How to Change Motorcycle Handlebars

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One of the fastest ways to add some comfort and style to your bike is to change out your handlebars. This simple job along with a few other minor changes can change the look and feel of your entire bike and it is something you can do in a couple of hours with basic tools.

If you have never attempted to change out your handlebars, it really is not a difficult job and is relatively the same procedure on all different style bikes. Like any job proper preparation is key to being successful with little frustration.

The first part of the job is to determine what the look and feel is you are trying to obtain. I personally like bars that are low and allow me to sit in a semi-stretched position. I like this because I feel it gives me more control over the bike and I like the way it looks. You may like bars that are higher or wider, it’s completely up to you. The main consideration is to know what size bars you have and determine how much you want to change. Most handlebars are 1” in diameter. There are bars out there that are 1 ¼” or even 1 1/2” but the clamping position is almost always 1” in diameter. Older metric bikes may have 7/8” bars. It’s always best to measure the diameter if you are unsure.

The next step is to determine the rise you prefer. The best way to do this is to sit on your bike and put your arms in a comfortable position. Have a buddy measure the distance from the riser clamp up to your hand. This will tell you an approximate measurement for the rise you are looking to obtain. Now you can obtain rise a couple of different ways. You can have all the rise in your bars. Let’s say I want a 10” rise, I can buy handlebars that have a 10” rise or I could also use risers to obtain the height I am looking for. So instead I buy handlebars with an 8” rise and replace my stock 2” risers with 4” risers. This still gives me the overall 10” height I want to achieve. It just depends on what you like.

Next is the width. This is the measurement from one side of the bar to the other side, tip to tip with no grips or bar ends. It’s a good idea to get this measurement when you measure your rise. Keep in mind that you need to have sufficient center width (straight flat section your risers clamp to) to accommodate your riser clamps and covers. Certain touring bikes need more room than the standard 3 1/2” riser spacing that is common on most non-touring models.

So now you know the rise, width and diameter, now you need to determine the pullback. Imagine your bars were totally flat. Now imagine the ends of the bars pulling in toward you in a vertical plane. That is the pullback measurement. Again the best way to determine this is to get a buddy to help and measure from a vertical position back to your hands. This is the toughest measurement you have to determine. If you are unsure measure the pullback on your existing bars and add or subtract depending on your preference.

Ok a few more minor decisions. Cables and lines. If you increase your bar height over 10” you will almost always need to replace your cables and lines. A rough formula to determine how much additional cable and line you need is to add the increase in height to ½ the increase in pullback. That total tells you roughly how much longer your cables and lines need to be.

If you have a Harley Touring model with throttle-by-wire (also referred to as fly-by-wire) you will need to choose bars with the notches cut in the tip of the throttle side to accommodate the electronic throttle. You can cut these notches yourself depending on your mechanical skill and comfort level.

Lastly. When changing your bars it’s the perfect time to consider swapping out the other items on your bars to get that perfect look and feel. Adding a new set of grips, mirrors, or even some controls will finish off the job and give you a completely new experience on your bike. It’s also a great time to adjust your clutch, bleed your brakes and get everything working properly. J&P Cycles has tons of information out there and videos to help with the job.

How to install KST Kustoms 12″ Handlebars:

How to replace your grips:

Grips and cable kits:

Click here for more information on picking the proper handlebars.

About the Author:

Meet Lowell Anderson, J&P Cycles director of brands. In this position, he is responsible for the assortment, design and development of products for our private label brands. Prior to joining the J&P team, Lowell was a senior manager for KTM North America Inc., where he was responsible for designing, developing and marketing all the KTM hard parts and clothing for the KTM Hard Equipment product line. Lowell has a passion for everything on two wheels. He still enjoys riding both street and dirt bikes. In his spare time, Lowell enjoys working on his bikes, building metric bobbers and spending time with his family and friends.

One Comment

  1. Juan August 15, 2016 at 9:43 am

    Nice job great info

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