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✔ Article reviewed by Ethan Orenstein. Bringing motorcycles back from the dead since 2013. Learn More.

Motorcycle Speed Wobbles & Tank Slappers

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Seeing videos, hearing stories, and experiencing speed wobbles, death wobbles, or tank slappers on a motorcycle is always a good reminder why wearing all the proper riding gear and keeping your bike maintained is important.

This page will go over what they are, what causes them, and what to do if you experience one.

What is a Tank Slapper?

A tank slapper describes a situation in which a motorcycle’s forks and handlebars begin violently slapping from side to side.

In the most extreme cases, the handlebars can actually hit each side of the gas tank repeatedly.

Tank slappers, which are also called speed wobbles or death wobbles, are a dangerous situation to be in.

In many cases, it’ll cause you to lose control of the bike and go down.

What Causes Speed Wobbles on a Motorcycle?

Anything with a single steering pivot – motorcycles, bicycles, skateboards – can experience a speed wobble.

It occurs when the steering pivot begins to shake (for a variety of reasons) and continues to shake until it either settles or gets out of control.

There are a number of reasons why speed wobbles can happen, including:

  • Loss of traction.
  • Too high of speed.
  • Improper tire pressure.
  • Bad bearings.
  • Bad suspension.
  • Hitting an imperfection in the road.
  • Riding in heavy wind.

How to Handle Speed Wobbles

The best way to handle a speed wobble is to not get into one in the first place.

Experiencing one can be frightening and difficult to overcome.

The best ways to avoid them include:

  • Making sure your motorcycle is properly tuned and maintained.
  • Not ridding at excessive speeds or pulling stunts.

If you do find yourself in a speed wobbles, sometimes all you can to is try to ride it out.

As the bike slows and regains traction, the steering should naturally steady out.

Some experts recommend:

  • Letting off the throttle.
  • Relaxing your grip.
  • Not using the breaks while still in a wobble.

On certain bikes, a steering damper may help prevent wobbles as well.

And always, make sure you’re wearing the proper safety gear.

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Content Editor: Ethan Orenstein

Ethan is not just any motorcycle enthusiast. With a decade of experience riding, maintaining, and restoring a range of motorcycles, Ethan brings a wealth of knowledge to the table. Many of the tips and tricks shared on this site are born from hours spent wrenching on personal bikes. Paired with his experience as a journalist covering DMV & insurance topics, MotorcycleZombies.com is a must-visit site for any home-mechanic. Every article has been carefully reviewed and edited to ensure accuracy, authenticity, and simplicity - all to help bring your bike back from the dead and onto the road.

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