If your motorcycle pulls to one side while you’re riding, it not only takes the fun out of the situation, but an uncontrollable lean to one side is also a dangerous, potentially fatal affair.
The most common reasons a motorcycle leans to one side are uneven or unbalanced tires or misalignment between the handlebars, forks, and front wheel.
This article details the most common reasons why a motorcycle pulls to one side, how to repair them, and how to prevent your bike from leaning to one side while riding in the future.
Table of Contents
1. Handlebars and Forks Are Misaligned
One of the most common reasons a motorcycle pulls to one side while riding is because the alignment between its handlebars and the front wheel is thrown off.
An improper fork position is the most common cause of a misaligned front end on a motorcycle. In some cases, the front forks were torqued down while still crooked. This fastens them into the incorrect position, throwing off the alignment between the handlebars and the front wheel.
- Your motorcycle handlebars should be at a 90-degree angle with the front wheel so they’re perfectly perpendicular to one another.
- If either the bars or fork is misaligned, that angle is distorted.
Once the alignment between the fork and bars is corrupted, your bars may appear straight while your unaligned fork faces the front tire slightly to the right or left, pulling the bike in that direction while you’re riding.
If you’re lucky, it may just be that the front forks need an adjustment. You or a trusted moto-mechanic can loosen the fork bolts and realign the fork so your handlebars and the front wheel are back at 90 degrees.
Once the forks are correctly adjusted, torque them according to the spec outlined in your motorcycle service manual. Over-tightening the divisions is another cause of a motorcycle drifting to one side while riding.
2. Poorly Adjusted Triple Clamp
A typical motorcycle front-end setup uses the triple tree clamp located at the part of the bike’s fork.
Bolts protrude up through the triple clamp and bolt to your handlebars.
If the clamp isn’t torqued down properly, the single bars and fork will be misaligned, even if the bars appear installed correctly, and the bike may pull to one side.
If you suspect an improperly adjusted or damaged triple tree clamp is why your motorcycle tracks to the side while riding straight, we suggest having a pro mechanic inspect and adjust it.
While experienced home mechanics may tell you this is an easy job to knock yourself out, providing you have the space, equipment, and tools required to do it, a slight error can make the alignment worse and put your life in danger.
Additionally, there are multiple Steering Head Bearings inside the clamp, some of which can be quite small. If any of these bearings go missing, it negatively and hazardously affects your bike’s steering.
As a preventive measure, a pro inspects the angle between your handlebars and front wheel during routine service inspections.
3. Bent Front End
If the front tire of your motorcycle recently took a significant hit, or if it struck debris, a pothole, or a curb, it could misalign the whole front end of your bike, altering its 90 angles and causing it to lean to one side while riding.
Bent handlebars can be subtle and undetectable, making them appear straight from the saddle, while in reality, they’re causing the front tire to pull to one side rather than rolling along in a straight line.
4. Warped Motorcycle Chassis or Frame
Another common cause of a motorcycle pulling to one side while riding is a warped frame, which could result from a collision, dropping the bike, or having a car back into the motorcycle while it’s parked.
Too many riders buy their motorcycle from a private seller without asking for the bike’s crash reports and vehicle history.
Eventually, they realize later that no matter how many times they’ve adjusted their triple clamp, for, and handlebars and trued their tires, their front tire tracks to one side while riding due to a damaged frame from a spill that happened before they owned the bike.
- Home mechanics can use special edging instruments to check their frames straight.
- That said, repairing a warped motorcycle frame is often costly, requiring stripping the bike of all its mechanical and electrical parts and bringing in an expert frame welder.
If a warped frame is why your motorcycle veers to the side while riding, it may be cheaper to replace the motorcycle unless the bike is a collector’s item.
You should also read our article about reasons a motorcycle vibrates.
5. Imbalanced Motorcycle Tires
Motorcycle tires must be balanced against one another to keep the bike’s weight distribution even, or the handling can become unmanageable. If the tires are unbalanced severely enough, the motorcycle may even pull to one side while riding.
Motorcycle tires are weighted in harmony with one another to keep the weight distribution of the motorcycle where the engineers designed it to be so everything runs at spec.
The leading causes of unbalanced motorcycle tires are replacing one tire but not the other, using mismatched tires, or using incorrect tire sizes.
The stress aggressive curve riding puts on the sidewalls of motorcycle tires can also cause the tire weight to shift, as does riding on worn pavement, loose gravel, or hitting potholes and road debris.
- In addition to pulling to one side, less severe symptoms may manifest early on if your tire weight isn’t balanced to spec, including:
- Uneven Tire Wearing
- Dips in Fuel Economy
- Increase in Wheel, Hand, and Arm Vibration
- Roads Feel Rougher than Usual
- Inconsistent Handling
- Dip in Engine Performance
If imbalanced motorcycle tires are the reason your bike veers to the side while riding, we suggest you take the bike to the dealership or a tire shop experienced with motorcycle tires.
There are multiple types of tire balancing; since motorcycles are two-wheel vehicles, you want what’s called circumferential balancing, so the rectified tire doesn’t wobble.
We have an article that also talks about the reasons why a motorcycle shakes while riding.
6. Improper Tire Inflation
If your motorcycle tire pressure is inflated to the wrong PSI, the motorcycle’s fuel economy will drop along with its engine performance, its handling becomes less stable, and it may start drifting off the side while you ride.
- The engineers consider the tires’ dimensions, weight, and surface area when designing and coordinating the physics and mechanics of a motorcycle.
- These tire qualities are changed if it isn’t inflated to the PSI it’s intended to run with.
- Once the tire is underinflated, its shape changes, and its traction on the road is reduced.
If the tire isn’t as round as it should be, the flatness causes the excess rubber to roll to one side of the tire, pulling the bike to the side even when your handlebars are positioned straight ahead.
If inadequate tire pressure is the reason your motorcycle pulls to one side, the solution is to fill the tires to their suggested PSI as soon as possible.
If you ride on low tires for long, the tires will wear unevenly, and you may have to change them to restore your bike’s handling and ride quality–More on this in the next section.
7. Worn or Damaged Motorcycle Tires
If your motorcycle tires wear down past a certain point, they can cause wobbling, a drop in fuel efficiency and engine performance, unmanageable handling, and uneven weight distribution, and your motorcycle may pull in one direction when you’re trying to ride in a straight line.
- In some cases, motorcycles tires wear unevenly as the rider rides tracks or technical roads, requiring them to lean to one side more than the other.
- Eventually, the uneven wear to the tire becomes noticeable when the rider attempts to roll straight as the tire veers to one side.
- In other cases, sun damage or moisture causes tire rot to warp the tires so that they fail to roll in a straight line.
- If the bike was improperly moved by being dragged or drug across the road in a riding accident, it might cause a bald spot on the tire that impacts its shape and causes it to pull to the side.
- Finally, in some situations, a manufacturing area leaves one side of the tire damaged while the other is fine, impacting the tire’s ability to roll in a straight line.
And as we mentioned above, riding on underinflated or overfilled tires can cause uneven wear and permanent damage.
Worn motorcycle tires need to be replaced as soon as possible, long before they impact your bike’s handling enough to cause it to pull to the side. Worn tires wear exponentially faster than fresh tires, meaning they’re wearing more and more every time you ride and are only getting less and less safe.
The only fix for worn or uneven motorcycle tires is to replace the tires with new ones. We suggest replacing both motorcycle tires simultaneously to avoid uneven weight distribution and tire wear.
Please also read our article about reasons a motorcycle feels unstable.