How to Avoid a Tank Slapper or Speed Wobble

The following tips will help you adjust your bike and improve your riding posture to prevent speed wobbles or tank slappers. I’ve also included instructions on how to respond in the moment, so that you can balance the bike and resume a safe and comfortable ride.

1. Avoid panicky reactions

Tank slappers can occur both at low speed and top speed. However, any form of panic when this occurs does not help improve the situation. Anytime you experience this, if your hands were off the handle, return them gently back on. However, if this had occurred with your hands on the handle, avoid the any temptation to grip the handlebars tighter as this will only make the situation worse.

In addition, you should rest any temptation to jump off the bike. You can only have this temptation fade away by staying calm, avoiding knocking any obstacle and keeping your feet and knees clamped on the chassis. As much as this may not be very effective if the bike continues to speed on a steep road with more bends, staying calm and not trying to force the bike to stop will help you achieve a great maneuver.

The situation should however get better and not repeat itself. If this kind of speed wobble becomes more frequent, you may need to engage a motorcycle expert to assess the health condition of the bike.

2. Perform Regular Motorcycle Maintenance

A big number of tank slappers will occur as a result of poor bike maintenance. Make sure that the tire pressure is optimal, the wheels are sufficiently balanced and aligned, forks are properly maintained and are not leaking and that the head bearings are in good condition.

In line with this, as a rider, you must ensure you pack the right tools on every journey to ensure you can correct some of these issues when they occur on the road.

In addition, ensure the bike’s suspension is properly adjusted to suit your riding style and your weight. If it happens that the rebound of the fork is too quick, the front wheel will most likely feel bouncy which has more chances of resulting in a wobble.

Some urgent adjustments to make include:

  • Monitor and adjust tire pressure: the tire pressure is found to be the number one likely cause of speed wobbles on the road.
  • Tighten the loose nuts: loose nuts especially on the fork can result in recurring tank slappers regardless of speed.
  • Adequate lubrication: dry fork joint or wheel bearings are particularly dangerous to the bike and the rider so make sure they’re lubed up before riding.

3. Correct Your Riding Posture

A good riding posture creates a balanced transmission of weight. This helps to prevent wobble and tank slapper. Some common postural problems include:

  • holding the handle bars too tight, which exerts more weight on the handlebars
  • holding the tank tightly with knees

Every rider understands that there is always need for a push or a pull on either side of the handlebars. These are usually required to help in managing the steering and keeping the motorcycle adequately aligned. However, few riders understand how to best control a motorcycle that is already experiencing a tank slapper. When this occurs, it is advisable that you relax the pressure on the handlebars by holding it lightly and allow the pressure to settle down.

If you are new to this, lean your body forward, place your feet properly on the foot pedals and let the chassis deal with the damping. This posture is the best way to deal with speed wobbles as your body weight exerts enough pressure on the front wheel making it heavier and less resonating. Just remember not to tightly grip the handles as doing that may put undue pressure on the front wheel and cause the problem to get worse.

This leaned posture rightly improves the motorcycle aerodynamics, reduces pressure on the suspension of the bike and makes the front wheel more stable. As a result, the bike has lower chances of wobbling especially when you are racing at a high speed.

4. Steering Damper

All modern sport bikes come with a piece of equipment known as steering damper. However, a good number of older naked motorcycles, sports bikes and even cruisers do not have it.

Basically, this is a small hydraulic shock that reduces a motorcycle wobbling tendency by “dampening” the steering. By adding more resistance to the steering, the steering damper makes it feel heavier and improves response to steering slapper.

On the other hand, instead of steering dampers, some motorcycle manufacturers such as Honda prefer to use electronic steering stabilizers. Electronic steering stabilizers are more efficient for both low and high speed rides.

5. Improve Your Steering Skill

Remember your safety as a rider starts with understanding steering balance. Remember not to fight the wobble when it occurs, that is in case your motorcycle doesn’t have a damper. This is because any attempt to oppose the effect only makes it worse instead of solving the problem.

If you find yourself in this dilemma, just keep the throttle in the same position, hold the handlebars lightly and watch the motorcycle come back to realignment.

Breaks are not recommended as they will only increase the tank slapper. Sudden deceleration is equally poor wobble counter practice. So avoid throttle releases as you keep off the breaks.

6. Smoothly Shift Gears

Smooth riding involves a lot more than just controlling the steering of a motorcycle. Make your riding as smooth as possible by changing gears less aggressively and avoiding motorcycle shakes that are more likely to occur with every shift of a gear. These occasions are likely to force the bike into a wobble trap.

7. Lean Back More

In addition, wobbles also occur in low speed. Low-speed slappers can be avoided by leaning back and accelerating a bit. This way, you are able to regain stability with the bike and return the front wheel back to realignment. By leaning back, you return the weight to the rear wheel, apply more pressure on the steering and press the front tire.

8. Keep both hands on handlebars

If you are under deceleration and have only one hand on the handlebars, you are also more likely to experience a tank slapper. These are however not as wild and can be easily corrected by lightly holding the steering with both hands and adding a little more throttle. Usually, these are likely indications that your suspension is worn out, the front tire pressure is low, the steering bearings are worn out, too tight or even loose and that the front tire is unevenly worn.

You can easily correct this by adjusting tire pressure, repairing the wears, checking the handlebar plays for worn or loose bearings. If the problem is too severe, hire a professional mechanic to perform the necessary repairs.

9. Vehicle Search

You may have purchased a second-hand motorcycle and you are not fully updated on the history of the bike. There are a number of motorbikes that are prone to accidents due to regular tank slappers. This information is usually available and can be accessed through a vehicle search. It is therefore advisable that you carry out a vehicle search before you purchase and ride a second-hand motorcycle to be aware of serious mechanical issues.

10. Regular Check-Ups

In addition, you should have your motorcycle checked regularly by a professional. This should be done to confirm that the key parts of the bike are in good working condition. This is the only way you will be in a position to reduce chances of experiencing repeated dangerous speed wobbles.

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