All motorcycles have a threshold speed range that, once pushed past, results in some startling jiggling in your motorcycle’s front wheel.
That said, if your front end is vibrating so ferociously that its handling is unmanageable, you could have a significant failure on your hands.
This article will list the most common reasons why a motorcycle develops front-end wobbling.
1. Swingarm Bearings Are Worn Out
If your motorcycle’s swing arm bearings wear down to the point of causing wheel wobbles, the wear is also severe enough for the bearing to damage other motor parts in the process.
If a swingarm bearing is why your motorcycle has a front wheel wobble, you may not notice the shaking when you’re riding on smooth, straight roads.
That said, when you hit a rough patch of road or a pool of gravel or start getting up to highway speeds, your motorcycle’s front end will shake and jerk and cause intimidating handlebar vibrations.
If worn swingarm bearings are the culprit, you’ve no choice but to replace them. We suggest you refrain from riding until the worn bearings are upgraded, as bearing failure can cause a crash, injury, and detrimental damage to other bike parts.
2. Faulty Steering Head Bearings
Steering head bearings (SHB) keep your front end aligned while you ride, so if they wear down or corrode, your bike’s front end will bind up during steering movements and absorb a hazardous amount of vibration from the road, wheel, and engine.
SHBs support your motorcycle’s handlebars, steering axle shaft, and spindle so you can steer your bike without fighting against front-end jerking.
- Multiple components are engineered to work together dynamically for your bike to steer correctly.
- Therefore, the manufacturer’s specified adjustment, angles, and condition of all your steering components are critical for a comfortable and efficient rider experience.
- Not only can wear or faulty steering head bearings cause your bike’s front wheel to shake when steering, but they can also cause intense vibrations to travel through your handlebars and into your wrists, elbows, and shoulders, causing prolonged discomfort.
Faulty steering head bearings need to be replaced immediately to solve your front wheel wobbling problem and restore your motorcycle steering to its full functionality.
Like the wheel bearings mentioned in the first section, these steering bearings should be inspected during routine maintenance services.
Because motorcycle steering is so complex, we encourage less experienced riders to take their wobbling motorcycle to a mechanic to know if bearings are the cause.
3. Riding Your Motorcycle With Improper Tire Pressure
If the PSI in your front tire isn’t at spec pressure, the tire can deflate, which will affect your front tire handling. If you continue to ride on a deflating motorcycle tire, your handling performance can dip drastically enough to cause front wheel speed wobbles.
Inspecting your tire pressure level before and after every significant motorcycle ride is part of responsible ownership and is suggested in most owners’ manuals.
Riding on improper PSI not only adds extra stress to your engine and depletes your fuel economy, but when it’s the low front tire, improper PSI also causes vibration to your front wheel and handlebars that can cause loss of control or collision.
- Riding on inadequate tire pressure accelerates the wear and tear of your tire tread.
- The tires will also wear unevenly, affecting your tire performance even after you’ve refilled the tire pressure.
- Riding on incorrect PSI and uneven wear patterns can cause substantial damage, including rips and tears in the tire rubber.
- Check your motorcycle tires PSI at least once weekly to ensure your front wheels don’t wobble.
- If you’ve been riding your motorcycle with incorrect tire pressure, inspect your tires for uneven wear patterns and damaged rubber/tread.
- Replace damaged tires before riding to prevent future front-end wobbling.
Underinflation can cause violent front wheel vibrations to shake the handlebars against the fuel tank, which can cause a collision.
4. You’re Riding on Grooved Pavement
Various types of grooved pavement can cause your motorcycle’s front wheel to wobble, even if the PSI is at the proper inflation. While grooved pavement-induced shaking can be frightening, it’s generally a manageable wobble the rider can safely navigate with suitable riding techniques.
Grooved pavement is technically a riding hazard, as the shaking it causes can be pretty severe, depending on the style of motorcycle you ride.
However, there are various types of grooved pavement, all of which riders confront often. Knowing the difference between the types will prepare you for employing the proper riding techniques.
- Wet weather traction grooves in the pavement are intentionally installed on highways and toll roads to prevent hydroplaning.
- Wet weather grooves generally run in one direction, either parallel or perpendicular to the traffic flow, to shoot water off the road.
- While riding over perpendicular rain grooves results in a bumpy ride, the parallel grooves can cause your front tire to shake back and forth—these hazardous parallel grooves are more common.
- On the other hand, construction grooves are caused by heavy machinery intentionally scrapping pavement layers off the road as they prepare to install a new road surface.
- The construction pavement causes the most alarming front wheel wobble of all types of grooved pavement.
Riding over grooved pavement causes shaking and wobbling to your handlebars and front wheels, but as long as your suspension is decent, the wobbling is manageable.
Grip your handlebars firmly, but not so tight that it’s uncomfortable, and don’t fight the tires shaking.
Remember, motorcycles are engineered to stay up. The tire naturally finds the path of least resistance in the grooves. You’re just gently guiding it, so you stay in your lane and head in the right direction.
5. Loose, Stripped, or Missing Nuts and Bolts
Failing to inspect your motorcycle hardware according to the service intervals outlined in your owner’s manual can result in front wheel wobbling that puts you and your motorcycle both at risk.
Loose fasteners in the front end, namely within the wheel, forks, handlebar and swingarm, and steering head components, cause shaking and jerking while you’re riding.
6. Front End Parts Are Corroded or Broken
Corrosion or damage to the components that make up and support the front end of your motorcycle can cause the front wheel and handlebar to jerk severely enough to cause a collision.
If your swingarm, front wheel spindle, or steering head are damaged, or your forks are bent, your suspension system’s physics is altered.
If left unchecked and unrepaired, the damage will hurt your shock absorption.
The suspension’s performance can take such a drastic hit from bent or corroded compositions that your front wheel may violently shake while riding your motorcycle.
Related: How Often Should You Stop When Riding A Motorcycle?
7. Motorcycle Wheels, Rims, or Tires Are Bent, Warped, or Worn Out
If the various wheel set components are damaged from wear, collision, or corrosion, your motorcycle may develop a front-wheel wobble, especially at high speeds.
While seasoned riders can tell the difference in their tire’s road feel at the first sign of change in air pressure, beginner riders may not notice a substantial shift in wheel shape until the damage gets bad enough for a wheel jerk to develop when riding fast.
- Even normal wear can cause a tire to lose its round shape enough to cause rough handlebar vibrations while riding if the tire is ridden on once it’s worn past the point of needing a replacement.
- Tire inspection is part of routine service maintenance, replacing worn tires at the first sign of a change in shape or tread.
Conducting routine tire inspections and services will help you catch wheel damage at the earliest sign before it develops into a front-end speed wobble.
Related: Too Overweight To Ride Motorcycles? (Read This First)
8. Overloading or Uneven Weight Distribution
Whether you and a passenger or a bag full of clothes and tools, unevenly distributing the weight you load your motorcycle with can cause your front wheel to wobble while you’re riding at high speeds.
Some riders put gear or even passengers on their fuel tank without loading the motorcycle’s rear end.
If the center of gravity shifts onto the front end of your motorcycle, the resulting force the load puts on the front tire can cause it to shake back and forth as it attempts to shed the influx of energy.
Adversely, overloading the motorcycle’s rear with gear or improperly seated passenger (or more than one passenger; I’ve seen it) can push the rider forward onto their fuel tank and handlebars.
In this case, the handlebars absorb the extra weight. Unless the suspension was upgraded or adjusted to compensate for the shift in importance towards the front of the motorcycle, the weight overworks the front-end suspension and the front wheel wobble at high speeds.
Related: Never Go Over Motorcycle’s Weight Limits (Here’s Why)
Grooved pavement affects motorcycle riding | Dairyland® motorcycle (dairylandinsurance.com)