Any motorcycle can feel a little unstable once it’s blazing over 100 MPH or if you’re leaning through a turn at high speeds and try to brake at the last second.
That said, if your motorcycle feels unstable often, whether intermittently or for the majority of the time while you’re riding, it could indicate a severe and dangerous problem.
This article lists the most typical reasons a motorcycle feels unstable.
1. Riding on Deconstructed or Weather-Grooved Roads
There are various types of grooved pavement, all of which a motorcyclist learns to recognize as potential riding hazards.
While grooved pavement can make all motorcycles feel unstable, the degree of instability varies according to the style of motorcycle you ride, your front-end rake angle, what types of tires you ride on, and the quality of the suspension.
Still, grooved pavement is technically a riding hazard regardless of the bike you’re on. Recognizing the various types of grooves can help you employ different riding methods to stabilize your motorcycle.
- Wet climate traction grooves are deliberately installed on highways and toll roads to prevent hydroplaning in areas with lots of rain.
- Wet weather grooves typically run in a single direction, whether parallel or perpendicular to the traffic flow, to discharge any sitting water off the road.
- Riding over perpendicular rain grooves can make your motorcycle unstable, while parallel tracks can cause your front tire to wobble.
- On the other hand, construction grooves are caused by heavy machinery calculated scrapping pavement layers off to condition the road for new surface installation.
Construction grooves in the pavement go in every direction, as they’re not installed in any particular pattern. Riding over these chaotic grooves in the roadway can cause your motorcycle to feel severely unstable.
Riding over grooved pavement causes instability in your handlebars and the front end. Still, the wobbling is manageable as long as your suspension is decent.
- Grab your handlebars tightly, but not so firmly that it tires your hands.
- Don’t fight the tires shaking, even if it feels unstable at first, as it will only hinder the bike’s stability even more.
Remember, motorcycles are engineered to stay up; the tire will follow the path of most minor resistance e through the broad grooves on its own as you focus on guiding it toward the general direction in which you’re riding.
2. Loose or Missing Hardware
Failing to inspect your motorcycle’s nuts and bolts for corrosion, wear, or lack of tension according to the service intervals outlined in your owner’s manual can make your bike feel unstable.
Loose hardware in the wheels, forks, handlebars, suspension, swingarm, and steering head components can cause the bike to shake against your handling while you ride.
3. Corroded and Worn Front End Components
If your swingarm, front wheel spindle, or steering head are impaired from corrosion or wear-and-tear, if your forks are warped, or if your suspension system needs an adjustment, your bike’s shock absorption will be negatively impacted.
The suspension’s performance can take such a drastic hit from distorted or oxidized parts that your front wheel may shake more than usual, causing the bike to feel unstable.
Rust, contamination, decay, or wear to the various parts that make up and support your motorcycle’s front end can make your motorcycle feel unstable. As you continue to ride, the damage can cause the handlebars to jump around harshly enough to cause a wreck.
4. Motorcycle Wheels, Rims, or Tires Are Damaged or Worn Out
Performing routine tire checks and services will help you catch wheel damage at the earliest sign before it makes your ride feel unstable.
Some experienced riders may be able to tell the difference in their tire’s road feel at the first sign of a shift in air pressure.
That said, new riders or riders who don’t ride as often could miss even a significant change in their wheel’s condition until the wheel gets worn enough to make the motorcycle feel unstable.
- Regular tire wear can be enough to cause rough handling while riding, especially if the tire is ridden on well past the wear marks.
- Tire assessment is part of regular motorcycle-ownership maintenance.
- It’s essential to replace warped or damaged tires at the first sign of a change in shape or tread.
If your bike’s various wheelset parts are worn or warped from wear, collision, or corrosion, your motorcycle will feel unstable, especially at high speeds.
5. Overloading Motorcycle’s Weight Limit
Some riders set gear or even passengers on their fuel tank without loading the motorcycle’s rear end.
This can shift the bike’s center of gravity towards the front end of your motorcycle.
- Front loading your motorcycle like this weighs down the bike’s front end, and the rear becomes unstable.
- At the same time, cramming the motorcycle’s rear with an improperly seated passenger(s) or poorly packed gear can shift the center of gravity to the back of the bike and lift the front end up, making for an unable ride.
- In extreme situations of others, the motorcycle may shake back and forth to shed extra force.
Your handlebars absorb the extra force the weight puts on the motorcycle, and your bike’s handling gets rough and hard to control.
If you need more weight support on your motorcycle’s front or end, try upgrading the appropriate suspension to compensate for the shift.
Whether you unevenly load your bike with a passenger or a bag full of clothes and tools, shifting the center of gravity can cause your motorcycle handling to become unstable.
6. Faulty Swingarm Bearings
If you don’t notice your motorcycle’s handling gets rough when you’re riding on smooth, straight roads, but the bike feels unstable when your ride on uneven or loose roads, it may be due to worn-out swingarm bearing.
A bike with a lousy swingarm bearing will feel ok as long as you’re going slow and straight and the road is in good condition, but as soon as you hit a pool of gravel or start getting up to highway speeds, your motorcycle will lose its stability.
- If damaged or run-down swingarm bearings are the culprit, the only way to make the bike handle smooth again is to replace them.
- Furthermore, we suggest refraining from using the bike until the faulty bearings are replaced, or you risk a wreck, injury, and severe damage to other motorcycle components.
If your motorcycle’s swing arm bearings are corrupted or damaged enough to make the ride unstable, the bearings need to be replaced asap, certainly before you ride.
Make sure to also read our article about reasons motorcycle starts shaking.
7. Worn Steering Head Bearings
Steering head bearings keep your motorcycle’s front end lined up during your ride. If they wear out or get contaminated with rust or grime, your handlebars and fork will bind while you steer and make your ride dangerously unstable.
- Steering Head Bearing supports more than just your motorcycle’s handlebars- they’re imperative to function your steering axle shaft and spindle properly.
- Therefore, if they fail, your motorcycle’s front end will absorb vibration from the engine, wheel, and road you typically don’t notice while you ride.
- This vibration absorption not only causes a drastic did in your handling and performance but also sent enough vibrations up through your wrists, elbows, and shoulders, causing increased discomfort while you ride.
Faulty steering head bearings need to be replaced immediately to make the ride fee more stable, prevent numbness in your arms, and restore your motorcycle steering.
We urge less experienced riders to take their unstable motorcycle to a mechanic for a steering head-bearing inspection, as incorrectly tampering with your bike’s steering can cause issues elsewhere in the bike’s dynamic front end.
We’ve also written an article about reasons a motorcycle’s steering won’t lock.
8. Incorrect Tire Pressure
Examining your bike’s tire pressure level before and after any noteworthy motorcycle ride is part of responsible ownership. It prevents your motorcycle from feeling unstable, which is why it’s likely recommended in your motorcycle’s owners’ manuals.
- Riding on improper PSI increases engine stress and drains its fuel economy.
- The overworked engine couples with your improper tire pressure to vibrate up through your wheelset, suspension, and handlebars.
- If left unchecked, riding your motorcycle with improper PSI can make it feel unstable and cause a significant dip in handling that may lead to a collision.
Furthermore, riding on inadequate tire pressure increases the rate of tire tread wear and tear, including torn rubber.
The unevenly worn tires will eventually cause your bike to lose stability even when your tire pressure has been refilled.
We suggest inspecting your motorcycle tire pressure at least once weekly to ensure your handling stays nice and smooth.
- If you suspect incorrect tire pressure is why your motorcycle feels unstable, inspect your tires for uneven wear patterns and damaged rubber/tread and replace worn-out tires.
- If your motorcycle tire inflation remains low, the instability it causes can jerk the handlebars against the fuel tank while you’re riding, leading to a severe wreck.
Please also read our article about reasons front wheels wobble.