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I have the bike jacked up and was checking the head bearing for looseness. Everything is tight front to back but as I swing the handlebars from lock to lock I do feel a tendency for the bars to want to center. In other words, if I move the bars slowly past center either left or right the bars seem to seek the straight ahead position. Kind of feels like a flat spot. Is this normal, something like a self centering feature, or is this a sign of bad bearings? The bike has 40,000 miles on it. Thanks guys.
 

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Not normal, the bearings need to be replaced.
All Balls brand is the best.
 

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I have the bike jacked up and was checking the head bearing for looseness. Everything is tight front to back but as I swing the handlebars from lock to lock I do feel a tendency for the bars to want to center. In other words, if I move the bars slowly past center either left or right the bars seem to seek the straight ahead position. Kind of feels like a flat spot. Is this normal, something like a self centering feature, or is this a sign of bad bearings? The bike has 40,000 miles on it. Thanks guys.
You can compare that to caster in your car. (or shopping cart) It is designed that way so the forks (front wheel) return to center when you are going around a corner among other reasons. Without this you would have to turn the forks back to center each time you go around the corner. I'd crash in less than 5 minutes. :)
 

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40,000 miles is about the normal life of the original bearings. That self centering makes it difficult to hold a straight line, sounds counter intuitive but it's true.
 
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Don't confuse the "self-centering" with a flat spot in the bearings, the flat spot will feel like there's a "notch" in the bearings right at center... If no noticeable "notch" you can probably get another season out of them.
 
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For some reason some unknowing comments really upset me. Usually just go on and ignore. However, listen to what Dave is responding. Others have no clue. Rant over.
 

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For some reason some unknowing comments really upset me. Usually just go on and ignore. However, listen to what Dave is responding. Others have no clue. Rant over.
It is called trail. You can learn about it if you start listening at 3 minutes and 10 seconds in the following link. Sometimes the easiest way to understand something is to exaggerate it. Just imagine a bike with 10 inches of trail. It would take a ton of effort to turn the wheel and when you release the handlebars the wheel would snap back to straight immediately. Stock car racers take advantage of this by using split. If you ever drive a sophisticated stock car you would discover you have to steer the car down the straight stretch because it wants to turn left. The trade off is when you get in the corner the car wants to turn left all by itself.

Keep in mind the original post question was
"I do feel a tendency for the bars to want to center. In other words, if I move the bars slowly past center either left or right the bars seem to seek the straight ahead position. Kind of feels like a flat spot. Is this normal, something like a self centering feature",
No one said it didn't need this or that but only inferred you might want to look deeper if you even have an issue. Does he even have an issue or did he just discover the feeling that trail creates during normal maintenance and wanted to know if there was a problem. Seems to me as I read the OP he was just checking it aver and was wondering????? Never said he had an issue. Maybe I am wrong but it has been my experience that bad bearings tend to wear near the straight ahead position the most. A more typical feel in my experience would be abnormal effort and a jerky feel as the bearings jump out of the worn spot. Almost a "Clicky" feel. If they rotate freely and have no play in them after adjustment they are probably fine.

 

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I have the bike jacked up and was checking the head bearing for looseness. Everything is tight front to back but as I swing the handlebars from lock to lock I do feel a tendency for the bars to want to center. In other words, if I move the bars slowly past center either left or right the bars seem to seek the straight ahead position. Kind of feels like a flat spot. Is this normal, something like a self centering feature, or is this a sign of bad bearings? The bike has 40,000 miles on it. Thanks guys.

The GL1800 went back to ball type steering stem or "head" bearings, earlier GL1200 & 1500 GLs (I forget if 1000 & 1100s used them?) used tapered roller bearings which are much longer lived bearings, they spread the loads across the whole length of the rollers contact across the faces of the races. Ball type bearings have only a single point of contact with a race, they do have less friction or resistance, but the concentrated loads at single points will lead to dented races in time.

That's what your feeling. I've replaced ball stem bearings in lighter weight British bikes at lower mileages just for that reason, it makes the bike want to take it's own track through a curve. New ball bearings transformed the bike back to a machine that read your mind, one that turned into a corner and held a track the rider desired, with no effort or delay. I once thought of converting my last Triumph to tapered roller bearings, but when right, balls are wonderful.

That's why Honda went to balls in the 1800, to give a sportier feel, a lighter turn in, a better response to the rider's wishes, a "spotier" feel. But those dents are always trying to re-center the handlebars as you are applying counter steer effort.

Put the bike on the center stand, lightly jack the front so the pressure is off the front forks, turn right & left of center, you'll feel the bad races if dented.

You need new stem bearings.

Any adjusting will only amplify the feeling and wear the dents in even more.

Yeah, like any wear item … you can wear them longer (except tires, when the air shows through, they are done).
 

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It would seem to me that "trail" can only effect the bike with both wheels on the ground. If you feel a flat spot or detent in the center of travel with the front wheel in the air, it's bad bearings.

Rayjoe
 

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The GL1800 went back to ball type steering stem or "head" bearings, earlier GL1200 & 1500 GLs used tapered roller bearings which are much longer lived bearings, they spread the loads across the whole length of the rollers contact across the faces of the races. Ball type bearings have only a single point of contact with a race, they do have less friction or resistance, but the concentrated loads at single points will lead to dented races in time.

That's what your feeling. I've replaced ball stem bearings in lighter weight British bikes at lower mileages just for that reason, it makes the bike want to take it's own track through a curve. New ball bearings transformed the bike back to a machine that read your mind, one that turned into a corner and held a track the rider desired, with no effort or delay. I once thought of converting my last Triumph to tapered roller bearings, but when right, balls are wonderful.

That's why Honda went to balls in the 1800, to give a sportier feel, a lighter turn in, a better response to the rider's wishes. But those dents are always trying to re-center the handlebars as you are applying counter steer effort.

You need new stem bearings. Any adjusting will only amplify the feeling and wear the dents in more.
I agree with one exception. If you are going straight and you are "stuck in" a wear spot that is where it wants to stay. However, like a ratchet if you do turn to the next wear point the forks will want to stay there. The feel of the steering will be clicky as you rotate the handlebars making it almost impossible to find just the right point at times. It will want to jump from wear point to wear point. It will not steer smooth at all. That is the real question. Can you ride the bike and rotate the bars very smoothly from stop to stop. I still wonder if he even has an issue or just a question or observation? :)
 

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I agree with one exception. If you are going straight and you are "stuck in" a wear spot that is where it wants to stay. However, like a ratchet if you do turn to the next wear point the forks will want to stay there. The feel of the steering will be clicky as you rotate the handlebars making it almost impossible to find just the right point at times. It will want to jump from wear point to wear point. It will not steer smooth at all. That is the real question. Can you ride the bike and rotate the bars very smoothly from stop to stop. I still wonder if he even has an issue or just a question or observation? :)
Re-read thefirst post Mike. He says with it jacked up it has a notchy feel & those ball bearings do get that way in 30-50,000 miles.
 
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It would seem to me that "trail" can only effect the bike with both wheels on the ground. If you feel a flat spot or detent in the center of travel with the front wheel in the air, it's bad bearings.

Rayjoe
I agree with your description of feeling a flat spot. Respectfully I don't agree the bike has to be on the ground though on the ground (loading it) makes it much more noticeable.
Use the shopping cart as an example and stand it on the puss bar so it looks like a rocket ready to take off. The caster wheels will drop towed the ground and center themselves. The distance from the pivot to the axle of the wheel is the trail and it is a lot. If you took your finger and "steered" the wheel 10 degrees it would drop back to center when you let it go. The trail will always want to center the steering as long as there are no other forces being applied. The same is true for your car except it is not called trail but caster or king pin angle.


That is why your car reruns to straight after a turn oe goes straight ahead when yoou take your hands off the wheel. .
 

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Well, he jacked it and said it felt like a flat spot? I know the routing of hoses, cables, wire harness can tend to relax and pull the forks to "a place", but to me that doesn't feel like a flat spot?

Thing is, on a bike, even to go straight, you are very subtle like making incremental adjustments to maintain straight, a dent fighting you is a PITA.

I don't like some aspects of this soft wear.
 

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Re-read thefirst post Mike. He says with it jacked up it has a notchy feel & those ball bearings do get that way in 30-50,000 miles.
I don't know and probably wrong but the only thing I see in the original post that it seems to have a flat spot when straight ahead but I'm not sure. I am not saying it does or does not need bearings I'm saying the bars should want to return to center. That is what I thought he was asking. Hate to see him go through the work and find out he could have got a few more years out of it???
 

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I don't know and probably wrong but the only thing I see in the original post that it seems to have a flat spot when straight ahead but I'm not sure. I am not saying it does or does not need bearings I'm saying the bars should want to return to center. That is what I thought he was asking. Hate to see him go through the work and find out he could have got a few more years out of it???
Any time I have ever had one jacked up the bars tend to want to turn to the side unless the bearings have dents in the races.
 

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I agree with your description of feeling a flat spot. Respectfully I don't agree the bike has to be on the ground though on the ground (loading it) makes it much more noticeable.
Use the shopping cart as an example and stand it on the puss bar so it looks like a rocket ready to take off. The caster wheels will drop towed the ground and center themselves. The distance from the pivot to the axle of the wheel is the trail and it is a lot. If you took your finger and "steered" the wheel 10 degrees it would drop back to center when you let it go. The trail will always want to center the steering as long as there are no other forces being applied. The same is true for your car except it is not called trail but caster or king pin angle.


That is why your car reruns to straight after a turn oe goes straight ahead when yoou take your hands off the wheel. .
Just to be sure , because i have never heard about "king pin angle" on the steering system on a car ?
Here in my country we talk about the "king pin inclination" AND the "caster angle" and those TWO is absolutily not the same thing !
 

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Just to be sure , because i have never heard about "king pin angle" on the steering system on a car ?
Here in my country we talk about the "king pin inclination" AND the "caster angle" and those TWO is absolutily not the same thing !
Terminology can add to confusion. Like a solenoid or a relay? Technically different but the term is often interchanged. Same as a motor or engine. I come from a truck background and I shouldn't have referred to king pin angle on a car. In our shop king pin angle referred to the movement of the steering axis fore and aft which would in fact change caster or trail.As a natter of fact king pin angle in our shop was adjusted with a caster shim. I also am aware that king pin inclination is a rotation of the steering axis that moves that axis closer to the contact patch to make the steering easier by reducing scrub angles. King pin inclination really is not adjustable for the most part. .
 
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