Changing Your Bike's Handlebars

Changing Your Bike's Handlebars

Changing the handlebars on a motorcycle can have a big impact on the way the bike looks but also how it feels when you drive it, so changing from the stock bars to something you are more comfortable with can make you a much more confident rider. This change can range from being a relatively quick, simple and easy task to a very difficult and time consuming one. To try and help make it the former as opposed to the latter we have put together a short guide that highlights some things that need to be taken into consideration. As with doing any job on your motorcycle yourself, it pays to have thought about it properly first - especially if you plan on riding it to work the next morning.

One of the most common questions we get asked in this area is ‘what size are my handlebars?’ - this can easily be measured of course with either a ruler or a vernier caliper. The vast majority of motorcycles (but by no means all) tend to use ⅞” / 22mm handlebars. The most common size after this is 1” / 25.4mm, which is used as standard on Harley-Davidsons and modern Triumphs, amongst others. This is something that is very simple but very important to get right.

Measuring Handlebar Diameter

Once you know what size you are looking for you can pick a style of handlebars, which is where things get a little trickier. If your bike comes as standard with ape hanger bars then your cables, hoses and wiring will all be fairly long to accommodate this so if you are looking to replace these with lower or flatter bars then at the very least there will be a lot of excess cable to tidy away, and at its worst this excess could compromise the functionality of the brakes or clutch. Equally, if your bike is fitted with fairly low and/or narrow handlebars already and you wish to fit some slightly higher and wider bars, such as the Biltwell Moto Handlebars, then you will need to think about whether these things will be able to reach.

Biltwell Moto Handlebars

If you have realised that the bars you want to install require different length cables, hoses, or wiring than you have, do not despair. Many modern motorcycles have kits available for exactly this purpose that contain longer (or shorter) versions of all the stock parts to enable this change to be made - the more common the motorcycle and the more common it is that these changes are made the easier these kits will be to find. For example, Hitchcocks Motorcycles offer these kits for Royal Enfields and Burly produce a huge variety of these kits for Harley Davidsons. If a kit cannot be found for your requirements then these problems can still be overcome but it may take a little more time, money and perseverance to achieve your desired results. For example, Wemoto stock Goodridge BuildaLine parts which enable you to create your own braided steel brake lines and there is a wide variety of kits available on Ebay (and elsewhere) that can be used to create your own cables.

Short Brake Cable

Another important thing to check before committing to the change is that the new bars will not foul on anything once installed. If the bars at full turn are coming into contact with the tank or any other part of the motorcycle this will compromise maneuverability and could lead to you damaging your tank needlessly. This is of course an easy thing to check if you have the new bars in your possession; if you do not, our tip is to find the most accurate dimensions you can and attempt to bend a piece of thick wire or a coat hanger into the same shape and size as the new bars, hold this in place on your bike and see how close it is coming to the tank. This is not a foolproof method, of course, but it will give you an indication: if its close, it may be worth thinking about some different bars; if you have plenty of room then they’ll likely fit just fine.

Lastly, it might be beneficial to share some of our top tips for removing and installing grips. In our experience, removing grips normally goes the way of a bit of tugging followed by giving up and cutting them off but if they’re ones you particularly want to keep - or if you are only removing them temporarily - then sliding a small flat head screwdriver underneath and spraying in some WD40 or 3 in 1 oil can be sufficient to get them moving (just be sure to wrap a rag around the screwdriver if you don’t want to scratch the bars). When it comes to installing grips there is a wonderful product available called Hellerine; this is a lubricant specifically designed for aiding in the installation of cable sleeves but it works brilliantly for grips as well. This will act as a lubricant when installing the grips but will set soon after and hold them firmly in place (and it’s handy to have around for plenty of other jobs too).

Installing Handlebar Grips