Main Motorcycle: 2013 Bonneville T100
Join Date: Aug 2013
Other Motorcycle: Les Paul Standard
Extra Motorcycle: Building it at the shop
Replacing the steerer bearings with tapered roller bearings is not for the faint of heart. But I am on the side of them making an improvement over even pristine, brandy new ball bearings.
The stock setup is barely adequate for just riding around. But if you are planning on placing increased chassis dynamics into the mix with upgrades to the suspension, tires, engine, then I think the upgrade to roller bearings is a must do.
The limited contact area of caged ball bearings is the downfall of the design. Under heavy dynamic loads, they will allow the fork assembly to shift and oscillate. It's one of the main reasons steering dampers are such a popular accessory for our bikes.
A properly installed and adjusted set of tapered roller bearings, coupled with a stout fork brace and upgraded fork internals really plants the front end.
Prior to installing the upgraded front end on my Bonnie Lass, hitting potholes or pavement irregularities would induce a wobble at speed. This in a brand new, properly balanced, low milage T100. Any excursions to the ton or more were really tests of intestinal fortitude.
Post upgrades, the bike is stable as the Rock of Gibraltar.
No steering damper required.
Of course the bearings were part of an overall upgrade, but I think the connection of the front end to the chassis on any motorcycle is a critical piece that needs to be addressed. I can see the bean counters nixing any excess expenses. With the original intent of our bikes being really nothing more than whimsical fashion statements to a bygone era of motorcycling, the engineers couldn't argue for the more than triple the cost of proper bearings in our steerers.
Its not an easy task, and requires specialized tools, but the end result, with the smoothness and stability are worth the effort.
'13 T100, Corbin Smuggler, D&D 2-2, Ohlins 36PL shocks, Andreani cartridges/Ohlins springs, BC AEK, O2 and SAI delete, DNA Pods, TTP Remote Tune, NH "M" Bars, roller bearing headset, NH fork brace, Maund Lucas FEK, MAS Alu Fr. Fender, misc farkle.