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Handlebar conversion for your motorcycle

Standard handlebars are not right for every rider because body height personal preferences vary greatly. A customised handlebar conversion often does wonders for your biking enjoyment and safety.

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Selecting your preferred handlebar

Before you commit to buying your ideal handlebars, first make sure that the dimensions are actually compatible with your bike, and check whether your existing cables are long enough to permit installation. The best way to do this is to have someone hold onto the original handlebar of your bike while you unclamp it from the triple tree. Then ask your helper to hold up the handlebars so that you can measure how much play you have in the cables. Now calculate the width of your new handlebars. If the cables are too short, you must check whether you can re-route the cables on the motorbike to gain some extra length. If not, you will need longer cables for your conversion. The same goes for brake lines. Electrical wiring harnesses can be extended by soldering in cable segments and insulating them with heat shrink tubing. Sometimes the clutch and throttle cables from a chopper or touring bike will fit older street or sport bikes of similar design.

Choosing bar ends that complement the look of the new handlebar is also part of a successful conversion – it's best to buy them together with the new handlebar, as the original screw-on ends cannot be re-used in the aftermarket handlebar. Remember that the diameter of the bar ends must fit the clamps of the handlebar you are using. Steel handlebars usually have an inside diameter of 17–18 mm; aluminium handlebars 12–14 mm. If your bike tends to vibrate slightly, it makes sense to mount "vibration killers" on the handlebars – that is, heavyweight bar ends. 

The optimal riding position on a motorcycle is a very personal matter

In addition to ergonomics, the styling of the bike also plays a significant role when it comes to selecting the correct handlebar. You can put your personal stamp on the character of the bike through your choice of shape, material and colour. Replacing the handlebar is a job that can also be carried out safely and easily in your hobby workshop. The following tips will help you to get it right at the first attempt.

Instructions for the handlebar conversion

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Protect tank from damage

Job preparation

Before you start the conversion, find a suitable place where you can work undisturbed and tidily. Set out your tools and the parts you need, place the motorcycle safely on the stand and fully cover the bike tank with a cloth to protect the paintwork.

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Tap screwdriver with hammer to loosen screw

Removing the bar ends

First undo the bar ends of the original handlebar. For this you will definitely need sufficient leverage, as the screw connection is often stuck tight. It is best to unscrew cross-head screws with an impact driver. If you do not have one, a couple of sharp taps with a hammer on a cross-head screwdriver that fits the screw exactly and then applying a constant force should help to loosen the screw.

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Squirt dishwashing liquid under the grip

Removing the rubber grips

Then you need to remove the rubber grips. A professional would blow compressed air between the rubber and the handlebar. At home you can just as well squirt a little dishwashing liquid or brake cleaner (not oil, please!) under the grip using a disposable syringe . If the grip is glued to the switch unit, you must carefully cut it away with a utility knife.

[IMAGE: remove original handlebar clamps.]
Remove original handlebar clamps

Removing the switch units and handlebar clamps

You can now undo and take off the switch units with a suitable cross-head screwdriver. If you're converting to a fatbar (clamping diameter 28.6 mm), you must first undo the central screw fixation of the handlebar clamps before the handlebar is removed. Please note that Italian manufacturers also make 28.0 mm diameter handlebars. However, high-quality retrofit fatbar handlebars like LSL have a diameter of 28.6 mm and do not fit in the original 28 mm clamps! Now remove the brake pump from the handlebar and disconnect the brake light switch cable. Wrap the brake pump unit in a cloth, and set it down on the light mount. Remove the handlebar clamp screws and take the handlebar out of the clamps. Once the handlebar is detached, it is easy to remove the throttle twistgrip unit or the clutch control without having to disconnect the throttle or clutch cable.

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Install new clamps, align handlebar

Installing clamps and new handlebar

If you are using new clamps, attach them to the triple tree along with the handlebar and tighten the lower screw fixation to the torque specified by the vehicle manufacturer. Next, loosely mount the controls and switch units on the new handlebar and then align the handlebar to suit your riding habits and the lines of the bike. Make sure that the handlebar does not hit against the tank or fairing at full lock! There should also be no tension on the cables: check that you haven't miscalculated in your choice of handlebar. If you have, first see if you can re-route the cables to solve the problem. Otherwise you will have to get longer cables. Once the handlebar is in its final position, you can tighten the clamp to the torque specified by the manufacturer.

[IMAGE: LSL drilling jig.]
Drill handlebar using LSL drilling jig

Final installation of handlebar and controls

If the switch units have locking pins, holes have to be drilled in the handlebar for them. For this reason, make absolutely sure that you have found the best installation position for your handlebar and the switch units. Also take into consideration the length of the grips you are using (aftermarket grips may not be the same length as the original grips) and the position of the bar ends. Re-check that the switch units do not hit the tank or fairing with the handlebar at full lock, and carefully mark the holes for the locking pins on the handlebar with a marker pen.

Alternatively, you can stick some masking tape around the handlebar and use a switch unit locking pin to make an impression in the masking tape. Masking tape is perfect for punch-marking to assist drilling. At this point it's best to take a short break and then come back and take another look at your handlebar installation. If you are absolutely certain that you have found the best position for your switch units and have correctly marked the drill holes, you can now drill one side of the handlebar tube to the diameter of the locking pins. To make sure that the drill doesn't slip on the smooth handlebar tube, or if you are prone to mistakes when centre punching or somehow not drilling straight, you should use the LSL® drilling jig. This is the sure way to avoid such mistakes. After drilling, deburr the drill hole with a countersink.

Now install the switch units, controls and grips in their final position, aligning the brake pump and clutch control so that you can operate them with optimal hand force. If the clutch and brake levers are optimally aligned, your forearm should form a line with your outstretched fingers resting on the levers. Congratulations, you have finished converting your handlebars. Recheck the brake and clutch, and all switch unit functions before you set out on your first ride. Your first port of call should be the vehicle test centre (TÜV, DEKRA...) to have the new handlebar, and possibly the clamps, entered in the vehicle documents. The tester may have a look at the overall condition of your bike as well, so be prepared for this eventuality. You can only save yourself a trip to the test centre and the associated costs if you have bought a handlebar with type approval (e.g. many LSL superbike handlebars), in which case you need only carry the type approval together with your vehicle documents with you every time you go for a ride.

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Download this tip

For the garage: Simply download, print out and take it with you.

We recommend:

LSL HANDLEBAR

Handy tool for
converting your handlebar
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The Louis Technical Centre

Problems getting spare parts? Or maybe you've got a technical question about your motorcycle or an accessory The Louis Technical Centre can help! Remember to quote all the necessary details of your vehicle – better still, send us a copy of your registration document.

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Please note!

These tips for DIY mechanics contain general recommendations that may not apply to all vehicles or all individual components. As local conditions may vary considerably, we are unable to guarantee the correctness of information in these tips for DIY mechanics.

Thank you for your understanding.

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