Your handlebars are one of only a few ways you interface with your bike, and can really make or break your level of comfort and control on your rides. If you’re thinking about swapping on some new bars, read our guide first!
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 pain meds you’ve been taking to help take the edge off after you ride, or because your handlebars got in an unplanned 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 handlebars” can cover a good portion of handlebars that attach to the triple tree. (The alternative to these are “clip on” handlebars, which come in two separate right and left bars, and attach directy to the fork tubes. These are covered in the next section.) 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. (A good way to do this is to snap photos with your phone as you do the process, to keep track of how everything was installed.) After the screws are out, the old handlebars should be easily removed.
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.
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 your 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 altogether 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 your 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 how to install them. After reinstalling the bar end weights and mirrors, check all bolts and screws and tighten and loose fasteners.
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 controls 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 your 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: