I recently followed the widespread advice to swap out the stock handlebars of my 2007 Honda 919 – Victoria – for a set of Renthal Ultra Low Street Bars . If you’re thinking about swapping out your handlebars, I suggest you see how I did it and my recommendations after reading this review. Now that I finally had a chance to take my bike out to put some miles on my new set of bars I can’t believe I waited so long to make the change. The precision and performance through turns are noticeably better, the level of comfort is far superior, they give the 919 the low profile, aggressive appearance I was looking for at a much lower price than expected, and installation was extremely simple. Keep reading below to as I talk through my first ride with the Renthal Ultra Lows through twisties of Western North Carolina to end up at Zuma Coffee in the small town of Marshall. Renthal also offers handlebars for a less-aggressive and upright riding position; skip to “Final Thoughts” at the bottom for additional information.
Before we even hop on for a ride, it’s easy to see the potential that the Ultra Lows offer simply by looking at their dimensions compared to those of the 919 stock bars.
|Bar Diameter||Bar Height||Bar Width||Pull-Back/Sweep||Clamp Area|
|2002-2007 Honda 919 Stock Bars||7/8"|
|Renthal Ultra Low Street Bars||7/8"|
The Ultra Lows are wider, straighter, and closer to the wheels. If you’re able to recall that long forgotten high school lesson about fulcrums and levels, you’ll realize that having a wider, straighter, lower bar ultimately leads to better maneuverability. As I rode north alongside the French Broad River, the near-direct path from clamp to grip gave me a noticeable advantage while negotiating turns; I had to hug the gas tank more than before just to be able to reach the bars. The sweep and rise of the Ultra Lows are much more subtle than the 919’s stock bars and I was able to get my chest closer to the tank, helping to cut down on wind resistance on the straight-aways. I’m 6’1″ and the 919 is a semi-upright bike, so I wasn’t positioned like Rossi, but I did recognize the difference in positioning. Not only was I able to push through the turns of Route 251 with ease, but maneuvering through small-town traffic was no problem; low-speed navigation through urban streets, U-turns, and weaving through traffic – all maneuvers that would make any veteran rider sweat – were no problem.
The 919 is notorious for engine vibrations being felt in the handlebars and foot pegs and is something I can personally attest to. During my road trip from Asheville, NC to Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario, my hands and feet would go numb from just a few hours of riding. Because the stock bars are so narrow, and I have fairly broad shoulders, most of my weight would rest on the outside of my hands; without fail, my pinkies would always be numb and tingling at the end of the day. If I rode long enough, the tingling would extend into my palm. That didn’t seem to be an issue with the Ultra Lows (Amazon). I logged about around 100 miles on my ride today and at no point felt the pinpricks I used to feel in my hands; my feet, however, are a different story. The only reason I can think of that would explain this phenomenon is that the Ultra Lows are wider and allow the pressure to be equally distributed through my hands. My weight rests squarely in my palm while riding with the Ultra Lows and they’re better suited for larger/broader frames; however, if you’ve got a smaller frame, I could foresee your weight being placed on the crease between your thumb and index finger which could lead to wrist pain.
Another benefit of the wider grip is less shoulder and upper-back pain. During my Canadian trip this summer, I distinctly remember cursing Victoria’s handlebars on the very first day. While I rolled through the mountains on the Blue Ridge Parkway, the 919’s stock bars were so narrow that I’d have to hunch my shoulders over or splay my elbows outward just to find a semi-comfortable position; after a couple hours, my upper back and shoulders were so tense I was questioning whether or not my trip was a smart choice. I decided to test my memory against the Ultra Lows and took a short detour/jaunt onto the Blue Ridge Parkway. Not a single twinge in my neck or shoulders. I didn’t have to stop at a scenic overlook to rest my shoulders but act like I was taking in the scenery, nor was I cursing my handlebars. Instead, I was ripping the throttle, hugging my gas tank, and cursing the state patrol officers for barricading my favorite section of the Parkway. I’m fairly young and in relatively good shape, so the hunched-over position that the Ultra Lows put me in didn’t cause lower back pain or soreness; but, older riders, people with back issues, or anyone looking to put in some serious miles in a single day should continue to my Final Thoughts below where I discuss the ergonomics of the other bends Renthal offers.
Before fitting Victoria with the Ultra Lows, Driven Racing D-3 Grips, and cheap bar-end mirrors, Victoria looked like the nerdy girl in high school who had so much potential if she would’ve just ditched the huge wire-frame glasses. She had mirrors like bug antennas, short bars, and generic-looking grips. When Victoria got rid of her wire-frame glasses she became sleek, sexy, and aggressive. Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect when I bought the Ultra Lows. I didn’t know if a lower rise and smaller sweep would even be noticeable, but it is. It’s really noticeable. Her gas tank looks meatier because the Ultra Low’s non-existent rise makes the bars hug her tank; her whole front end looks stockier. Granted, much of this change in appearance is due to the bug antenna mirrors being replaced; but, the Ultra Lows make her more refined. She doesn’t display a shiny, stainless steel – or whatever material the stock bars actually are – handlebars. She’s fitted with grey Ultra Lows that don’t blind you in the sun anymore. To put it simply, they make her look stunning – like she’s on her way to prom.
For sub-65 bucks on most sites, you can’t go wrong. I shopped around and most sites, like Revzilla and BikeBandit, all sat around the same price. Thrown in Amazon Prime or free shipping from other retailers and it’s not even a question at that point – if you haven’t changed your bars yet, you should.
If you haven’t read my post “How to Replace Stock Handlebars, Mirrors, and Grips,” you should. I go into detail as to what tools you need, why I needed to use a hacksaw for a screwdriver and socket set kind of job, and much more. Overall, swapping out the handlebars is simple; just make sure the Ultra Lows (7/8″) match the size of your current bars. If you’re uncertain as to the specs of your handlebars, CLICK HERE for an extensive list of stock specifications.
If your riding position is uncomfortable then you need to seriously consider replacing your handlebars to fix the problem. Think about it, you and your bike are connected at only a few spots – at the handlebars, footrests, and seat. If your ass gets sore while riding, you automatically think “This seat is uncomfortable, I need a new one.” The same principle should apply for your handlebars. If your hands tingle from the bike’s vibrations and cramp from having to bars in an uncomfortable position or if your neck and back are sore after riding, ask yourself “where is the point of contact that would affect my neck and upper back?” Answer: your hands. Get a more upright position by slapping some Renthal High or Medium Rise Street Bars on your bike and enjoy a more ergonomic riding position.
Want to set up your bike to look like mine? Use the links below to purchase the exact handlebars, grips, and mirrors that I use. Also, make sure to check out How to Replace Stock Handlebars, Mirrors, and Grips