Harley Death Wobble

harley death wobble, motorcycle crash, motorcycle viral video
Motorcycle crash on a Harley Davidson due to the Wobble


Updated 7/4/17- if you are on Facebook, please visit my motorcycle group page of M.S.A.R. There is a lengthy discussion on this subject by very experienced/qualified riders. From what causes it to how to handle it. 

The Harley Death Wobble sounds more like a thrill ride at an amusement park than something that could really happen to you, but can it happen? After this motorcycle video went viral, bikers are asking what is exactly the wobble?

Tank Slapper

The first time I had heard of the term “tank slapper” was from a motorman. He described it to me and the only time I have experienced anything similar was actually due to road conditions and it didn’t seem anywhere near as bad as what he explained to me. Plus, it was the rear tire while traveling in a straight line.

Every now and then, someone would tell me the experienced the death wobble, but no one could ever explain to me what causes the death wobble and I didn’t believe they did experience it. It probably felt like they were riding over a steel grated bridge, similar to what I felt while riding on the highway near Cape Coral, Florida.

What is the Harley Davidson Death Wobble?

Sadly enough, there is not as much information available online as you would think. There are a lot of misconceptions based on people reading Harley Davidson’s response to what the death wobble is.

So poor maintenance, riding at high speeds, inexperienced riders, too much weight on the motorcycle, using one hand, etc… were blamed.

 What Causes it?

Without getting too technical, which isn’t my strong point anyway, it seems a faulty engine mount is to blame that was corrected by Harley Davidson in 2009.


There were lawsuits filed, and one of them including a motorman who who was thrown off his motorcycle and died as a result. The family settled the lawsuit with Harley Davidson in 2006.

California Highway Patrol

Harley Davidson motorcycles and motorcycle highway patrol are synonymous, and for a while, the California Highway Patrol (CHIPS) walked away from Harley and switched over to BMW.

The California Highway Patrol also reported the wobble occurred on straightaways.

It’s Happening Now, What Do I Do?

As hard as it is to not panic, don’t panic!

  • Don’t hit the brakes!
  • Some will say throttle it out, but if you look at the video, the motormen seems to slow down at a gradual speed until he gains control again.

I Don’t Have a Harley- So I’m Safe

Not really. Here is a good explanation on what exactly causes a wobble in other motorcycles. Which explains why you see it when leaning into the curve.


MC Atty

For a list of my motorcycle related books, follow this link.

Prior motorcycle blogs on Harley Davidson found here

One thought on “Harley Death Wobble

  • January 9, 2018 at 6:26 pm

    this has not happened to me, but I remember a buddy of mine that is now retired, a motormen said it happened to him a few times. Nothing happened to him though thankfully.

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