If your bike has standard fitment one-piece handlebars and you want a tucked-in race-style riding position, then lower clip-on bars, which bolt directly to the fork legs, are the answer to your problem.
Alternatively, if your bike already comes with fixed-position clip-ons, you can replace them with clip-ons that have some adjustment to raise, lower or alter the angle of the bar section to ease pressure on wrists and arms, or make them easier to reach. Aftermarket clip-ons are also often cheaper than original parts if your bars have been damaged.
Don’t think about it if…
You don’t know your left from your right.
Stuff you’ll need
A socket set (consisting of 8-17mm sockets minimum), combination spanners (8-19mm), various styles of screwdriver (Phillips and flat-bladed), Allen keys (from 4-10mm), a tape measure, new handlebar grips, a torque wrench, and a big socket for removing the steering head bolt in the top yoke.
What can go wrong?
Cables and hoses may need to be re-routed, and in some cases may need replacing for longer items – especially if you’re raising the height of the handlebar section.
What else do I need to know?
Basically, you need to have a clear understanding that clip-ons are far more than decorative lumps of metal – they are as important to the rider as the bike’s engine or wheels because they control the steering. Get it wrong and you can badly affect the bike’s ability to turn or brake – with obvious consequences. On the positive side, it’s a relatively simple job that is relatively difficult to cock up.
1. Price dictates what sort of clip-on to go for. For all-aluminium, lightweight items with adjustability and a quick-release system then expect to pay a lot. If it’s a simple matter of going racing then cheap, all-steel clip-ons are a little heavier but more crash resistant. These Gilles items (above) have adjustment, and are well priced at £200.
2. Before removing the original bars, check the area you’re going to bolt them to. Some clip-ons fit above the top yoke. Unless tailor-made replacement clip-ons are used then there’s a good chance they’ll be too big to fit on the small amount of fork sticking through the top yoke – pushing the forks through more may help, but will affect handling.
3. Remove the bar’s end weights (if fitted) and then remove the throttle housing (on right). Remember to slacken the throttle cable(s) so they can be unhooked from the throttle tube – wrap tape round one cable and mark the corresponding hole on the tube. Remove the front brake master cylinder and any switchgear. Repeat on the left-hand side.
4. If the clip-ons aren’t of the quick-release variety (the fork clamp part is hinged) then the top yoke will have to be removed, or the forks lowered through the yoke. If lowering the forks the bike needs to be secured on a rear paddock stand and the front end lifted (we’ve done that above by using a car jack and wooden blocks under the motor).
5. To remove the top yoke loosen the fork pinch bolts and undo the nut on top of the steering head shaft. Sports bikes have large nuts and need a socket and wrench to undo. Spanners are ok but can’t be used to torque the nut down when you put it back on. The Ducati above needs a special key to undo the top yoke nut.
6. Check that the original clip-ons aren’t bolted to the top yoke to stop them turning if the bike falls over. If they are they need separating. Now loosen the clip-ons’ pinch bolts. Carefully slide the old clip-ons up and off the fork legs. If they’re bent throw them away, but if they’re fine keep them safe for use as spares.
7. On some bikes - like the Ducati pictured - the switchgear and master-cylinder brackets are pegged to keep them in a set position on the bars. You could drill holes in the new clip-ons but effectively you’re weakening the bar. Depending on the type of peg fitted, you’ll need either molegrips to tug them out, a sharp knife to cut them off (like the plastic ones above) or a file to grind them off.
8. Slip the new bars’ mounts over the fork legs and refit the top yoke, remembering to torque up the central nut (get the figure from your dealer) and then tighten the yoke pinch bolts. Position the clip-ons. If putting them lower than the originals and the forks are upside-down, make sure the clamps sit on the thicker, upper part of the fork leg.
9. Slide the bars into their clamps then tighten up. Check they don’t foul the tank or any part of the bike when turned lock-to-lock. Fit a new left grip (which has a smaller inner diameter than the throttle grip) leaving room to fit the switchgear and brake lever bracket. Refit the original bar weights (if their fixing method is compatible with the new bars).
10. If existing cables and hoses aren’t long enough to fit taller or adjustable clip-ons, then throttle and clutch cables (and wiring) may be able to be re-routed. If they can’t then you’ll have to get new cables made up. Hydraulic brake and clutch lines are best sorted with one-off braided steel replacements.
11. Now refit the right-hand switchgear and throttle tube and reconnect the throttle cable(s). Make sure there is at least an eighth of an inch free-play on the throttle – too tight and the cable will be pulled when the bars are turned, causing engine revs to rise. You can apply a small amount of soft grease to the bar for slick throttle movement.
12. The finishing stroke is to climb on the bike and check for a symmetrical feel. If it feels wrong, measure from the end of each bar to a reference point on the headstock. Check the front brake master cylinder’s mounting bracket fluid is level. Finally, check again for any fouling and double check you’ve tightened the various clamp bolts correctly.