2016 KLR Low Speed Off-road Front Tire "Wobble" - 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 14 Old 05-19-2019, 02:31 PM Thread Starter
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Join Date: Nov 2018
Location: Elk Grove, CA
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2016 KLR Low Speed Off-road Front Tire "Wobble"

Greetings, folks!

I purchased a 16 KLR last year used with 850 miles on it. Spent some time kitting it out for long distance ADV in NV (and anywhere else I want to go:-). The front felt a bit flexy when hitting the brake stopping at a fuel pump but I chalked it up to gallons of gas sloshing back and forth in the tank. I put an EM fork brace on it just in case, even though I don't like fork braces because they force a certain distance between the tubes along the entire travel (good or bad, that's a different topic:-). My bud and I did a 732 mile circle route Sacramento to Lovelock to Middlegate to Markleeville back to Sac. (Now have 1900 miles on it) When offroad in the soft stuff, I had a wicked "wobble" in the handlebars at slow speed...if felt like the wheel was turning left or right when the handlebars were not and I ended up turning the handlebars back and forth cyclically in order to keep the front wheel moving in a straight line. Downhill in soft dirt with no brake was ok, but the minute I hit the front brake going downhill (been riding dirt bikes for 45 years...a properly used front brake is useful offroad:-) the wheel and handlebars started the oscillation. I tried the downhill with 21 # in the front and it was bad, then tried it with 18 # in the front and it was seriously "white-knuckle" with higher magnitude oscillations. It felt like the forks were flexing 30 degrees back and forth and I had to cyclically turn the wheels the opposite way to compensate. They weren't, it just felt that way (all this with the EM fork brace installed, even). I felt this same "wobble" when doing a sharp u-turn at 3 miles an hour on pavement and, if I was on an aggregate cement, the type with little rocks on the surface, the u-turn wobble was so bad that it was difficult to keep the bike upright.

Steering stem bearings were fine, swingarm bearings were fine, rear tire was aligned properly, and the bike did it with or without load: higher load did make it worse, likely due to more weight on front end. On pavement in normal turn or straight line it didn't wobble at all. Zero wobble on road and smooth (i.e. KLR's version of smooth) all the way up to top speed with no wobble.

Turns out the original owner, in 850 miles, had worn the stock front tire such that alternating knobbies were different in height by 3 mm!

I put new TKCs on the wheels yesterday. The front was toast, as mentioned before, and the rear was already worn out at 1900 miles. I suspect the egregious differential in front tire block wear caused the problem, but will find out from a test ride.

I'll report back on the results.

Anyone else have a similar experience with the type of handling anomaly I described?

Cheers!
James

Last edited by Yeravener; 05-19-2019 at 02:33 PM.
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post #2 of 14 Old 05-19-2019, 02:44 PM
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I'm to late to suggest that you physically check the torque on the front axle before you remove the nut. But grab your torque wrench and see how close you got it during your tire install, I'll guess you didn't use a torque wrench.

I seldom do either on tire jobs, but one never really knows the causes of issues unless we check the Finer Details.

pdwestman
Modify at "YOUR OWN RISK"!

Still riding my 1987 KL650-A1. 83,000+ miles & counting
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post #3 of 14 Old 05-19-2019, 02:52 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pdwestman View Post
I'm to late to suggest that you physically check the torque on the front axle before you remove the nut. But grab your torque wrench and see how close you got it during your tire install, I'll guess you didn't use a torque wrench.

I seldom do either on tire jobs, but one never really knows the causes of issues unless we check the Finer Details.
I had previously torqued both axles (and a slew of other fasteners) to spec. I am one of those guys that uses calibrated torque wrenches, locktite only where required by the manual, and check my torques often. In the field, I did increase tire pressure to 23 and that did lesson the symptoms....enough to be only "of concern" instead of "white knuckle" on complex, rutted, downhills offroad :-)

When I bought the bike I found several accessories that had been installed by someone who didn't have much mechanical skill (I am saying that nicely), so I went through the bike and checked, torqued, and reinstalled many components. I previously checked the steering stem play (none) and fluidity of movement, as well as the swingarm/suspension links movement. I am also going to pull them both apart and regrease them both regardless, as the bike is three years old now.

Thanks for the feedback!
James

Last edited by Yeravener; 05-19-2019 at 02:56 PM.
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post #4 of 14 Old 05-21-2019, 07:47 AM
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Low front tire air pressure causes odd wear patterns in the tread.
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post #5 of 14 Old 05-22-2019, 08:53 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Norton 850 View Post
Low front tire air pressure causes odd wear patterns in the tread.
Yeah....I am leaning toward the egregiously uneven tire wear being the problem.....when I arrived for a test ride to buy the 800 mile bike the tire was almost flat. I initially chalked it up to the first owner letting it sit for a long time (he had a new baby and thus a change in priorities), but now it looks more like he drove his new bike 800 miles with the tire at "danger low" pressure and literally ruined the tire. Plus, inflating or deflating the tire in the field made a huge difference in handling, indicating the tire is "most" of the problem, if not all of it.

We'll see....I will reinstall the wheels with the new TKCs and check for elimination of the problem before I pull apart the stem and swingarm to regrease them.

What was surprising about this was the high degree of impact on offroad handling. I rode many bikes as a kid with horrific tires on them and didn't ever feel anything like this...being a kid and all, you don't have a whole lot of choices and no money :-) This included a 69 DT-1B 250 which felt as heavy as the KLR! :-D.

I'll report back after riding with the new tires to advise if the problem is fixed or not.


Thanks!

Last edited by Yeravener; 05-22-2019 at 08:58 AM.
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post #6 of 14 Old 05-22-2019, 10:07 AM
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Low tire pressure may make the "braking pattern" wear on knobbies worse, but it isn't the cause; it's normal wear when using the front brake on pavement. Hopefully, that is the problem as I've never heard of low speed braking wobbles before.

As far as the fork brace, there is a risk of tube missalignment with some which is why I use the Eaglemike brace - it's adjustable and if set up properly will not cause the forks to bind. I don't think that's your problem though.

you sound like you know what you're doing so I'm sure you'll get it sorted; let us know.

Dave
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post #7 of 14 Old 05-22-2019, 10:13 AM
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Oh, and from the other thread; I used to run 12-14 front and 10-12 rear on my offroad bikes. That's too low on the KLR due to the excess porkage and lack of rimlocks - I personally won't go below 18psi. I agree with Paul that the front should be run at 2psi more than the rear unless heavily loaded or two up. I run mostly around town and offroad so I keep mine at about 22-24psi front and 20-22 psi rear. If I was going to do a longer highway stint, I'd add 5psi

2 cents,
Dave
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post #8 of 14 Old 05-22-2019, 06:45 PM
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I have a 2017 KLR. No wobbles at all when unloaded. When loaded with about 85 pounds of gear in soft bags and behind me in duffle (30-30-25), I experienced a pronounced slow speed wobble when coming to a stop or trying to U turn at very slow speed (on two sets of tires--Motoz GPS Tractionators and Shinko 704/705). I rode across Mojave on the Shinkos, and in deep sand, the bike was nearly impossible to control. I have Cogent suspension with proper sag. When I got back I played with loading. I repacked to change the balance to 20-20-45, and much of the slow speed wobble went away. Not all, but I get some just when the tank is full. I haven't had access to deep sand since Mojave.
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post #9 of 14 Old 05-22-2019, 08:22 PM
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You're not alone . I think it's a "New Edition" problem. My '13 was fine as were the 09 and several others over the years. I bought a '17 and the low speed wobble was BAD. (On road or off but more noticeable on the street) My friend in Utah bought a '17 and said his was the same. I sold mine and later bought a used '14 New Edition. It wobbled but not as bad as the '17 (the '14 has Kenda tires) .
So now I check with others that have '14 and later and most of them say they have the same problem. One person said he has used 3 different sets of tires with no change. I have experimented a good bit and have settled on 32 lbs air in front , 30 lbs in rear and forks up 1/2 inch in clamps. With a full tank of gas the wobble is almost imperceptible. It gets slightly worse as the gas level goes down.
I had racks and sidecases , and when I removed them there was no difference. A loaded bag , maybe 8 or 10 lbs , on the rack has no effect. Everyone says the lower the air pressure the worse the wobble and mine is the same.
I would love to trade forks from a '13 and see what happens. Maybe the rear spring too. I just keep suspecting the new stiffer suspension as the culprit .
I have little suspension knowledge or experience so I'm just trying everything that is affordable and within my abilities. I hope somebody can figure it out completely.

'14 KLR650 current
'14 V-Strom 1000 current
'10 Triumph Scrambler current
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post #10 of 14 Old 05-22-2019, 11:56 PM
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My 17 stock was fine on the road. By the time I rode loaded I had Cogent suspension. The NE bodywork adds a bunch of weight up front, but I like it for the highway. (I had a 96 I commuted on sometimes, and the 17 fairing is a huge improvement.) Lots of ADV bikes have large side cases and are heavily loaded, and don't seem to become suicidal in sand. I think the symptom would be helped with a steering damper. Can't guess what the issue is. Geometry perhaps, if moving the forks up helped.
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