Yesterday, a Phoenix-area news station’s website posted a story about the so-called “Harley Death Wobble.” The story begins with the classic “Some riders chose Harley for this reason, some chose it for that, status symbol, made in America, yadda yadda yadda.”
It then goes on to describe a motorcycle accident involving a biker who had been riding for 40 years, who suddenly lost control of his Harley (it doesn’t say what model) while on a scenic highway in Arizona. At 30 mph, his motorcycle began to wobble violently, and before he knew it, he and his bike were headed off the road and down a steep ravine. He was flown by helicopter to a hospital, and awoke from a coma five days later with multiple broken bones. The article claims that this “Death Wobble” is the reason the California Highway Patrol uses BMW motorcycles instead of Harleys.
After reading the article, I was skeptical. After all, I’ve been riding for nearly two decades; I’ve owned three Harley-Davidsons, and ridden with countless other Harley riders, and I’d never heard of this problem. On top of that, I’ve been a motorcycle accident lawyer in Los Angeles and throughout California for years, and I’ve never encountered this in any of my motorcycle accident cases. Look, it’s no secret that a stock Harley does not handle as well as most of the competition. But throw on some Progressive shocks and fork springs, and they’re not so bad, right?
With this in mind, I did a little Internet research. And while we can’t definitively say whether these reported stories can be traced to a Harley-Davidson design defect, there is A LOT of smoke out there. Many bikers have reported having this problem. It sounds very scary, and potentially life threatening.
From what I’ve read, the issue is model specific. For example, the Dynas and Sportsters don’t seem to have this problem — although I’ve seen at least two message-board posts reporting this issue on Street Bobs, which are in the Dyna family. And according to at least one source, the issues are strictly with pre-2008 models.
The Harley-Davidson models that are reported to be most affected by this alleged design defect include the Road King, Ultra Classic, the Electra Glide and FLH series — basically, Harley-Davidson’s big touring models, or “baggers.”
There are fixes out there for this problem. And the solution is not particularly expensive. According to our research, a stabilizer kit can be purchased for around $300. Although we have no personal knowledge of how big a problem this is, we certainly would encourage any of our readers who are riding Harley-Davidson baggers to install this kit — particularly if you’ve experienced this wobble problem.
As always, ride safe, and if you have personally experienced this problem, or you’ve used any of the aftermarket products to fix it, let us know. We’d love to hear first hand from our readers about their experience.