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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
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
 

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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.
 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
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
 

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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
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!
 

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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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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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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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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.
 

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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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FWIW, here's my standard "wobble post", though I'd note that it deals with the common high speed wobble more than anything else;




Way too many people think that addressing the symptoms by dealing with handguards, fenders, fork braces, etc. are the answer rather than dealing with the real issue which is related to suspension setup and loading. I'm not convinced that the KLR is any more susceptible to instability than any other bike with long travel, lightly damped suspension and the Owner's have a propensity for severe and uneven loading.

There are some problems that need to be checked;
- bad/lose head bearings
- condition of wheel bearings and suspension bushings
- wheel and tire condition and appropriate tire pressures.

.....beyond that, It's settings;
- proper sag settings and adequate damping
- proper bike loading
- avoiding inappropriately un-aerodynamic loads

addressing the symptoms rather than the cause can help but IMO shouldn't be done until all the aforementioned items are checked and corrected if necessary. Nonetheless these can help stability;

- fork brace
- smaller fender or lowered fender (I use a polisport as I hate both the supermoto and low mounted fenders)
- consider tank bags instead of putting everything in huge panniers which affects both weight loading and aerodynamics.


My 2001 had some high speed issues that went away as soon as the sag was set properly....and after my Cogent suspension was installed, both my KLR's have been rock steady.....even with full knobbies and low tire pressures (20 - 22PSI). Lastly, as others have mentioned, the rider also plays a part; keep a relaxed light grip on the bars and don't tighten up. Changing your position (move forward/lean forward) can help too.

2 cents,
Dave
 

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Moving forward helps on mine. Especially on the Dragon. I hug the tank on the Dragon and I'm too busy to notice any wobbles. And that doesn't help any with the o.p.'s issue - slow speed wobble - and mine is more of a weave. At low speed the bike slightly veers left or right and must be corrected and then it slightly veers in the other direction. On my NEW '17 the service manager rode it around the parking lot and said it was steering head bearings (it REALLY felt like that) , but the bearings were fine and properly adjusted . Other people have had the same thoughts and no one has found a bearing problem. None of us want to spend big money on Cogent suspension only to still have the problem.
If someone knows someone at Cogent and can ask if they have heard of this problem .....maybe they have and maybe there mods fix it. THEN I imagine I would be heading for Cogent.
Until something else comes up I'm gonna try another 1/2" lower with the forks.
 

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Moving forward helps on mine. Especially on the Dragon. I hug the tank on the Dragon and I'm too busy to notice any wobbles. And that doesn't help any with the o.p.'s issue - slow speed wobble - and mine is more of a weave. At low speed the bike slightly veers left or right and must be corrected and then it slightly veers in the other direction. On my NEW '17 the service manager rode it around the parking lot and said it was steering head bearings (it REALLY felt like that) , but the bearings were fine and properly adjusted . Other people have had the same thoughts and no one has found a bearing problem. None of us want to spend big money on Cogent suspension only to still have the problem.
If someone knows someone at Cogent and can ask if they have heard of this problem .....maybe they have and maybe there mods fix it. THEN I imagine I would be heading for Cogent.
Until something else comes up I'm gonna try another 1/2" lower with the forks.
Two things;

- What you're describing REALLY sounds like the steering head bearings are too tight.....I had the exact same feeling/issue when mine were overtightened - it doesn't take much.

- spending big money on Cogent suspension has benefits that go far beyond the steering...give Rick or Todd a call though and they're always happy to talk suspension.

Dave
 

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Discussion Starter #15 (Edited)
Hi Folks,

Thank you folks for all the great input! I adjusted my notifications so that I know when you answer....sheesh, my bad.

I got the TKC 80s installed and spokes tightened/wheel trued. I put 34# rear and 32# front, as I was running me (215#) and 110# of camping gear (30# for each loaded sidebag, 16# for the loaded topcase, 18# for a loaded Drybag 350, 13# for a loaded Drybag 260, and 1.5# in each loaded crashbar Drybag 80). Total rider/gear weight of 325#. A high load but certainly not the "Most Ever".

I set the forks at the stock height (cap bottom at triple clamp surface) and set the rear preload at 5. I set rear damping at full soft in order for the wheel to handle small sharp edged rocks without pumping down. I measured rider sag with full load at 61mm front, 86mm rear, (i.e. 0.3 of F travel, 0.46 of rear travel). These sag figures are about 10mm more than just me on the bike with no bags or camping gear, and the shock preload at 1.

The slow speed wobble is more an oscillation, as it starts with the front wheel getting pushed sideways by the terrain and the "wave" travels to the rear wheel. It feels like there is a vertical hinge in the middle of the bike and the front and rear wheels are not tracking straight. Think of how a fish moves in the water...that's how it feels.

I ran the higher tire pressures because the bike was "camping loaded" and because the oscillation is damped by higher tire pressures. Any terrain more aggressive than a flat dirt road is impossible. Any car tire rutting in a dirt road will get the oscillation going. As it was, even with the higher pressures, on flat dirt roads I couldn't go above 20 mph or the oscillation grew strong enough to dump the bike. We accidentally took a wrong turn and hit a "4wd road" with two 7" deep car tire ruts and I got my workout for the week trying to keep the bike upright. I would have lowered the pressures to proper dirt pressures, but didn't want to increase the tendency for the bike to oscillate. Obviously with the higher pressures the general tire performance in the dirt was substandard, but I am impressed with the TKC 80s performance both on road and on dirt so far.

I am able to recreate the oscillation at a stand still by holding the bike up, standing next to it, and *quickly* cycling the handlebars back and forth about 3-4" about 5 times and then letting go of the bars...the bars continue to oscillate back and forth about 5 times with the front end shaking the entire frame of the bike back to the rear wheel. (Full gas tank, full camping load)

The change in tires, spoke tightening did nothing to correct the oscillation...it is not the tires or spokes. Wheel bearings are also good.

I checked the frame for cracks and did not see any...though it is possible, but unlikely, that there are hidden cracks. The bike had 800 miles on it when I bought it and it was in good condition...no wrecks.

Note that the only time I feel the oscillation on an asphalt or concrete road is when braking from 5 to 0 mph, accelerating from 0 to 5 miles per hour, and doing slow speed u-turns. At any speed over 5mph on the asphalt or concrete there is absolutely no problem.

If this was a standard problem, I would expect that this board would be aflame with upset NE owners who tried to carry camping loads or aggressively dirt ride their NEs....from what dirt road and seldredg said above, there are many NE owners who have at least some version of this problem.

I pulled all my loaded bags off and tried the bike "WR250F style". A majority of the oscillation was gone, but I could still feel it in more extreme rutted conditions. The added camping load makes the oscillations worse, but the camping load is not the primary generator of the oscillations.

Note my co-rider (~170#), on a stock 09 KLR with 15K miles and with 90# of camping gear, was able to ride with none of the oscillation feeling at all. He had no problems. I rode his bike and tried my standing oscillation test. His bike tracked properly when I rode it, and in my standing test I could feel the same "wave" in his bike when I did the standing test BUT it only cycled once, and it was of MUCH less amplitude than the oscillation on my bike.

I pulled the steering stem out and am replacing the races and bearings. Those I took out looked ok, but I want to eliminate each possible source of the problem. I will, of course, torque the new bearings properly. New bearings never hurt.

My forks sits two inches higher than the 09 forks at static. It is not lost on me that this means that there is less overlap between the upper and lower fork tubes, which can lead to more bending between the two tubes...especially given that the front damping is so ridiculously stiff. I can imagine the two tubes bending against each other when the oil locks on quick impacts. I will check the forks to make sure they have the same amount of oil in them and that no one has screwed up the internals, and raise the tubes in the triple clamps after measuring the max distance that I can raise them. This will obviously weight the front end, causing the forks to compress more (more overlap, less bend) and steepening the rake (quicker turning more amenable to slow speed handling). I will also test 5 weight oil in the fork to soften the damping. Raising the forks and testing less viscous oil are, of course, an interim proxy test for getting the right spring and lowering the damping through DDCs. If raising the forks and putting less viscous oil substantially eliminates the oscillation, then I know that fork geometry/function/length is a primary cause and so I could reasonably spend $$ for Cogent rider-specific springs and DDCs. (As with some folks above, I also don't want to spend $$ only to find it doesn't help).

If raising the forks and testing 5W fork oil does not make any change in the oscillations, I will change the bearings on the swing arm. I already tested it for looseness and it was not loose. However, again, new bearings never hurt anyone.

If the new tires, good wheel bearings, tightened spokes, new stem bearings, raised forks, proper amounts of less viscous fork oil, and new swing arm bearings does not eliminate the oscillations, then I am left with one conclusion: the NE wheel-fork-tripleclamp-frame-swingarm-wheel engineered system is not strong enough to handle a camping load without flexure.

Based on my experience, I agree with dirt road that the most likely cause of the problem is the NE suspension...the bike sits higher in front (less overlap between upper and lower fork tubes, longer total fork length imparts higher side loads to the steering stem, and creates "Easy Rider"-style handling via the raked fork), and the compression damping is stiff on both the forks and the shock which helps keep the suspension extended on sharp hits and transmits impact loads directly to the bike. So, hopefully my test will reveal that the suspension is the culprit and I can then justify the $$ to get custom springs (shorter, softer) and DDCs (less damping) tailored to me and my riding style.

I will report back as I go through it.

Thanks again for the feedback!

Cheers!
 

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Looking forward to what you discover. You're bike's behavior seems to match mine closely. I've added a steering damper but haven't had a chance to test it off road. I'm currently packing it fully loaded for a trip sometime this summer so I can see how it handles. May have to go to Metcalf or Carnegie to find some dirt.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Looking forward to what you discover. You're bike's behavior seems to match mine closely. I've added a steering damper but haven't had a chance to test it off road. I'm currently packing it fully loaded for a trip sometime this summer so I can see how it handles. May have to go to Metcalf or Carnegie to find some dirt.
Let us know how the damper goes. I would think that would be "Treating the symptom", but right now I am open to anything/any data :). Our first trip last month was Sacto to Lovelock NV to Middlegate NV to Markleesville CA (700 mi dirt and street) and we just finished a 250 mile dirt/street Sacto to Masonic CA to Bodie CA to Bridgeport to Sacto trip. So I have some great experience now with how the KLR (doesn't) handle. I will get this sorted out asap....times a-wastin....!

Ya know, we are only about 50 miles farther from you than Metcalf or Carnegie. You are welcome to join us on a NV ride any time! Hopefully with our sorted out bikes... :wink2:
 

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I'm ok with treating the symptom if it works. Better if you discover the cause, but it may be designed in, combination of changed geometry and adding the fairing that manifests in deep sand. Thanks for the invitation. I've been riding alone so far, not always my first choice.

Thinking of riding the northern part of the NVBDR in Fall, perhaps September. Starting from Tonapah. Have the video but haven't watched it yet. Think about it.
 

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My current medicine is giving me insomnia. I'm glad this forum is "open all night" .
So far dropping the triple clamps down 1/2 inch has been the most help. I rode 150 miles yesterday and barely thought about the steering . My bike has 6400 miles now. A couple of times I noticed a slight feeling as I was coming to a stop , wherein the front just felt vague and kind of like the "rain groove" weave. It was very mild . Either things are improving on mine or I'm just getting used to it.
Saturday I went to Dual Sport Demo Days at my local dealer. I rode the new SWM Super Dual X and it was fast , smooth and great handling. It's a bit pricey at $8995 , but it has lots of Husqvarna DNA and comes STANDARD with a centerstand. (In other markets it comes standard with hard side cases) A comparable Husky would cost a lot more so maybe the SWM will do well in America.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
I just emailed Rick and Todd at Cogent with a brief description of the problem, a link to this thread for reference, and a question of whether they have encountered this problem with their 14.5 NE customers and whether the suspension upgrades (correct spring rate for rider/bike (and thus correct ride heights), correct damping rates) eliminated the problem. As a dirt biker with 50 years of riding and wrenching, I ascribe to the practice of setting up the suspension for the rider/riding style, and will drop the $2K coin, but not if the basic platform can't handle the job.

seldredg,

You make a good point...if the steering damper corrects a (hypothetically) otherwise uncorrectable condition, then it means the bike works with camping loads offroad, as opposed to having to get a different bike ($$$$$). No small benefit, indeed! I will run the BDR idea past my riding bud and get back to you. Good idea! I love the "start from Tonopah" phrase....so getting to Tonopah is just bellying up to the starting line! :) Adv riders rock!

dirt road,

Are you describing on-road behavior or off-road behavior improving with tube raise? I can see raising the tubes canceling out the onroad minor slow speed oscillation when starting or stopping, but do you also NOT have the egregious offroad "bike bends in half, wheels go all over, heart goes into throat, burn 1000 calories getting control back, instantly soak your clothes with terror sweat" behavior with the forks raised? (please say yes) ;-)

I'll report back when I hear from Rick/Todd.

Cheers!
 
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