Discussion of Tank Slappers


The past several days on this topic has resulted in a host of opinions ranging from almost agreement to diametric opposition. It needs some clarification. There is a lot of flesh at stake… The causes and cures have been published in AIRMAIL tech pages more than once and many years ago in BMW News in the late 1970’s in feature articles on the subject. But for you neophytes and latecomers here it is in a nutshell……

First and foremost, never let the problem manifest into a worsening condition. The progress from normal handling to dangerous deterioration is usually slow. Don’t ignore the warning signs and get it fixed before it fixes you so nobody can fix you. You will usually get some early warning signs before the big event of the tank slapper happens.
The tank slapper is of course the worse, almost always preceeded in miles and time with a lesser degree wobble mishandling. Weaving is an entirely separate phenomenon.( discussion forthcoming)….
The most dangerous combination for the wobbling and tank slapper is a handlebar mounted wind screen arrangement, a solo lightweight rider, a significant load at the rear of the machine rear of the rear axle, diagonal headwinds, and of course, steering head bearings too loose or worn and notched. The more of these ingredients in the act, the greater the chance of disaster-and the event may happen without warning.

The primary instigation of wobble is a physical resonance set up in the frame and steering geometry that once starts, feeds the accumulated resonant energy back into itself to accentuate the problem. This is what makes it so difficult to squelch once commenced. A rigid frame and steering coupling (tight steering head preload) will avoid the resonance,by absorbing the energy needed to create and manifest the problem, but a small amount of liberty in movement of the steering is needed for continuous self correction of tracking versus road aberrations as the machine moves along. The proper preloading of the bearings is a compromise-to allow enough movement for corrective needs and not so much as to allow resonance to initiate. Kind of a tightrope act.

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