How to Choose Replacement Handlebars For a Motorcycle


Motorcyclists replace their handlebars to improve style, rider comfort, and achieve better steering control. Replacement handlebars are available higher or lower than stock handlebars, wider or narrower, either straight or pulled back toward the rider, and made of larger diameter tubing. Handlebars can be solid-mounted or rubber-mounted to eliminate vibration and rider fatigue. Considerations when replacing handlebars include fuel tank clearance, the need to purchase shorter or longer front brake lines, hand control wiring harnesses, and throttle, idle, and clutch cables. Aftermarket suppliers carry full lines of replacement handlebars in a variety of shapes and sizes.

  • Sit on your motorcycle in a position that feels most comfortable. Leaning too far forward or back during long rides causes painful back strain.

  • Raise your arms to a comfortable position. Experiment with widening or narrowing your grip, and also raising or lowering it. Hold your hands out straight, palms down, to simulate the feel of straight handlebars. Holding a dowel or a piece of pipe helps simulate the feel of straight bars. Pullback bars are angled back toward the rider, and can change the rider's grip in a variety of positions. Many manufacturers feature their handlebars in online catalogs, so you can view the many styles and sizes of handlebars before making your final choice. Refer to manufacturer's specs for the varying degrees and angles of pullback offered.

  • Measure the height from your current handlebars' center section (where it attaches to the risers) to the height where your hands feel most comfortable. This is called the rise, and will give you an approximation of how high your replacement handlebars should be.

  • Hold your tape measure in your right hand, and stretch the tape to your left. Hold your hands as close or far apart as feels comfortable. This will provide you with an approximate tip-to-tip width of the handlebars you desire. Wider handlebars provide better leverage, and are recommended to improve steering on larger, heavier motorcycles.

  • Simulate the amount of pullback you desire by measuring the distance from the front of your existing handlebars to the riding position you have chosen for your hands. Handlebars can also be tilted back toward the rider, so adjust your measurement if that is the look you desire.

  • Bring your motorcycle to your chosen dealer or aftermarket shop. Give your measurements to the parts salesperson, and try out any handlebars that come close to your measurements. With the handlebars in hand, you may decide on a different height, width, or pullback. Most salespeople will bring the handlebars out to your bike to help approximate how they will feel while you are sitting on your motorcycle, and to make sure that the center section of the handlebars will not hit the fuel tank when turned full right or left.

  • Ask your salesperson for help in purchasing the proper length brake lines, wiring harnesses, throttle, idle, and clutch cables to match your new handlebars. Rough estimates are often incorrect, and can result in ruptured brake lines or broken cables. If you are not equipped to change the handlebars, lines, and cables yourself, the best way to ensure a proper fit is to allow the shop to install the new handlebars. The shop can then fit the lines and cables with the handlebars in place.

  • Test-ride the motorcycle with the new handlebars installed. Some minor adjustments may be required to achieve the proper feel.

Tips & Warnings

  • Ask other riders who have the style of handlebars you like if you can sit on their bike and test the feel of their bars. Style and comfort do not always coincide.
  • Check your local laws regarding handlebar height. Tall "ape hanger" handlebars might look nice, but they are illegal in many states, and draw excessive attention from police.
  • Be extremely careful when riding your motorcycle for the first time with new handlebars installed. New handlebars can alter steering characteristics radically, especially if they are higher and wider than your stock handlebars.
  • Buy replacement handlebars from a reputable manufacturer. Unknown brands often compromise quality, which could lead to part failure.

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