tank slap

Preventing a Tank Slap for Safer Riding

In the world of motorcycling, experiencing a “Tank Slap” can be one of the most daunting and dangerous situations any rider can face.

Now, I’ve had my share of “slaps” and recoveries, and knowing what I know now, these scary moments could’ve been avoided. You only make a mistake once, then learn from it and live to ride another day.

The slap occurs when the handlebar slams violently from side to side without warning, making it incredibly difficult for the rider to maintain control. In many cases, this leads to the rider losing control of the motorcycle and potentially crashing.

What causes a Tank Slap?

A tank slap often occurs due to the front wheel losing its line with the direction of the bike, usually after the front wheel regains traction following a loss of it or from hitting a sudden change in road surface (cat’s eye, tar snake, pothole, oil, black ice, etc.) at high speed. The motorcycle naturally attempts to correct its path, but the speed and force can cause the handlebar to swing (slap) wildly. This situation is exaggerated by high speeds and can be influenced by several factors, including improper suspension setup, uneven load distribution, and worn or improperly inflated tyres.

What can I do?

Preventing a tank slap requires a combination of proper motorcycle maintenance, upgrades, and riding techniques. Here are five strategies to help prevent this dangerous occurrence:

1. Invest in a Steering Damper: One of the most effective ways to prevent a tank slap is by installing a steering damper. This device helps to stabilize the front end of the motorcycle by damping the side-to-side motion that can lead to a tank slap. For motorcycles not equipped with one, considering an aftermarket steering damper is a worthwhile investment for a safer and more predictable riding experience.

2. Proper Suspension Setup: Ensuring that your motorcycle’s suspension is properly set up for your weight and riding style can significantly reduce the risk of a tank slap. This includes adjusting the preload, dampening, and sag to ensure the bike maintains stability at various speeds and conditions.

3. Regular Tyre Maintenance: Tyres play a crucial role in motorcycle stability. Maintaining the correct tyre pressure and regularly inspecting tyres for wear and damage can help prevent the loss of traction that can lead to a tank slap. Furthermore, investing in quality tyres suited to your riding style and environment can provide better grip and stability.

4. Balanced Load Distribution: How you load your bike can affect its handling. Ensure that luggage and additional weight are evenly distributed and securely fastened. Avoid overloading your bike and keep the centre of gravity as low as possible to maintain stability.

5. Refined Riding Techniques: Developing smooth and precise riding techniques can also help prevent tank slaps. This includes practising gentle inputs on the handlebar grips, avoiding white-knuckling, and avoiding erratic acceleration or deceleration, especially on uneven surfaces or during high-speed manoeuvres.

You must understand that a tank slap is a critical situation that will demand your immediate attention. By understanding the contributing factors and implementing some of the measures mentioned, you can significantly reduce the risk of a tank slap. Remember, the key to motorcycle safety lies in regular maintenance, mindful riding, and continuous learning.