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How To Solve Speed Wobble On Your Bike | GCN’s Road Cycling Tips

How To Solve Speed Wobble On Your Bike | GCN’s Road Cycling Tips

– [Dan] Speed wobble is one of the most
frightening things that can happen to you when you’re out on a ride. Hopefully, you
have never experienced it before, but if you have, it’s something you
are never going to forget. Now, a lot of you have written to us
recently asking what causes it, and also what you should do
if it does happen to you. Now, speed wobble is pretty much
exactly what it says. It is a violent and almost uncontrollable oscillation from
side to side of your frame and fork, which often occurs at very high speeds.
Well, we did manage to get out of that one. Well done, Si. – [Simon] Quite a close run thing. Now,
unfortunately, I’m pleased to be able to say that we actually haven’t experienced
speed wobble ourselves for many many years, but nevertheless, we’ve
been doing our research. – Nobody can be 100% sure as to exactly
what causes speed wobble, however, there are a few theories out
there at the moment, and the first of those is that your bike is not quite up to
scratch. So maybe the two wheels aren’t perfectly aligned, so at a certain point,
they effectively begin to fight against each other, a little bit like you get in a
car with badly-aligned wheels, where the steering wheel starts
to shake at a certain speed. – Now, related to this is the possibility
that actually the front end of your bike, or more specifically, the top
tube, just isn’t stiff enough. Now, that’s something that’s going to be
felt more keenly by heavier riders, or those of us that perhaps might sit with
too much weight over the back of the bike, so not enough weight over the
front wheel. And in those cases, it’s actually the front of the bike that’s
then going to try and rotate or pivot around the seat tube, so where your center
of mass is. Now, it has to be said that modern bikes do tend to be much stiffer
than those from the olden days, and so they are less prone
intrinsically to speed wobble. – Apparently, though, the initiation of
speed wobble can actually be down to the rider themselves. So maybe on a cold
descent, a little bit like we’ve got today, you start to shake and shiver ever
so slightly, and that can start it. Or it might be that your pedaling style or
upper body is slightly more wobbly than most, so what can happen is you might lend
a bike to someone, having never experienced speed wobble yourself, but
they actually might get it. – Added in to this is also the fact that
the size of your bike, and also the geometry of it, can also have
an effect as well. So something that we’ve learned from our
friends in the world of motorbiking, who suffer from speed wobble far worse
than us, is the head tube angle and also the trail if the bike is really important.
So, bikes with a steeper head angle actually feel more twitchy and then suffer
from speed wobble far, far worse. – And also, the farther above the main
frame of the bike your weight is, apparently the more likely you are to get
speed wobble. So if you’ve got quite a small frame size for your height, and you
got a lot of seat pins sticking out, maybe a load of headset spaces here,
and even an upward-turning stem, you’re going to have more flex and
more chance of speed wobble. – And finally, riding no-handed, and
therefore having little or no weight at the front end of the bike is also a
potential cause of speed wobble, especially if you’re going at high speeds.
Now, we wouldn’t recommend going no-handed at the best of times going down a descent,
but especially not if you’re prone to a bit of speed wobble. – Okay, then, those are the probable
causes of speed wobble. Perhaps most importantly, though, what do you
actually do if you experience it? Bearing in mind it could actually get so
bad that it throws you off your bike, which is, let’s face it, the last thing
you want to happen at high speed. – Or at slower speed, I guess, as well.
One of the first things that you could think about is your weight distribution,
which you should try and keep centered on your bike, and lower your body weight down
towards the frame. Some people have also reported success in elevating themselves
ever so slightly off the saddle, whilst gripping the top tube with their
knees. – Yeah, and then a slightly different
method, still raising yourself off of the saddle slightly, is then to drop your A
pedal to the 6:00 position, and then put your body weight through
there. The theory behind that is that that stops the seat tube of your bike from
becoming the pivot that we talked about earlier on, and then hopefully,
stabilizing your bike. – Also try and think about your arms and
hands, which should be fairly relaxed, which is not going to be something that
you instinctively think of having once you experience speed wobble. So, hold on
to the bars on the drops here, but not with a vise-like grip, try and
keep your hands fairly relaxed, and allow your arms to give the whole
system a bit of suspension. – Undoubtedly, one of the first things
that’s going to go through your mind as you start to experience speed wobble
is a strong desire to slow down, and fortunately, that is actually the
right thing to do. However, what you don’t want to do is jam both
brakes on really suddenly. Instead, you want to apply your rear brake
only, and very gradually, so that you start to scrub off speed, and
then ultimately, come to a complete stop. – Now, hopefully, this video will have
helped you address some of the issues which can be causing your speed wobble
in the first place, or at least, help you to get out of it if you do
experience it out on your ride. However, we’d love to hear your own
experiences with speed wobble, any possible solutions that you could
have for us and our viewers, too. You can leave those in the comment
section just down below. In the meantime, we’ve got a couple more
videos which we think might be relevant for you right now. In the top, just up
there, is how to improve your descending. – Yeah, or for a little bit more
information about the geometry of your bike, including head angle, trail, and so
forth, then click just down there. – And to subscribe to the Global Cycling
Network, all you’ve got to do is click on the globe. – I hope viewers’ experiences are
largely going to be positive, like, not “I had this horrible
crash,” more like, “Oof, you wouldn’t believe what I did
to get out of speed wobble.” – “Yeah. Did a wheelie.” – Fingers crossed.

69 comments on “How To Solve Speed Wobble On Your Bike | GCN’s Road Cycling Tips

  1. I'd really like to see a video about fork vibrations when braking and how to fix it. Have been experienced it on my road disc brake bike when braking hard. Almost looses the grip on the hoods…

  2. What about tyres? In my experience on bikes and motorbikes, speed wobbles come from the tyres. Worn tyres, incorrectly fitted tyres, poor tyres etc.

  3. I've experienced speed wobble a couple of times both when out of the saddle. Cured it instantly when l sat back in the saddle.

  4. Obviously no one expects you guys to induce speed wobble and try rescue it on camera, but can you perhaps include footage of what it looks like, and how people have rescued it before? You know, next time a video rolls around dealing with a dangerous topic 🙂

  5. As a motorcyclist (who has experienced speed wobbling at 40mph+) I've always known that slowing down is the worst thing you can do (not sure if this is the same on a bicycle) as slowing down will make the wobble more violent leading to the worst case scenario

  6. Can those of you who experienced speed wobble on good quality bikes please comment on your handlebar stem lenth? A shorter stem may be more twitchy, as is narrower handlebars. Having said that, it will probably only affect the speed at which the wobble occurs. Then again, lets assume the wheel imbalace causes a resonane at a certain speed, the problem can be solved by de-coupling the rider input from the wheel. I have a nice aero bike from reputable manufacturer, but had a couple of shimmy experiences above 50 km/h. I will check headset and wheel balance before trying a longer stem.

  7. Actally Stiffness does NOT reduce wobble. It shifts the frequency of the wobbble up. Trust me. I do maths. Also we should separate between a wobble of your frame and the one you might get with your hands off the bar.

  8. When I was 10 I experienced it and I stood up and I regained control but also I have extremely good balance e.g. I can track stand no handed for as long as I like

  9. Experienced cyclist, carbon CUBE, well maintained, bladed spokes, steep downhill, perfect conditions, tailwind, 30+mph, sudden crosswind, instantaneous severe speed wobble, came off when bike touched gravel at side of tarmac, severely injured, helicoptered to hospital, four hour op, pinned and wired elbow and arm, 11 day hospitalisation in high dependency(two punctured lungs). A thoroughly unpleasant life/cycling experience. Hill descents/sidewinds now at much slower pace.

  10. I got speed wobble I put both legs slowly on the ground to keep me Balance it was crazy I was on a low rider an that slowed me down going down hill.

  11. I've experienced it on a mountain bike, lost controll of the bike and crased pretty hard. 0/10 experience would not recommend.

  12. Few more possible causes: (1) Full carbon high-profile wheels [I don't point the brand with a finger, but guessable] with good radial stiffness and limited sideways stiffness (2) Obvious – dissent jolts make breaks mis-centered = rim brushing slightly a pad

  13. I've experienced speed wobble when skitching off my buddies dirt bike to get speed to hit his jump I think we were going around 50mph on flat ground. The jump was awesome the bike didn't like it (Walmart mongoose)

  14. I recently purchased a Bianchi Infinito CV frame size 57, I have suffered speed wobble on this bike three times once on a perfectly flat road at 24mph and twice going down hill 40mph its terrifying to say the least. I managed to stay on board but must admit on the third occasion I was looking for somewhere soft to land as I had crossed to the wrong side of the road and heading for the pavement. I am told the front wheel may be out of balance, any ideas?

  15. any one got experiece of the planet x pro carbon ?
    got the chance of one but been reading probs with speed wobble 🙁 not got a lot of road bike experince..

  16. I get speed wobble in my feet and ankles on a descent, the drive side pedal at 6 o’clock works a treat. Not sure if the wobble is mechanical or psychological…discuss.

  17. Got a speed wobble on my 2017 Specialized Venge today in Lake Tahoe. I almost couldn't stop the bike. Anything I can do to make sure it doesn't happen again?

  18. I've been riding for 9 years now and have 5 bikes but started on a bmx I was racing someone down hill to see who could get the highest speed after a couple attempts I got speed wobbles really badly and went flying of my bike and broke my arm the reason this happened in my own guess is because my bike was too small and couldn't handle the speed

  19. I've experienced a number of cases of speed wobble over the years. Some of the causes were the road surface (the road actually had narrow channels/grooves, as do many roads in Asia, where the paving is done in long lines in the direction of travel), loose headset, wheels that weren't true, and wheels that weren't properly tightened. In RAAM 2013 when I was descending toward Mexican Hat, Utah on a steep grade at high speed, my bike began shaking violently. Over a long stretch of road, I was able to slow the bike down without crashing. My crew who was following along behind me said they thought that I was going to die. One crew member screamed while in the car while watching me lose control of the bike. The wobbling is an oscillation akin to what happened to the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. Once the bike starts resonating violently, you can only hope to slow it down to avoid a crash. The entire bike is moving wildly from side-to-side and feels like it is going to break into pieces. My most-recent case of speed wobble was in the Swissman Extreme Ironman, where on the first big descent of the race my bike started shaking. There was a problem with my headset that I never quite got fixed during the race. I couldn't/wouldn't go over 30 mph on descents during the race after that experience. For other related topics please see The Hazards of Cycling in Thailand. For instance, the giant Asian hornet getting in your shirt also is known to cause speed wobble … at any speed.

  20. Only had this once. Ended up losing a fight with a dry stone wall at 40mph. Broke six ribs, collarbone, shoulder-blade, dislocated shoulder and AC joints and left a lot of skin on the road. 4 days in ICU and 5 months off work.
    Sudden gust of wind on the descent was what set mine off but there was no recovering it and the gravel filled corner I had to try to negotiate was the last straw.

  21. Just happened to me for the first time cruising down hill in Paso Robles in the middle distance of a group ride during the Great Western Bike Rally. Terrifying. It made me completely nauseated. I did manage to slow down with my back brake until I could stop. I received the advice from another rider that if you pinch the top tube with your knees that it helps. That is what I did for the rest of the day plus rode slower on the hills for the rest of my ride. It really stinks when you do not trust your bike and you still have quite a distance to ride. I plan on switching my handlebars so I can lower their height. I think that might help. Thanks for validating how terrifying it is. Basically it feels like your bike is going to crack in half and you are going to smash face first into the pavement. This video really gives you an idea of what it is like.

  22. What about air drag? Going fast downhill will mean that you are cutting through a lot of air. Could this play a factor in swaying the bike slightly from side to side? Or what about the quality of the road? There's not one road that's completely smooth and flat across its width. Could the unevenness sway the wheels also?

  23. Just had my first speed wobble which threw me off my bike. Exiting a cattle grid in the wet, think the uneven transition from the grid onto the tarmac set the bike wobbling, road was very wet too. Before I knew it I had been thrown off the bike. Relatively slow compared to some of these accidents, (I think only about 20 to 25 mph or so) but still required a trip to A&E for some stitches.

  24. Hey you guys are awesome I'm going to subscribe my experience with speed wobble is my bike trailer for kids with my dog and it's a little back heavy because I need storage for a kennel and recycling that's how I make my money I don't know how to fix the wobbly bike trailer my bike kicks ass but the trailer is is a pain I jammed a couple dimes into a bottle cap trying to keep the hitch arm still so that so it doesn't break off it's a difficult problem to fix plus I'm consistently out of funds but thank you for the video

  25. Wow great timing this just happened to me two days ago. Down hill approximately 50 mph the front end of the bike started wobbling uncontrollably. Scared the bejeebers out of me.

  26. I experienced this at 35mph and seriously thought I was going to fall off. I was trying to break my previous speed record going downhill of 40mph…. I just coasted and hit the brakes periodically but the brakes made it worse I felt. I want to try again but concerned it will just happen again. Do you think a mountain bike is less likely to wobble than a road bike? I got my bike tuned up and they found nothing wrong. Can you test the bike on a "treadmill" and see if it would wobble in a simulated environment so you can practice high speed without falling down?

  27. What happen wen i had the wobbles was i was bombin a hill with sand on it we were goin pretty fast n i was sliding my rear end as if i was drifting then i went to transfer from left to right buh my front wheel jus lost all control n it ripped my feet off my pedals n i put both my feet on the road n jus rid it out (i ride bmx btw)

  28. 20 years of cycling and experienced this yesterday for the first time at 42 mph on a long descent.
    It was very violent! Thought for sure it was going to spent me off!

  29. It almost always starts with a strong cross wind. Had a severe one at 47 mph yesterday on a brand new Canyon Ultimate that I rode at 50-plus down the same grade many times with no shake or wobble. Thankfully my disc brakes helped me get it under control before I face-planted on the asphalt. Will never go back to rim brakes after that one.

  30. I recently started cycling. I meant as recent as just today. Finally took my bike on the flat straight neighborhood road for my first time and felt like sprinting as fast as I felt like in order to go as fast as 25mph cars. However; I experienced speed wobble and had to go back onto the side walk. Luckily I did this when there was no cars nearby or in sight. Riding on the sidewalk is legal where I live. I stayed on the side walk even after I reached roads with bike lanes.

    I have a heavy cheap steel folding city bike with a bunch of accessories on it, lights, fenders, bottle, bag, etc. I never had my wheels tuned, straightened, aligned or trued before.

    I watched enough gcn before to know how to brake or decelerate during descending downhill. That gave me enough bravery to finish my journey to finish my ride back home until I can get all of this checked out. Until I do have enough money to get it all checked out, I'm going to ride the bike trails around the big park. Maybe to intentionally have fun with the speed wobble safely.

  31. Bike+rider is essentially a system that can go into different modes of oscillation at different resonance frequencies. Low frequency wobble is in fact a resonance point. If you hit it, you'll get a wobble which will get stronger. Once you're there, you gotta change the behavior of the system to move away from the resonance – this will be harder once the wobble increases.
    External force (crosswind) or if you're unlucky then internal dynamics might bump the system into wobbly resonance. The system's response to impulse and step excitation must not produce stable resonance points – this should be verified by the bike company, but I think they have no clue about these things(?).
    I don't believe that a small offset in the wheels will cause this. Same for untrue wheels. You can have a few mm of offset and not get any wobble.

    Old steering bearings, bad fork, badly fitted fork, bad front hub/bearings, bad position are the most likely culprits. Also your position on the bike is important. You gotta feel when you're stable. Your weight off a bit from the saddle by having one of the legs at 6 o'clock with your weight on the pedal, arms bent, hands on drop bars – this should provide enough stability to the system.

  32. I experienced this on my second ride as a new rider. Downhill and high speed, stooped as soon as i started applying the breaks. Not so sure about the weak frame part, as i was riding on a brand new ridley fenix sl 105. And from all the bikes in this price range, this on had one of the stiffest frames. At least from my experience.

  33. Hello. I really need your help here. This last summer I had my first speed wooble while riding downhill at about 75km/h and almost died; or that was my feeling.

    Since then, eveyrtime I ride my bike it happened to me. Everytime starting at lower speeds. Then I sold my bike; don't owe one now.

    Now even happens to me while trying a new bike (to buy it) on a street with a sliglthy % of "downhill". I think it got into my head. I need some kind of physiological coaching help or won't be able to enjoy/race ever again. Thanks!

  34. Had experienced speed wobble (Merlin ExtraLiight, 56 cm) on descent. Did not brake but held steady upper body and try to absorb the vibration till it went away. Most of all, don’t panic. Thankfully, gravity is pretty constant and can help. That’s my thought.

  35. I instinctively tuck my knees into the top tube when cruising downhill at high speeds to narrow my profile. I'm glad that it helps guard against wobbling too. My experience though is that over-correction from the rider, tense grip or a road imperfection is usually the catalyst. No doubt that poor bike maintenance could be a contributing factor. I'll be checking my head tube today as a result of this video. My wheels are due for some TLC as well.

  36. I noticed that a kid I was teaching was getting speed wobbles as he descended at 20kph, a frightening speed for him. Solution: relax his grip. You don't have to be shaking with cold or fear for your grip to tremble, because muscles work by a series of contractions.
    Getting your bum off the saddle is good advice for any descent, especially when you are not familiar with the road. If you are on the saddle then an unseen bump can give you a kick that throws you off the bike.
    Yes, the knee against the frame does help damp out the wobble.
    And finally, maintain your headset keep it tight .

  37. I've never had that happen, but I do have a bike that will dive to the right if I take my hands off the bars. It happens almost every damn time. I can't open bars or juggle bottles while taking my hands off the bars. And clues on what to do? It's also a carbon frame, so probably not much chance for adjustment. I did check the wheel dish, and they are fine. It it's a hanger issue, I'm screwed. I know, get a different bike. Yeah yeah yeah. N+1 is the law…

  38. This happened to me today, going about 30mph down a fairly steep, pretty bumpy, off camber descent with a cross wind. Scared the sh*t out of me, but luckily the road flattened out soon enough and I got it back under control.

  39. if you wedge supports between your top tube and bottom tube it should prevent any wobble of the top tube, as some bikes just aren't built well enough on the top tube. I realized this when I switched from a road bike to an electric cruiser, where the top tube literally wiggles right in front of you and you can see it if you go no hands. If I decide I want to do tricks on that fat thing I just wedge something between the top and downtubes as well as the downtube and bottom tube. It reinforces it enough to where I can go no-hands at 40kph and even stand on the bike.

  40. I gotten speed wobble once ….it was for a few sec but I just rode through it and went away ….I guess that was lucky or something lol

  41. It happened to me yesterday while riding down a long steep hill. I rounded a corner in the center of the road and saw a cart, so I corrected and the front wheel went into a violence wobble. I corrected by braking the back wheel and sitting back. It probably rocked back and forth four times under a second or so, but at 35 mph or so, it was an "uncomfortable" experience. Oh, and I do not know who would ride downhill with one's hands on the drops and not on the brakes by default. I can see it on the straight descents but here the hills are really windy. I always have my hands on the brake levers, though not necessarily tightly.

  42. I'm actually here bc it happen to me today going down hill I think I reached 53mph and the bike just went crazy. I just stayed as relaxed as I could bc I knew I was going to crash. I just slowly pulled the brakes and tried to keep my weight off the back end

  43. Good video but lack of scientific backing makes it kind of useless, this video
    focuses on wheel balancing and I am going to research that and try it.
    I got speed wobble going down an %18 hill on a road i was not familiar with, half way down the road was rough with many undulations, I believe that excited the natural frequency of my bike's imperfections (which could be due to wheel balancing).
    Scariest situation I have been on a road bike..

  44. Come into a sudden cross wind going downhill at 70kph+ with bladed spokes and you will likely get speed wobbles. I never got them before getting carbon wheels with bladed spokes

  45. I have never had a wobble until yesterday. I was descending on blacktop into a curve while braking hard. The wobble almost crashed me, it scared the hell out of me. My Trek fx tried to kill me.

  46. Just finished a 3 day bike tour through the Yorkshire Dales. Day 2 was very windy I started a long descent, turned a corner and got hit by a strong side wind (30+ mph) while travelling at about 30 -35mph and the bike just went crazy underneath me. Utterly uncontrollable, I tried to relax and speed up – but that made it worse, so I very slowly braked and managed to come to halt. Terrifying. The bike was a lightly loaded, modern steel framed endurance bike. Not a tourer specifically, but decent quality Reynolds 725 frame. Three things – the top tube of the bike is quite flexy (on purpose to make it comfortable), The bike was rear heavy, (about 10kg extra in rear panniers) a strong cross wind on a long decent. Interestingly one of my ride buddies had the same thing riding the same manufacturers bike (725 frame) in the exact same location, but he was all 'bike packing' rigged. We'd both been faster down longer descents on the same tour on the same bikes (only difference is mine has discs, his has rim brakes).

    Conclusion – speed and strong side winds will induce it, relax the handle bar grip and easy braking will solve it and now, having read all of these comments, I'm going to grip my flexy top tube with my knees on any windy descents and consider loading the bike more evenly when touring.

  47. I have encounter this 3 times already with 3 different sets of wheels, same frame. It is a really scary feeling going at 45-60kph at the bike start shaking, the mind tells you to grab your handles hard because you feel they will go off wildly out of your hands and you also go far back in the bike trying to stop as fast as possible being gentle on the brakes. This has thrown all my confidence descending down the drain. I guess I have to build it up slowly again with the tips on your video, however it is hard to stay relaxed when the fear is breathing down your neck. For those who have not experience this before I hope you never do. Now I always get dropped int he descends which can be a bit demotivating. Thanks GCN for all the great videos packed wit h valuable information.

  48. Not sure if others have the this experience but I just tested this on the same decent on back to back day. When I get to about 45 mph+, I get the speed wobble when the weight is 'down' on the handle bar. But if I push the weight 'forward' on the handle bar, then I have no wobble. It's very subtle but the result is very noticeable. Any one else have similar experience to confirm the effect?

  49. I came here as want to understand what best the pros that wobble their bike for no reason if going between places or how I do as I put down 300+ watts without wobbling my bike? I hear if wobble you slower as watts escape side to side, why don't they pro stop wobbling their bike so much like to me it as if they a new rider not sure how to balance the bike

  50. Wish I’d seen this video earlier. I just got speed wobble going down an 11% gradient. Only got to 67km but I figured out I have a slight buckle in my rear. I’m thinking that’s what brought it on. Luckily it came on towards the end of the descent so by I didn’t need to brake to slow down. The gradient naturally started easing off. Funny thing is in the middle of it I ever so calmly said to myself out loud “ah shit, I’m going to crash” no panic, no elevated heart rate, just a sudden clear realisation that my ride was at an end and it was going to hurt … a lot. Laughed all the way up the next climb at how matter of fact and stupid I was in that moment.

    Before I head out on another climb I’ll give the bike a good going over to make sure there’s nothing else going on that could have caused it.

    Slight buckle and complete numpty user error here I think!

  51. We were sailing down the road and I was getting really wobbly. No brakes by the way so I had to wait until I reached the flat to slow down or stop. Terrifying and the adrenaline was superb.

  52. Had speed wobble for the first time last night. 42mph coming down the back of rosedale chimney In to Hutton. I survived it, but it was scary.

  53. GCN – thanks for this informative film. Wish I'd seen this the morning before, instead of the morning after. Fairly new e-bike, lots more confidence than before, such responsive brakes, what could go wrong? I'd not heard of this phenomenon but your video explains it well. Bizarrely, it's a similar imbalance that caused the collapse of the Tahoma Narrows Bridge, Washington 1940. Heading down Kingston Hill after a heavy shower, better slow down, the more I braked the worse the shimmy, and the hill is getting steeper; in the panic, recall that the back brake would be best applied harder than the front, but which hand operated the back? Oo-er, we're going to make contact with some tarmac. Two days later am still reliving the nightmare and nursing some tasty bruising, grazes and shattered pride. Slight grazing to the head is really quite pleasing when I see the side of the helmet ripped off.

    To the lady that lives in Chinnor, and drives a silver VW hatchback who declared "You're in shock – I'm not leaving you here," picked me up with bike, and took me home after the spectacular tumble, I'm sorry I didn't get your name but thank you for your kindness, my hero.

  54. Speed wobble…not fun. But good to figure out how to avoid it from happening! Thanks GCN!

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