Why is my bike so Top-Heavy?
I must get this question via email five or six times a day, every day. I’ve written about it before but obviously, many of you haven’t gotten the message.
Here’s the question. “I just got a brand new ( fill in the blank ) it’s SO top heavy! What can I do?”
First, let’s get this straight. It ain’t the bike, there’s no such thing as top heavy. It’s simple physics. The bike has two wheels, one in the front and one in the back. If you don’t put the kickstand down, obviously the bike falls over. If you’re going extremely slow and you don’t keep power to the rear wheel with your clutch and throttle, the bike will fall over. It’s called gravity.
Why does the bike feel stable at higher speeds? Why is it that you don’t have a problem balancing a bike above 15 or 20 mph? Again, it’s simple physics. The two spinning wheels create a gyroscopic effect, that is, the force pulling you forward overcomes the force of gravity pulling you down. The faster you go, the more the motorcycle wants to continue going straight. Because of the gyroscopic effect of the two spinning wheels at speeds greater than 15mph, in order for the motorcycle to turn, you must make it lean. If you push forward on the left grip, the bike will lean left and go left. If you push forward on the right grip, the bike will lean right and go right.
Again, this is because of the gyroscopic effect. So, the question is, at low speeds how do I keep the bike from falling over? How do I overcome the force of gravity? Thankfully, the answer is very simple, you use the clutch and throttle, i.e., the friction zone. In addition, you put a little bit of pressure on the rear brake, as long as you put power to the rear wheel and at the same time a little pressure on the rear brake, the bike cannot fall over as long as the wheels are turning. Even if the wheels are turning very slowly. By very slowly I mean, 1 or 2 mph. Everyone has seen this if you’ve ever watched a slow race. If you see a motorcycle fall over during a slow race, or if the rider has to put a foot down to keep it from falling over, it’s because of a momentary loss of power to the rear wheel.
If you don’t believe when I say that there’s no such thing as a top heavy bike, go to YouTube and watch police rodeo competitions. Notice that the rider’s seat on a police motorcycle sits about four to six inches above the frame. The rider’s weight of course is on top of that. That should make for an extremely top heavy motorcycle, yet, if you watch these videos, you can see these motor officers whipping their bikes through the tightest of turns and maneuvers with ease. They’re able to do this because they know how to use the clutch, throttle and rear brake. Knowing these simple techniques will allow any rider to ride any motorcycle regardless of its size or weight, even at the lowest speeds with skill and confidence.
You’ll be able to say, “good-bye top-heavy bike!” How do you know if you’ve mastered the clutch and throttle? Remember, just having the ability starting off from a stop without stalling doesn’t mean you’ve mastered the clutch and throttle. Here’s a simple test for yourself. Go to a lined parking lot, make a circle within 2-1/2 parking spaces. With the motorcycle straight up and no leaning begin riding around that circle using the clutch, throttle and a little pressure on the rear brake. You should be able to do this at an extremely slow walking pace; that is, 1 to 2 mph, just barely moving. Keep your head and eyes up at all times. If you can’t do this, you have yet to master the clutch and throttle. In that case, you should start practicing the slow race in a straight line until you feel confident and then start riding the circle.
For anyone with a couple thousand miles under their belt, you should have this mastered in about one hour. For more tips, tricks and techniques, go to my website, www.ridelikeapro.com