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| To Damper or not to Damper|
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|Have read many good words about steering dampers, so here is my story... |
Bought a 1994 Goldwing GL1500 with a Champion Escort sidecar last year. It had stock steering and a fierce wobble at 30-40 mph. Ordered a steering damper from Champion, installed it and then went double darkside. Now the rig handled great with no wobble at any speed, though the steering was stiff. Gave you a real workout on long rides.
Last Fall, bit the bullet and installed the Champion EZ-Steer triple tree and removed the steering damper. Was like installing power steering. Smooth and easy steering now. As the mechanic said, "Boy, just think about changing lanes and there you go!" Not quite that easy, but you get the point. With the change had the rig up 80 mph on the freeway. Solid. It would go faster but the rider wouldn't.
All was going great until a trip on rough country roads. Sidecar was empty and on rough bumps it felt like the wobble or head shake wanted to return. It never did, but felt that way.
Yesterday, after thinking about it, decided to reinstall the steering damper. Hoping that would calm the country road twitching.
Took the new set up for a ride. Not good. Bad results. Was not comfortable going faster than 60 mph. Every bump and road irregularity was transferred directly from the sidecar to the front tire. Returned home and removed the damper.
Rode again today, cruising at 75 on the freeway, all back to what was normal.
Has anyone else experienced the same and removed their steering damper after less than satisfactory results??
Edited by CCjon 1/28/2015 8:31 PM
Location: southern NH
|My input FWIW: Own '95 GL1500SE/ CSC FSIII rig 13 1/2+ years [ rig on Wing 24/7....our 4th sidecar rig since 1968....DON'T drive solo any more! ]. |
NEVER had front wheel shimmy in all that time UNTIL 2013, when it occurred after steering stem bearing grease repack w/improper re-torque. After that was addressed, All was Fine again. Have run Unit Forks Leading Link front end for 13 1/2 years, as IT'S ALWAYS BEEN BEST handling/steering choice for yours truly!
To each his/her own....whatever works well for YOU! TTFN & RIDE SAFE ALWAYS.....Old Tom aka papasmurf in presently COLD New Hampshire
P.S. CHECK wheel bearings, rear swingarm bearings, tire condition for peace-of-mind on road....has always worked for me [ex-USAF jet aircraft mechanic].
Edited by papasmurf 1/28/2015 9:07 PM
Location: Summer Grove, LA USA
We found no need for a damper on either the Sportster or Burgman rigs after installing sidecar appropriate triple trees, with the "bump steer" effect of the sidecar mostly eliminated. As I recall, TxArt had a similar experence and removed the damper after installing approprate triple trees on his HD "bagger" with Friendship III.
|In general we try and avoid dampers, Dampers increase your steering effort all of the time. Most other sidecar shops tell you that you need a damper, not sure why but my best guess is that they either do not know how to manage a front end shake or that they make money selling dampers and do not make money doing phone support in order to help you manage the front end shake. |
Very much an over generalization of how to manage a front end shake follows;
Slightly over tighten the steering head bearings, we are talking maybe 10 inch pounds, NOT much.
Make sure your tires are properly inflated.
Make sure that the wheel bearing and swing arm pivots are not loose on the sidecar so that the sidecars wheel is held firm. This can be a problem on some brands of sidecars that use torsion suspension as their torsion bar has so much flex in it that you may never be able to manage a front end shake as it not only moves up and down like it is designed to but also allows for the swing arm to flex changing toe settings.
On some belt and chain drive bikes, make sure that your front and rear wheel are in line with each other. Do not assume that being a new bike they are, one belt drive bike often comes from the factory with the front and rear wheels not in alignment.
Make sure your wheel lead is correct, it should be 10-15% of the wheel base of the bike for street ridden bikes.
Make sure your mounts are firm and not flexing. This can be a real problem with both domestic and imported sidecars where the manufactures use a lot of "universal" type frame clamps to mount the sidecar.
When all of the above is fine and you still have a front end shake try changing your toe setting 1/8 of an inch either way. Remember that toe is measured off of the rear wheel not both the front and rear wheel as the front wheel is often narrower then the rear.
With all of the above fine, you may still have a front end shake that requires a damper. GL1200's for some reason almost always need a damper, GL1500's seldom if ever need a damper. My own GL1500 rig (for sale in the add section) does not need a damper.
I have attached basic alignment information. As your bike is longer then most toe is measured over a longer distance and as such the number is higher then it would be for a shorter bike, as the Escort runs an automotive type tire we recommend as a starting point on your toe reading about 1 1/4 inch.
BASIC SIDECAR INSTRUCTIONS.doc (388KB - 5 downloads)
Location: Pago Pago, American Samoa
|I had a vicious low speed wobble with no ballast, and a bad low speed wobble with ballast. Seat time taught me techniques to keep it under control (the key was smoothness, or lack of it, that set the oscillation off). |
Changed the front tire to a K-28, and it's like a completely different rig. At the speeds where I'd be concentrating my utmost, I can one hand steer with impunity.
I don't think gained any 'stiction' like I would have with a dampner, I notice no change in steering effort. If anything, it steers easier at other speeds, and I can take right-handers (right side car) a bit hotter as well without the loss of traction I had before.
Location: Rapid City, SD
I will have to throw in my 2 cents worth. My K1100/ Motorvation Formula came with a damper and as Jay said it made steering awful. I took it off and it is gathering dust in a box in my garage. If I "slightly overtighten" my steering head bearings the problem goes away. I can tell when the bearings are getting loose. It doesn't require a hard tug on the steering head spanner to get the shake to go away.
Location: Northern Germany
|Most of dampers are way too stiff and make steering a workout. I use custom made dampers that only need 70 to 90 N to be moved. This takes out any wobbling and shimmy while the handlebar can still be turned with two fingers w/o any force.|
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