Death Wobble

Discussion in 'Face Plant' started by apexal, Jul 18, 2016.

  1. apexal

    apexal Been here awhile

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    Back on May 23rd I was heading north on I 295 in Brunswick, Maine. I was on my KLR650 and going 65 mph when suddenly the bike went into a severe font end wobble. It was only a second or two before I crashed, I had no time to react, but I knew that I was going down and I'll never forget that horrible, helpless feeling. Luckily I don't remember much afterwards, just bits and pieces like getting loaded into an ambulance then being in the Critical Care unit at Maine Medical. Thank God my head, neck and back were okay and no broken bones except my left hand but I had some serious scrapes and bruises and severe bruises on my legs. I also damaged my left shoulder but for now we are doing steroid shots and PT. All my riding gear was pretty much destroyed, especially my helmet, and I would absolutely be dead if I wasn't wearing the helmet. The jacket and pants were Klim Latitude and the helmet was a Shoei Hornet if that matters. Boots were Sidi Adventures, scuffed a bit but totally reusable.

    Back to the wobble that caused the crash. I have no idea what happened, it just suddenly came on without warning. My bike was a 2014 KLR650 with 3500 miles on it. At 2900 miles I serviced the bike myself, went over the entire machine and also installed Continental TKC 80s. I could have done something wrong when I serviced the bike but I had 600 perfect miles after the service with no hint of wobbles or instability.

    The day that I crashed was day one of a five day trip through Maine. I was carrying about 20 pounds in each side case and also a 23 pound duffle on the rear rack. I was running 30 psi in the front tire and 38 psi in the rear tire. My first thought was that the front tire suddenly went flat but both tires still inflated after the crash from talking to the tow company. I also thought that balance weights my have come off but a post crash photo seems to show them at least on one side of the front rim. One person guessed that I damaged something last year when I had an off-road crash doing about 25-30 mph. But to tell the truth I do remember the bike being a bit squirrely before the crash. So one theory is that they duffle may have affected handling since this was the first time that I ever carried a duffle. I did bump the rear preload one notch but it may could have been wind drag, not the weight of the duffle. But I can’t be the first person to carry a duffle on a KLR650.

    After the accident my KLR was taken by a tow company then it was sent to a salvage company after the insurance pay-off. Since I was laid up I never had a chance to see the bike to figure out what happened. I’ll probably never know. Unfortunately it’s two months later, I’m still laid up, bruised and battered but getting better every day. I hit the pavement hard at 65 MPH but thank God I didn’t hit a guard rail or get run over by somebody behind me. I believe that I’m lucky to be alive.

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    #1
  2. anotheroldfart

    anotheroldfart Been here awhile

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    The duffle bag might have shifted to one side, or was mounted too far back and with the off road tires with LESS road contact had thrown the bike off balance. Just my guess.

    I have carried a large duffle bag on a BMW R75, a K100RS and most recently a '06 Honda GW. The bag on the GW sat high ontop of the auxiliary fuel tank. No bag movement on any of my bikes, EXCEPT in high cross wind. I used a large cargo NET, largest I could find.

    I hope you mend quickly.
    #2
  3. ozmoses

    ozmoses ...

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    :thumb
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  4. flei

    flei cycletherapist

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    WOW! Glad to hear you are (mostly) ok despite a high speed get off! Could you have hit something unseen in the road? If those pictures are YOUR bike after the crash, those KLR's are tough M-F'ers! Panniers still intact, duffel still on, etc., even the mirrors aren't broken! My bike has gotten more damage dropping it my driveway; it looks worse than that just sitting at home! People make fun of them but as much as I drop mine, maybe I should get a KLR?
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  5. apexal

    apexal Been here awhile

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    I've carried a much heavier duffle and and side cases on my R1200GS's with no problem. The GS's are rock solid and stable. The KLR by comparison in lighter and more dirt oriented (i.e., 21" front wheel). But the KLR should have been fine with the stuff I had on it. Don't know if the duffle shifted but it's a good idea. It was the general manager of the local BMW dealership that thought that the duffle might have caught some air.

    Yes, hitting something in the road is a strong possibility but I don't remember much before the accident, either. All the damage to the KLR was on the left side. I believe that the bike went down on the left side, stayed on that side but spit me off on the high side. I was 35 feet beyond the bike when we came to rest. Allstate totaled the bike which made me happy. I wanted nothing to do with it. But the KLR was fun while it lasted!
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  6. I'llMakeTheBeer

    I'llMakeTheBeer UberNoob

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    The duffel seems kinda far fetched to me. Front axle bearings? Remember any noise or sudden jolts just before the wobble?

    Not having the bike anymore sort of makes guessing pointless now that I think about it.

    From one KLR owner to another: so glad you're alive and well brother.
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  7. Nesquik

    Nesquik Long timer

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    +1 to all the above except I don't own a KLR
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  8. just jeff

    just jeff Long timer

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    I have a 2011 that has the same cases + an identical top case as well as a large duffel when loaded for remote camping. At times I may be carrying as much as 80lbs of gear and have had absolutely no issues with wobble. I have over 10000 miles on the clock.
    If you think about it the KLR can carry a passenger without issue so any luggage securely mounted should be OK too.
    JJ

    DSCF1848.JPG
    #8
  9. takeiteasy_U2

    takeiteasy_U2 Been here awhile

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  10. RZRob

    RZRob Long timer

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    I've been riding the 21" front wheel bikes (XRs) on the street for years and front end death wobbles come with the territory. You are not to blame. The fact is that knobbies don't have the traction and more weight on the back just made the front that much more unstable. I've tested all kinds of theories, but the only one that seems to make sense is that "stuff happens." Glad it wasn't worse.

    RZ Rob
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  11. Moronic

    Moronic Long timer

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    Glad to hear you weren't too badly beaten up, and thanks for posting.

    I don't recall instability from big trail singles on the street but I've not ridden one for a long time, so I accept Rob's comments above.

    One thing that does puzzle me though is that it happened so suddenly and so viciously - and at relatively low speed.

    The geometry on these bikes should be inherently very stable. "Should be", I know.

    And then extra weight on the back normally increases trail and makes them, in principle, more stable still.

    There is the possibility of the air drag taking weight off the front tyre to the point where it could no longer hold the steering straight. But that's not a recipe for an immediate wobble unless you turned the 'bars with the front in the air and then rolled off the throttle. You would expect to feel the unsettling lightness of the steering before then.

    There is the possibility of buffetting caused by turbulent airflow past the pannier-duffle combination. But again, it is not something you would expect to strike with crash-inducing violence but no prior indication.

    The feeling of helplessness you describe sounds a bit odd to me too.

    Only way it all makes sense to me - apart from a flat tyre, which you've already ruled out - is if something interfered suddenly with the steering, preventing the fork from swivelling freely.

    If you can remember, was it a big, lock-to-lock type, handlebar wobble that suddenly tore the 'bars out of your hands? Or was it more that the 'bars didn't move much but the bike as a whole developed an oscillation that you seemed to have no control over, and it then fell down and threw you off?
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  12. takeiteasy_U2

    takeiteasy_U2 Been here awhile

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    There are many causes of weaves and wobbles-most are maintenance related and could have been avoided. Items like loose wheel bearings, improperly adjusted or worn neck bearings, loose axles, pivot shafts, neglected tires, worn shocks, leaking front forks, missing fork braces or stabilizers, and engine mounts can all cause a catastrophic accident.
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  13. Moronic

    Moronic Long timer

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    Yeah but the OP was on a near-new bike. Sure, anything can go wrong. But at 3500 miles on a two-year-old KLR, neglect won't even get you a loose chain. And the bike had not been neglected.
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  14. apexal

    apexal Been here awhile

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    An interesting article.

    Well, I believe that my KLR was in top shape, I checked tire pressures that morning, was riding on a straight, smooth interstate, and no unusual noises or hints of a problem before the wobble. And 65 MPH isn't a relatively low speed to me, especially on a KLR650.

    I call what happened a wobble. I've been in a tank slapper where the bars wagged almost violently but in this case the bars wobbled (weaved) in a slower, wider arc. Not sure why moronic says the feeling of helplessness sounded a bit odd to him but what else would I be feeling, knowing in that instant that I was going to crash?

    A few years ago I was doing about 75 MPH on the interstate on my Moto Guzzi Norge 1200 when my rear tire went down rapidly. I had an instant wobble in the back but I had enough time to react and pull over safely. So as I laid in the hospital emergency room after the KLR crash I was 100% convinced that the front tire went down, based on past experience. When my girlfriend went to get my gear from the KLR at the tow company I asked her to check the front tire. Now the TKC 80 is a rugged tire so I wonder if "they" thought a stiff tire was a properly inflated tire?

    Maybe I should not have ever started this thread because it's a riddle with now answer. But I've been recuperating for two months with plenty of free time and it's something that I think about often. The memory loss doesn't help so I keep looking over my destroyed riding gear trying to piece things together. But in the end I'm glad that I don't remember the accident itself :-)
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  15. just jeff

    just jeff Long timer

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    I had a wreck years ago that caused me to loose 3 months memory including the accident. I never found out the cause of the accident either. You get over it in time but sometimes you do wonder.
    It is good that you are healing enough to be focusing on the why rather than on the injuries.:D
    JJ
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  16. Moronic

    Moronic Long timer

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    I think it is an interesting thread because there is not an obvious answer. It is not out of the question that the discussion will trigger something for you that helps it all make sense, or that someone will bring a suggestion that clears things up. If you've crashed, it always helps to understand why. Helps your confidence, and helps you stay upright.

    The reason I said feeling helpless sounded odd is that with the bike in good shape, I would have expected you would have felt like you could do something to help. Even if you weren't sure what that was. In other words, that the bike would have felt responsive. If you backed off a bit of throttle, you would have felt how that changed things, for example. Your reporting that you felt helpless suggests to me that something had happened to the bike that made it unresponsive. As in a failure of some kind, and not weird turbulence from the luggage. A flat tyre is the most obvious pick, as you say.

    Could easily have been the rear tyre BTW, as you probably know. A slow-starting but strengthening weave is a common symptom there. In that rear-on pic with the bike on the sidestand it looks okay though - not that it is easy to tell.
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  17. foxtrapper

    foxtrapper Long timer

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    Sometimes you just never do know what caused the crash. I did a Dale Earnhart in a truck for unknown reasons some years ago. To this day I don't know why the truck turned and hit the wall. Nothing I did made any impression on it once it started the turn to the wall. Did a tire blow? Something about the pavement? Me? Don't know.

    So you pick up the pieces, try to learn what you can, and continue on.
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  18. TM1(SS)

    TM1(SS) Been here awhile

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    I was behind a guy that that happened to, very long story short, a Jeep coming the opposite direction had a GoPro running. The dude that wrecked, me, and the Jeep driver all exchanged info. The next afternoon, got a call from the guy who wrecked, turns out the Jeep guy got the video into his computer, zoomed it in, slowed it down and what happened was the bike had hit a large rock that had just fallen off the side of a big truck that was in front of the Jeep right when the they guy who wrecked was next to the truck!
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  19. apexal

    apexal Been here awhile

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    Loosing my memory is a good thing because I don't have to remember hitting the road and tumbling and sliding. The bad thing about loosing my memory is that I don't remember what happened.
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  20. apexal

    apexal Been here awhile

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    I find this whole thing fascinating. I do think that you are correct in that the forum posts will help make sense of things. Like how the right knee of my Klim pants ripped open and I lost the pad; somebody mentioned footpegs, and aha, I realized that the only sharp thing on the right side of the bike was my Pivot Pegz.

    I felt helpless because it happened so fast and I went down so quickly that I didn't have time to do a thing. It was like 1 to 2 seconds from start to finish and the wobble was so bad that I knew I was going to crash. But your comment about rear tire and "a slow starting but strengthening weave" does seem possible if it was a partial deflation.

    How about the story by TM1(SS) about a rock in the road? That tells me that anything is possible.
    #20