Harley Speed Wobble, Tank Slap, also known as the Death Wobble

Discussion in 'Touring Models' started by BaZa, Sep 7, 2010.

  1. loco1369

    loco1369 New Member

    I am sorry for your loss. I myself have experienced this death wobble to the point that I thought I was going to crash! Here is a little thread I posted recently and its main focus is on the wobble. The one thing I did not post was I am also going to try an alignment.

    A recent conversation with a Harley Tech gave me a little more insight to Harley "blind eye". That they say the problem "could" be due to stacking. Meaning a minor problem is creating another problem and so on and on, that these "minor" problems compound. Individually they are not a big problem, however, combined they are (Obviously). That if you can identify the source of the stacking that they would be happy to fix the issue.

    So here is my story I posted yesterday on another site in an attempt to remedy this wobble issue (which I have not yet accomplished)

    [I finally pulled the trigger on the Progressive Stabilizer. It was something that I had to do for my own safety, though I did it in complete protest. A 20k motorcycle should not have to have an aftermarket product to make it safe. So if you are interested in the whole experience read on…

    I ride hard and I ride a lot. The “wobble” was always there even when I first bought the bike (though I didn’t notice it as bad) I currently have 60k on my 2008 FLHTC and about 6 months and 8k ago the wobble increased exponentially. I took it into the shop. They said it was my triple trees and adjusted the fall away and only charged me 30 min labor ($40) because “I am a long standing customer”. It seemed to help about 70% of the issue.

    I also noticed that the wobble is much worse on right handed corners than left, the service writer had the audacity to tell me that the frame and swing arm are more ridged and built up on the right side and therefore on a right handed corner the weaker left side, on the outside now is flexing, (EDIT) .
    When I spoke with the head mechanic he suggested the stabilizer. I refused (restating the $20k aftermarket safety issue noted above). Over the next month or so it came back with a vengeance. I went through a right hand sweeper at 80 mph with a friend riding behind me, he said he was sure I was going to crash. It was like riding a bucking bull, my pucker factor was a 100 on a scale of 1-10. I went immediately to the shop. Now this was only say 1500 miles after the fall away adjustment. They replaced my head bearings…(EDIT) , um didn’t you just adjust them? Thank God for the extended warranty.

    Off I go again, I “think” its better, you know, when you service the bike it always “seems” better. Well it was NOT! SO I am toying real hard with the idea to trade the (EDIT) in and almost did, twice.

    So I am on line reading all of these blogs trying to figure out something, ANYTHING! A friend had similar problems and installed a product called Sta-Bo, and has been very happy with it. It is a more involved install, so I was digesting it for a while. In the mean time I went to a burnout contest and was one of 2 that burned until it blew and won free tires (front and rear no labor) for the life of THIS bike. Well now I must try and keep her!

    So with the first install of my new tires they found a bad wheel bearing in my front tire, hallelujah!!!! They found the wobble problem! Now I have brand new skins, new head and wheel bearings OMG I’m going to be like a rocket sled on rails, so I thought. Went through my nemesis curve and the wobble is still there, not as prominent, but still a wobble on a $20,000 motorcycle, again (EDIT) !

    So given the circumstances, I broke down and purchased the stabilizer, in hope, in the name of safety and in protest, but, purchased it none the less. Do I think it did anything substantial? NOPE, I think it may have helped my head to think its better but in reality it may have dampened 10% of my problem.

    So what else can I do? Well the next “fix” is I am going to change my fork oil, who knows, it can’t hurt (which I did last night, the dive is gone but did nothing to fix the wobble problem). Then the tires to an aftermarket, remember the tires for life, yup that’s right, Harley Dunlop’s and finally I will, sometime time soon, attempt the Sta-Bo.
    I love my scoot an HATE the fact that Harley turns a blind eye to this huge and serious problem. So when I do finally pull the trigger on a new bike it will be a 2009+, new frame and tire and wheel package. My wife has the 2010 FLHX and it handles so much better than mine! I now step down from my soap box, bow and bid adieu, hoping I may have helped enlighten others with similar issues.]

    If there is any questions you may have for me concerning my experience with this wobble I would be happy to help.

    Please read this...
    A Friendly Reminder - Harley Davidson Community
    Last edited by a moderator: May 26, 2011
  2. R_W_B

    R_W_B Senior Member

    Welcome to the forum loco, I see this is your first post. Don't take the language edits personal, even though some words may seem generic, by eliminating them it saves the moderators valuable time and effort otherwise spent on context deciphers. Just can't use them on this forum.

    I read your entire post and found it enlightening. Of all the cases I've read, yours was one of the most intense (especially if you look at the category of those who have had it and still not crashed).

    The H.D. Blind eye is not blind, just shrewd and survival mode legal thinking on HD's part. The fact that the 2009s and up have less occurrences (none that I've heard of) prove the eye was not blind. The fact that your wife's bike rides better seems to conicide with that. But to admit to anything faulty on pre 2009 bikes (other than unmaintained bikes and rider pushing beyond safe riding limits) would be extremely costly to HD and probably won't happen until the courts can prove otherwise on a larger scale than so far.

    Obviously there are cases where the above scenarios were not always the case and there are yet undetermined factors as to what happened. It is a bad situation all round for those that were injured as well as H.D. of whom if they could figure a sure fire way to have stopped it I would think they would have long ago. Maybe if they had offered stabilzers immediately it might have stopped the problem entirely, but then again in some cases maybe not.

    It appears that as for pre 2009's we will probably never know what might could have been, we will only know what was. There are other brand bikes that have the wobble, some I've read have gone down from it. But it is apparent the H.D.'s have many more occurances of it and of course the rubber mounting system is patented by H.D. which gives more of a legal foot hold to bring cases against H.D. thereby getting more publicity.

    Enjoyed reading your post, so glad you lived to tell it.
  3. jmlu

    jmlu Member

    My condolences to you. I would like to share with you my experiences. In March 2006 I returned to the US to make a trip from PA. to Daytona bike week. For the occasion I bought a 2000 Fat Boy with 12000 miles on it, it was in good shape. I mounted a windshield before we started and had an approx. 10-15lb bag on the rear of the seat. As my riding companion likes to haul his usual speed was 90mph. When we started riding and I hit 80mph the bike started to wobble and I was scared. Through the whole trip every time I hit 80 the bike started to wobble. I had the bike into three different shops to check it and none found anything wrong with it. I sold the bike after the trip. 4 years later in 2010 when I bought a 2004 road King the first thing I did was to mount a true track... I will never ride a rubber mounted HD without a true track.
  4. pjciii

    pjciii Member

    i have my own theory on this. i do believe in regular maintenance on the bike. but i have had this happen 3 times since 2005. twice on an 05 nightrain and once on an 06 road king. the only this the 3 occurrences had in common were spoked wheels. once just west of wall SD after a stop. i was getting back on the highway and coming up to speed when at 65 mph it started. as stated i speed up and started to apply brakes to slow it down. had to clean out my pants after i got it stopped. towed to black hills harley. an over tightened spoke pierced the band which punctured the tube. instant deflation. but speeding up kept the tire in round. second was many weeks after slightly hitting a pothole. took it for granted and it slightly damaged the wheel which later broke the bead in a corner. again clean the shorts. both of these were on the 05 nightrain which now has a cast front and rear wheel. 3rd time on the 06 road king when after riding many miles in heat the front wheel again went into a wobble. went right thru an intersection because i could not get the bike to respond and it went straight no matter how hard i tried to get it to corner. the indy found that when the dealer replaced the tire and tube it (the tube) had been pinched when put in. after enough miles and heat it gave way. spoke wheels. instant deflation. i have found that increasing speed, keeping the front end light that the bike should come around. it is that whole getting it to stop thing it does not like. the road king was changed over to cast wheels and perrelli tires. traded that for 2010 ultra classic. i hope i dont have the same issue with this bike because of the extra weight of the fairing. but i believe that spoked wheels, tire pressure and speed and angle of bike all have alot to do with wobble/slap.
  5. bartheboo

    bartheboo New Member

    Thanks again everyone for your suggestions Regarding the wobble
    Believe or not I still have my ultra classic .I had no sale in May so I took it away again to france and Andorra Pyrenees and Back up to Brittany .Before i went I phoned this guy I met In killarney at the harley fest and asked him for some advise ,This guy made great sense to me when ha said ,Hey Boo The sooner you realise that you are not driving a sports cruiser the sooner your problem will be fixed ,He also said That i should use my gears in a better way for cornering .I took this onboard and off I went .When I hit the motorway in France the tense shoulders returned to me almost straight away when I was overtaking Articulated trucks with that wobble when your just passing the cab,
    Problem fixed : Drop down a gear or 2 and scream past everthing with much better controle <Dont try to cruise past these mothers In cruising gear as the wind has more controle than you,
    Same fix in the bends ,Drop down your gears and pull out of the bends with way more confidence.
    1600 miles not a bother Back in love with my bike again ,alas short lived Mabey I got to confident Going dowhill last week on a wide bend About 65 to 70 Huge wobble Still dont know how I stopped the bike caue it kept wobbling till I got down to 20 mph ,I though it it was all over for me .Really Scary .

    This is my theory Having tried everything else . the Front end is just not strong enough for the weight of the bike ,If you hit any thing with one side of your tyre or as some of you say Tire, the shocks are bending left to right I think this is the design fault .I d like to hear some opinions on this <any engineering guys out there

    Regards alll Boo
  6. mgierman39

    mgierman39 Member

    Almost home from a long day of riding I watched my friend go down due to this, 2 weekends ago, he has a 2000 Electra Glide I think. Large sweeping right hand turn 70 - 80 MPH. Almost looked like he was going to ride through it sucessfully then went down. Broke 4 ribs, collar bone, chipped his ankle and lots of rash. Not a sight I want to see again.

    Really hate it when Circumstance makes you rethink what you really like doing.
  7. Ole army retiree 33

    Ole army retiree 33 New Member

    Wanted to add my experance with speed wooble for BaZa's reasearch. My first experance was many years ago on a high speed two stroke bike,Briefly I ran the bike up to 140 MPH, no problems until I choped the throttle the wooble came in without warning.
    I almost lost it!! I survived by getting back into the throttle and gradually decelerated.
    My second and recent experance was on my 2002 FLHTC I had just bought the bike and
    decided to run her up to 85 plus,again i chopped the throttle and briefly took my hands off the handlebars,the wooble came without warning I grabed the grips and regained controll.So both times i encountered this was during deceleration.
  8. cosmo56

    cosmo56 Member

    Don't know if it was a death wobble , but I had the front end of my 2000 Roadking wobble due to the wind. On I-90 coming out of Sturgis in strong wind coming from the 11 o'clock position, a sudden stronger gust hit me and wobbled the bike on 2 different occasions. I was going in a straight line. I had the bike loaded down with gear, windshield on, going about 75 mph both times. Slowed down and never had the problem again.
  9. Cachagua

    Cachagua New Member

    Here is my story, 2006 Roadking Classic, spoke wheels, only about 4 months old. Traveling straight on highway at about 75 mph, hit a shallow crack in the road surface which set up horrible wobble in the front end. I was sure I was going down. Rolled off the
    throttle and as the bike slowed I regained control. I returned the bike to the dealer who told me he had never heard of such a thing. They checked the bike over but could not find anything wrong.
    I wrote the factory about it after researching on the internet but never heard anything from them. Big surprise. What I have found is that the steering rake is very shallow, this is probably to make the bike very responsive. The drawback is that it places the front end very close to instability. Bikes with more rake seldom exibit this problem unless there is some very serious defect. Out of balance, out of round, tire problems neck bearings etc. Spoked rims seem to have a higher incidence of this problem. I have owned several Harleys over the years but this was the only time I had ever encountered this. Yes, any bike can develope a high speed wobble but Harley knows they have a reoccuring problem and wont address it. My solution was to sell the bike and buy a Goldwing.
  10. crib62

    crib62 New Member

    Sorry to hear of your loss, when i bought my bagger the front tire pressure was 36lb, banged hard on every crack in the road, reduced it to 26lb like book said to do, it developed a low speed wobble, din't notice it at high speeds, put 30lb air in it and wobble was gone. I think air pressure is the most overlooked thing there is and it must be very important. something to think about.