In an article a couple of weeks ago, I described the causes of speed wobbles and here is the follow up article on how to avoid and recover from them.
Most speed wobbles can be avoided with good preparation. The first and most common problem is easy to check and fix — make sure the tires are properly inflated. This helps the tire(s) from easily bending, which is a common start of a speed wobble cycle.
Next, on a regular basis, check or have a mechanic check the following: the wheel and neck bearings aren’t worn out, axles are tight, tires aren’t worn out or have unusual ware patterns, forks aren’t leaking, engine mounts are solid, parts aren’t bent, and shocks don’t need to be replaced. When loading saddlebags or attaching gear to the bike, the load must be equally weighted.
If the design of the bike is one where there is a higher probability of speed wobbles, like when the rider’s weight is not centered or when road conditions or riding styles create frequent speed wobbles, getting a damper is something a rider might want to check into.
For the road rider with a well-maintained bike, it is important to choose a line in the road with the least amount of potholes, ruts and bumps to avoid a road surface induced wobble. For riders who go off road or regularly ride on rough surfaces, it is the need to choose a line wisely. It is also important to ride at a speed that is within the rider’s skills for the terrain they are on until the rider gains the skills to go faster.
I had mentioned a half-wobble cycle highside crash that happens when a rider doesn’t land a wheelie with the tire straight, and in this half-cycle scenario there isn’t any recovery because it happens so quickly. With that being said, a rider can avoid it from happening by obviously not doing wheelies or practicing at lower speeds and/or on a bike that is easier to wheelie on.
Now, how can one get through a speed wobble? It might be easier said than done, but the rider needs to relax their grip on the handlebars and dampen the wobble cycle with their arms while decelerating. Grabbing the handlebars hard and trying to control the bars will transfer the wobble through their body, which will increase the wobble and most likely end in a crash.
Next, the rider needs to decelerate until they are out of the wobble. Jamming on the brakes will increase the tire bend and the subsequent wobble frequency and intensity. Once out of the wobble, the rider should pull over to determine the cause. If there is a problem that can’t be fixed on the side of the road and there is no option, but to ride, going slow is important.
It is debated whether hitting the throttle is a good way to recover from a front-end speed wobble. In theory, it would be done to lighten up the front-end, stop the tire bend and subsequently eliminate the cause of the wobble. It can help by lifting the wheel out of a wobble, but also, when the tire lands, the tire bend can occur again sending the bike right back into a wobble.
I’d leave this strategy to professional riders on the tracks. In that split second when speed wobbles start, it is easier to remember to relax and let the bike decelerate.