Front tire wobble on gravel? - 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.

LinkBack Thread Tools Display Modes
post #1 of 40 Old 10-23-2012, 06:55 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 10
Front tire wobble on gravel?

My front tire wobbles very bad at slow spped on gravel, it feels like I'm about to loose it when I get above 20-25mph, like it's on ice. I read where it could be that the stearing is too tight or the tires are not inflated properly?
I have played around with tire pressure with no luck.

Cottonmouth is offline  
Sponsored Links
post #2 of 40 Old 10-23-2012, 07:11 AM
4th Gear
flash's Avatar
Join Date: May 2008
Location: North Texas
Posts: 1,534
Send a message via Yahoo to flash
Ruling out mechanical issues that is a common feeling on gravel. Sit back a little further getting the weight off the front, a loose grip on the bars, look far ahead, and gas it. Going too slow in the loose stuff magnifies the feeling of the bike wandering, and it will, even going faster but it is controllable.

Get back on that section of road and ride it until you get a feel for it.
flash is offline  
post #3 of 40 Old 10-23-2012, 08:13 AM
Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: NW MO
Posts: 5,453
In my experience, lowering tire pressures while on gravel will change the "feel" of the ride, but doesn't offer any real advantage with how well the tires perform. I ride gravel all the time and, even though the higher pressures make you "feel" the gravel more, I prefer street pressures on gravel and don't think lowering your tire pressures for gravel travel does any good at all like it does on true dirt. I've found lower pressures on gravel don't offer any advantages when it comes to traction or control and just make the ride seem more "squirmy."

It takes awhile to get used to the feeling. Flash gives excellent advice. My front tire and front end wander all over the place on gravel. Slowing down just makes it seem worse. If you're going in a straight line and holding a steady line, the front tire isn't going to suddenly wash out from under you. Just keep a light grip and let it go where it wants. You do have to be more careful on curves/corners, though where low speeds are more appropriate.

It also depends, of course, on how thick and loose the gravel is but even a 4" layer of freshly-dumped gravel can be easily and safely negotiated: it will just feel like you're floating from road ditch to road ditch as you ride on it.

What kind of tires do you have on it?

planalp is offline  
post #4 of 40 Old 10-23-2012, 11:15 AM
2nd Gear
pismocycleguy's Avatar
Join Date: Nov 2009
Location: Pismo Beach, CA
Posts: 281

That is the normal feeling riding in gravel, sand, mud, etc.
Don't put a death grip on the bars. Relax your grip and just go with the flow. Don't try to over steer like you would riding on a hard surface.
pismocycleguy is offline  
post #5 of 40 Old 10-23-2012, 06:04 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 10
"What kind of tires do you have on it?"

Factory tires with 2,200 miles on them, the rear is getting in bad shape and could stand to be replaced. I need to start looking for a new set.

Cottonmouth is offline  
post #6 of 40 Old 10-24-2012, 12:24 AM
Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: NW MO
Posts: 5,453
Originally Posted by Cottonmouth View Post
"What kind of tires do you have on it?"

Factory tires with 2,200 miles on them, the rear is getting in bad shape and could stand to be replaced. I need to start looking for a new set.

I didn't know if you had more street-oriented tires. Can't speak from experience, but would think they would be a little worse on gravel because there are no knobs to dig down through the loose stuff. Factory tires are more or less the same tread design as the Shinko 244's that I use. Good luck with your tire choice.

planalp is offline  
post #7 of 40 Old 10-24-2012, 07:11 AM
2nd Gear
Join Date: Aug 2012
Location: Eastern Alberta
Posts: 216
I rode the OEM tires for first 7000 miles - about 2/3 gravel - they worked really well on gravel. (here comes the rotten tomatoes). Like the others said - move your weight rear, relax your grip on the bars a lot, let them wave around as the front wheel pecks this way and that, steer a bit with your knees against the tank and enjoy. When I hit deep loose stuff I like to stand up and look where I want to go and apply some throttle and the bike will power through. Practice makes perfect.
Slowpoke is offline  
post #8 of 40 Old 10-24-2012, 09:09 AM
4th Gear
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: Pefferlaw,Ontario
Posts: 1,636
Riding on gravel, deep gravel is a skill learned and once learned a great way to enjoy the bike. BUT, it takes a while to learn this skill and get comfortable with the feeling. Personally I'm not a fan of the loose frontend feeling. But, on my adventures you have to adapt to these roads often. If you know you are going to be on it for a few hours then I seriously suggest lowering your tire pressures down conciderably. I normally ride with 34/32 pressures on the street but on gravel that is almost suicide!!! You need to have the front tire absorb some of those ball bearing sized rocks and not bounce off them. I usually drop to just below 20 pounds in the front and 24 in the back when I know I will be on the stuff for a few hours. The difference is night and day!!! Also, the saying that speed is best on gravel is also true....surprisingly.....that is straight sections more than curve. You will find that once your front tire starts to get above the gravel and not plowing through it you will instantly enjoy the experience more. But, it takes some nerve to get to this magical speed of 50mph. I have found that it is this speed that everything settles down and you can enjoy the ride over white knuckling it. You also must allow the handle bars to float and not grip them with the death grip that usually comes when the front gets loose. Let them wiggle, the bike will stay upright you will find almost on it's own.
Going around corners takes skill andattention to what the surface is like. Plus you must slow or you will slide off the road as the bike will glide towards the edge as you go around the corner.

The best way to learn is to lower the presures and carefully practise. It won't happen overnight, it takes time to get really comfortable on gravel roads. That is to say gravel that has no ruts or tracks to follow from cars etc.

Take it easy and learn.....wear your gear just in carefull!!....hope this helps....

willys is offline  
post #9 of 40 Old 10-24-2012, 10:46 AM
1st Gear
Join Date: Aug 2012
Location: Central Illinois for now
Posts: 28
Don't mean to flame anyone, and most of what has been said is helpful.
However, I am experiencing the same feel. Just to be clear, I have competed in MX, TT, desert riding, etc on several brands & size bikes & this bike is the most unstable
at any speed on gravel of any I have ridden.
phila1114 is offline  
post #10 of 40 Old 10-24-2012, 11:06 AM
Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: NW MO
Posts: 5,453
The problem with gravel is that, unlike most paves surfaces, it's all different. Even a surface you're familiar with can change from week to week depending on rain, 4-wheeled vehicle traffic, etc. I ride down some roads where the composition changes every 1/4-mile or so. Most high-traffic gravel roads around here are covered with 1" rock that's somewhat "round." Some of the seldom-used roads get a gravel dump that's more in the 2-3" size and it's pretty sharp and jagged. Some are deep and some are pretty much like pavement with a light scattering of small rocks on top. Some look fine, but when you start down them after a rain, you find out the gravel isn't that deep after all and the next thing you know you start sliding in the muck, packing the area at the top of the swingarm full of a concrete-like amalgam of clay and large rocks.

I think a large part of the feeling folks get riding the KLR on gravel is just because it's so tall and you're sitting up so high. The somewhat underwhelming factory suspension setup probably doesn't help matters, either.

This time of year around here, they're "maintaining" the roads with graders, dragging all kids of sharp sticks, larger rocks, clumps of mud, weeds and other debris up off the "shoulder" and scraping it back up onto the road. Rides this time of year can be interesting. Riding on them at night is even more interesting because it's much harder to "read" the surface.

Add to these variables the fact that we all run different types and brands of tires and it's pretty much impossible to reach a consensus on how best to deal with riding on gravel roads. I don't think you can go wrong with the opinions of: keep your speed up in a straight line, look further ahead down the road, slow down on the curves and let the front end do its thing.

Another theory with perhaps no credence to it at all. With every other dualsport motorcycle I've ridden, the dash/vestigial "windshield" turned when the bars did. On a GenII KLR, it took me a long time to get used to the sensation of the front end/handlebars moving while the dash and fairings didn't. Just me, perhaps.......

No matter how crazy or loose the surface was, I have never seen anybody lose control of a motorcycle and dump it going in a straight line down a gravel road. Now curves, that's another story.......

Last edited by planalp; 10-24-2012 at 11:35 AM.
planalp is offline  
Sponsored Links

Quick Reply

Register Now

In order to be able to post messages on the Kawasaki KLR 650 Forum forums, you must first register.
Please enter your desired user name, your email address and other required details in the form below.

User Name:
Please enter a password for your user account. Note that passwords are case-sensitive.


Confirm Password:
Email Address
Please enter a valid email address for yourself.

Email Address:


Thread Tools
Show Printable Version Show Printable Version
Email this Page Email this Page
Display Modes
Linear Mode Linear Mode

Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Front Tire Question scott7 KLR & Other Motorcycle Related Discussion 6 12-09-2018 12:53 PM
Front Tire Tube Change Red Eye 1987 to 2007 Wrenching & Mods 4 03-31-2011 06:50 AM
Wider front tire? Greg KLR & Other Motorcycle Related Discussion 1 03-20-2009 05:25 PM
Front fender wobble Revs 1987 to 2007 Wrenching & Mods 14 09-09-2007 12:37 PM

Posting Rules  
You may post new threads
You may post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are On
Pingbacks are On
Refbacks are On

For the best viewing experience please update your browser to Google Chrome