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Thread: '83 GS850GL - Steering Head Bearings -- ?? How to KNOW if they need attention

  1. #11
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  2. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Redman View Post
    Carl, your main concern that started this is the unsteadiness going down the road and over bumps, which could bee the loose starring bearings, and you did the test for that (pushing wheel front and back).

    you also tested for knotchness by turning bars from side to side,.... but I think that test needs to done with front wheel on ground so have weight pushing up onto bearing same as when going down road. If you did have the notchiness, you can feel it when turn bar past center. And what that symptom that causes at speed is it takes lot more steering (counter-steering) pressure to get any response and then that much pressure is too much so have to let off and then need more again and so on so causes wobble in curves... which was not your original complaint. But, anyway, do the notchyness test with front wheel on ground.
    Quote Originally Posted by Redman View Post
    Actually there are two sets of bearings in the steering neck. The lower set are the ones take the upward force and weight of bike, and are more subject to developing the knotchness from bearing rollers denting the races. Which is why I suggest doing the not hness test with weight on the front end.

    with wheel hanging are testing more the upper bearing.

    Today I am on the Goldwing for my commuting -
    With temperatures in the low-50's this morning the Wing has better wind protection
    But when I get home tonight I will conduct the weighted notchiness trial to see if I feel anything -
    But I doubt I will --- I think it may be more combination worn tires and fork flex I am feeling --
    Currently in the Stable :
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  3. #13
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    I felt a lot of wiggle in my 1100GL during an evasive swerve (sleepy car driver changing lanes) and I'm about 200 lbs. If you're a little larger, it may just be the design of the bike you're feeling. A fork brace might be good if you can find one.
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  4. #14
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    Worn tires can cause weird stuff, true.


    Unless things are horrible, this can be hard to diagnose. You usually honestly can't tell much with the weight off the bike unless the bearings are beyond awful. And even with some weight on the front wheel, it can be very hard to feel a notch with all the friction. One of these days I'd like to try something like putting the front tire on a lazy Susan to reduce friction and maybe enable feeling the bearing action a little better.

    On some bikes, you can put the bike on the centerstand and bounce the front end. If it bounces twice, then the bearings are loose. Again, this may or may not be all that definitive on a GS. You also often hear normal rattles from the brakes, instruments, etc. that can cloud the issue.


    Anyway, I've noticed one symptom of bad steering stem bearings that isn't often mentioned, but is pretty definitive.

    Here's the test: When you're coming to a stop at a light or stop sign, does the bike feel kinda vague and does it seem to wander around just a bit as your speed approaches zero? Basically, if something is interfering ever so slightly with those tiny low-speed micro-corrections (especially when the pavement is a little uneven, as at most stoplights), it's almost certainly the steering stem bearings. This symptom seems to pop up pretty early, long before the other types of tests can tell you much.

    Or, look at it this way: you don't know when the bearings were last replaced or greased, so why not go ahead and take care of them? Good quality tapered bearings will last a long, long time.
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  5. #15
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    At this time I have decided to continue the ongoing test of the head bearings -

    (keep riding while the season is on)

    Once winter comes I will decide from the gathered information adn likely tackle this project before next year commences --

    Or not ... If it seems fine enough I may just ride it ...

    Thanks to everyone for the thoughtful information and sage advice received -
    Currently in the Stable :
    2002 Honda Goldwing GL1800 Sunburst Pearl Orange
    1983 Suzuki GS850 GL Blue & Black

    " I am never lost until I run out of fuel...until that moment I am EXPLORING."
    - Carl R. Munkwitz

    Munk's Maxim: "There is no such thing as a cheap motorcycle"

  6. #16
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    Good plan. Bad steering stem bearings are an annoyance, but not particularly dangerous.

    I have a bearing race sitting on my workbench I preserved because it may represent a world record for the worst steering stem bearings of all time (I bet Steve has one of these lying around too; we'll have to compare sometime). Still, the bike was rideable.
    1983 GS850G, Cosmos Blue.
    2005 KLR685, Aztec Pink - Turd II.3, the ReReReTurdening
    2015 Yamaha FJ-09, Magma Red Power Corrupts...
    Eat more venison.

    Please provide details. The GSR Hive Mind is nearly omniscient, but not yet clairvoyant.

    Celeriter equita, converteque saepe.

  7. #17
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    THese from my GK in 2017 were bad enough that was noticeable when doing the test (wheel on ground) of turning handle bar and feeling for a catch at center. Was also noticeable at speed before a curve, took some effort to get steering response but then maybe got too much responce. Also notice at slow speed comming to a stop where need just a little bit steering input (situation Brian was mentioning) but was hard to make just a little steering.

    THe lower outer race is in center, compared to new one on right.
    THe one on the left, the lower inner was the one that took the most effort to remove. Can see where cut both with a dremel tool.

    Picture of the same, during disassembly, earlier on in the project. Outer race still in place.

    Looks to be bronze , but that is rust in what was remaining of the grease.
    Last edited by Redman; 08-13-2020 at 11:16 PM.

    Had 850G for 14 years. Now have GK since 2005.
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