Steering Dampers & Stabilizers - Let's See 'Em

Discussion in 'Hacks' started by mikepa, Nov 24, 2020.

  1. mikepa

    mikepa SideCzarist Supporter

    Joined:
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    I have recently started installing GPR rotary steering stabilizers to mitigate front end oscillations and potential tank-slappers on trail-reduced front ends where the customer wants max reduction in steering effort. They are not only highly functional, but a beautifully machined and anodized product, especially for certain models where a GPR upper fork cross brace is included:

    gpr_stabilizer_small.jpg


    But of course, these are not the only solution for a steering stabilizer or damper, I've added a couple I found on the web below, let's see yours!:

    If my sources are correct, this heinous mess was actually "built" by a sidecar build shop here in the USA:

    worst_steering_damper_ever.jpg


    Saw this beauty on the web:

    totally_damped.jpg


    Tough to beat for low cost and functionality, those with leading links can simply install a linear damper (I source mine from STABILUS, Germany) as the chassis provides a fixed mounting for one end, and though it swings thru the full steering angle, a relatively planar mounting point for the other on the rigid fork downtube. I know of at least one hack pilot who has had success with installing a linear damper with one end fixed to the the chassis, and the other to the lower fork brace on a TeleLever, but the constant shock and movement of the lower fork brace gives me cause for concern:

    lbs_linear_damper.jpg
    #1
  2. PaulRS

    PaulRS Dutch fool

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    If set-up properly, you don't need a damper.

    Paul.
    #2
  3. TurTal

    TurTal Long timer

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    Could you please show us your properly set-up rig without a damper

    I'm curious as to how this is possible
    .
    #3
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  4. DRONE

    DRONE Dog Chauffeur

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    My BMW K1200LT comes from the factory with a BMW steering damper. I replaced that damper with one from HyperPro. Hard to see it, but it mounts to the lower fork brace up front and the telelever in back. First pic is my bike, 2nd pic (better one) from the web is some other guy's K1200LT also with a HyperPro---->

    damper(1).jpg

    damper.jpg

    I have both a steering mod and a DeDome mod on my bike and have no wobbles. No idea if the damper is a partly responsible for this. I suppose I could disconnect the damper then see if I develop any head shake. Not gonna do that, though, 'cause you know why? -- I'm not curious.
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  5. Hookalatch

    Hookalatch Born Under Bad Sign

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    I don't have a damper on my rig and I have absolutely no headshake at any speed or when accelerating or decelerating.
    I am using the front hole on my modified Unit forks. If I used the rear hole it would decrease trail more and then might require a damper.
    Seems to work quite well the way it is.

    Attached Files:

    #5
  6. DRONE

    DRONE Dog Chauffeur

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    I don't know how many other guys experience this, but (1) on a gravel road with (2) switchbacks (sometimes called hairpins) while (3) going uphill and (4) accelerating out of a left switchback (away from the car) where the front wheel is unloaded there are almost always washboard ripples created by cars and trucks accelerating up the hill. When I'm in that washboard, with the outfit leaning towards the car, and I hit the throttle, I will sometimes get terrible headshake. Very fast oscillations. Usually I'll be in 1st gear but sometimes 2nd. Now, the outfit is already trying to slide to the right and into the hillside, and I'm already trying to fight this understeer, but then when I get this washboard oscillation it becomes a real challenge to keep the outfit under control. Also very difficult to control the throttle while also trying to tightly grip the bars.

    The solution of course is to slow down. But what fun is that? I wonder if one of those GPR stabilizers as shown in Post #1 would be robust enough to defeat the washboard. I think I'll contact the vendor (LBS Sidecars).
    #6
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  7. TurTal

    TurTal Long timer

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    Ok but why ?

    I'm the curious type...it's how I eventually figure things out and try to make them better

    Why would one rig need a damper and another not ?

    Trail reduction ? Head angle ? Tire size? Frame geometry?

    Why ?

    I mean if it's not needed what's the secret ?



    Maybe Stong Bad will show up and explain it to me

    .
    #7
  8. Strong Bad

    Strong Bad Former World's Foremost Authority Supporter

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    IMG_1276.jpg

    My Scotts damper on my 07 BMW R1200GSA. The line on the bottom was from it was mounted to my Honda 450x desert race bike.

    When we were kids we used to drive our mom crazy asking too many questions that she had no answer for, she would just say: "Because, that's why". :lol3

    In the real world there are many little variables that influence or perhaps contribute to "head shake". Including; tire choice, air pressure, road surface, suspension, frame geomerty, trail, and of course how those things interact with each other.

    If any rig was uniform it should be the Ural, and don't they all come from the factory with a steering stabilizer and have for years and years. If anyone could figure that out one would think they would have by now.

    Attached Files:

    #8
  9. brstar

    brstar Long timer

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    I'm going with frame geometry.

    Guy's a gorilla?
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  10. TurTal

    TurTal Long timer

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    Ok I get all that...but if that's all there was to it why is Hookalatch going down the road subjected to the same conditions as the rest of us yet he has no damper

    Is he a Wizard or is there an actual reason ?


    I thought for sure one of you guru's could explain it to my dumbass


    I guess I'll go with "Beause,that's why" for now but I don't like it


    .
    #10
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  11. robtg

    robtg Long timer

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    Too much trail will cause steering shakes. I have built several outfits over the years without dampers.
    For street and dirt I go for about 1" trail and have used as little as .300" and no damper needed.
    I built a leading link for a R100RS BMW for a friend and he had the stock damper set to zero.
    I asked if had any head shake and said it handles fine. That one had just a little less than 1" trail
    and stock RS short bars. Geometry matters.
    #11
  12. Hookalatch

    Hookalatch Born Under Bad Sign

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    Not sure if it's a factor but if you look in the upper left corner of the picture I posted you can see most of the word sidecar embossed on the tire. It's not very wide and totally flat across the profile. I am glad I have no headshake on my rig. I wish the same held for my shopping cart selection. I always seem to get one with the wild wheel while those around me go down the aisles smooth as can be.
    #12
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  13. DRTBYK

    DRTBYK All Things GPS Supporter

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    As I've noted in 'Hacks' before, I'm a fan of GPR's offerings. I have used dampers on my rig (2014 GSA/DMC Adventure Sidecar) from the beginning (HyperPro at the outset - but it died). I started off setting it to the lowest damping setting (basically off) and found that my rig had no issues on paved roads - even rough ones like we have in the PNW - at low or high speeds, straight or curvy roads.

    But, on unpaved roads things get a bit more interesting - much as @DRONE noted above. Unpredictable road conditions is why I love the GPR - a quick turn of the damping wheel and I'm set for what's happening at the moment (or anticipated up ahead).

    4FA622D8-4C0B-4278-A752-D034543A392E.jpeg
    #13
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  14. Jeff 8

    Jeff 8 Been here awhile

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    Mine is set at an angle so it doesn't do much. I rode it without and had no problem, but my wife preferred it with a damper, as she would get wobbles that I didn't. I only get them and only slight when coming off a speed bump when the side wheel comes down as the rear goes up. Now I think of it, I haven't even tried without since I swapped from 15" bike front tyre to 15" car tyre. WP_20160527_003 - Copy.jpg
    #14
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  15. Geno89074

    Geno89074 Adventurer

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    So on my 2014 Patrol I started out using the stock damper which Ural has upgraded to a bitbo unit i believe...
    I got a very disconcerting front wheel wobble around 5 MPH to 15 mph.

    I checked and retorqued the steering head bearings, played around with the tire pressures then all the shock preloads for all 5 shock absorbers and all the different oem supplied damper settings - same front wheel slow-speed wobble

    Then I discovered Seans R3W steering stabilizer on Soviet Steeds
    Based on the old vw
    Like Night and Day difference, no more low speed wobbles
    Handles Great and I feel has inspired more confidence at higher speeds

    Attached Files:

    #15
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  16. Geno89074

    Geno89074 Adventurer

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    IMG_1614.JPG
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  17. PaulRS

    PaulRS Dutch fool

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    My first hack was a BMW R69/EML with the OEM friction damper which shook it's head more than I liked, the wife was unable to ride it.
    Adjusting the lean-out to 0 and reducing the toe-in quieted thinks down a lot.
    Later I modded the front swingarm to reduce trail.

    The next hack I had built by EZS came with a big, fat damper (VW, or Merc?)
    'Why the damper, I asked', "because we always fit one", fok it.
    Again an afternoon spent with long rulers and a tape measure sorted that sucker out.

    My latest hack I built myself, taking care of adjustments, I can ride that thing single handed from a standstill to illegal speeds on what ever road surfaces.

    So, if you take care on a built and adjustments, iso. throwing things together, no damper is required.

    Paul.
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  18. Sidecarjohn

    Sidecarjohn SidecarJohn Supporter

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    Strikes me the whole damper issue has degrees of enthusiasm. There's the middle road, which is content with what they have when a damper is used, or not. Then there's the fundmentalist "hard line" suggesting that a damper is indicative of some defect in his sidecar and motorcycle are connected, plus variations in the various influences, e.g. trail, lean out, etc.
    As there are endless variables at play with this eccentric vehicle, riding styles, road conditions, weights, centres of gravity, and the rest, there's a lot to be said for personal preferences and choice. If you're happy, that'll do.

    In respect of this question posed by Mike, more than happy to see what other steering damper are around. Just keep it respectful and don't look down on we mere mortals, who prefer to have a steering damper.
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  19. claude stanley

    claude stanley Claude

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    We usually can dial out the fairly common low speed headshake. When we do a damper it is usually a VW unit which is inexpensive, availble and works well. If we do a leading link we do install a damper as the mass of it is more and tends to create a headshake. With tapered roller bearings in the steering head many times just tightening them some with take away the irritation. ....We have had rigs come to the shop to have a damper installed that had a headshake but found the sidecar mounts to not be doing their job well or other issues that could ( and should) have been addressed. To me this is important. Not to say dampers are a bad thing at all but it can be a case of putting a bandaid on a problem that should have been corrected first. ....... When installing a telescopic damper it is important that it not top or bottom out through the full range of bump and rebound and lock to lock steering. One came in that said their damper kept bending thae shaft.....well it had to do with poor mounting. ....................... Things to check prior to installing a damper would be any and all pivot points in the suspension of the bike and sidecar suspension, trueness of tires and wheels, sidecar swingarm ( had one come in with a very long swingarm which was causing the issue so we added some bracing to it and problem was solved....kind of a head scratcher at first).................................................................Also...tire pressures. Low air in the sidecar tire can be a common problem. (A friend who had a nice hannigan classic rig on a sport bike had a low speed headshake after he installed a unit leading link. He dealt with it and had some serious miles around the country with it. I said to him about adding a little air into the sidecar tire but he would not do it. Well at a gas stop in W Va he went to the bathroom and left his rig parked by the air pump. Evil me put some air in the sidecar tire while he was releiving himself. Well we took off and had a great ride on down to the Hack'd reunion in Buckhannon. When we got there he jumped off his rig like a teenager smiling from ear to ear. Magically his headshake was gone. Then he looked my way and saw me laughing. We still laugh about that today years later ).....BTW typically we are not speaking of a true high speed wobble here but an annoying low speed headshake . ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, Oh one more thing the 'henious' (spelling?) one pictured by mikepa was our build but not our damper. The owner is a Great guy always tinkering with things :-).
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  20. propforward

    propforward PIE!romaniac

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    Applause. Heartily agree. For my part, FWIW, I totally "get" the opinions about adding a steering damper being band aid. We certainly don't want to cover up a problem, so naturally we want to make sure our toe in, lean out, pressures, frame rigidity, suspension, swing arm bearings etc etc are all correct. But then, opinion and feel comes in. I've seen many posts where a user says "no headshake on my rig and I can ride ne handed....." and "I don't get headshake, but when someone else rides my bike they encounter some" (not pointing a finger at anyone in particular here - just illustrative) - which brings us to feel and opinion. No right or wrong there. My rig for example, I can ride one handed at all speeds. It is smoother at some speeds than at others, but there is some shake buried in there I wasn't really comfortable with. Had a very experienced sidecarist test my rig - he absolutely loved it. Declared it well set up, brilliant handling, declares absolutely no need of a damper. I fitted one anyway, now I don't think about head shake any more. It was going to be a temporary fix to try it out, but as is the way of things, the rig is now so much fun to ride that I'm not changing it, band aided or not, don't care. Sometimes I wonder, is tweaking the head bearings more or less of a band aid than fitting a steering damper? Is tweaking the head bearings done so that the owner of the rig can declare to themselves that they are in some way superior to those who fit a steering damper? Then I remember that it doesn't bloody matter one way or the other as long as everyone is happy with what they have. Safety is paramount.

    So with that load of waffle, none of which matters, here is my set up. Because there is no access to the fork tubes, I was forced to clamp on to the fork slider, which I do not like, but there is a solution. When doing this, it is important to make sure that the damper can pivot up and down freely at the sidecar mounting to take account of the suspension travel, or else the damper arm will have to flex instead. That said I have seen many pics of fixed installations on which the owners claim all is well. I have to believe the service life of the damper is reduced in those situations, but at $20 each, who cares? And if the particular riders are only doing casual small amounts of miles each year who knows? But this is something to consider.

    [​IMG]

    So anyway,

    [​IMG]

    The sidecar mount is a machines, stainless steel block that allows the damper to pivot up and down, AND rotate (cortesy of some custom made bushings) to accommodate the fork movement. This works a treat, I've watched it carefully. The damper is one of the cheapy VW ones at $20 or $25 or so.

    [​IMG]

    The fork end is just a collar clamp with a flat machined on it, and a stand off with heim joint added to give the length needed to fit the damper. I don't especially like this, for no reason other than it doesn't look all that elegant. I swore at the time that I would redo it - however it works so well that I am now used to it, so buggrit, I've got better things to do than fix what isn't broken. I can now happily ride this outfit 400 miles a day, and I think I can get to 600, which means I can go moto touring again. That has nothing to do with the outfit, and everything to do with injuries sustained in an accident, the point being the rig is super stable and confidence inspiring. I love riding it, and the sidecar captain likes riding in it. :ricky
    #20
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