Listen to the podcast
The death wobble is a scary experience for a motorcyclist, but don’t fret – there are a few things you can do about it – even before you set off.
Tune in to discover:
- 5 mechanical measures for minimizing the risk of experiencing death wobble
- What to do if you experience death wobble anyway while you’re riding
Hello, and welcome to another episode of 30-minute motorcycling – a podcast for those riders who are at the beginning of their own Dual Wheel Journey, where you’ll discover something new about how your motorcycle, moped, or scooter works – in less than 30 minutes.
Picture the scene: imagine that you’re out riding on the motorway or freeway. Suddenly, your handlebars begin shaking from side to side, seemingly for no apparent reason, and you can barely control the bike.
That shaking is known as “death wobble” – it’s scary and, above all, dangerous – in a worst-case scenario, it could result in a big slide or even in you being thrown off the bike.
But did you know that there are some mechanical solutions you can take to minimize the risk of the dreaded death wobble before it even happens?
That’s the topic of this episode. So what can you do to avoid witnessing first-hand what death wobble is like?
The first thing you can do is ensure that your tires are inflated properly. Yes, proper tire pressure doesn’t just affect traction and stopping distance – it also affects stability.
But tire pressure is just part of the equation – even if both of your tires have the proper inflation, it won’t matter if you’re riding on a pair of worn-out tires.
If your tires look a bit bald, make sure to replace them as soon as possible.
Moving on, do you regularly carry a lot of luggage on your bike? Then you should pay attention to how you pack.
Specifically, you must distribute the load in your saddlebags evenly while keeping your heaviest items close to the area between your head and the front and rear wheels of the bike – an area also known as the “load triangle.”
But please keep in mind that luggage and cargo aren’t the only things that affect the load triangle – if you’re carrying a passenger, you must remember to tell them to sit as close to you as possible.
Also, does your motorcycle have spoked wheels? If so, listen closely.
It’s true that spokes are known for being strong enough to support the weight for the wheel, the motorcycle, and for you.
As long as the spokes are tightened – if they’re not, then there’s no weight support for either the wheel, the motorcycle, or you.
Fortunately, checking if a spoke is tight is easy – simply give it a light tap with e.g. a small spanner wrench. If you hear a “dinging” sound, the spoke is nice and tight.
If not, it’s time to get the spoke wrench out and tighten it.
Finally, the fifth and final thing you can do to reduce your chance of experiencing death wobble while out on the road is to refit any loose fairing pieces that your bike might have.
These fairings are designed to both shield you from wind blasts, while making your motorcycle more aerodynamic.
But just like spokes, if the fairings aren’t fastened properly, they can’t do what they’re designed to do.
So inspecting the fairings regularly is definitely worth the extra effort.
If you’d like to know more about motorcycle fairings and what they’re made from, check out episode 47 of 30 Minute Motorcycling.
Anyway, before we finish this episode, perhaps you’re curious about what you should do if you experience death wobble anyway? Specifically while you’re riding.
I mean, it’s not like you can inflate your tires or tighten your fairings while you’re riding.
Fortunately, you can do things about it even in this scenario.
If, for some reason, you start to experience death wobble while riding, don’t panic – simply press your knees firmly against the fuel tank area, ease off the throttle gently, and if you must use the brakes, use the rear brake only.
For more information, I’ve included a link in the episode description to a video from the MCRider YouTube channel that talks more about what to get a handle on this situation – no pun intended.
And that’s both what you can do to prevent experiencing death wobble in the first place, and what you can do if it happens anyway.
Until next time, keep your helmet on and your eyes on the road. Bye!