Motorcycle Starts Shaking? 11 Typical Reasons (Solved)

Engine vibration is a typical, celebrated aspect of motorcycle riding, as motorcycle engines contain combustion-powered pistons that shoot up and down.

That said, if your motorcycle starts shaking to the point that it feels unsafe, intimidating, or at the very least uncomfortable, you likely have an issue with your bike.

We’ve listed the most common reasons why motorcycles start shaking to help you solve your problem before it gets any worse.

Why a Motorcycle may Shake at HIGHER Speeds

Here are reasons a motorcycle may shake at higher speeds:

1. Engine Failure Triggers Vibration Increase

If you feel intense vibration coming from the motorcycle’s center between your legs before you notice the bike start shaking, chances are an internal engine failure is the cause.

At first, you’ll notice abrasive vibrations coming from your motor, accompanied by a lag in engine performance.

Any mechanical failure or interference within the bike’s motor can hinder the momentum of the pistons. If you hit the throttle to try and get your engine’s power back to where it should be, you’re overworking the lagging piston without realizing it.

At this point, the rattling piston can intensify enough to cause the motorcycle to start shaking during acceleration.
Here are three common engine problems that can cause your motorcycle to shake:

  1. Faulty Crankshaft Bearing
  2. Sticky Piston
  3. Misfiring Engine Cylinder

If you suspect engine failure is why your bike jerks while accelerating, you can save time, money, and maybe your life by refraining from riding until a moto mechanic diagnoses and repairs the problem.

2. Jammed Brake Caliper

If one of your bike’s brake calipers gets stuck from moisture or corrosion, your brakes might not fully disengage when you release your hand or foot-controlled brake lever.

If the brake calipers stay partially engaged, they’re rubbing against your brake rotors.

In time, the added friction causes the metal rotors to overheat and warp.

If you ride your motorcycle hard while its brake calipers are rubbing against warped rotors, your bike may start shaking. The friction from contacting the jammed caliper continues to distort the rotors while you ride, which can cause violent jerking motions.

  • If your calipers are stuck because of corrosion or damage, they’ll have to be replaced.
  • If they’ve already warped the rotors to the point of shaking your motorcycle, you likely have to replace your brake rotors before you do any more riding, or the bike will continue to jerk around.

3. Damaged Rear or Front Sprocket

Your motorcycle uses a front and rear sprocket to spin the chain drive that powers your rear wheel to move the bike.

If the front or rear sprocket is bent, corroded, worn, or damaged; your bike tire will wobble at high speeds, causing your motorcycle to shake while you speed up.

  • Since both the front and rear sprocket interface with the chain to spin the rear tire, if either of these parts is damaged, the rear tire will be the first part of your bike to shake back and forth.
  • As you accelerate the bike, the bent sprocket shakes the chain back and forth as it spins.
  • This chain jerk motion transfers to the rear wheel.
  • As you speed up, the wobbling motion becomes more pronounced in the damaged rotor and, therefore, the chain and rear wheel.

Eventually, the erratic motion a bent chain drive rotor can cause to the rear tire can start shaking the whole motorcycle.

Replace the bent rotors asap before riding to stop the bike from shaking.

4. Damaged or Uneven Tire Tread

Uneven tread on your motorcycle tires can cause your motorcycle to start shaking while riding, especially at higher speeds or during rapid acceleration. 

Rims can bend, and tire tread can rip from riding over curbs, road debris, or jagged pavement, causing a tire wobble that drives the bike to shake at high speeds.

Sometimes the tread is uneven because the rider’s routes seem to force them to lean more to one side in the curves.

In other situations, tire dragging can cause uneven wear to a part of the tire tread, whether when moving the bike or while riding.

  • An unbalanced tire or wheel is the most common reason for uneven tire tread.
  • If the tire’s weight is heavier on one side than on the other, it will wobble back and forth as it rotates.
  • This wobble can cause the whole bike to jerk back and forth at high speeds.
  • An unbalanced tire also wears your tire tread unevenly, ensuring the bike will continue to start shaking at high speeds even after the tire is balanced until the tire is replaced.

5. Impaired Wheel Rims

If your motorcycle rim is bent or dented even slightly, the uneven wheel rotation can cause the motorcycle to buck and shake when accelerating up to highway speeds.

  • More experienced motorcyclists who can tell the difference in the feel of their bike wheel even at the first sign of change in air pressure may notice the wobbling motion at slow speeds when it’s still very subtle.
  • That said, most riders won’t detect the tire’s change in integrity until the damage gets severe enough to make the motorcycle shake when riding fast.

Regular tire and rim examinations and services allow riders to catch wheel damage at the first sign before their bike starts shaking dangerously at high speeds.

Why a Motorcycle May Shake at LOW Speed

Here are reasons that can make a motorcycle shake at low speeds:

6. Faulty Swing Arm Bearings

A swing arm bearing’s main job is to keep the rear wheel supported and connected to the rest of your bike frame. The swing arm’s bearings allow it to swing up and down on a pivot joint, assisting as your rear shocks absorb the shock.

If your swing arm bearing wears out over time or fails due to corrosion or damage, it can cause your motorcycle to start shaking, especially on rough roads, in harsh windy conditions, or riding on a patch of gravel, even at low speeds.

The shaking may stop when you’re riding slowly on smooth roads, but once you roll onto a bumpy stretch of road, your motorcycle will jerk back and forth.

The shaking motion can happen at slow speeds but will get more violent riding at highway rates.

If your swing arm bearings are worn, your motorcycle is unsafe to ride until they are replaced, which is the only way to stop your bike from shaking.

7. Worn Steering Head Bearings

Steering head bearings are tasked with stabilising your bike’s front-end alignment while you’re in motion.

Harsh weather, improper storage, and general wear and tear can all shorten the life of your steering head bearings.

You’ll notice a binding feeling develop from your front end during turns and curves once your steering head bearings or SHBs are corroded or worn down.

In time, the failing bearings will absorb vibration from the engine, fork, suspension, front wheel, and road, causing the bike to shake, especially when you’re moving your bars from side to side.

Failed steering head bearings need to be replaced immediately before riding. The handlebars can shake back and forth even at low speeds when you move your steering head to steer, which can easily cause a collision in the middle of a turn.

8. Tires Are Filled to the Incorrect PSI

If your front or rear tire isn’t filled to the spec PSI level your particular make and year model moto calls for, the tires will continue to deflate over time, especially if you’re riding on them.

As the tires deflate, the handling of your motorcycle and your engine performance will start to dip.

The tire pressure level is considered during the engineering of your motorcycle, meaning that when the wheels are steadily deflating, your fuel, fork, rotation, and suspension will all be negatively impacted.

A limp set of tires can cause your motorcycle to shake while riding. Once they deflate past a certain level, your motorcycle’s handlebars will jerk back and forth on rough roads, even at low speeds.

Riding at low PSI also risks damage to all the components mentioned in this section, including the tires themselves, causing the uneven wear noted earlier.

Related: Can You Sit On A Motorcycle With Kickstand Down? (Explained)

9. Riding Over Construction Grooves in the Pavement

Construction grooves are caused by heavy machines ripping old pavement off the road as they prepare it for a fresh coat.

Unlike the intentional weather grooves, you can identify construction grooves because they go in random directions, causing some motorcycles to shake violently as they ride over them, particularly in the wheels and handlebars. 

  • If the grooved pavement is causing shaking, grip your handlebars firmly without causing discomfort to your hand as you ride over them.
  • Prepare for your bike’s bucking and jerking, but don’t push against the tire shaking motion.
  • The wheels will naturally roll through the path of least resistance as you roll over the torn road.

Motorcycles are designed to stay upright—trust your wheels and focus on guiding your bars firmly until you pass over the grooved pavement and your bike stops shaking.

Related: Motorcycle Front Wheel Wobbles? 8 Common Reasons (Solved)

10. Loose or Missing Hardware

Loose bolts in your front and rear wheels, forks, swingarm, handlebars, or steering head will cause your motorcycle to start to shake while you ride, even at low speeds.

11. Overloading Your Bike’s Weight Limit

Whether it’s a bag of clothes, tools, extra riding gear, or a passenger, loading your bike past its weight limit can cause jerking and shaking, especially at low speeds when your bike is already unstable.

Improperly loading your bike with gear without minding the center of gravity or counterweight can make you start shaking, even if it’s under the weight limit.

Related: Too Overweight To Ride Motorcycles? (Read This First)

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