Steering Dampers for Motorcycles and Dirt Bikes

Installing a Steering DamperSteering dampers operate under the same principle as your forks and can make a big difference to the handling of just about any motorcycle if setup correctly. Valving inside the damper unit reacts to the forces transferred through the forks and crowns of your motorcycle.

Internal hydraulic valving readjusts the amount of shock or impact that would have been received through your handlebars. The link arm which connects the stabilizer to the frame, reacts instantaneously, absorbing any unwanted movement. Your suspension was designed to handle the vertical movement of your motorcycle.

Steering dampers completes your suspension package by controlling the unwanted horizontal movement that is continually transferred, while riding or racing, to your handlebars. Quality steering dampers are adjustable for high speed and low speed “impacts” via the tuning dials located on the top of the unit and can be easily adjusted on the fly.

Sport bikes have a short wheel base and an aggressive steering geometry to provide the ability to make very quick changes in direction. This has the generally undesirable side-effect of making the bike less stable, more prone to feedback from uneven road surfaces, and more difficult to control. In addition, their light weight and powerful engine can cause frequent wheelies.

If the front wheel significantly deviates from the direction of travel when it touches down, it may cause an unwanted wobble. Steering dampers are factory installed on some high-end sport motorcycles and fitted to most contemporary racing bikes to counter these behaviours.

Steering dampers are also mounted to off-road motorcycles such as motocross bikes. A damper helps keep the bike tracking straight over difficult terrain such as ruts, rocks, and sand, and also smooths out jolts through the handlebars at the end of jumps.

They also reduce arm fatigue on longer rides by reducing the amount of effort needed to control the handlebars.

Steering Damper

Scotts Steering Dampers

On motorcycles, one end of the damper mechanism is mounted to the steering yoke, the other to the frame. Steering dampers are available in two forms. Linear dampers resemble a telescoping shock absorber and operate in a similar manner.

They can be aligned either longitudinally and to one side of the steering, or transversely across the bike. Rotary dampers resemble small boxes and operate via a rotating pivot. They are mounted coaxially with the steering axis and are typically located on top of the steering head.

For motorcycles with sidecars, especially for solo motorcycles which have had a sidecar installed later and where the front wheel geometry (trail) has not been adjusted for the particular use with a sidecar, the installation of a steering damper is highly recommended and extremely beneficial.

This prevents low speed wobble which may occur in the lower speed range of about 13 to 20 mph. In older motorcycles adjustable friction dampers had been routinely installed. Hydraulically operated steering dampers may be retrofitted. The installation and operation of a steering damper must be inspected by an expert or examiner and must be entered in the vehicle papers.

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