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How to Measure for the Right Handlebars

One of the harder challenges we at J&P have on our tech line is handlebars and cables. Many times I hear, “I want to move my hands about two inches farther back”. In order for our tech staff to help you efficiently it would be nice to have the dimensions of your existing bars, but if that info is not available an understanding of how things are measured is important.

Before we start, lets talk a bit about measuring bars. Not every manufacturer does this the same way, so when we see dimensions that may be the same on paper, they don’t always produce the same bars. Manufacturers are reluctant to adopt a uniform measurement system, so we can’t always compare “apples with apples.”

In our catalog we have adopted a system that will give fair results as long as it is understood. When on the phones to describe this I use the example of a wall in front of a table. To measure the bar, it is put in that corner created where the table meets the wall. Then the bars are rotated forward until the front of the bars is touching the wall. Rise is the distance from the table to the highest point, with pullback being from the wall to the farthest point back. Two other dimensions that are also important are how wide the center section is and, on Tbars, how far they rise before they bend back. You fellas out there with the Road Kings® and FLT’s are very aware that the center section measurement is critical for you. A T-bar can have the same dimensions and be very different in appearance. For example, a T-bar that bends 2 inches from the table will be very different from one that bends 5 inches from the table, but they can share the same overall dimensions. Unfortunately manufacturers don’t give us that information, so a call to our tech line would be in order. When I give these dimensions out I measure to the center of the bend.

Handlebars for Springer® Softails® are different than bars for other bikes. The reason for this is the riser spacing is different. Common to all Harleys® from 1977 up, except Springers®, is a riser centerto- center of 3 inches. You Springer® guys have a 4” riser centerline. On narrow glides the 3” measurement is good back to 1957. Why is this an issue? Generally bars have knurls (either a straight line or criss-cross pattern) pressed into them to prevent them from slipping in the risers. If we use a set of standard bars on a Springer®, these knurls would be visible and, in my opinion, unsightly.

We offer bars in two groupings by year of fitment: pre-1982 and late model. The differences are the result of a configuration change in the switch housings. 1972-81 models have a notch in the housings to pass the wires through. The 1982 and up models don’t. The resulting bar change in 1982 was to stamp a notch on the underside to allow room for the wires. If you are going to run the wires through the bars it makes no difference which year group you use since you will have to drill the bars to put the wires inside. Wires run down the outside will need the appropriate bars for the year of controls.

In our next Tech Talk we will discuss cables, brake lines and risers and how to select the right unit for your bar change. If you readers have any questions that you would like to see as the subject of one of these columns let us know by E-mail, snail mail, phone, fax, smoke signal, whatever. I do this to help you folks that read these and without your feedback I am sometimes at a loss of what to write about.

By Scott Holton, J&P Tech


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