Last Updated Aug. 29, 2000
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Wobble!
 
Main Picture of Wobble
The dictionary defines it....
Wobble (wob'el) To move erratically from side to side;
and unsteady motion...
 

To better understand the solutions to fixing "the big wobble", check out the article below by Bob Loberg for the cause, the cure and mounting instructions. Also read what you should know before adding a damper.

 

Check out the pictures below of steering dampers. Click to see large view.
 

CAUSE:

Let's assume that your bike is properly maintained; that is, good tires, straight and true wheels, the suspension and steering head bearings are snug, everything is copestatic! You've even laded up your travel gear properly. Chances are your bike will travel down the highway straight and true, hands off!!!

Let's add the sidecar. Now the bike has changed its habits. Especially on deceleration at 30-35 mph. It never shook its head before, why now?

Adding a sidecar is adding a non-powered, off-centered mass of weight. The weight very simply is trying to pass you on deceleration and drip behind when you accelerate. These actions also will try to turn you right (on takeoff) or left (on breaking). Both of these actions are directly transmitted to your front wheel and its TRAIL (see drawing). Think of trail as a caster or the ability to center the steering when rolling. The more trail, the more self-centering action. Road bikes generally have more trail because they don't have to be maneuvered quickly between trees or on a wood trail (hopefully not often!).

Trail
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More trail also makes them less sensitive to cross winds and turbulence from trucks. Dirt bikes usually have less trail for quicker woodsy type steering.

If you sit on your bike and turn the bars full lock left to right, you will find that the front rises and falls very slightly (witness some guy on a long forked chopper sometime) - the highest when the bars are straight and low on either side. This action, although very slight, with the mass offset weight of the sidecar, will produce an oscillation from side to side - the wobble.... (combined with the weight transfer to the front wheel) on deceleration.

Very few bike/sidecar combinations are without a low speed oscillation and usually can be overridden by a reasonably tight grip on the bars. But what about the wife or non-strong type person hanging there helplessly flopping from side to side? A Steering Damper in those anxious moments could be the most important part of the combination. Kind of like a safety valve on your steering/suspension. Of course, there are many other factors that also produce oscillation (loose mounts etc.), but we've touched on the major ones.

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A CURE:

After you have made sure all bearings are snug etc., you can add a Steering Damper. The best combination I've found and I think I can speak for Doug Bingham too, is a standard Volkswagen shimmy damper. They are readily available from the local auto parts store. They have a long enough stroke and are made in a couple of different mounting designs.

There are many ways we can mount a Steering Damper. The most ideal would be to anchor the base end on the bike frame and the rod end on the lower triple tree (Fig. A).

Figure A
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As you know, in about 99% reality, this cannot happen. Somewhere down the road we have acquired a frame mounted fairing crashbars, driving lights, air horns, etc., etc., etc., all of which try to occupy the same spot.

In the drawings following, I will attempt to show some alternate methods of mounting. Some parts will be available from your dealers, others from a local auto store or industrial supply store.

 
MOUNTING:
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Mounting 1
This is a typical mounting that will not interfere with fairings
and other add-ons.
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The bottom of damper could be mounted in any of these places.
If you mount the damper anywhere on the fork leg, it MUST move freely up and down and let you turn full lock side to side.
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Before adding a damper, check:
  • The steering head bearings
  • Tire pressure
  • Spokes
  • Loose mounts
  • Wheel bearings
  • Excessive toe-in-toe-out
  • Rear suspension bushings

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