Tech Tips

Choosing & Installing the Proper Handlebars

So you have just taken delivery of your brand new Harley-Davidson, it’s time to take a nice, enjoyable ride to get the “feel” of your new machine. You’ve owned many motorcycles over the years, or maybe this is your first one, but the important thing now is just feeling the wind in your face. The ride is enjoyable, but something isn’t quite right. Your back is achy and your wrists are sore after about fifty miles, disappointing to say the least!

After some contemplation, you realize it’s your handlebars causing your discomfort. Well that is easily fixed! The beauty of owning a Harley-Davidson is that parts and accessories abound, and the choices for handlebar configuration are literally in the hundreds. All Harley-Davidson motorcycles take 1-inch diameter handlebars, and nearly all are interchangeable between models. All late model Harleys have “cutouts” in the bars. These are small channels to allow room for the wiring harness to pass through the hand controls and down the handlebar. As long as these cutouts are present, you can pretty well count on being able to bolt the handlebars right on.

The exception to the “cutout” rule is bars that are specifically designed to run the wiring on the inside of the handlebar. Most of the new “chubby” style bars are set up this way. “Chubby’s” are actually 1- 1/4 inch diameter and really look fat and cool. Where the bars bolt to the bike, and where the hand controls attach to the bars, the handlebars step down to 1-inch diameter.

All these choices can be confusing. Here’s my best suggestion for nailing down the style and configuration of handlebar to suit you:  first, be sure you like your seat and want to keep it. Too many riders get the bars just right, then change the seat, and find out that the bars aren’t “just right” anymore. Next, sit on the bike and hold your hands up right where you think you are most comfortable. Pretend to hold a set of handlebars as you sit in the perfect position, then have your wife or a buddy measure the width between your hands, the height of your hands above the triple tree (where the handlebars bolt to the bike), and the distance from the triple tree to your hands (known as pullback).

Now, go in any catalog and look at handlebars. Each bar will be described by height, width, and pullback. Find the handlebar, either 1-inch or “chubby” style that matches your measurements and you’ve got it.

Now that you have found the perfect set-up, you have three choices: Install them yourself, have your buddy put them on, or take your bike to a reputable Harley-Davidson dealer. Self-confidence and experience will dictate whether choice number one makes sense. As for number 2, if you don’t mind lots of electrical tape, butt connectors, zip ties and the like, this choice might be right. However, if spending a few bucks on the installation of the one piece that ties your hands to your $20,000 + motorcycle, you might consider option number three. Aside from greater peace of mind, an authorized Harley-Davidson dealer with factory-trained mechanics has the parts, tools, and training in house to do the job right. Often, a handlebar change means changing the throttle cables, clutch cable and brake line. These three components make the bike stop, shift, and go. Needless to say, you literally put your life in the hands of whoever installs these components.

The right set of handlebars is like a good pair of shoes: They can make a huge difference in comfort. More importantly, the right handlebars can give you a greater feeling of control, which can lead to better self-confidence and a safer more enjoyable ride.

Outpost Harley-Davidson is southern Colorado’s exclusive authorized Harley-Davidson dealership located on I-25 in Pueblo, Colorado.