The shape of a motorcycle’s handlebars affects the rider’s comfort, steering, and ease of handling, thereby making it an important part of the bike’s setup. So, if they’re out of shape for whatever reason, you may be curious as to how you can bend your motorcycle handlebars.
The 4 steps to bend your motorcycle handlebars are:
- Hold a metal pipe over the handlebars
- Insert a long metal rod into this pipe
- Heat the area you want to bend
- Pull on the rod to bend the handlebars
At some point, every motorcycle falls on its side and breaks the clutch or brake lever, indicator light, and sometimes bends the handlebar as well. Removing a slight bend isn’t difficult, so keep reading to find out the details of how it can be done.
Why Would You Want To Adjust Your Motorcycle Handlebars?
Every rider has different lengths of arms. Some increase in comfort can be gained by simply loosening the handlebar clamp bolts and adjusting the handlebar tilt forward or backward until it feels right.
Riders with shorter reach can benefit by adjusting the handlebar angle towards the rider, while others might prefer the handlebar to be vertical. It’s all a matter of what is comfortable for the individual and personal preference. Sometimes you need to bend your handlebars back into the right shape after an incident, and other times you may just wish to alter the shape for added comfort.
Should You Bend Your Motorcycle Handlebars?
As long as the bend is slight, it is worth attempting to correct it only if you have a long metal rod and a metal pipe to use to bend it back. A handlebar that is badly bent isn’t worth wasting your time on, although if the new one is very expensive you can give the old one to your machine shop and see what they can do.
Bear in mind that the chrome plating or paint on the handlebar is going to take a beating, especially if you need to heat it up, so be prepared to spend on a touch-up paint job, or getting partial chrome plating done. Of course, after it is completed, the handlebar should be as good as new.
The Construction Of Motorcycle Handlebars
Motorcycle handlebars are usually made from steel tubes of 3/4 inch or 1-inch diameter and then chrome plated. Cheaper motorcycles use painted aluminum alloy tubes, which do not have the same strength as steel. When a motorcycle falls, and if there is no crash guard, the handlebar and indicator lights take the brunt of the fall.
While the indicator light assembly can be replaced easily and cheaply, replacing the bent handlebar can be an expensive job, so it might be worth exploring your options to bend it back into its original shape. The handlebar is fitted on top of the front fork by using two clamps held with four bolts, about six inches apart. If the bend is slight, the handlebar does not need to be removed.
They Need A Lot Of Force
Steel tube handlebars require a considerable amount of force to bend them. If the bend is clearly visible, the handlebar needs to be removed and taken to any nearby machine shop that has bending equipment to have it bent back into shape, as it is beyond your scope to bend it at home. To access these clamps, the headlight assembly has to be removed first as they are directly under it.
The throttle and clutch assemblies also have to be opened before the handlebar can be taken off the bike. If the bend is really bad, the better choice is to buy a new handlebar. Steel tube handlebars are more expensive, but the aluminum alloy ones are much cheaper. If a new handlebar isn’t available, take the old handlebar to any machine shop with bending equipment and get it done there.
KEY POINTS• You might need to bend your motorcycle handlebars if they’re out of shape after a drop or crash
• You may be able to bend them at home, or it might be worth simply buying new ones
• Handlebars are tough, and they’re difficult to bend without a lot of force
4 Steps To Bend Your Motorcycle Handlebars
1. Hold A Metal Pipe Over The Handlebars
You will need a metal pipe, preferably iron of about 2 inches in diameter and 12 inches long. Place this pipe on the side of the handlebar that needs to be bent, and this should be strong enough to not bend under the forces required to bend the handlebars. Note that you may need to remove the brake or clutch lever before doing this step if it blocks the pipe from being put on the handlebar.
2. Insert A Long Metal Rod Into This Pipe
For this step, you are going to use a long metal rod, the longer the better, as it gives you the leverage to bend the handlebar. A good length to start with is at least 5 feet. Insert the metal rod into the pipe that you just placed over the end of the handlebar. This metal rod is going to give you the leverage to do the job, so using a short rod might not work.
3. Heat The Area You Want To Bend
Once you have placed the pipe over the handlebar and inserted a metal rod into the pipe, heat the area that needs to be bent using a propane torch or a blowtorch. Before doing this, all petrol from the tank needs to be drained out, and be aware that the chrome plating or paint on this area is going to be badly affected. If the bend is slight, you may not need to use heat at all.
Ideally, before using heat, attempt to bend the handlebar using the leverage of the metal rod alone. If you are unable to bend it, then apply heat, but only after observing the precautions described above.
4. Pull On The Rod To Bend The Handlebars
Now that the rod is in the pipe on the handlebar, pull in the desired direction until the handlebar bends. This is much easier said than done because the steel tube needs a lot of force to bend it. It isn’t possible for you to exert sufficient force to bend it without the leverage provided by the rod, and it might not be enough without heat.
To complete this job, you might need a few people to help you out. Get a friend to sit on the motorcycle and hold it steady, and have you and another friend pull on the iron rod. Two people are enough to apply enough force to bend it, but the end result might not be quite what you expected as the handlebar may not bend in the place you expect it to.
How To Straighten Bent Motorcycle Handlebars
Straightening bent motorcycle handlebars is exactly the same as bending them, but there is a slight risk of creating a kink in the steel tube. If the bend to be straightened is very slight, a kink may not appear, but the risk is always there, and you cannot know the end result until the job is completed. This is why it may be worth getting it done at a shop, or just buying new handlebars.
Why Does A Kink Appear When Straightening The Handlebar?
Motorcycle handlebars are manufactured in the factory from steel pipes that are straight, and are then bent by special bending machines so that their finish is perfect without any kinks on the surface of the tube. Any kinks that do appear are removed by grinding after which it is chrome plated or painted according to the bike’s design.
When a steel tube is bent, one side of the steel of the tube is stretched, while the steel on the opposite side of the tube is compressed. The stretched metal is also thinner and weaker than the rest of the metal, but this isn’t a problem as long as it is within limits. If the bend is to be removed, the stretched part of the steel has to be compressed, which causes the kink.
There is no way around this, except by grinding any raised parts of the kink, or by using a metal filler to cover up the wrinkles and then grinding the excess filler away before applying paint over it. This still doesn’t change the fact that the kink is a weak area, unless it is reinforced by welding additional metal on top. Perfectionists can take this route to restore it to be as good as new.
Prevention Is Better Than Cure
Although it is rare that a handlebar needs replaced, the best way to avoid it is to keep your kickstand in good condition, and ensure it isn’t bent. Hard roads aren’t very forgiving when a bike falls on them, and this is where the maximum damage takes place, especially to the handlebar.
If the handlebar on your old bike needs replaced and you can’t get a new one, ask around for a machine shop that has bending equipment as they can correct it back to its original condition. Another option is to get it bent in the machine shop according to the original specifications, and then get it chrome plated, but this could turn out to be an expensive affair.
Bent motorcycle handlebars can often be fixed at home, but sometimes they warrant a complete replacement. However, if the bend is slight, and you don’t mind the risk of damaging the handlebars further, you can bend them at home with a bit of brute force and some heat.