Updating Your Handlebars
The handlebars of your motorcycle greatly affect your level of comfort while riding. When you purchase a new bike, it's not set up to fit you. The dealer adjusted the handlebars how they saw fit, but that doesn't necessarily apply to you. Does your neck and back ache after a ride? Your handlebars might be adjusted too far from your natural reach, so you're having to stretch further to get a solid grip. This isn't how you want to ride. There are several ways you can make updates to your handlebars to better fit your needs as a rider and your personal taste. If you like the style you've already got installed, they simply need adjusting. If you want to throw your current handlebars off a bridge, it's time to install totally new ones. We'll walk through how each update process generally works so you can get the perfect fit for you.
Adjusting Your Current Handlebars
Are your handlebars simply too close or far from your reach? Locate the handlebar clamps and loosen them. This will allow you to rotate the bar forward or backward. Sit on the bike with your arms extended to see where they naturally fall. This is where your handlebars should be so you aren't straining or cramped up while driving. Once you've found the sweet spot, tighten the bar back up. You'll also need to adjust your levers, which is performed by loosening the clamps holding them and repeating the process. Sounds easy enough, right? While this is true, many riders don't do this simply because they aren't aware that they can. If you drive a sport bike, the process is much the same—adjust the clamp on the clamp-on handlebars and levers to better fit your riding style. You may need to install adjustable levers on your sport bike that will allow you to move them more.
A Totally New Look
There are countless styles of aftermarket handlebars you can install on your motorcycle. You might love the look of Ape-Hangers, or after trying them, realize you want to return to T-Bars. Whatever the case, you can customize the entire look and feel of your handlebars. This update can be done yourself if you're savvy in the shop and understand that this process involves not only changing the bars, but also the clutch, cables, and levers too if the bar is radically different. If you'd rather leave it to the professionals, drop your bike off with the handlebar you want installed on.
Want to try to get it done yourself? Your situation is unique—the bike you own, the handlebars you're installing, and your ergonomic needs—and because of that, we can't give you the precise play-by-play of exactly what needs to be done. However, what we can do is walk through the general process and what to expect during installation.
First, you'll need to determine what type of bar will fit your bike. Not all styles are going to fit your bike, and you don't want to buy a bar that ends up not fitting. Get the height, width, and pullback measurements (pullback is defined as how far back the handlebar ends are relative to the center). Once you've got these, you can pick out a bar.
When you've got the replacement ready for install, you'll need to remove your mirrors and grips. If you want to keep the grips, pry them up with a thin screwdriver or other metal piece to spray WD-40 in the gap. The lubrication should help you twist the grips off without ripping. If you don't want them, cut them off. Remove the clutch cable from the lever by giving it some slack and put it somewhere safe and close by. The perch should be removed as well. For the throttle, unscrew the kill switch housing and open the halves, making note of where each throttle cable goes. Once all of this is removed and placed in safe areas—you don't want to trip over and break any of these parts—hold your current bars while loosening the clamps. Pull them off and place them out of the way.
Now for the install! Make sure everything is newly greased and cleaned before getting started here. To begin, get the new bars situated in the clamps to screw them into place. Make sure the bars are adjusted to your preference before tightening all the way so you don't have to go back later to do this. As a rule of thumb, there should be an equal gap between the clamp and the mating surfaces when torqued. Are the new bars drilled? Awesome. If not, be sure your measurements are on point and perfectly lined up so things go smoothly. If the new bars require new cables and wiring, you can do that at this point as well. You'll then replace the master cylinder, then clutch lever, then throttle. Get your grips back on with grip cement to secure them into place. The cables should be tight, not pinched up. Before getting out on the bike, test the brakes in a controlled setting to ensure they're working with 100% accuracy. If they're not, the problem must be found before riding. Ensure the throttle cables were installed in the right locations. If you can't figure it out, take it to a shop to have them look it over.
If all seems well and the brakes are catching perfectly every time, you're good to go! Enjoy your newly updated handlebars.