Why does bike feel so sketchy on freeway? - Kawasaki Versys Forum
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post #1 of 45 (permalink) Old 01-03-2014, 09:03 PM Thread Starter
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Why does bike feel so sketchy on freeway?

Ok, here is a noobie question for you. I'm getting pretty comfortable with all speeds below 45 mph or so. City driving, corners, all that. Still much to learn and comfort to gain, but it just seems like practice at this point.

The thing that is really spooking me is that whenever I get on the freeway and to speeds above 50, the bike literally feels like it is wobbling beneath me. Today I was cruising along at 65 or so on a concrete freeway (I5 in Seattle), which has small lines parallel to the direction of travel grooved into the cement, and I swear it felt like the bike was going to slide out from beneath me at any moment. Freaked me out.

It never feels that way at slower speeds. I'm really struggling with this because my first instinct is my tires are either flat (which they are not), the axles are coming loose (which they are not) or I'm riding with vaseline on my wheels. Tire pressure is not the issue, I check that before each ride.

So is this just normal? Is it normal for my tires to search around that much and does it mean anything? Do I just need reassured, or is there something going on? I really feel like I am a nanosecond away from flying off the bike at 65 mph

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post #2 of 45 (permalink) Old 01-03-2014, 09:22 PM
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Luckily we don't have many roads like that around here any more.
I don't like grooved pavement for that very reason, and try to avoid riding on it.
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post #3 of 45 (permalink) Old 01-03-2014, 09:24 PM
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Have you done something as simple as set the sag. My guess is the front is way to soft and the rear is way to hard which is the way my Versys was when I got it from the dealer.

My Versys is planted at highway speeds 100 mph and more. Front sag is 1.5" and rear 1.9". Rear preload is all the way to lowest position and I weigh about 165 necked.
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post #4 of 45 (permalink) Old 01-03-2014, 09:28 PM
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It can be normal depending on the road surface. Lines, seams and pavement irregularities can cause the bike to wallow around. Wind and wash off other vehicles can have a similar effect. The Versys is a tall and light weight motorcycle so the movement is amplified.
You shouldn't be getting any vibrations though.
If you've checked tire tread and pressure and looked the bike over for obvious problems, Set your suspension a little firmer, that may help some.
I would say what you are feeling is just part of riding a motorcycle, you'll get used to it, just keep in mind that physics says the motorcycle wants to stay upright more than it wants to fall over.
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post #5 of 45 (permalink) Old 01-03-2014, 10:29 PM
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Mine was like that on roads with grooves in them on the stock tires. Put Michelin PR3's on and felt like a different bike on the grooves.

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post #6 of 45 (permalink) Old 01-04-2014, 12:40 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the thoughts. I don't have any vibrations, it's just that the tires seem to wallow around and not stay in a line. I have no reason to think it is tire related, though it may be. The tires are fairly new Pirelli Scorpion Trail with 500 miles on them. Pressure is 34 front and 36 rear. Haven't done anything with the suspension.

I suspect the issue is that it is normal, but not normal to someone new to riding. I just need to get over being freaked out, but I tell you, it is very disconcerting to be doing 60 mph on a freeway and to feel like you are constantly about to spill onto the highway and get crushed under a car.

What I wish is that I could have an expert rider ride my bike and tell me it is totally OK and normal and to just trust physics and my tires. That would be great. I know the world is full of people who have ridden thousands of miles on mediocre highways and not spilled their bike. I want to be one of them.

So I think I just need to learn to trust physics and my tires. But that is proving hard to do because it FEELS like I don't have traction.

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post #7 of 45 (permalink) Old 01-04-2014, 12:54 AM
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I dropped alot of air presure from my tires for just easy riding and it made a huge difference.

I think the required psi is too high! JMO I am not an expert!





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post #8 of 45 (permalink) Old 01-04-2014, 07:30 AM
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Originally Posted by salishversys View Post
Thanks for the thoughts. I don't have any vibrations, it's just that the tires seem to wallow around and not stay in a line. I have no reason to think it is tire related, though it may be. The tires are fairly new Pirelli Scorpion Trail with 500 miles on them. Pressure is 34 front and 36 rear. Haven't done anything with the suspension.

I suspect the issue is that it is normal, but not normal to someone new to riding. I just need to get over being freaked out, but I tell you, it is very disconcerting to be doing 60 mph on a freeway and to feel like you are constantly about to spill onto the highway and get crushed under a car.

What I wish is that I could have an expert rider ride my bike and tell me it is totally OK and normal and to just trust physics and my tires. That would be great. I know the world is full of people who have ridden thousands of miles on mediocre highways and not spilled their bike. I want to be one of them.

So I think I just need to learn to trust physics and my tires. But that is proving hard to do because it FEELS like I don't have traction.

Instead of whining why don't you check the sag. The adjustment is on the suspension to compensate for different rider weight. When the bike sits too low in the front it becomes sqirrely. You can correct this by raising the front or lowering the rear. Mostly this can be done by aduusting the sag. If this doesn't work you can move the forks legs down slightly in the tripple clamps.
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post #9 of 45 (permalink) Old 01-04-2014, 08:45 AM
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Lines in the road at highway speeds are going to track your tires. Just one of those things. I've never ridden on trail tires, though I would imagine that they might be more affected as the tread has less of a contact patch due to the larger deeper grooves.

IMO, adjusting the sag won't have any affect on how your bike is tracking in a straight line at highway speeds. In my experience, it's always been affected by the severity of the road, tire type, and air pressure. This is keeping in mind that your suspension is close to stock setup and not grossly out of proportion to your rider weight.

When riding at highway speeds, I always try to keep a lookout for those lines. I know when I rode up 95, some roadways or grated bridges will actually have a sign warning motorcyclists. Ones ride will wanna track the grooves running in the direction your traveling.
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post #10 of 45 (permalink) Old 01-04-2014, 08:57 AM
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I've had the same experience so I know how it feels.

You said the feeling is happening on the freeway with grooves in the pavement parallel to your direction of travel and it happens at higher speeds. The first thing I would do is find a road that does not have these grooves that has a higher posted speed limit and see what happens. I'm thinking the feeling will go away. Any time the road surface changes, so does your contact patch on the tires. A bike naturally weaves a very subtle "S" track as it goes down the road, even when you think you are going perfectly straight. As it does this, it crosses over the grooves and the tire contact patch changes slightly, causing the bike to alter its natural "S". I think this is what you are feeling.

There is one section of similar road near me and I know the first couple times I was it, I had the same feeling you do. It was VERY unnerving. I went slower and was almost scared to turn/lean.
I then switched tires for the stock dunlop to a PR3 and the next time I was on the road, the feeling has pretty much gone away.
Some of that may be attributed to the tires, some to just having more experience.

Last summer I rode across the Mackinack Bridge. There was construction in the outer lane so I had to ride on the 2" grate surface of the inner lane. Yes, you can look straight down and see water way down there, don't drop anything, haha. Anyway, I've heard people say that it is very unnerving to ride on. I didn't have any problems, just stay relaxed and let the bike do its thing. It wonders a little but that's ok.

Try a different road, try changing your suspension (I have no experience here so just going on posts above), try different tires, and get more experience.

Mitch

P.S. I see ZX6R posted while I was typing. Sounds like we are thinking along the same lines.

Last edited by Slow-Steady; 01-04-2014 at 08:59 AM.
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post #11 of 45 (permalink) Old 01-04-2014, 09:29 AM
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Just one more thought to toss out there...you did have an off recently right? Are you sure there was no damage to the forks or frame?

It may just be the tires tracking in the rain grooves like others have said. Try a road like Slow-Steady suggested and report back to us.

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post #12 of 45 (permalink) Old 01-04-2014, 10:33 AM
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All bikes tend to wander a bit on grooved pavement. If all of the above suggestions re: suspension and tire pressure etc are good, then you need to look at your riding.
When a rider first encounters the grooved road phenomenon, the tendency for the bike to wander can be scary and the rider tenses up, putting pressure on the 'bars which makes the ride even worse due to rider input. The best thing to do is totally relax and let the bike find it's way, it will be ok. Try it, you might find it helps and that nothing is wrong with your V.
Bridges with steel decks will give the same feel to the ride.
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post #13 of 45 (permalink) Old 01-04-2014, 12:15 PM Thread Starter
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Again, I appreciate all the thoughts. I've come to see the great value of HiveMind, which is why I am on this site and actively used to use sailing sites when I was getting up to speed in that world.

The thought that the bike could be off from when I dropped it a few months ago is a valid one, but I don't think it is the case. One of the forks was replaced, and various other things, but they checked alignment and it feels perfectly balanced. It's possibly a factor, but I don't believe it is.

From what everyone is saying I believe it is more likely a combination that:
1. Grooved pavement is inherently dodgy.
2. Tires may be a factor (which I won't know until I replace them)
3. Suspension can play a factor (please no flaming waltermitty, I'm not whining)

I've done a few long rides on normal asphalt and not had this sensation so much, and here in the PNW we have a million bridges so I am familiar and comfortable with the steel grate reality, so I think it is primarily a grooved pavement problem.

Thank you everyone! We have sunshine here in Seattle today and the roads are dry!

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post #14 of 45 (permalink) Old 01-04-2014, 12:30 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by salishversys View Post
...I suspect the issue is that it is normal, but not normal to someone new to riding. I just need to get over being freaked out, but I tell you, it is very disconcerting to be doing 60 mph on a freeway and to feel like you are constantly about to spill onto the highway and get crushed under a car....
See below....

Quote:
Originally Posted by MTS View Post
...I think the required psi is too high! JMO I am not an expert!
And I run 36F, 42R in my tires, and have for OVER 75,000 miles in my Vs alone.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Slow-Steady View Post
... just stay relaxed and let the bike do its thing. It wonders a little but that's ok....
Absolutely correct - your tendency as a "newby" is to tense up when the bike starts moving, and THAT can cause you to fall. Keep a very light touch on the handlebars and you'll be fine.

Ed
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post #15 of 45 (permalink) Old 01-04-2014, 03:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fasteddiecopeman View Post
See below....



And I run 36F, 42R in my tires, and have for OVER 75,000 miles in my Vs alone.



Absolutely correct - your tendency as a "newby" is to tense up when the bike starts moving, and THAT can cause you to fall. Keep a very light touch on the handlebars and you'll be fine.
Good advice
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post #16 of 45 (permalink) Old 01-04-2014, 04:16 PM
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This ^^^

Drop your shoulders, relax your wrists, sit "down in" the seat, breath slow and easy and hum a happy tune in your head. In short, relax and ride.

No substitute for miles under your belt.

It is true those DS (isn) tires will "track" more than a P3 etc but no need to rush to change them. They are good and should serve you well in the long run.

I would NOT lower tire pressure. That will make the bike "wallow" even more.

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post #17 of 45 (permalink) Old 01-04-2014, 04:34 PM
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1) Make sure the suspension is properly set up. Start with the default settings specified in the service manual you can download from this site.

2) Make sure the tires are properly inflated. 33psi front and 36psi rear is the default. Check your tire manufacturers web site as their may be slight variation between brands for the Versys. The pressure number on the sidewall is MAX allowable pressure, NOT recommended riding pressure. Even as little as 1-2 psi off can neg. effect handling. They loose air much faster than car tires so need to be checked weekly. Tire pressure is critical to handling.

3) Keep a loose, relaxed, grip on the bars, especially on grooved pavement. The bike will self correct. Grip the tank with your knees to hold on.

4) Open grate bridges and grooved pavement are never nice on a motorcycle because the front wheel wants to follow the grooves, especially with off road tires, but you still have more traction than you think. Relaxed, loose grip on the bars so the front wheel can move slightly on it's own and acclimatization works best in these conditions.

Last edited by twowheels; 01-04-2014 at 04:45 PM.
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post #18 of 45 (permalink) Old 01-04-2014, 06:24 PM
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What part of I-5 were you on? They were resurfacing it a while back and it was really sketchy but it is all good now as far as I know. If you are looking to get comfortable at high speeds 99 south of Seattle is a really good stretch of road with little traffic compared to I-5. Try riding there and see if you get the same feeling.
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post #19 of 45 (permalink) Old 01-04-2014, 08:05 PM
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Don't really believe this. How hard is it to adjust the suspension? They give you the wrench for doGs sake.
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post #20 of 45 (permalink) Old 01-04-2014, 09:35 PM
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Not one to answers to techical questions - the experts (there are a bunch of very knowlegeable Versys owners here!) can answer those. I've had my used 2009 for a year or so now, and I've put about 6000 miles on it. I have never felt like I was going to lose control or that the bike was wobbley on any paved surface.

My lame advice to you as a 'noobie" is to either change your set-up or equipment, or just get used to riding a bike on all different roads on all kinds of surfaces. I'm not sure what your experience is, but if you feel out-of-control in certain situations where you're riding normally (even at fast speeds); something need to be changed. Your safety is the most important thing.

Good luck.
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