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  • Bike shimmies / wallows above 50 MPH; running out of ideas and need suggestions

    This is a long one, but there's a lot of relevant info to unpack here, so bear with me...

    My bike has never been the same since the trip I took to Oregon the summer before last. Once I get out on the freeway above 50 MPH the bike gets real "nervous". It will track straight, but it feels like it's balanced on a knife edge. The slightest shift in body weight and it wants to shimmy and wallow. The faster I go, the worse it gets, and and it's most noticeable when I'm just trying to maintain speed. It's taken the joy out of riding.

    To recap: 500 miles from home I got a flat tire in the middle of BFE. With no cell service, or local businesses, I had no choice but to leave the bike on the side of the road and hitch a ride. The next day a tow truck driver, with a toy hauler, got the bike on his own without me. When he finally arrived at the dealership in Bend, Oregon on the third day, it was clear he had *not* handled the bike properly; tying it down *so* tight that it bottomed out the forks and damage the steering head bearings. There was also evidence he'd dropped the bike while loading it in the hauler; but that's another issue...

    Initially I'd expected to just have a new rear tire installed and I'd be on my way. ...Not so... As it turned out, a shop in California who'd mounted a new rear tire for me just before the trip, neglected to replace the valve stem as I'd requested; and of course, the old valve stem leaked, and I got the flat. But that's not the worst of it; they somehow managed to leave out the internal wheel spacer, [#2 in the diagram below] and as a result, the rear axle BENT, damaging other rear wheel components in the process. [30 through 10 on the left of the diagram, 9 through 31 in the middle and both 24 and 32 at the bottom.]

    I'd planned to replace the front tire after returning from my trip, but with everything else going on, I decided to just get it out of the way and had the dealer install a new set of Metzler 888s. [It was the first time I'd tried Metzlers. I usually prefer the Shinko 777s] A week later, after finally getting the bike back together, the Yamaha mechanic took it for a test ride, only to discover the steering was dangerously loose, thanks to the tow truck driver. So the steering head bearings were tightened and I got the hell out of there.

    As soon as I reached the highway, and hit 50 MPH, the bike began to feel unsettled and loose like I was riding on ice. It took all my concentration to control it so I pulled over to check the tire pressure. They were both a little on the high side so I let some air out and got back on the road. It was *slightly* better but the bike still shimmied and wallowed at highway speeds. With no other choice I kept it at 45 MPH and stayed to the side of the road. After about 50 miles or so, the bike began settling down and I could safely maintain 55 MPH. By 100 miles I could get it up to 65 MPH, and after roughly 500 miles, the bike seemed somewhat normal again, though not 100%. At the time I'd figured it must have been due to the oils/release agent on the new Metzlers that needed wearing off.

    After returning home, I re-tightened the steering head bearings one more time and just lived with it, assuming the handling issues were simply characteristic of the Metzlers.

    Last summer the handling began getting worse again, so thinking the forks had been damaged by the tow truck driver, I rebuilt them and installed Race Tech Gold Valve Emulators, but it made little difference in the stability. Eventually things got so bad I no longer felt comfortable on freeways and kept to back roads. On a couple occasions, while riding at slower speeds on twisty roads, the back end washed out on me as if I'd hit an oily patch, but thankfully each time the bike would quickly recover and seem fine after that.

    Around the same period I'd also began to feel as if a brake was dragging at times. Additionally I noticed a slight grinding/rubbing feeling in the front end anytime I leaned into a turn. I inspected the brakes, cleaned and rebuilt my right front caliper, but it made little difference; so I'd concluded it was the front wheel bearings and ordered some along with a new set of steering head bearings. The bearings arrived but I kept putting off the job; having done the steering head bearings on my old R* I was dreading it.

    In January I finally replaced the rear Metzler and went back to a Shinko 777 H.D., but the shimmying above 50 MPH had returned even stronger, just like when I'd left Oregon. Interestingly, as it turned out, the Metzler had begun to de-laminate and there was a tare across the tread from one sidewall to the other. This was the cause of my rear end washouts but it wasn't easily visible with the wheel on the bike. ...That's the last time I use Metzlers. I'm just lucky things didn't end up worse.

    Side note: I use Ride-On Tire Sealant and Balancer instead of lead weights. The rear wheel the size of our R*'s calls for 12oz of the stuff, but in the past I'd had issues with Shinkos requiring extra balancing weights, so I preemptively used two full bottles for a total of 16oz. It hasn't been a problem in the past, so I don't suspect it's the cause now, but I'm just putting it out there. After all, it's only a 4oz difference and there's no vibration at all. Unfortunately, the only way to remove the stuff would be to pull the tire off the rim.

    Back to business... To rule things out I ordered a new Shinko front tire, but it didn't correct the shimmy.

    I finally got around to installing the front wheel bearings, which resolved the front end feel while turning, but obviously did nothing for the shimmy.

    I checked the rear wheel alignment to be safe, and it turned out the Yamaha tech in Oregon had put the pulley side axle spacer on backwards, with the alignment mark facing the wheel. I pulled the axle and flipped the spacer and it appeared the wheel was a few mm out of alignment, so I did my best to correct it. Unfortunately, it was difficult to get a good measurement from the center of the swing arm pivot to the axle, because my true dual exhaust supports cover the swing arm pivot. I tried using one of the mounting bolts as a reference point, but things kept moving, so I couldn't get an accurate reading. I ended up just using the alignment marks on the axle spacers. Aligning the rear wheel helped a little but didn't eliminate the shimmy.

    With nothing else left to try, I finally broke down last weekend and installed the new steering head bearings from All-Balls. Sure enough, when I got everything apart, the lower bearings had been damaged; the bearing cage was broken and two of the rollers where cockeyed.

    While installing the new lower bearings, I'd used the old lower race, with a gap cut in it, to pound in the new bearings. I had an aluminum pipe that fit over the steering stem; it sat on the old, upside down, race and I pounded it on using a 2lb. mini sledge. FYI, I'd let the new bearing sit in the sun to expand before greasing them up and installing, in the hope it would make things go easier. The new bearing went on fairly smoothly, with plenty of persuasion, until it got about 2mm from the bottom. I began pounding so hard that the end of the metal tube started to crumple and deform. At this point it was clear the bearing wasn't going anywhere so I put the bike back together.

    After getting everything back together, I torqued the lower castle nut *firmly* so the front end didn't bounce when I let it flop, then backed it off and snugged it down gently, tightening the top castle nut with my fingers before installing the lock washer. [At this point I still hadn't reinstalled the handlebars, headlight, passing lamps, and brakes.]

    I took the bike out for a short test ride and everything felt much better, accept the steering nut felt like it could use a little more torquing. The next day I did my first long ride in over 6 months. On the freeway at speed, the bike was much better, but still only about 85%. I'd brought the necessary tools with me to re-torque the steering nut, mid ride, because I wanted to give everything a chance to settle first. About 40 miles into the ride, I got off the freeway and on to the back roads, eventually I stopped and re-torqued the steering nut, got back on, and hit the twisty roads.

    FINALLY! It felt like my old bike again! This was great, I carved up about 30 miles of twisty Northern California back roads and had a blast... I really needed that... But the time came to head back home and I got back on the freeway. Almost immediately, as soon as I hit 50 MPH, I could feel the bike wandering about. The whole ride home was pretty nerve racking. I kept to the slow lane as cars blew past me at 80+ MPH. [Gotta love California drivers] By the time I got back to town, the front end was noticeably loose, even at slow speeds. So the next day I re-torqued the steering nut once again, but it didn't feel as if I could safely get it much tighter, and now here I am. Once again, it feels slightly better than the freeway ride home, but still not 100%.

    I called a local shop and explained everything to the tech, they were pretty stumped but suggested I inspect the rear swing-arm, thinking it may have been damaged by the tow truck driver. So that's on my to do list, but I doubt it will obviously wiggle if I grab it, so what should I be checking? Once I jack the rear end off the ground, do I need to remove the wheel? Possibly pull the entire swing arm? And if so, what am I looking for? Clicking, grinding, movement, visible wear? FWIW, When I installed my HD Softail conversion brackets [saddle bag supports] I had to remove the plastic swing arm caps for the mounting bolt to clear. It's been that way for about 2.5 years now. I don't know if this has caused any issues.

    Last year I inspected the rear shock mount to make sure it wasn't cracked, but it appeared to be fine. And for what it's worth, softening up the preload on my rear shock makes things worse, so I've been riding with the preload maxed out.

    I know that's a lot to digest, but does anything jump out at you?

    Recap:
    • Rebuilt the forks and added RaceTech Gold Valve Emulators and springs
    • Swapped the Meztler 888s back to a new set of Shinko 777 H.D.s
    • 16oz. of Ride-On Tire Sealant and Balancer in the rear wheel, 8oz. in the front
    • New front wheel bearings
    • Front brakes cleaned and rebuilt
    • New rear wheel bearings, axle, inner wheel spacer and outer spacers, bearings etc.
    • New steering head bearings [re-torqued twice now]
    • Realigned the rear wheel
    • Inspected rear shock mount
    • Anything less than max preload on rear shock makes the shimmying worse.
    Thanks for reading this long-ass post and thanks for the input. I'm Jonesing to get some good riding in and way past ready to put this problem behind me.

    Doc_V

    Last edited by Doc_V; 02-22-2020, 05:27 PM.

  • #2
    Replace rear swingarm bearings it's only about $60 and not a terrible job. You've done pretty much everything else except you don't have the rear tire perfectly aligned sounds like you should drop the exhaust and make sure that thing is aligned perfectly and the belt tension is proper. Also are you sure your forks are perfectly straight as well as a triple tree? No bends or anything like that
    "I'm Ricky Bobby. If you don't chew Big Red.....then Fuck You"

    Comment


    • #3
      First thing i would do is pull the neck apart and install new bearings again make sure the lower race is bottomed this time. It needs to be level with the tree. There's over 800 lbs of motorcycle pushing down on that race if there's room to drop more it probably will and then you have a loose front, i used 12 inch by 1/4 steel drift to knock mine down using a 5 lb ball peen it bottomed out, 2mm off the bottom of the tree is a lot, enough to cause a real problem if you hit a hole and it suddenly bottomed and let the steering get loose enough to start a tank slapper, anything that has to do with handling can't be done as good enough it has to be right or you can get hurt or dead

      Comment


      • Doc_V
        Doc_V commented
        Editing a comment
        Good idea with the drift, I'll give that a try.

    • #4
      Yeah, those head bearings should have went on pretty easy. Mine did just some taps to seat it. I would pull the swingarm apart too since it is the only thing you haven't done, and check it over very closely as well as all frame mounting points, welds etc. Something is obviously not right its just figuring out what it is.
      2000 Roadstar 1600 - BAK, Pumpless, Curt's manifold, Mikuni HSR42 Freedom Combat Pipes Jumbo Strong bags, PPG 'HellFire' Paint.

      Comment


      • #5
        I second what these guys have already mentioned. Sounds like something is just slightly out of alignment. My first thought was the neck, but the mention about max preload makes me also question the swingarm as well. You've already done everything else I would have recommended. That would be very frustrating. Hope you get it figured out soon.
        Just a dude, playing a dude, disguised as another dude.

        Comment


        • #6
          Sell it. Obviously this bike just doesn't like you. It's sad, but it happens sometimes. It's a toxic relationship. For all you have spent trying to make things right, you could have already bought another bike. Time to cut your losses.

          Comment


          • #7
            I had a couple Shinko777hd's that did that at hyw speeds. I know you said it also did it with the other tire on it but you also said the other tire was damaged. My thought is it originally came from the damaged metzler and then you installed a defective Shinko on it. When mine was on a jack I started it ,put it in gear and run it up to the speed of my wobble and I could actually see it in the rotating tire.

            Comment


            • fastjohnny
              fastjohnny commented
              Editing a comment
              I have to agree with this, davej. Mine is an '05 that I bought in 07 with 1100 miles on her. The first 3 sets of tires I put on were Metzlers. They didn't last worth a shit and the last one I put on the rear actually had a 1" diameter piece of rubber detach itself from the tread. I went with Michelin C II's and Ride On sealant/balancer. I'm on my 4th set of those with NO issues whatsoever. IMHO (in most cases) ya get what ya pay for. I know there are a lot of people on here that use the Shinko's - they're cheap, and don't last nearly as long as the Michelin. To each his own, but let's face it - those two rubber things are the weakest link between riding safely and death!
              A note about the steering head bearings - I replaced mine with All Balls and didn't realize that I didn't get the bottom one perfectly seated until I hit a 40 pound coon on the way to work one morning. I didn't go down, but the steering was dangerously loose. That evening after I got home I was able to get several turns out of the nuts before it passed the bounce test. No problems after that. If (when) I have to change them again I will be much more diligent about making sure the bearings seat properly.
              Now for the rear wheel alignment: Take a piece of welding rod (non flux coated brass, stainless, or aluminum), put a hook in one end, remove the swing arm bearing plastic caps, Hook the rod in the hole and measure back to the center of one side of the rear wheel. Put a mark on the rod with a sharpie and then do the same on the other side. if the wheel is aligned properly the sharpie mark should be exactly in the center of the axle on both sides.

          • #8
            Originally posted by [URL="https://www.roadstarclinic.com/member/695-fastjohnny"
            fastjohnny[/URL]]

            I have to agree with this, davej. Mine is an '05 that I bought in 07 with 1100 miles on her. The first 3 sets of tires I put on were Metzlers. They didn't last worth a shit and the last one I put on the rear actually had a 1" diameter piece of rubber detach itself from the tread. I went with Michelin C II's and Ride On sealant/balancer. I'm on my 4th set of those with NO issues whatsoever. IMHO (in most cases) ya get what ya pay for. I know there are a lot of people on here that use the Shinko's - they're cheap, and don't last nearly as long as the Michelin. To each his own, but let's face it - those two rubber things are the weakest link between riding safely and death!
            A note about the steering head bearings - I replaced mine with All Balls and didn't realize that I didn't get the bottom one perfectly seated until I hit a 40 pound coon on the way to work one morning. I didn't go down, but the steering was dangerously loose. That evening after I got home I was able to get several turns out of the nuts before it passed the bounce test. No problems after that. If (when) I have to change them again I will be much more diligent about making sure the bearings seat properly.
            Now for the rear wheel alignment: Take a piece of welding rod (non flux coated brass, stainless, or aluminum), put a hook in one end, remove the swing arm bearing plastic caps, Hook the rod in the hole and measure back to the center of one side of the rear wheel. Put a mark on the rod with a sharpie and then do the same on the other side. if the wheel is aligned properly the sharpie mark should be exactly in the center of the axle on both sides.
            FWIW, the first time round, I chose the Shinko for their price, but after running Dunlops and Bridgestones, I was amazed how much better the Shinkos were at handling. And to me, handling = safety. I specifically run them now because of their superior ride quality, and after trying the Metzlers, I still feel the same way. I've only had one Shinko tire that gave me any issues, and that was about 5 years ago before the H.D.s, the rear tire felt unsettled around 75+ mph, but that turned out to be a balance issue, and the extra Ride-On solved that. But that feeling was nothing like what I'm experiencing now.

            I may give the MCIIs a try next time around, but I'm honestly not concerned with the Shinko quality, I'm on my 6th set, and while yes they wear quickly, that's the price you pay for a sticky tire, there's no getting around it. You can't have a sticky tire that lasts long. I came from the sport bike and racing world, it's it's just part of reality.

            As for the steering head bearings, I'm half tempted to go look for some curbs to ride off... Maybe try jumping another double-decker extension ladder on the freeway at 60+ mph? But seriously, I feel if there is any gap left, as it's been said, this is a 900+lbs bike, [without the rider] it should settle in time, I'll just have to re-torque the nut. Maybe my lazy ass will ride the bike for another couple weeks and see what happens. I've stayed off the freeways this long, I can wait a couple weeks more.

            As far as the rear swing arm, any chance you have a photo or diagram of the welding wire tool to measure? I don't weld, but I could probably come up with something similar from my local hardware store if I had a better idea.

            On a side note, one thing that came to mind is my Roadwing. I've had it a long time now, it came off my old 1600. I'm wondering if it's getting tired; I have no way of knowing how many miles are on it, it may be time to replace. I'm sure the Showas get tired just like the stock shock. It's something that's been in the back of my mind for a while now. I'd even considered it about a year or so ago, but never followed through, because I wanted to rebuild my forks first. ...Anyway. Just spitballing here.

            Comment


            • fastjohnny
              fastjohnny commented
              Editing a comment
              I agree that your shock could be at least part of the problem with the rear end.

              In order to make your own "alignment measuring tool" all you need is a 3 foot long rod of practically any diameter from Lowe's, Home Depot, etc. (1/8" would probably work best) and bend one end to a 90 degree angle - kinda like a "hook". Hook the hook end in the hold that is covered by the plastic plugs at the swing arm bearings on either side and mark it at the center of the rear axle bolt. Compare it with the other side and make the bolt center line up with the side you just marked....BOOM! perfectly aligned.

            • Doc_V
              Doc_V commented
              Editing a comment
              Thanks for that description; that helps. This seems like a good tool for any R* owner to have. I'd like to come up with something that uses a cone-shaped rubber stopper to fit into the swingarm and axle holes. Keeping the measuring points centered and steady is the difficult part of making those measurements, especially since the holes on the axle are different on each side.

            • fastjohnny
              fastjohnny commented
              Editing a comment
              If you want to be perfectly centered in the swing arm access holes I would suggest one of those rubber stoppers with a hole in the center like we used in high school chemistry class for putting tubes into beakers, test tubes, etc. I'm pretty certain you could find one big enough to accommodate the access hole. If that's the way you choose to go I would suggest bending the end of the rod at 90 degrees, or whatever angle it takes to make the rod fall in the right place in accordance with the rear axle. I just hook it as far back as possible in the hole. Finding the exact center of the axle bolt should be pretty simple and straight forward.....on the "head" side just scribe a mark between 2 opposing points on the flats, then do the same with 2 other flats....where they intersect should be the exact center of the head of the bolt. On the other (round) end I would think one could "eye-ball" the center to within a 64th or maybe even closer than that. I doubt that being off center by 1/64" would make any noticeable difference at all. I've been eye-balling mine ever since I found out how to make the measuring tool and have had zero issues.

          • #9
            The Road Star has some history of cracked welds on the rear suspension. I would look that over closely.

            Comment


            • Lucky
              Lucky commented
              Editing a comment
              As mentioned this is a common problem.

            • Doc_V
              Doc_V commented
              Editing a comment
              Thanks. That's what I meant by I inspected the shock mount.

          • #10
            I took a ride over weekend and came across a regional park back road with about a dozen speed bumps. I made pass at around 25 MPH over the speed bumps, and over the last one, I could swear I heard and felt something give. Now the bike handles like it should. Gotta love it. Way to go fastjohnny; thanks for the idea!

            Comment


            • Spydr
              Spydr commented
              Editing a comment
              Don't that mean that the head bearings are loose now, Doc?

            • Doc_V
              Doc_V commented
              Editing a comment
              I re-torqued them.

            • Spydr
              Spydr commented
              Editing a comment
              Awesome! That's one PITA checked off the list.

          • #11
            Glad to hear things are turning in the right direction for you Doc_V. I was afraid you were going to have to take Father Pobasturd suggestion and part ways.

            Ok so that was in jest. I know how attached we can get to things. But this past year or so have been pretty rough it seems in regards to your bike.

            Comment


            • #12
              Doc, glad you got her sorted out! Issues like that can drive you nuts.

              Comment


              • #13
                So Doc, you can't tell us what the problem was? I was very curious as to what was going on your bike.

                Comment


                • roadiemort
                  roadiemort commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Stem bearing not seated seems like reading posts.

              • #14
                Duke, it was the steering head bearings. Riding over the speed bumps pushed them down the last bit and now they're seated properly.

                Comment


                • #15
                  Originally posted by Pauli466 View Post
                  First thing i would do is pull the neck apart and install new bearings again make sure the lower race is bottomed this time. It needs to be level with the tree. There's over 800 lbs of motorcycle pushing down on that race if there's room to drop more it probably will and then you have a loose front, i used 12 inch by 1/4 steel drift to knock mine down using a 5 lb ball peen it bottomed out, 2mm off the bottom of the tree is a lot, enough to cause a real problem if you hit a hole and it suddenly bottomed and let the steering get loose enough to start a tank slapper, anything that has to do with handling can't be done as good enough it has to be right or you can get hurt or dead
                  Its a easy way to do a stubborn one is put the lower tree in your freezer and bearing race in your oven first. If it won't seat after that you have the wrong race

                  Comment

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