Everyone loves a shortcut. And everyone hates it when they find out that the way they've been doing something for years and years might have not been the best way to go about it at all. Take, for instance, washing you precious personal transport - a ritual handed down from parents to siblings for thousands of years. Or there abouts. And here's how it goes. Wet the vehicle. Apply approved soapy substance with sponge. Rinse the vehicle. Chamois dry the vehicle. Wax if desired. Armour-All if anal retentive. Now what if there was actually a better way to do things? Namely, what if you could remove all the elbow grease involved in the process and jump straight to the chamois part? Sounds good, huh? Well there's a fairly big chunk of the bike cleaning market now occupied by products that promise just that - a spray on, wash off, wipe down set of instructions that would have us believe that we've been wasting a hell of a lot of time in the past. But have we?
In a spur-of-the-moment decision a few weeks ago I grabbed this likely looking duo (conveniently Siamesed together by a heat-shrink plastic wrapping) off the shelf at my local bike shop. I'd seen an ad somewhere and got the gist of the pink product - supposedly it would clean my bike without me really having to touch it. I've had cause to clean the beast twice since then and I'm here to report the results without fear or favour. Or sponges.
First up the gaudily-coloured "Muc-Off Fast Action Bike Cleaner" spray. As instructed, I sprayed it on the bike after an initial rinse. I waited a little (5 minutes according to the destructions, which was a little too quick in my eyes) then hosed the pink stuff off and checked the results. Honestly, it was a lot better than I expected. The bike was obviously quite clean (though not sparkling, I'd have to say) and I had barely lifted a finger. On closer inspection the job wasn't perfect - there were still a bunch of baked-on bugs covering the front of the bike and the ever-present bits of grease flicked off of the chain at speed were still present around the inside left of the rear rim. Plainly there's some things that will always need a bit of spit and polish before you could really call the bike "clean", but overall I'd have to rate it a solid "not bad".
“this stuff was like spraying cooking oil
over a newly-cleaned bike”
Now for the Muc-Off "Bike Spray". This was the less well-known side of the deal. I'd garnered it was some kind of polish, but I'd have to admit I've never really seen anything like this before. So following the instructions again I sprayed it on the freshly-rinsed bike so it's "High Performance water dispersing 'Protect & Lube' maintenance spray," could "leave a sparkling non-sticky film." Sounds good coming out of the keyboard of the copywriter, but in my humble opinion the reality was quite a bit different. To put it bluntly this stuff was like spraying cooking oil all over a newly-cleaned bike. I can kind of see what they were intending - it's obviously meant to do an Armour-All job but without you having to dry the bike first. I persisted with it after the initial shock of a wet and greasy bike and things did get better, but only just. It took an inordinate amount of time to get the bike dry, and in the end I just resorted to the "that'll do" end game and put the bike away. The next day I found the bike looking water marked, with smears and dry droplets on the paint, glass, and clear plastics. I varied my technique on the second go and applied the stuff much more sparingly but I still had similarly disappointing results.
The upshot? In my eyes, the Muc-Off Fast Action Bike Cleaner was a decent enough product if you are looking for a fast and easy way to clean a bike that's just "road" or "mud" dirty. But if there's any tougher grime you will have to break out the sponge 'n' muscles which sort of renders the stuff's raison d'être a little redundant. As for the Bike Spray - well, it's just plain weird. Try as I may I got nothing more than a slippery, streaky bike that would have been much better off if I'd just dried the thing after the first product and called it a day. I can't help but think that maybe this is why the two products were bundled together in the first place; the more decent, useful product piggy-backing the awkward, not-really-sure-this-was-a-good-idea-guys product on it's little pink behind. In the end I think I'd rather go with my old school dad-approved techniques. Sure, it'll take a bit longer to do the job but if there's one thing I've learned when it comes to motorbikes (and sex life, for that matter) it's that there are no short-cuts to getting decent results. Pipeburn Recommended? Not quite.