Possibly your last words before hitting the dirt. You wore gloves. Had a solid grip. But still left holding air as the handlebars yanked away from your hands and a desperate attempt to grab them proved futile as your dirt bike squirreled away from the trail and tossed you off.
Maybe you should have installed a steering stabilizer.
It's not overly used on a Motocross track (yet) thanks to the mostly predictable obstacles, lush conditions and the added (and dreaded) weight racers typically avoid. Though some riders find the use of a stabilizer while racing offers additional control and maneuverability especially on tracks considered fast. Also, Honda recently added stabilizers to their Motocross bikes as stock equipment so it's at least a growing trend.
But the trails, it's a must have. Biting pot holes, unexpected bumps and hidden tree roots offer unending fun but also bring the type of riding turbulence that make holding on for dear life while trying to control the bike an actual thing.
A steering stabilizer, also called a steering damper, works similar to the shocks or forks on your dirt bike by reducing the bike's actual velocity experienced by the handlebars. For example, as you enjoy a high-speed cruise along a smooth straightaway then suddenly encounter a bumpy path you'll either really feel the heavy jerking or sail over it with minimal effort. Overtime, the constant jarring tires you out resulting in excess fatigue, arm pump or simply losing grip and thus control of your bike.
The steering damper fits underneath the top triple clamp and attaches to the frame. You'll of course need to remove your handlebars. Once installed, you'll figure out your personal preferred setting using the dial. Turn the dial one way, you have unrestrained handlebar motion. Turn it the other way you'll get very little play when steering. This tightly quartered radius prevents the handlebars from slapping to the side in the event you hit a large obstacle and breaking you free of your grip.
So as you're ripping across a desert trail at 50 mph and hit a decent sized boulder with the front wheel, the steering stabilizer keeps the impact from jerking the handlebars left or right (and out of your hands or turning the bike violently) and instead keeps a laser beam focus straight ahead with minimal effort on your part. That's how it works. Use the dial to fine tune the steering based on your riding style or expected terrain. Some versions of the stabilizer allow setting changes while riding.
Installing a steering stabilizer is pretty straight forward but depending on your current setup you'll need a mounting kit and perhaps a whole new set of handlebars. Check out our entire selection of dirt bike steering stabilizers (or ATV) to help decide which one is right for you.
After installation, dialing in your dirt bike or ATV for the day's ride becomes even more important since you now have an additional setting to consider. But once you find the right set-up you'll enjoy a smoother ride with adaptable steering capability and a less intense focus needed to get around.
If you're having trouble with arm pump, mental or physical fatigue, or your dirt bike simply feels more like an old mountain bike with cheap shocks consider investing in a steering damper.
Written By: AndrewT