine cleaning products
Although the grubbiest single component, the 2-stoke twin actually benefitted from a coat of oil and gasoline varnish earned over the decades. Summit Racing Foaming Cleaner/Degreaser ($6) proved a friend in this regard. It sprayed on quite foamy indeed, and then clung to the engine’s varied surfaces — and the carbs, stands and exhausts too. After scrubbing and then rinsing with a hose, the engine looked tons better. It further improved after receiving a spray coating of Harley-Davidson Engine Brightener ($18); the black-painted iron cylinders and aluminum cases and heads all perked up visually with this simple add. What varnish remained on the Mikunis got banished by a quick hit with generic carburetor cleaner spray and a small brush.
The chain was particularly gunky, packed with years of hardened lube and grit. Motul Road Chain Care Kit ($39) did a great job banishing all of that. The aerosol Chain Clean has an accurate, high-pressure spray pattern, and the three-sided brush was designed just for motorcycle chains. Following this success, I followed up with the kit’s included Motul Chain Lube, although, I’ll admit to adding a layer of foamy Yamalube On-Road Chain Lube ($13) for good measure. Chain well sorted!
Rubber and plastic restoration
Believe it or not, the ’64 Yamaha has few plastic components — only tank badges, taillight and high-beam lenses — and most were acceptable. The handgrips, tank pads and footrests are rubber, as are of course the tires, the seat cover is vinyl, and the ignition key “knob” and steering damper knob are Bakelite.
Getting these components looking great was the easiest and most fun part of the project. Motul Shine & Go Spray ($15) literally made the seat and tank pads look new, and Jay Leno’s Garage Tire & Trim Care ($14) gave the tires a natural look. In a desperate bid to achieve some sizzle I wielded a big pump bottle of Meguiar’s Hyper Dressing ($20) with almost reckless abandon, and found that it pretty well fulfilled its name by adding a shiny coating where desired. Recognizing that I’d maybe swerved to the verge of overkill, I calmed down and selectively used Yamalube Spray Polish & Instant Detailer ($8) aerosol to remaining surfaces, such as the battery box and horn. Finally, I selectively applied Yamashield Rust & Corrosion Protection ($12) — a smart buy for owners of “outdoor” bikes — to the steel parts.
Like my high-school math teacher used to say, “Work is a verb.” This experiment was instructive and fun, but the maxim proved true when it consumed three full days. Ultimately, I hope it inspires you to save a classic bike that you might have previously considered beyond hope. As this YDS2 proves, in fact no classic is beyond either hope or help. Please enjoy the accompanying photos and captions for more detail — and then get to work! MC
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