Blast Cleaning for Motorcycles – Behind the Scenes at SBL

Blast cleaning for motorbikes

If you’re looking into options around blast cleaning for motorbikes, we can help.

There’s nothing quite like getting on your motorbike and having the wind blow through your hair – under your crash helmet of course! A motorcycle ride does wonders to blow the cobwebs away and reinvigorate your love of the road.

Today we’re talking about everything on two (or sometimes three) wheels; whether you’re looking to restore a motorcycle, a moped, or a trike, the team here at SBL can help you on your restoration journey.

So get your leathers out for our look behind the scenes. Here’s how we help bike enthusiasts bring their pride and joy back to its former glory.

Break it Down

Though some people think we get to hang around cool looking bikes every day, the truth is somewhat more mundane. Motorbike projects normally come to us in separate pieces, are cleaned separately, and leave as such. We generally work on motorcycle frames, engines (usually broken down to their separate components – more on that later), and wheels (though our gaffer rolls his eyes at wheel work – it’s a really fiddly job!).

Regardless of whether you’re restoring an older vehicle or just refreshing the look of a new one, it doesn’t really matter from a cleaning perspective – vapour and soda blasting are great for cleaning all kinds of bodywork.

The Power of H2O

Because motorcycle projects generally come to us completely disassembled, the first option we generally look at for cleaning is vapour blasting. Vapour blasting (sometimes called aqua blasting) projects have to take place within a specialised 1m cubed blasting cabinet, so the small size makes this ideal.

Vapour blasted Kawasaki Z1000 engine - blast cleaning for motorbikes

Following vapour blasting projects, the metal is left with a pleasant satin sheen that doesn’t require refinishing. In fact, many clients choose to keep it on show! If an item is too large to fit in the vapour cabinet or is made from a ferrous metal (i.e., one that rusts) then it’ll receive the soda blasting treatment.

The only drawback with soda blasting is that it leaves a rather dull, boring finish that generally needs covering over. Soda cleaning leaves a thin coat of soda crystals on the surface, so that needs to be cleaned off before you prime or repaint it. We also offer a priming service to get your project ready for its final lick of paint.

What Does Working with SBL Look Like?

When a cleaning project is brought to us, we will talk in-depth with the client about what work needs to be carried out, and what their final expectations for the vehicle are. It’s during this consultation phase that we’ll generally decide what approach/cleaning method would be best – we may ask to clean a test patch to assess what’s required. We then draw up a free quote, putting our plan of attack in black and white.

When a frame is brought in, we know that they’re usually aluminium that has been powder coated or painted. Powder coating can be difficult to remove; our most abrasive cleaning method is crushed glass, but this can’t be used with aluminium. The heat generated by the glass blasting process can warp aluminium, so we opt for soda blasting to remove powder coating from bike frames.

Engines do sometimes come to us in tact, but we generally ask that they’re taken apart before cleaning. Separate components like carburettors and casings can go straight through our full 14-stage vapour blasting process leaving them looking great.

If a complete engine is brought in and is unable to be broken down to components for whatever reason, all of the holes need to be securely plugged so blast media can’t creep inside to the operational components. We only use soda blasting to clean whole engines because if some blast media does get trapped inside, soda crystals are far less likely to damage the carefully engineered interior like glass media would. However there is still a small risk, so we ask that engines be broken down to their separate components wherever possible.

How Do Motorbike and Car Restorations Compare?

When you look at a car and a motorcycle side by side, it’s easy to assume that restorers would have an easier time bringing the bike back to its former glory because it’s a smaller vehicle. However, motorbike restorations can actually be more time consuming; more of the vehicle’s internal components are on display, so everything needs to look just so. Bikes generally call for more fiddly perfectionism than cars!

Experts & Enthusiasts

It’s very rare that we work on a complete ‘shell’, but we always have a few motorbike engine components in progress. We average around 3-4 motorcycle frames per month.

At Soda Blasting Ltd we love all kinds of vehicles, and consider ourselves equally restoration enthusiasts and blast cleaning experts. Looking back on our work with motorcycles, two particularly fascinating projects spring to mind.

The most “famous” bike we’ve ever worked on was Guy Martin’s Wall of Death bike; a beautiful 750cc BSA Triple. We cleaned parts of the engine for Guy’s team; sadly we never met Guy himself, it was one of those “his people talked to our people” situations – shame!

In terms of interesting historical restorations, we cleaned the frame and wheels from a Russian WWII Matchless Motorcycle. It’s a truly fearsome looking vehicle with the capability to add a sidecar and gun turret, but it came to us as a literal frame with separate wheels – no larger than a push bike.

WWII Matchless Motorcycle

Soda Blasting Ltd love playing a part in any vehicle restoration projects, no matter how many wheels you like to drive! We’re a family-run operation and all motoring enthusiasts; we treat all items with the same care and attention that we would our own property, and have a policy of reporting any problem areas to clients to give them a full operational and cosmetic picture of their vehicle. If you’re looking for help with blast cleaning for motorbikes, let us help you on the road to your next restoration adventure – call us on 0800 774 7632 for a free quote today!