ATVs are highly functioning bikes that have the ability to move over all types of terrains. They are helpful not only for their functionality but for the comfort they can provide while doing it too. The bike has a series of specialized parts that allow it to become functional on all terrains.
One of these specialized parts is steering stabilizers. But what are ATV steering stabilizers: What are they for, and what are some top picks?
A steering stabilizer, sometimes called a steering damper, is a hydraulic device that is intended to control unwanted motion over the vehicle. As the name implies, the device stabilizes the steering to provide a smooth ride without vibrations and jitters.
In this article, we will explain in detail what steering stabilizers are, how they work, and what are some top-rated steering dampers in that market.
Table of Contents
- What is the function of a steering stabilizer?
- How do steering stabilizers work?
- Dynamic resistance
- Functionality in an ATV
- How to pick the perfect steering stabilizer
- Here are some considerations
What is the function of a steering stabilizer?
It is essentially a suspension setup for your steering. Just like the suspension hydraulics control the vertical movement of the front end, the steering stabilizer controls the horizontal movement of the front end.
The steering stabilizer is a part that is attached to either the steering itself or attached to the front suspension forks at one end and the chassis on the other end. The part’s purpose is to inhibit unwanted movements to the front end to ensure that the rider does not control the vehicle at any point.
How do steering stabilizers work?
There are two primary methods of construction for steering stabilizer or steering damper. It can either be a linear construction or a rotary construction.
A linear construction involves moving a piston through an oil cylinder. A rotary construction would revolve around pushing oil through a constricted passage. The purpose of both these constructions is to provide greater resistance against any unwanted movement on the steering which could lead the rider to lose control over the ATV.
When the vehicle moves at a higher speed, a bump in the road or a slight bank in the road may have an aggravated effect on it. The bump may not cause any disruption at low speeds, but hitting a bump at higher speeds can cause a complete loss of control. It could even end up leading to a dreaded tank slapper.
Tank slapper: A tank slapper happens when the vehicle hits a bump that shifts the tire at an angle different from the vehicle’s motion or when the tire lands at an angle after a wheelie. The inertia of the tire will whip it back to the center.
Sometimes the force is so great that the tire moves past the center and causes a chain reaction where the front end wiggles aggressively, moving to a high-side crash.
The purpose of these steering stabilizers is not to completely inhibit these unwanted movements but to reduce them. The resistance against unwanted movement reduces the rider’s work to control them. When the work the rider has to do is divided, it is easier to control these unwanted movements and may work to stop any tank slappers.
To make these stabilizers functional, they must have varying or dynamic resistance. We have already covered how aggressive movements at lower speeds may not be destructive at all. Instead, quicker movements might be necessary to perform sharp turns at lower speeds.
At this point, the excessive movements are not unnecessary, so it is essential for the stabilizers not to affect them. When the scene shifts to higher speeds, even the slightest movements of the steering will greatly affect the bike’s movement. Even the slightest touch to the bar may change multiple lanes if done unwarrantedly. Even the slightest bank in the road may change the vehicle’s direction.
The steering damper’s function is to inhibit these movements at higher speeds, as it is at higher speeds where they can prove to be destructive.
Most good quality steering stabilizers have varying resistance where they do not inhibit aggressive movements at small speeds but increase resistance at higher speeds. This varying resistance may happen mechanically or electronically. In a mechanical setup, the damper makes the steering resistant to quick movements.
When the steering is jerked, or there is a quick movement, the damper provides high resistance. However, when the movements are slow or smooth there is little to no resistance at all.
Alternatively, this dynamic resistance can be entirely attributed to electronic circuitry. This means the faster the vehicle travel, the more resistance the steering damper provides to stabilize the bike.
Whether it is radial, linear, mechanical, or electronic, the function of the steering stabilizer is to slow down the speed of the front end’s side-to-side movement. This helps control the motion, and the bike is easier to control.
Functionality in an ATV
Steering stabilizers are mostly used in superbikes as a safety feature. They even come in stock in most 600 or 1000-cc superbikes. However, another place where they shine is off-road.
You might be asking how steering dampers work well off roads since speeds there are not high. The issue is that it is not speed that aggravates the unwanted movements here. Instead, the uneven terrain makes for unwanted movements of the front end.
Bumpy tracks or rocks can end up twisting the suspension forks aggressively. This might cause a problem as minor as rider fatigue. However, it could end up in the rider completely losing control over the bike and flying over the bar as the bike suddenly stops. Using a steering stabilizer in ATVs would not only improve on-road performance and significantly increase the vehicle’s performance and safety off-road.
How to pick the perfect steering stabilizer
The first part of finding the best steering stabilizer for your bike is finding one that fits.
Steering stabilizers may be specially made for a bike, and fixing them to yours may be a significant hassle. This may involve unnecessary drilling in the bike, which may weaken the frame. For example, the honda progressive kit is made explicitly for honda bikes but can be installed in all bikes with an attachment bracket.
Amount of dampening
The amount of dampening may be entirely specific to your needs and how you ride. It even depends on where you ride. To find the best steering damper for your riding style and bike, you must evaluate how much damping you need. You might need little to no damping in a highly rocky terrain where the ATV is extremely slow.
However, if you are using your ATV in muddy or sandy terrain where you are participating in a rally and riding at high speeds, a stabilizer with high damping would be perfect for you.
Size and aesthetic
Another factor to consider would be the size of the part and how it changes the aesthetic of your ATV. An extremely bulky and large-sized damper may not suit your taste and may seem awkward with the aesthetic of your bike. However, some of these larger stabilizers may provide better functionality.
A more oversized stabilizer installed on the handlebars may also raise the bars by about an inch. This may also be a factor the rider would need to consider.
Sweep and travel adjustment
You might not be able to decide what type of terrain you use your vehicle on. To tackle this issue, you need to consider stabilizers that can change the resistance they provide. A slight tilt of the adjustment screw would allow you to change the resistance. However, some stabilizers provide sweep adjustment too.
This would allow you to change how far you want it to dampen the movement as you turn the handlebars left and right.
Here are some considerations
Honda progressive kit
This will bolt right on for Honda motorcycles but will also fit other motorcycles with the use of an adjustment bracket. It is small, lightweight, and will fit behind the number plate, so it will not affect the bike’s outlook. It also has two options for dampening in 20 mm and 24 mm, with 24 mm providing more dampening.
V5 from GPR
Larger in size compared to the honda kit but will provide more dampening and will fit your requirement better if you ride on rockier terrains. This will sit beneath the handlebars, subsequently raising them. It is also simplistic in nature as its adjustment is controlled all from one dial.
Scotts performance stabilizer
This kit grants the rider the most control over its effects. It gives the ability to fine-tune the settings. It gives dampening options along with sweep adjustment, which is a rare feature
Precision racing parabolic stabilizer
It is a very common option for KTM riders. The best feature is clamped on handlebars, not over or under. This allows for a sleek design without changing the bar height.
To conclude, we would reiterate how important a steering stabilizer is for on- and off-road riding. Not only does it make riding safer, but splitting the load makes it more comfortable and reduces fatigue. It is a feature all ATVs should have.