Is your front wheel out of alignment? Are your handlebars straight?

Front wheel out of alignment with handlebars

Nearly every single motorbike I’ve bought has had this issue. A simple drop in the garage can cause it, but most are too lazy to rectify it.
For my particular case, the bike had been dropped on the clutch lever side previously and the owner obviously didn’t sort it out at the time.
It’s not the end of the world. However most motorcyclists ride every day without realising. It doesn’t actually affect how your bike behaves, because your front wheel is always going to point straight when you ride. It’ll just feel a bit odd at your handlebars depending on how severe it is.
front wheel misaligned
Front wheel before, slightly pointed right.
Handlebars straight, front wheel on the piss as shown in the first picture.

 

Front wheel turned to be straight with front fairing.
My handlebars when the front wheel is straight. The bars are turned slightly to the right. Look at the distance between each fork and the tank.

How to rectify the issue

There are plenty of guides online. This is hands down the best video guide I’ve found: Delboy’s Garage, ‘How-To’ Re-align motorcycle forks the easy way.

For those that can’t be bothered watching. Follow these quick steps. You’ll want the owners manual or even a forum guide handy for the correct torque specs once you’re done.

Steps

  • Have a torque wrench handy. You definitely need one if you value your life.
  • Put your bike on a rear paddock stand.
  • Place a few sheets of newspaper under your front tyre. This will allow the front wheel to pivot easily later on.
  • Loosen the 4 screws holding the forks to the lower triple. This can be tough, as it’s usually behind the fairings on sport bikes and you have hardly any space to move your hands and tools. Be patient. As you do this, you may hear light “cracking” noises as your forks rotate back to their original positions in the triple tree. They were previously rotated out of position in the fall, causing your front wheel to misalign.

When loosening these screws, do one side first and release each screw about  half to 1 turn each. If you loose one off completely, you can actually crack your triple tree clamp area because it stresses the hell out of the other screw holding the forks in the clamp tightly. So take care! Same goes for tightening them up, half to one turn each!

Typical triple tree
  • Loosen the front axle pinch bolts and the axle bolt. Again refer to the owners manual for better guidance, or even another guide online, specific to your bike.

When loosening the axle bolts, do one side first and release each screw about  half to 1 turn each. If you loose one off completely, you can actually crack your axle clamping area because it stresses the hell out of the other bolt holding the axle in the clamp tightly. So take care! Same goes for tightening them up, half to one turn each!

Typical front axle assembly
  • Loosen the screws holding the front guard to the forks. If you don’t do this, your forks and axle assembly won’t easily rotate back into position. You may actually notice that it is harder to remove some screws than others, this is because your forks are twisted in the triple trees and causing misalignment.

 

Location of front guard screws and front axle

 

  • Now here comes the scary/tricky part. The newspaper under your front wheel is to help the wheel pivot in place and align itself with less drag than rubbing over the concrete floor. Hop on your bike. Roll forwards a bit by pushing your bike with your legs and grab the brakes HARD to stop the bike. You can also grab the front brakes and just bounce your front end HARD a few times over and over. What you’re doing is allowing the front wheel, brake rotor and fork assembly to move around and re-align back straight. It’s also a good idea then to straighten the handlebars, get off the bike and see where your front wheel is positioned while standing at the front of the bike. If you’re lucky, the wheel will be all straight again and you can tighten everything back up. If it’s not, your wheel may need a bit of “convincing”. What I tend to do is grab the wheel between my thighs, hold my handlebars and move the wheel back straight. This method works pretty well but you need to make sure you don’t move it completely the other way! After moving the wheel around, doing more bouncing, rolling forwards and grabbing the brake, you’ll have gotten the wheel aligned as well as you can. If you just cannot seem to get it bang on, it could well mean your fork(s) could be bent. It’s a pretty easy fix. Most engineering shops charge around $150 to straighten a fork. Worst case, your triple tree is bent. I’ll leave you to figure that one out.

 

  • Once you’re happy, tighten all the loose ends up. MAKE SURE YOU TORQUE UP ALL SCREWS AND BOLTS (except the front guard, that’s not critical). Torque up the axle as per the factory spec, tighten up the pinch bolts in the correct order and to the factory spec. Put the guard back on. Finally, tighten the triple tree screws up. These tend to fall out over time if they’re incorrectly torqued and if you tighten them too much, they can actually cause the fork assembly to bind, which means your fork wont extend and retract properly. It’s a fine balancing act, so treat it accordingly and use a torque wrench!

Final results

Final result, straight handlebars, straight front wheel!

 

Final result, straight handlebars, straight front wheel!

Are you a serious rider that wants the best handling out of their motorbike?

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Next step, clean your wheels!

3 thoughts on “Is your front wheel out of alignment? Are your handlebars straight?

  1. Wow, I actually got your info on about the 7th youtube site I saw\watched.
    Im not a motorcycle rider…im a Scooter rider over here in Ocean Island Beach NC.
    I took a nasty spill on my 2018 tao tao VIP and my steering seems to be the onky issue.
    Side note…the deer is fine
    I looked and looked on line, people said this and that…blah blah blah.
    Your artical was very well written, informative and releaving. I didnt even kniw what a triple tree was…or existed.
    In any case, it seems the set up on my scooter is very simular to your motorcycles.
    Thank you so much for taking the time to create the outline to repairing Baxtor…the scrapes and bruises on Him and myself…ill handle those.
    Thanks again…you did more for me in 15 min than any tao tao site.
    Your awesome…keep it up.

    1. Thank you so much for the kind words! It’s so cool to know my article has helped someone all the way in some other part of the world. So cool! Hope things go well for you, cheers mate 😀

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