MSC Moto RM3 Steering Damper Review [Project Yamaha Ténéré 700]

I consider myself an average weekend motorcycle-fun seeker. Before adding the MSC Moto RM3 steering damper to the Ultimate Motorcycling Yamaha Ténéré 700 Project Bike, I would muscle, grunt, and wince my way over rough areas, glancing ahead hoping for smoother terrain. Mounting the MSC Moto RM3 made riding rugged terrain a whole lot less troublesome. It is a worthwhile $550 addition that showed its value as soon as I hit the first rocky sections.

MSC Moto RM3 Steering Damper Review: For Sale

The last time I had any type of steering damping apparatus was on my Yamaha Big Bear Scrambler in the 1960s. It was a big black knob that, when tightened, it would make the bars harder to turn. I would torque it down when I rode it over the Mojave Desert whoops. I had no idea how it functioned, but it did make it easier for me to go faster, so I used it. That was 53 years ago.

What a difference a half-century makes. The MSC Moto RM3 steering damper on the Ultimate Motorcycling Yamaha Ténéré 700 Project Bike is a hockey-puck-sized, precision-machined unit that easily bolts onto the steering mechanism.

Bolt-on time for the RM3 unit itself is about three minutes—unless you drop the bolts, as I did, several times. Take this part slow, holding onto the bolts as you align the mounting pieces. There is a direct drop line to the bottom of the skid plate from the steering crown!

MSC Moto RM3 Steering Damper Review: Project Yamaha Ténéré 700

Installing the Moto RM3 steering damper requires some mechanical experience, and it can all be done with the Ténéré 700 on the side stand. Getting to the bolt-on location requires sliding the gas tank back a few inches, and to do that requires removing the side panels.

Start by removing the seat, Then, take out the side panel screws, removing the two screws holding the gas tank at the rear, and sliding the tank back a few inches. From there, a 27mm wrench is needed to pull the steering crown nut for the RM3 to mount. After that, it is all reassembly.

The 1.8-pound MSC Moto RM3 steering damper kit really is that easy to install. In all, it is just a bunch of screws to keep track of. I want to thank the Yamaha engineers for designing the tank, its tubes, and connectors with plenty of slack, enabling this installation to be much easier than I expected it to be.

MSC Moto RM3 Steering Damper Review: Price

I wasn’t sure where to set the damping, so I rode around my neighborhood, adding and subtracting clicks of damping on the glove-friendly knob to see what felt comfortable and functional. Zero does nothing, and heading toward 25 was too stiff. I settled on 11 clicks and headed off to the freeway to make my way to the coastal range for off-roading fun.

I continued adjusting the amount of damping as I rode at 35, 55, and 65 mph. On pavement, 11 clicks seemed to add stability without making it difficult to turn the bars. I spotted a car carrier trailer ahead on the freeway and caught up to ride next to it for a while. Car carriers generate a lot of turbulent air, so I rode next to it while adjusting RM3. Again, 11 clicks felt the most stable to me.

When I got to my first rocky section, I set the adjuster back to zero damping, and added clicks from there. As I had felt on the pavement, 11 clicks—about half of its 25-click damping range—is what felt right. The difference was obvious, immediate, and quite surprising. The RM3 calms the sharp, front-wheel deflections from rock hits. The MSC Moto steering damper absorbs the jarring normally transmitted to my hands and arms. I rode faster over rocky areas and with more control and confidence with the RM3 active. It really is sideways suspension for the handlebars.

I rode 100 miles of forest roads here in the Pacific Northwest, searching for and riding over gravel, fisties, and a few rocky sections. Most of the areas I knew that have these annoying surfaces are deep in snow right now, but I did find some long stretches to test both me and the MSC Moto RM3 steering damper at speed.

I was surprised by my instant confidence increase. I have picked up this 460-pound motorcycle way too many times. The front end starts deflecting with a mind of its own and heads me towards something I don’t want to encounter, such as a tree, boulder, or cliff. I would come to an abrupt halt with no footing and tip over. I use the “squat with butt to the seat” technique to lift the Ténéré, but it gets tiring real fast.

The voice in my head has been admonishing me to get better technique or avoid rocky terrain. Of course, unless you have previously ridden a section, you don’t know what interesting features a trail will reveal. The RM3 steering damper is the technique enhancer I needed. With it active, I kept my desired line better and had more control.

The unique design of the RM3 damps steering deflections at trail speeds, while allowing for an undamped, quick return to center, most of the time. When traveling at higher speeds, the RM3’s internal hydraulic flow design also damps the return to center. This is all done automatically, based upon the rider’s input.

Adjusting the damper is all about riding style and personal feel. That is why the click adjuster is positioned for easy change while riding. Although I didn’t get to any deep sand like I rode so much of in the Mojave, I can see myself tightening the RM3 in the deep sand and whoops and loosening it as I hit high-speed packed dirt.

MSC Moto is a family business in Australia that has been manufacturing steering dampers for 27 years. Its only product line is steering dampers. The units are manufactured and tested in-house, and MSC Moto has a direct warehouse shipping for North America out of Miami. The RM3 series dampers are optimized for dual-sport and adventure motorcycles. MSC Moto also offers steering dampers for motocross bikes and pure off-road motorcycles. If only I had had an MSC Moto RM3 steering damper for my Big Bear Scrambler—fortunately, it is a huge help on the Ultimate Motorcycling Yamaha Ténéré 700 Project Bike.