How to Remove and Install Motorcycle Handlebars

If you’re looking to add custom style to your bike or improve comfort and ride control, then swapping out your motorcycle handlebars is an awesome project you can do right at home. Wondering how to change or install handlebars on your Harley Road Glide or Road King? Our team here at Demon’s Cycle has got you covered with this great guide for replacing your motorcycle handlebars today.

Step 1: Find the Right Fit

The placement of the handlebars on your Harley Sportster or touring bike is very personal. You want the handlebars to be in the right location for maximum control and comfort when you’re out on the open road, so it’s worth it to take the time and find the right fit. Grab a pen and paper and make notes about handlebar height, width, and hand position. Whether you’re simply changing the height of your existing handlebars, which you can do easily with custom risers, or you’re adding an entirely new set, it’s important to test out the best options for your needs before you get started.

Remember: When deciding on the width of new handlebars, always check the fuel tank clearance. Wider bars might dent your tank if you turn too hard to the left or right.

Step 2: Protect Your Gas Tank

Because there are many large and small components that have to be removed when replacing your Harley’s handlebars, you’ll want to protect your gas tank from scratches and damages that might occur during the process. Simply place a towel, blanket, or old t-shirt over the gas tank to ensure the paint continues to look as good as new once the project is complete.

Step 3: Remove Your Hand Controls

In order to take the current handlebars off, you’re going to need to get a few other parts out of the way. Here are some of the common systems and parts you’ll want to carefully remove and disconnect, depending on what parts you’re planning to replace.

  • Throttle
  • Switch housing
  • Brake lever
  • Clutch lever
  • Handgrip
  • Speedometer
  • Tachometer

Begin by checking for any zip ties or clamps that may be securing the wiring harness and restraints to the throttle and idle cables and either cut them with pliers or loosen them enough to remove.

You’ll want to pull back the covers on your throttle cables and loosen the jam nuts. Then carefully slide off the switch housing. Remove the brass ferrules from the ends of the cables and put them somewhere safe. They are very small and easy to lose, so place them in a bowl or a cup to make the later steps as easy as possible. Remove the brake lever by either loosening or removing the fasteners and setting the part to the side.

Now turn to the clutch side of your Harley Softail bike and remove the switch housing and the clutch housing. You will only need to remove your clutch cable if you are planning to replace it.

Note: Left hand grips are most likely glued on and may require some force and effort to get free. Some people prefer to simply slit the handgrip with a razor knife and replace it. Others replace it by prying up its outer end with a long, thin screwdriver and either spraying compressed air or a glue solvent between the grip and bar. To remove glue residue, use solvent after the grips are off.

Step 4: Remove the Existing Bars

Begin with a half-turn on the existing fasteners and be careful not to loosen them too quickly, at the risk of dropping or losing them. If you can, flip the handlebars to make it easier to remove the fasteners all the way, then set the fasteners off to the side. Take off your tachometer and speedometer fasteners and then remove the tach and speedo.

Now you can take off your bars!

Step 5: Put Your New Bars in Place

installing motorcycle handlebars

Put your top clamp into place and then carefully begin returning your fasteners to position. It’s a good idea to inspect your hardware at this stage to ensure everything is in good condition or decide if it needs to be replaced before moving on. Add a dab of Red Loctite to each of your bolts before putting them back. Remember, always hand screw your bolts in first then tighten them down in an opposite formation once you know you have a proper fit.

This is a good place to check the fit and comfort of your new handlebars. Adjust them to your riding position before tightening the bolts down. Return and adjust your brakes so they’re comfortable and fasten them down, as well. Then move your switch housing back into place and tighten it down. Be very careful not to over-torque it, to avoid stripping.

Check that your throttle is operating properly and that the end of the throttle tube is not touching the inside end of the handlebar, as it will lead to dangerous driving. Tension your throttle cables back and tighten the jam nuts down, as well.

Step Six: Repeat the Process on the Clutch Side

Install the clutch lever assembly and switch housing on the left bar just like you did on the right. Make sure that the wires are positioned properly in the recesses of the dimpled bars. Carefully reattach any other accessories you removed from the left bar. Replace any ties, clamps, or cable restraints that you removed.

Step Seven: Check it Over

Test all switches to make sure you did not damage any wire and double-check that all of your fasteners and links are properly in place. Swing the handlebars hard right and left again, making sure the throttle, idle, and clutch cables do not hang or catch on the bars.

Step Eight: Take it For a Ride

The best way to ensure that you fit your new handlebars properly is to take your motorcycle out on the road. Test drive carefully and enjoy!