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Old 03-10-2013, 11:32 AM   #1
Low Down OP
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The HD touring model "Death Wobble"...

I just don't get it, or buy into the hype. Have I experienced it? Sure... on my 07 FLHTC. It happened when I was riding at speed that would likely get me arrested if caught. I understand how this could end badly for someone who is riding above their limitations/skill level and panics... not to mention these bikes are not meant for that kind of spirited riding.

So why all the talk about it, and how people should steer clear of the pre 09 touring frames? To me it seems like a bunch of BS perpetuated by people who drink the kool-aid, and by those who probably have some other kind of issue with their bike - tire pressure, suspension, steering head loose/bad bearing, etc.

Catalina Hwy and US191 between Morenci and Alpine are a couple of my favorite roads in AZ to get my twisty fix on. They are an absolute blast to ride with the EGC. Never dealt with a wobble while doing so at a pace that is 'reasonable and prudent'. In fact, it is the only bike I've owned that didn't leave me feeling tired after a long day of riding... that's why it gets the most use.


Of course, YMMV... please discuss.

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Old 03-10-2013, 11:45 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Low Down View Post
I just don't get it, or buy into the hype. Have I experienced it? Sure... on my 07 FLHTC. It happened when I was riding at speed that would likely get me arrested if caught. I understand how this could end badly for someone who is riding above their limitations/skill level and panics... not to mention these bikes are not meant for that kind of spirited riding.

So why all the talk about it, and how people should steer clear of the pre 09 touring frames? To me it seems like a bunch of BS perpetuated by people who drink the kool-aid, and by those who probably have some other kind of issue with their bike - tire pressure, suspension, steering head loose/bad bearing, etc.

Catalina Hwy and US191 between Morenci and Alpine are a couple of my favorite roads in AZ to get my twisty fix on. They are an absolute blast to ride with the EGC. Never dealt with a wobble while doing so at a pace that is 'reasonable and prudent'. In fact, it is the only bike I've owned that didn't leave me feeling tired after a long day of riding... that's why it gets the most use.


Of course, YMMV... please discuss.

I imagine its about the same thing as the Honda ST1300 with it's highspeed wobble. Probably only a few people actually get the wobble, but with so many other motorcycle choices out there, why take the chance to buy something that has a "known" and potentially very dangerous issue that may or may not pop up when you lease expect it.

I talked my brother out of buying a ST1300 and pointed him to an FJR instead. I used the same logic. Why take the chance?
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Old 03-10-2013, 02:29 PM   #3
txwanderer
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They all do that. No really, at some speed or another all of them will pick up a wobble.
Hearing about all this kind of makes me skeptical. Goldwings have a tendency to do it on deceleration, and a lot of whining about it. Keep your hands on the bars and it stops it. Keeping the bike and suspension in proper working order and maintained goes a long way.
Like you said, you had to really be pushing. I would wager maintenance is a large contributing factor.
YMMV
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Old 03-10-2013, 03:20 PM   #4
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Wasn't the frame re-design in around 2009 supposed to cure that? Any bar mounted fairing is going to cause some wobbling since it feeds wind gust input into the bars but I haven't heard that complaint about Hogs in years.

I rented one of the new frame Hogs in 2008 or 2009 and I was mobbed by pirates everywhere I went - everyone knew it was the new frame bike and wanted to know how I liked it compared to the old bike. Of course, I had never ridden the old bike, so I couldn't give them any feedback.
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Old 03-10-2013, 04:07 PM   #5
EricD10563
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I've experinced a wobble/head shake on both of my HD's with the newer frame, I even have a Progressive Touring Link in the garage to try oneday. All have incurred at high speed, is it a design flaw or am I pushing the bike beyond it's designed limits or intended purpose? These occurrences did not occur at normal operating speed not even at 15-20mph over, I've owned and rode other bikes too that will express one way or another some ill characteristic when pushed. I'm just saying even with the new frame there are some handling issues if pushed to the limit. I've never had a any issue with tight corners, it's only occurred in high speed sweepers.

Throttle control and steering input seems to make a big difference, even rider position can change the effect at least that's what I've found. Been riding long enough that it's never really scared the heck out of me and can almost predict when it will happen by looking at the corner and based on my speed if it might/will happen. My girlfriend rides a 2011 Street Glide and she's no slouch, we both hit a sweeper about 90mph+, my bike started it's dance and I backed down some, I asked her if she saw it and she looked at me like yea what do you think my bike was doing and told me her bike was doing the same. My old Girlfriend rode an BMW RT and she told me that I ride fast enough at time that she would not want to ride any quicker, my point is I'm pushing it sometimes.

Just saying I'm sure every bike has it's limitations, some bikes are better bikes than most riders will ever be, other bikes allow the rider to push the bike to it's limits. Is it a problem I don't think so, but I'm not going to say it's not there, can improvements be made (Touring Link, fork springs, rear shocks) you betcha; but that can be said of most bikes I would imagine.

I know the cure it's simple ride it like it's designed to be ridden and not like a sport bike; which is why the Touring Link is sitting in the garage. Still I'm amazed and so are some of my non-riding Harley friends at how well these big bikes can hustle around a corner.

Just my 2 cents

BTW I've rode older HD's and to me it felt like the front and the rear were on a hinge when pushed.

For reference the bikes
2009 Road King
2011 Electra Glide Ultra Limited
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Old 03-10-2013, 04:29 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Low Down View Post

Catalina Hwy and US191 between Morenci and Alpine are a couple of my favorite roads in AZ to get my twisty fix on. They are an absolute blast to ride with the EGC.
Nice road I rode that last year from Morenci to Springerville and I had the good fortune of doing it in the rain. Was on the Road king at the time and had no problems with the bike at all, it's not high speed territory though some of it past Hannagan Meadow you can get going pretty good; at least thats what I remember.
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Old 03-10-2013, 05:26 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Boon Booni View Post
I imagine its about the same thing as the Honda ST1300 with it's highspeed wobble. Probably only a few people actually get the wobble, but with so many other motorcycle choices out there, why take the chance to buy something that has a "known" and potentially very dangerous issue that may or may not pop up when you lease expect it.

I talked my brother out of buying a ST1300 and pointed him to an FJR instead. I used the same logic. Why take the chance?
I think people are taking more 'chances' just riding motorcycles in a day-to-day situation, than worrying about the possibility of some wobble in a perfect storm scenario. I would never rule out a bike that a few riders had a problem with... but I respect your opinion, and think that people should choose a bike that gives them the confidence to enjoy it.


Quote:
Originally Posted by txwanderer View Post
They all do that. No really, at some speed or another all of them will pick up a wobble.
Hearing about all this kind of makes me skeptical. Goldwings have a tendency to do it on deceleration, and a lot of whining about it. Keep your hands on the bars and it stops it. Keeping the bike and suspension in proper working order and maintained goes a long way.
Like you said, you had to really be pushing. I would wager maintenance is a large contributing factor.
YMMV
Couldn't agree more.
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Old 03-10-2013, 05:46 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. Canoehead View Post
Wasn't the frame re-design in around 2009 supposed to cure that? Any bar mounted fairing is going to cause some wobbling since it feeds wind gust input into the bars but I haven't heard that complaint about Hogs in years.

I rented one of the new frame Hogs in 2008 or 2009 and I was mobbed by pirates everywhere I went - everyone knew it was the new frame bike and wanted to know how I liked it compared to the old bike. Of course, I had never ridden the old bike, so I couldn't give them any feedback.
To my knowledge, I thought HD made the new frame to make it easier for them to produce trikes... not sure on that, but I don't believe it was to address the 'death wobble'. I've passed big trucks on the freeway like they were standing still, and the batwing on my bike never gave me a problem. The stock tires on the other hand made the bike ride like shit. The improvement made when ditchin' them was huge!


Quote:
Originally Posted by EricD10563 View Post
Nice road I rode that last year from Morenci to Springerville and I had the good fortune of doing it in the rain. Was on the Road king at the time and had no problems with the bike at all, it's not high speed territory though some of it past Hannagan Meadow you can get going pretty good; at least thats what I remember.
I think the time I've made that trip on my geezer glide was the most fun for me. The only thing I didn't enjoy is how the stock tires felt on the tar snakes... it was like riding on marbles. Can't wait to try that ride with the Elite 3's on the bike now.

Was I riding that road like I was on my Speed Triple? Hell no! But I sure didn't hold back either (at least not in the areas that weren't covered in tar snakes). Good times!
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Old 03-10-2013, 08:50 PM   #9
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I'm not gonna call it "death" wobble but 3 out of 4 of my HD tourers since '94 (including my current '09 with new frame) have got wobble in high speed sweepers , rapid lane changes and/or evasive maneuvers. My '99 Road glide never had a problem maybe because of the frame mounted fairing and 21" front wheel increasing rake & trail? The weird triple tree arrangement and rubber mounted swing arm are the design reasons for the wobble. Bad head or wheel bearings, low air pressure or bad tires along with worn suspension, motor or swing arm mounts make it worse. A third link can help! Riding 80mph on the freeway isn't, or at least shouldn't be, riding above the design parameters of any highway vehicle!
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Old 03-10-2013, 09:05 PM   #10
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I never get to have any fun.

Ridden my '12 Ultra at over a buck several times, on a closed road only, of course.

Proper tire pressure in motorcycle tires and heavy items in the panniers and not the top case.

No death wobble. Sigh.
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Old 03-10-2013, 09:08 PM   #11
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Death wobble

I had a new bike that had a death wobble, it went away when I learned to relax and not fight the bars.
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Old 03-10-2013, 09:10 PM   #12
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My dad claims he had it (or his description of it) on an interstate interchange in Kentucky. We were changing interstates at interstate speeds. Me on my ST1300 accelerated through it up to 90, SWMBO rolled through at 75 on her M50, and Dad on his 04 Glide slowed down to about 60, then the wavy nature of the ramp forced the bike into an oscillation that he claims shot him across the interstate when the on-ramp came down. He said he had to really muscle it out of the wobble. I bought him a stabilizer. Now I know that's not the permanent fix but if it raises the speed the wobble happens to levels he's never at, problem solved.
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Old 03-10-2013, 09:13 PM   #13
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I've seen them wobble past me on the freeway. A buddy has a 2007 and he says it's a wobbling sumbiatch, but he's run a '55 gasser to 200 mph in the quarter and just doesn't care, said he has had it to 135 mph indicated and it just wobbles. Something about a rubber mounted swingarm is what he says about it?
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Old 03-10-2013, 10:00 PM   #14
EricD10563
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 0ldhippie;20915497r
riding 80mph on the freeway isn't, or at least shouldn't be, riding above the design parameters of any highway vehicle!
No argument there at all, never ever had a problem at anything that can be considered resonable.
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Old 03-10-2013, 11:05 PM   #15
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I ride an 02 Electra Glide an have never had it happen but it concerned me enough to put fresh swing arm bushings in every Winter.
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