Are steering dampers becoming a hype?
We are seeing a lot of steering dampers lately at EKS. In your local EKS groups, you'd likely ponder into discussions surrounding its pros and cons. Should you install a steering damper?
A steering damper is a tool used to restrict uncontrolled movement from your stem. The primary use for dampers is when you experience stem wobbling frequently due to high speeds, which is caused by weight imbalance from your center of gravity. Wobbling can also be caused by irregular roads and the lack of balance from your center of gravity.
The illustration above is a sample from a cyclist. The center of gravity when riding a scooter is similarly around your chest area. If your chest is significantly higher than your handlebar, most of the weight is concentrated on top, which results in having less control with most of the scooter's body.
Just imagine carrying groceries on your handlebar. By just looking at it, you already have a gut feeling you'll have a hard time handling simply because there's an imbalance in weight. That's a small gist of how the center of gravity works. A dampers' job is to keep your steering more controlled whenever your center of gravity displaces.
In the first place, scooters are generally built to handle their own specs based on what's provided by their manufacturer. If your scoot can say, run a max of 80KPH, then we should be confident that going to that limit would still allow your scooter to function normally without alterations. If that scooter is meant to be learned in an isolated manner, adding a damper may affect that experience.
It's kinda similar to the analogy when riding a bike, you have a horizontal handlebar to navigate your way. However, say you are a driver and you are more used to a steering wheel type of navigation, it then crossed your mind to replace your bike's handlebar with a car's steering wheel. That would then change the experience of how riding a bike is supposed to be. In that sense, a bicycle is meant to be ridden with a horizontal bar but changing it to a steering wheel alters the experience. Relating this analogy to the steering damper is somewhat similar to that.
When EKS dampers made inception in the Philippines, the community found it as a sandbox to try something new. It seemed that for some, it helped them with their riding abilities and some decided to add it as a nifty tool in their arsenal. There is a social stigma that since it's new, there's that feeling where you are in a position that would make you look cool (a.k.a. pizazz). We're not sure if that's the case but in hindsight, it implicitly became a status symbol, at least for a period of time.
Let's put this analogy into perspective. A damper is like a cane. A cane is used to assist a person with walking difficulties. If a person would eventually improve on walking difficulties, he/she may lessen dependence on that tool otherwise, the person may live with the tool for the longest time.
Similarly, a damper is used to assist riders who are having difficulties with speed/rough rides. If a rider becomes more experienced, he/she may lessen dependency otherwise, the person may live with the tool for the longest time.
Yeah about that, we have 3 hypotheses for that matter.
First, it's likely that people find it cool when it first arrived and the community was quick on riding the wave to being its first adapters regardless of practical use.
Second, people realize it's a great tool and a damper could serve its purpose for unexpected wobbles. We're not sure if the surge of usage has affected the rider's skillsets specifically in weight management but dependence on the tool might downplay skills when they move to another scooter with no damper. We have yet to see in the long run.
Third, there are more new riders going for speed/rough rides and needed to find a way that could short cut that learning curve from weight shifting.
For an interesting note, we have not seen veteran riders use a steering damper, likely because they already developed a better understanding of their riding style.
In a nutshell, the wider handlebar, the lesser effort you need to steer. In a cyclist perspective, in the first place, MTB handlebars are wide because it helps cyclists steer through rough trails with little effort of turning the bars. Similar to scoots, you create less effort in order to turn, though in most cases, you bunk instead of turning the handlebar in making a turn. Do note that installing an MTB handlebar requires 3rd party adaptors so you'll need to do this in an isolated case.
So if an MTB handlebar does its job, why would I need a damper? A damper creates turning resistance to which a handlebar can't. Sometimes, the MTB handlebar isn't enough for speed/rough rides that only a damper could provide better stabilization. The damper is unique in its own way so it could be of good use should you need extra assistance.
First off, dampers are not for every scoot. These are only for mid-high end scooters. It would be an overkill to add a damper to small scoots. Wobble is very manageable to small scoots and speed is capped normally at 25KPH so that isn't much of a problem. In case you belong to the mid-high end category and is willing to consider a damper:
The first step to know is to observe your riding style. Ride on all occasions naturally. You can clearly spot weaknesses once you go on rough roads and higher speeds (typically 40kph+). Check to see if you have signs of uncontrolled wobbling.
It ain't a joke to buy a damper. It will be one of the most expensive scooter upgrades you'll make. It costs around $200 (PHP10,000). There are some cheaper variants but would need some customization which takes some time. If you are wobbling on your initial observations, learn how to properly adjust your position first. Maybe you just need a bit more time in learning your style. If by all means, it doesn't work, the damper is calling.
This will take up space from your deck so you'll need to sacrifice the front area. There are types of dampers that leave marks on the stem. These, fortunately, don't have any effect on the performance of the scooter but will be bothering aesthetically. Given that, make sure you're completely decided on having a damper before installing. Whether that's the type that leaves a mark or not, it can be a hassle to install.
Second, do you see yourself depending on this for the long term? If you do, go ahead.
In any case, we would not advise being anyone dependent on dampers for the long term. Remember our analogy on the cane? Use it only if you feel "disabled", in a sense you are having difficulties controlling your ride in rough times.
Lastly, our advice is to really improve your riding skills without a damper. It will take some time but it feels great when you do not have dependability on a tool and another thing less to worry about in terms of maintenance.
For any reason you'd like to use it, feel free to do so. Our reason is based on practicality and its effects. If you find another reason outside of what we've mentioned, it's up to you.