I can’t tell you how happy I was when engineers at Harley-Davidson devised a counter-balancing mechanism for the rigid mounted motors in their 2000 Softails models. Then, when I got a load of the Deuce, their newest FXST, which just happens to be the slickest custom production model the motor company ever produced, I was powerless to resist. I pounced. Alas, while the counter-balancing element diminishes vibration considerably, in the low RPM range, at around 3,200 RPM, there’s still enough buzz to make my hands go numb after a half hour in the saddle. Yeah, I’ve tried Kuryakyn Iso Grips and Harley’s foam padded models but the sacrifice in throttle response I experienced, as opposed to slimmer grips, wasn’t worth any minor gains in vibration alleviation.
I can’t remember where I actually stumbled upon the Vibranator but believe me when I tell you it didn’t take a New York minute before I got in touch with the manufacturer. Mr. Don Richardson, the inventor of the little buggers, co-owns Vibranator LLC, the Henderson Nevada company that produces them, with Bryan Falter. To call Don an innovator in the field of motorcycle suspension would be something of an understatement. In his late teens, he was the guy who developed the Full Floater suspension for Suzuki. More recently his fertile mind came up with a device he named The Intiminator (see my review on Bikernet shortly). It mounts on top of the damping rod in your forks and uses a series of shims and valves to improve the performance of primitive suspension systems like those found in Harley-Davidsons.
I phoned him and we got to talking about the Vibranator. It turns out he was experiencing so much bar buzz from his thumper (dual sport bike), at certain RPMs, that he found himself altering shift points to avoid the phenomenon. He became determined to eliminate Tonic Vibration Reflex (the sustained contraction of a muscle subjected to vibration), in his hands and forearms, and alleviate the numbness and tingling, he experienced. Fortunately, for two-wheeled enthusiasts, Don also happens to be a helicopter owner/pilot. In the course of keeping up with the state of that industry he learned that Eurocopter had employed a tuned mass damper, like the ones installed in buildings to prevent shaking due to earthquakes, to mitigate excessive rotor vibration. Our boy genius experimented with different configurations of a tuned mass damper that would fit inside motorcycle handlebars. He managed to concoct a device that would work in a circular motion, instead of up and down.
Vibranator LLC, offers a model for 7/8-inch bars and two models for 1-inch handlebars. Chrome bars (magnetic), like those on my bike, have a slightly smaller interior dimension than 1-inch stainless steel bars (non-magnetic).
Mechanic, Matt Sanna disassembling the switch housing at the throttle grip.
So, what if I told you there’s a very reasonably priced mechanic in Corona, CA who will bring his 16-foot trailer, set up with a complete one bay motorcycle shop, right to your door. Talk about a boon to local American V-Twin devotees; I guess! Matt Sanna owner of www.mobilecycleservice.com
showed up, on time, complete with a shit-eatin’-grin on his puss.
“All right PJ, what kind of contraption do you want me to install this time?”
OK, so I tend to snap every time I come across anything that might improve the performance, handling, comfort and/or appearance of my beloved Deuce. Am I obsessed? I don’t know about that. Maybe I have too much time on my hands. Hey, I’ve got a thing for my Hawg. Like you don’t!
Inserting the rubber end into the handlebar to check for a snug fit.
Anyway, within a few minutes of beginning the installation Matt finished up, replaced my grips and, “Bob’s your uncle.” (sorry about that cliché. I watched, The World’s Fastest Indian, last night, for the umpteenth time and apparently that tidbit of dialogue stuck in my brain).
The thing was; I had another project scheduled for my friendly mobile wrench-meister that day (I was also having Mr. Sanna install a set of the, afore mentioned, Intiminators) so I had to wait before I could test ride my Vibranators.
Vibranator installed in the handlebar.
As soon as I started up my Softail, before I even got under way, I noticed markedly less bar buzz. Then, when the bike hit 73 MPH, in top gear, where the pulsation becomes just annoying enough that I generally back off the throttle, the vibration seemed like it was less than half of normal. When I accelerated up to 81 MPH, where the vibes are typically the worst, the ghosts in my mirrors were only barely noticeable and the buzz was diminished to the point where I could cruise at that speed indefinitely.
Not only did the Vibranators improve the vibes in the RPM range, where it’s the most noticeable, but they also cut down the effect in the range where the counter-balancing element made them acceptable.
COOL! These things actually work!
Now I’m able to log close to twice my normal saddle time before I notice any numbness or tingling from grip vibration.
Go to www.vibranator.com
and check out these little boons to the nerve health of your manual digits.
Oh by the way, if you ever get a chance to talk to Don Richardson, I highly recommend it. His off-beat sense of humor kept me entertained for the duration of our extended conversation. I look forward to the occasion when next we speak.
The Vibranator: Sold in pairs: Retails for $99.99:
Manufactured by: Vibranator LLC
7715 Commercial Way Unit 110,
Henderson Neveda 89011:
888 425 1333