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How to: Change your handlebars

>> Ashley Benson

Riding should be fun. So if you find that your back, neck, wrists or, well, anything is making you reach for a bottle of Aleve when you slide off the seat after a ride, you might have to consider that your handlebars aren't the best fit for you. When you buy your bike stock, you should keep in mind that the handlebars were manufactured to fit a very general and broad spectrum of body types and sizes. You may fit into the range of people considered when your bike's handlebars were designed but there might still be something lacking. Maybe you're handlebars aren't necessarily uncomfortable; they might just not be the most comfortable for you.

Or maybe you crashed. Sucks, but it happens. Sure your arm will heal but letting your handlebars take the fall will hurt a whole lot less on both your body and your wallet (if you've ever had to deal with medical bills for a broken arm you know what we're talking about). Replacing your handlebars will be far less of a hassle than dealing with your friends' harassment if you ride around with banged up bars.

There are two main types of handlebars (tubular and clip-on handlebars) and replacing each type is a little different. Even within these categories, different styles and models will have slight differences in how they are replaced or installed. If you come up with any questions that you don't find the answer to here, dive into your owner's manual.

Out with the old

Tubular Handlebars

Whether you're taking off your old handlebars because your doctor has told you that ulcers are forming in the lining of your stomach from the amount of over the counter pain meds you've been taking to help take the edge off after you ride or because your handlebars got in a fight with the asphalt, it's common sense that you'll need to remove the old bars before installing the new ones. It's not, however, always common sense on how to go about that task.

The term tubular bars can cover a good portion of handlebars that attach to the triple tree. In order to remove tubular handlebars, the first thing you'll need to do is to take off any mirrors and bar end weights. If you've invested in some custom bar ends or mirrors you can always attach them to the new handlebars.

Next you will need to do is gently remove the screws from the bottom of the left control housing while paying attention to the lengths of the screws. You may find that one screw is longer than the other and it will be important to replace them in the right way when installing your new handlebars. After you have done this, free the clutch lever perch and brake master cylinder.

In order to remove the throttle assembly you'll need to unscrew it and slide it off of the handlebar. If the throttle still will not slide off after it has been unscrewed, you might need to remove one of the throttle cables.

Finally, remove all screws holding the handlebar riser cap in place. Be sure to keep track of how they are placed so that you can properly replace them in the correct orientation on the new handlebars. After the screws are out, the old handlebars should be easily removed.

Clip-on Handlebars

Clip-on handlebars are typically found on sport bikes. Unlike tubular handlebars, clip-ons are two separate short handles rather than just one-piece and are usually mounted onto the fork tubes rather than the triple clamp. Because of this, their removal and installation will be slightly different from their tubular siblings' removal and installation.

With clip-ons, start by removing the bar end weights from the handlebars just as you would with tubular handlebars then gently take out the screws from the bottom of the left control housing while paying attention to their lengths as one may be longer than the other just as with the tubular handlebar control housing. If they are two different lengths, make sure to put them back the same way you removed them. Once you've removed the screws, take off the clutch lever perch and brake master cylinder.

Just as with the tubular handlebars' throttle, unscrew the throttle on the clip-on handlebar and slide it right off. If it does not slide off, you'll probably need to remove one of the throttle cables in order to free it from the handlebar.

Finally, use a socket wrench to remove the steering stem nut and lock washer then loosen the upper triple clamp pinch bolts in order to remove the upper part of the triple clamp. The size of the socket you will need for this will vary from one model to the next. Once it is off, loosen the handlebar pinch bolts in order to slide the handlebars off of where they are secured to the upper fork tube and open up the spot for some new clip-ons.

In with the new

Tubular Handlebars

Now that you've removed your old handlebars, you're free to lightly secure the new handlebars to the handlebar mount. Be sure to replace the mounts at the same orientation as when you removed them.

Putting new handlebars on your bike in order to make you're ride more comfortable is pointless if you do not adjust the angle of your new handlebars. Get on your bike and get a feel for how you want the handlebar placed. Testing out their placement is especially important if you're changing the type of handlebar all together since each will feel different. If you're replacing damaged handlebars with an identical set of handlebars, take this opportunity to see if there is a more comfortable position for your handlebars to sit at. If there isn't, test out the handlebars to make sure they are in the same position as the old set. Don't be afraid to adjust the new handlebars as necessary.

Once you feel comfortable with the placement of your handlebars, mount the controls loosely in their appropriate positions and test the handlebars for fuel tank clearance by turning them from full lock left to full lock right. If the handlebars come into contact with the tank, adjust them so they can turn completely either way without doing so. Your handlebars and fuel tank should not be friends. If you like the position of your handlebars and they don't touch the fuel tank when fully turned, tighten down the handlebar mounts to the correct torque and feel free to adjust the control housing and throttle to make them comfortable. Also make sure that the control cables are the right length when turning your handlebars. If you're cables can move on their own even when your handlebars are in full lock they could activate on their own and you don't want your throttle to rev up on you while you're deep into a tight turn. If you're replacing your handlebars with a new type of bar, you'll find that they may need different lengths for the clutch, brake and throttle lines and cables depending on the height difference. Adjust them accordingly.

When everything is in place where you feel it should be, mark the position of the locating pins which can be found on the inner section of the switch and throttle assemblies onto the handlebars. If your handlebars have locating pins, with a 5 mm drill bit, drill a hole into the handlebars for each pin. While it is possible to just file them down rather than use a drill to make holes for them, locating pins are important because they will prevent your switches and throttles from moving out of place at an inappropriate time (though no time really seems appropriate for them to move out of place).

Lastly, reinstall the clutch perch, brake master cylinder, throttle assembly and switch assembly the reverse way that you uninstalled them. If putting on new hand grips or transferring your grips from your old handlebars to these new ones, see our guide on Replacing your Motorcycle Grips for a how to install them. After reinstalling the bar end weights and mirrors, check all bolts and screws and tighten and loose fasteners.

Clip-on Handlebars

Putting on clip-ons tends to have more steps than installing new tubular handlebars. Start by sliding the new clip-on handlebars onto the upper fork tube and loosely tighten the pinch bolts. Just as with tubular handlebars, it's important to get on your bike and test the placement of your new handlebars in order to adjust them to a comfortable angle. Once they feel right, loosely tighten the handlebar pinch bolts.

Reinstall the upper triple clamp and loosely tighten the upper triple pinch bolts, steering stem nut and lock washer before loosely mounting the controls in their appropriate positions. Turn the handlebars from full lock left and right in order to make sure that they do not touch the fuel tank. If they do, adjust them so that they clear the fuel tank fully. It's also important to check the control cables to make sure they are the right length and won't act up on their own when your handlebars are fully turned. If your new handlebars are a different height, you may have to adjust the length of the lines and cables to fit the new handlebars.

Once everything is comfortable and the handlebars do not come into contact with the fuel tank, tighten the handlebar bolts, upper triple pinch bolts, steering stem nut and lock washer. Then adjust the control and throttle assemblies and mark the locating pins' positions. Just as with tubular handlebars, holes for the locating pins should be drilled with a 5mm drill bit in order to keep the switches and throttle from moving out of place.

After those are secure, reinstall the clutch perch, brake master cylinder, throttle assembly and switch assembly. Slide on your hand grips (either new ones or the ones from your old handlebars). Replacing your Motorcycle Grips is a good guide to help you with this. Reattach the bar end weights and mirrors and, finally, check all of the bolts and screws and tighten any that are loose. Once you've gotten you're new handlebars installed, feel free to go show them off (unless, of course, you need to let your grip glue dry).

For more information on replacing handlebars, here is a video demonstrating how to change out dirt bike handlebars:

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Monday, October 10, 2011 10:57:49 AM
Mike Ujazdowski said:

trying too put new bars on my bike. i got a 1990 kdx 200. i got everything off with out a problem. but my throttle will not come off? any help?


Monday, October 10, 2011 12:45:32 PM
BikeBandit said:

Hey Mike,
Thanks for the question. From what it sounds like, you should be able to undo the throttle cable from the twist throttle. Most of the time, the throttle cable is too short to allow you to remove the throttle without disconnecting the cable. Disconnecting it should allow you to take the throttle off without any problems as long as nothing it broken. The other option that you can use is to undo the bar clamps and then pull the cable out from the throttle. Hope that helps! is the web's largest powersports store with more than 8 million factory fresh motorcycle parts, apparel, accessories and more online, including motorcycle helmets, motorcycle boots, motorcycle gloves and more.