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How To Fit Your Motorcycle To You

Updated on November 19, 2009

Handlebar Selection and Adjustment

Motorcycles come from the factory with handlebars designed to accommodate the average size person when he or she rides the machine as it was intended. Generally speaking, middle-weight street machines have medium width, medium rise handlebars; motocrossers have wide, flat bars with a center brace; road racers have low, flat bars or clip-ons; and cruiser / choppers have sit up and beg buckhorns.

Much of the design in handlebars is based on the assumption that the rider's back should parallel his calf. In addition, higher speeds require a lower crouch or more horizontal angle. Some provisions can be made to get closer to your ideal riding position by adjusting the handlebars and foot pegs. To adjust the handlebars, simply loosen the clampdown bolts at the center and rotate the bars to the position that feels most comfortable to you.

Be careful not to rotate them too far, especially if there are wires exiting from a hole in the center of the bars. If you decide to change the bars on your machine, be sure to get the proper length cables and to position the control levers correctly at the handle end of the bars: not 6 inches toward the center or 2 inches from the end. Sometimes a motorcycle you're working on might have control wires routed through it to the switches at the levers. These wires are not difficult to reroute if you first probe through from the end with a string or wire. Another helpful hint is to enlarge the entry and exit holes with a drill, but don't go over 7/16 of an inch diameter or the bars will be weakened.

Control Levers

Safe riding dictates that you can get to your front brake lever rapidly and smoothly. Clamp it radially on the handlebar wherever it feels most comfortable and adjust the lever travel to give you enough braking action to prevent the lever from touching the throttle grip.

If you have small hands, both the clutch and brake levers can be positioned closer to the hand grip. On the more expensive levers, you can simply mount them in a vise and bend them the required amount if you apply gentle, even pressure.

On some of the economy or Chinese models with brittle levers, you can slit a faucet washer from your local hardware store and slip it over the exposed inner cable. Carry a few extras since these washers tend to wear out and occasionally fall off. Be sure to maintain the proper clutch and brake action for your machine no matter which cure for the small-hands problem you select. Often this means reducing some of the recommended free play.

Shifter Adjustment

The shifter can be moved up or down a few teeth on its spline, but avoid the extremes for two reasons. A shifter positioned so high that your foot leaves the peg to shift affects your stability and control dangerously during shifts.

On the other hand, a low shifter is vulnerable to obstacles and could break off or damage the transmission in the event of a mishap. A competent welder can shorten or lengthen the shifter for you if it is necessary.

Again, avoid the extremes. A shifter that is too short is very difficult to operate, can blister your shifting foot, and even wear rapidly through your favorite motorcycle boots. An extended shifter can give the rider too much mechanical advantage on the shift linkage and damage it. Don't extend or shorten a shifter by more than one third of its original length.

Rear Brake Pedal

The brake pedal can be modified for length and positioning much the same as the shifter. Once again, the one-third of the original length factor should be observed. Be careful, however, that any welding is thoroughly checked before reinstalling the pedal. A little reinforcement can help to insure that the brake pedal won't bend or break.


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    • profile image

      Tim Quinlan 7 years ago

      Great advice. I didn't know you could adjust so many things. I'm going on my first 8000 km ride Thursday & my 2003 Road king, I bought it off a taller rider. My heels hurt after a few hours. Can you adjust the foot boards farther back to even the pressure on my feet? New hwy pegs help. How do you get the cover off to adjust the handlebars?

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 7 years ago from Toronto

      Thanks! Ride safe!

    • Hugo Diaz profile image

      Hugo Diaz 7 years ago from Minnesota

      Nice hub. Love motorcycles!