One of the cheapest, easiest, and performance/enjoyment-improving modifications you can make to a motorcycle is swapping out your handlebars. For me, swapping out the stock bars on my 919 for Renthal Ultra Lows offered me quite a bit, just take a look:
- More room for controls
- Wider grip for better control and handling
- Less vibration coming through the bars
- More aggressive riding position and appearance
- A chance to study and learn about throttle housing, clutch positions, and the wiring of my bike
Honestly, the last benefit – learning about the throttle housing, etc. – is probably the most valuable aspect of swapping my bars. It gave me a chance to understand the push-pull system of the throttle, investigate my starter relay, and find out from where all the wiring and electric components come and go. Regardless, it’s an easy swap and with the instructions below you should be equipped to handle it yourself. That being said, let’s get started.
Make sure that you purchase handlebars that match the width of the ones you are currently running and that your new grips will snugly fit these handlebars. Additionally, the grip installation portion is only for rubber grips; it does not discuss throttle tube-integrated grips or any other kinds.
These are the tools needed. You may not need all of them depending on your bike – keep reading to see why I needed things like a hacksaw, gasket maker, and drill.
- Adjustable wrench
- Needlenose pliers
- Gasket makers
- Allen wrenches
- Drill and drill bit
- Rubber mallet
- Phillips and flat-head screwdrivers
- Socket set
I decided to also replace my mirrors and grips during this project. My shoulders are fairly broad and my stock mirrors didn’t really get around them too well – also, they looked extremely dorky. As for the grips, they were loose and needed to be replaced anyway. My replacements ended up looking like this:
- Stock handlebars -> Renthal 7/8″ Ultra Low Street Handlebars
- Stock mirrors -> Kawell bar-end mirrors
- Stock grips -> Driven Racing D3 Grips
The Kawell bar-ends aren’t a bad deal. The reflection isn’t the best as it’s a convex mirror so cars behind you seem much further than they actually are. I typically do a head turn before after a mirror check anyway so they haven’t been too bad. Also, for being so cheap, they don’t shift while riding that much. If you’re looking for mirrors because of legalities and don’t want to spend almost $60 for effectively the same thing, then go with the Kawells.
The D3 Grips have proven to be good so far, too. The only issue I had was during installation, which I’ll discuss below.
REMOVAL AND INSTALLATION
Note: This tutorial is only for handlebars attached by a triple-clamp and does not apply to clip-on bars.
Note: I highly recommend taking a picture of your handlebars prior to beginning tearing everything apart. The last thing you want to do is not remember the order the components are meant to go.
1. Removing left-hand grip, switch, and clutch lever
Start with the left-hand controls and grip first because you need to actually take the handlebars off your bike to remove the throttle.
In order to remove your grip, you need to first remove the bar-ends, if you have them. It usually just requires a Phillips head screwdriver. Grips can get be very difficult to get off so here are a couple options:
- Air-Compressor: If you have an air compressor, put the nozzle between the grip and handlebar at the side furthest from the end of the handlebar (toward the center of the bars). Then, blow air underneath the grip and start pulling and twisting. The air should create some space between the grip and the handlebar.
- Wd-40: If you don’t have an air compressor, or #1 didn’t work – take Wd-40 and apply a generous amount under the grip. Try twisting the grip to spread the Wd-40 and start pulling. If you do have an air compressor, after applying the Wd-40 and twisting, refer back to #1 and it should make it easier.
- Razor/Knife: If neither of those work and you have grip-replacements, take a hacksaw, razor blade, box cutter, something sharp, and carefully slice the length of the grip down to the handlebar. You should be able to wedge a screwdriver or blunt object into the slice and pry the grip off.
After removing the grip, the next task is removing the switch. It’s typically a clam-shell/clamp component. Simply remove the screws holding the two sides together. Once the switch is removed, there may be a plastic ring fitted to the handlebars – this is why I had to remove my grips. It should slide right off and you can loosely clamp the switch assembly around the plastic ring and back together.
I had an extremely difficult time getting the switch assembly off because one of my screws was stripped. If this happens to you, take your hacksaw, line it up with one of the Phillips head slots and cut a divot deep enough for a flat-head screwdriver to be used. Unfortunately, I was too frustrated about being conquered by a screw that I forgot to take pictures on how to properly do this – so, proceed with caution.
The clutch lever also clamps to the handlebar, simply unscrew it and loosely put the pieces back together. Both the switch and clutch lever are safe to hang from their cords/wires. At this stage, everything should look like this.
2. Removing right-hand grip, throttle, electric starter, and brake lever
You need to remove the right-hand grip in order to get to the throttle underneath it. Follow the methods I mentioned above. Make sure you don’t damage the throttle sleeve underneath the grip, though!
With the grip off, loosen the starter/throttle housing, but do not to try to remove it yet. The throttle cable isn’t long enough to slide the throttle off the end of the handlebars and you need to remove the handlebars in order to get it off. I found it easier to remove the brake lever/fluid reservoir before removing the handlebars. At this point, you should be ready to remove the handlebars. They’re probably going to be torqued down and be difficult to get off. That’s where the rubber mallet and Allen wrench socket extension come in handy.
At this point, you should be able to remove the starter/throttle housing and the throttle by sliding it off the end of the handlebars.
3. Mounting the new handlebars
The nice thing about Renthal bars is that they come with a fitting guide printed where the triple-clamp is located. It lets you line the bars up perfectly and helps you avoid having to use long-forgotten high-school math skills.
Slide the throttle onto the handlebars and install the handlebars (knurled grip on the left-hand side) tight enough that they don’t fall out of the clamps if you let go but loose enough that you can move them with a little push-pull. With the wheel forward, find a comfortable position for the handlebars. Turn the handlebars all the way to the left and right to make sure the position won’t interfere with steering. Once you find a comfortable position, tighten the bolts.
When installing a car tire I was taught tightening the lug nuts in a star, or crisscross pattern ensured equal torque and pressure distribution and the wheel would stay aligned. I don’t see why that logic wouldn’t apply here, so tighten the screws one turn at a time in a crisscross pattern. In theory, if you tightened both screws on one clamp before touching the other clamp, your handlebar could shift ever-so-slightly.
4. Right-hand side reassembly
The 919, other Hondas, and many other brands/models mount their starter/throttle assembly with a little stud on the inside of the assembly. Depending on your bike, this stud may be used as a ground and should not be removed. If your control assembly is equipped with this nub, you have the pleasure of finding proper positioning for the assembly and drilling a hole in your new handlebars. This is the best way I found to do this:
- Loosely fasten your brake lever and reservoir to your handlebars in a position you find comfortable.
- Put a dab of gasket maker on the nub. If you don’t have gasket maker, anything that will leave residue/mark on the handlebars will suffice.
- Position the control assembly where it is to be installed and squeeze. This ensures your gasket maker leaves a mark.
- Let the control assembly hang down and look at the bottom of your handlebars – there should be a mark from the gasket maker. If not, squeeze harder.
- Find a drill bit that snugly fits into the stud hole of your old handlebars.
- Drill through the bottom of your gorgeous, unscratched, pristine handlebars.
- Refit the control assembly and brake lever back onto the handlebars, making sure the stud fits squarely into the hole. There will be a gap in your control assembly if the stud isn’t in the hole.
A couple notes about fitting the throttle and the right side assembly:
- Make sure the throttle tube’s end doesn’t hang off the edge of the handlebars too far, especially if you’re installing bar end mirrors. The Kawell’s butt right up against the end of the handlebar and won’t fit properly otherwise.
- Now may be a good time to also adjust your throttle – most manufacturers recommend no more than 1/4 inch of play in the throttle. I like mine to have little to no play at all. I’ll be posting instructions on how to adjust the throttle shortly, make sure subscribe so you know when that happens!
- It may take some work to get everything to fit properly, especially if you’re installing wider bars. There will not be much slack in your wires and cables, so installing wider bars can be a bit of a hassle. It just takes a little patience to make everything fit properly and comfortably.
5. Left-hand side reassembly
There’s not much to say about this here, other than do the reverse of how you removed everything. There is a possibility that the left control assembly will have a stud as well; if so, you may have to follow the steps above. The 919 had one, but it is plastic and I previously melted it off with a soldering iron.
6. Grip installation
Quite possibly the most frustrating part of this whole project. The left-side should slide on quite easily; the right side may prove a little more difficult. For full rubber grips, it probably won’t be an issue at all. If you purchase the D3s, however, the metal components at both ends of the grips don’t have much give to them and will have you wishing you’d gone with the cheaper, most likely better, Renthal grips.
To determine which grip is meant to cover the throttle body simply look down the end of each grip. The one with a larger opening will be used on the throttle side. If you have grips that are identical, you can still install it, it may just prove to be a little more difficult.
Grips are meant to be snug and stick to the handlebars. This may lead you to believe you should twist and tug and pry to get them on. Well, you’re wrong. It will disfigure the rubber and make the grip look terrible. It’s better to apply some kind of quick-drying liquid/lubricant to the inside of the grip and then push the grip on. Many people use isopropyl alcohol; I used hairspray. It’s slick when wet and acts as an adhesive between the grips and handlebars when it dries. Spray a healthy amount on the inside of the grip and push the grip directly onto the handlebar. If may take a bit of force and patience to get the grip completely on. If it gets stuck, try spraying more hairspray under the grip and continue pushing. If the grip gets stuck when it’ almost completely on DO NOT ADD MORE FORCE. The rubber compound that motorcycle grips are made of are relatively soft and the ends of your new handlebars are sharp enough to cut through your grips and mangle their ends. If applying more hairspray and carefully pushing doesn’t work at this stage, simply reattach your bar ends or install your new bar end mirrors (see below for instructions) and the grip should compress.
Note: after installing your grips, you will need to wait at least a few hours for them to set. They may still slide until the hairspray/isopropyl alcohol dries.
REMOVAL AND INSTALLATION
I had my bar-end mirrors installed prior to my handlebar swap, so I don’t have many pictures on proper installation. The Kawell mirrors I use and many other bar end mirrors use two slotted metal fittings that expand as you tighten the bolt on the end. You should be able to insert the mirror into your handlebars right out of the box and tighten the bolt on the end. If that doesn’t work for you, here are a couple considerations for the installation:
- There are two slotted metal fittings and manufacturer directions will tell you that the larger fitting’s slots need to be facing the mirror and the smaller fitting’s slots facing down the handlebars/away from the mirror. This didn’t work for me when I first installed the mirrors on my stock handlebars. I had to have both fitting’s slots facing away from the mirror.
- Make sure the slots for both fitting match up to each other.
- If tightening the bolt down doesn’t make the fittings expand inside the handlebars, disassemble the bolt and use pliers to pre-expand the fittings. A good rule of thumb is to expand them to the point the mirror can still slide into the handlebar, but it noticeably tighter. Ratchet down on the bolt and it should tighten.
If you’re installing these on the Renthal Ultra Lows, you might find that the larger metal fitting doesn’t fit into the handlebar. I had the same problem. Luckily, the smaller fitting did and it installed just fine without the larger one.
And there you have it! handlebar, grip, and bar-end mirror installation all in one go! If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions comment below or send me a message!
PRODUCTS REFERENCED IN THIS POST