Head Shake - Kawasaki KLR 650 Forum
2008+ KLR650 Wrenching & Mod Questions For repair, maintaining or modifying discussions related to the newly updated 2008 and beyond, Generation 2 KLR650 Motorcycle.

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post #1 of 11 Old 05-01-2011, 08:31 AM Thread Starter
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Head Shake

I'm having problems with head shake at 70-80 miles an hour or over. I have the 685 kit with Avon dual sport tires. I have tightened the head bearing but I don't believe that the standard roller bearings will tighten up enough to stop the head shake.
Does anyone here know where I might get tapered bearings for my triple tree? Other than that, I guess my next step would be a fork brace. I had a fork brace on my 2000 and my '06 but I thought maybe the front end of this
'09, being stiffer, might not need a fork brace. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
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post #2 of 11 Old 05-01-2011, 10:26 AM
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I was reading another thread this morning where somebody said (the best I can paraphrase) that he cut off the "bird-beak" from the front fender, because at 70+ mph, wind vibration was causing head vibration.

I don't know...just giving you an idea you maybe hadn't thought of.

Also, I bought a new '07 Goldwing, and it had a head wobble when on the decel. I complained and Honda service reps did every kind of song and dance you can think of to deny that I even had an issue. It reeeeeally got annoying. Like I'm imaginging it...or "we rode this other one and it does it too, so they all do it"...or some other crap.

Turns out that it had a bad front tire. After 3 months or more of denials, I finally got a service guy to check the tire for run-out, radially and axially. There it was...the tire was out of round, or something. Once he got Honda to replace the tire...no more wobble. Smooth as silk from then on.

So, be sure it isn't just a tire issue before you get too far with more complicated front end mechanics.

Last edited by draley; 05-01-2011 at 12:07 PM.
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post #3 of 11 Old 05-01-2011, 11:39 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Harvey Jones View Post
I'm having problems with head shake at 70-80 miles an hour or over. I have the 685 kit with Avon dual sport tires. I have tightened the head bearing but I don't believe that the standard roller bearings will tighten up enough to stop the head shake.
Does anyone here know where I might get tapered bearings for my triple tree? Other than that, I guess my next step would be a fork brace. I had a fork brace on my 2000 and my '06 but I thought maybe the front end of this
'09, being stiffer, might not need a fork brace. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
If you are confident that your head bearings aren't loose, they may not be the problem. I think they are the red headed step child of the front end issues we have....don't know whats going on up there, so lets blame the head bearings...

Head shake isn't limited to KLR's, and the diagnosis is as controversial as the second coming of Christ. The KLR has some designed in tendencies for head shake / vibration / tank slapper activity. Its tall, top heavy, usually with tires designed for non-asphalt traction. Now add the owner's tendency to bolt on shit that is heavy [skid plates, crash bars, tool tubes, tank bags, tank panniers, 47 electronic gadgets on the handlebar, a taller windshield, bigger handguards], all on a stock suspension, or with a new and improved suspension designed for Dakar, not US 129.

You may have a tire inappropriate for the asphalt you ride on. Not a bad tire, just not the right one for where YOU ride. Asphalt ain't the same everywhere. Watch for asphalt mix design changes at the county lines, state lines, and state district lines. This has effected the handling of my motorcycles.

Biggest culprit I've found for at speed handling issues hasn't been deficiencies of the front end components....its been from stuff hanging off the back of the bike. Tail bags / boxes, saddlebags, even rider seating position. Sometimes just sliding forward an inch or so can change handling.

There is little that is more unnerving than having a motorcycle that might pitch you when you least expect it. Or even if you do expect it. I hope you get a solution soon and safely.

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ďmany a trip continues long after movement in time and space have ceasedĒ- Steinbeck, [I]"Travels with Charlie"
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post #4 of 11 Old 05-01-2011, 05:26 PM Thread Starter
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I had the same head shake with the stock tires. I had bags on both previous KLRs as I do on this bike. Small bags on my 2000, 10-1/2" panniers on my '06. Both bikes I could get up to a registered 110 with no head shake. I realize that this bike has a different front fender, but I don't believe that's the problem. I believe that the '08 and newer models are just a sloppier built bike. I had to put the 685 kit in to stop my oil usage and with this front end I think it's going to take a tapered bearing in the triple tree to tighten it up enough to stop the head shake. If I can't get that, I'll try a fork brace.
Thanks for any help that you fellas can give.
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post #5 of 11 Old 05-01-2011, 08:49 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Harvey Jones View Post
I had the same head shake with the stock tires. I had bags on both previous KLRs as I do on this bike. Small bags on my 2000, 10-1/2" panniers on my '06. Both bikes I could get up to a registered 110 with no head shake. I realize that this bike has a different front fender, but I don't believe that's the problem. I believe that the '08 and newer models are just a sloppier built bike. I had to put the 685 kit in to stop my oil usage and with this front end I think it's going to take a tapered bearing in the triple tree to tighten it up enough to stop the head shake. If I can't get that, I'll try a fork brace.
Thanks for any help that you fellas can give.

IMHO the head bearings are perfectly adequate. I've never read of anyone complaining about them.

When do you notice the head shake? All the time or in certain situations? If you pick it up behind vehicles or in head winds it's the front fender. Easy enough to check take off the fender and go for a ride and see if it goes away. A supermoto fender is a popular mod for the Gen 2s.

Could be other things going on...

Have you checked the fork pinch bolts and the axle pinch bolts? Are the spacers in right? Brake rotor not warped, bolts tight? Spokes tight? Wheel straight? Checked the back wheel alignment, spacers, spokes?

No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him. 1 Cor 2:9
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post #6 of 11 Old 05-01-2011, 09:31 PM Thread Starter
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Spec,
I've tried everything you suggested other than pulling the front fender. Friday I took the top triple tree off and tightened the bearing as tight as I thought it should go and that eliminated some of the problem. It used to start head shake at 70 now it comes in at about 80.
This isn't the first bike I've ever had head shake in. I've been riding motorcycles since 1962 and I've had over 30. The bikes that I've had in the past that had head shake it was always because of loose or worn bearings. I will try it without the fender when this rain lets up, but I don't think that is going to be the problem.
I appreciate your input.
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post #7 of 11 Old 06-04-2011, 10:36 PM
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I hope it is ok to steal into this thread, but I am having the same issue. When slowing, that is letting the throttle close, I will on occasion let the handlebars go to open my visor or stretch my fingers. when the bike slows to 50mph it will begin to shake and will increase in its frequency as I slow. The only thing done was adding a Pelican case to the rear luggage tray. This box weighs about, uh 8-10 pounds.
Now to add to this there was a slight shake before the mod. I also noticed that I don;t have to stands on the tips of my toes. I am not flat footed but I do believe that there maybe a link to the box. With the additional weigh on the rear wheel the steering geometry may have changed with the weight now being biased to the rear axle thus reducing the load on the front axle. I think that if I drop the front forks about a half inch in the triple trees that this bias will be negated.

any thoughts? thanks
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post #8 of 11 Old 06-04-2011, 10:56 PM
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Hi sochuck, and welcome to the forum. Feel free to jump in where ever you want. We ain't a very rigid lot.

Try removing the top box and see if the issue remains. If it goes away, you may need to adjust your shock, or something. I suspect the issue originated in the rear of the bike. That may be the place to address it.

I experienced a real similar low speed, deceleration head shake on a Kawasaki Concours as I approached a toll booth in 1996. I slid past the booth, with the bike sliding right behind me. This began my studies into head shake / tank slappers.

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ďmany a trip continues long after movement in time and space have ceasedĒ- Steinbeck, [I]"Travels with Charlie"
[/I]
[IMG]http://i718.photobucket.com/albums/ww187/vatrader01/KLR%20mechanical/04e28c5e.jpg[/IMG]

[FONT="Century Gothic"][I]Sometimes your only available transportation is a leap of faith[/I] [/FONT]
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post #9 of 11 Old 06-05-2011, 08:41 AM Thread Starter
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SoChuck,
Low speed head shake is almost always caused by the same problem; a loose head bearing. Disconnect your bars and lay them forward, pull your top triple tree and tighten your head bearing. Don't tighten it so tight that it binds but right up to that point. If you have an '07 or older, you might need a fork brace also; '08s and newer seem to have stiffer forks. This is my third KLR and I've had this problem on several other bikes always being loose head bearings. Hope this helps.
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post #10 of 11 Old 06-05-2011, 10:42 AM
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There's a lot of crap hanging off the upper front end and forks of the GII's that seems to "look cool" but doesn't seem to have been comprehensively tested by aerodynamic engineers as part of the production process.

The OP referenced a shake at higher speeds. I don't ride at these speeds a great deal, but found that keeping my weight additions low and to the front (nerf bars with a 5-pound pannier bag on each side, skid plate, tool tube) along with raising links, all of which seemed to transfer more weight to the front wheel rather than the rear, made a noticeable difference in solidity of the front end at higher speeds when I do happen to travel on the Interstate.

Unfortunately, if you need to carry large amounts of weight on the KLR or any other motorcycle, the only feasible place to do so is on the rear, which with most setups I've seen, puts the weight at the mid-point of the rear tire, or even farther back. I think most people that go with the large panniers and stuff on the rear most likely modify their suspension components to compensate for this. At 270 pounds on my stock KLR, I wouldn't even think of it without suspension adjustments.

I would definitely look into experimenting with airflow on the front, especially the fender and handguards: easy enough just to take them off and go ride and see what happens, and would also definitely consider the front tire and check the front wheel, although you can't just shuck tire after tire as an experiment.

I think Spec's advice to note whether it happens when you're in clear air or around other vehicles is good. Mine does pretty good, but get other vehicles around and it gets worse and I'm sure that's due to my stock front fender.

Good luck with your troubleshooting. You've certainly been given a laundry list of possible suspects to check out from folks who know a lot more than me. You guys that ride fast have a lot more things to deal with than I do. I hope you get it sorted out to your satisfaction.



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