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Old 12-11-2014, 07:14 AM   #1
mikem9 OP
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Handlebar width and stability/handling

What are the effects of different handlebar widths on stability and handling of a street bike?
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Old 12-11-2014, 07:42 AM   #2
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Wider bars = more leverage
Narrow bars = less leverage
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Old 12-11-2014, 10:59 AM   #3
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Pretty much it.
Ever get lost? You know, that good kind of lost - come to a dirt road intersection and you have no idea where you are or which way to turn? I like when that happens!

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Old 12-11-2014, 11:51 AM   #4
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But, what are the practical effects of less leverage or more leverage, especially when riding twisties at a decent pace. Has anyone put wider or narrower bars on your bike?

The reason I'm asking is I've been messing with my handlebars and risers on my 03 Bandit 1200s. I put pretty wide bars vs. stock as a first step. Seemed to improve my ability to ride twisties, although at 29.5 inches, I'm thinking about trimming a little off - maybe 1/2 inch off each side.

Stage two, I bought some risers which put my handlebars 1" up and 1 3/8 back towards me. This combo of the wider handlebars and riser/pullback made the handling feel kind of "twitchy" in the twisties. I assume because of less weight on the front of the bike with the risers.

So now I'm trying to learn about the components of the changes i made.
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Old 12-11-2014, 04:08 PM   #5
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By putting the wider bars on you have improved the leverage you can apply when turning. Low speed turning in restricted spaces (car parks etc) will be much easier. Initiating low and medium speed turns will be much easier. Expect to suffer at higher speeds as you are presenting more of yourself to the wind.

I found the standard bars on a 1200S Bandit to be too low. I experimented with MX bars (good but affected handling at speed and in traffic), straight risers and risers with pull back but in the end ended up with a set of narrow bars which were another 3" higher which worked as the best compromise.

Adding risers with a pull back will make the steering more vague but will increase comfort. Try living with it for a few weeks. Either you will adapt or not. If you can´t adapt lose the risers or find a set of bars with a more suitable bend.

I remember riding a friend´s K1100LT which had rubber mounted bars (I´m guessing to reduce vibration). The first mile I rode felt incredibly weird, not being used to bars moving vertically up and down. After borrowing it for a day I didn´t even notice the bars moving.
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Old 12-11-2014, 04:44 PM   #6
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Back in the day when I was building production roadrace bikes for other people, I eliminated weaving in corners on several machines by persuading the riders to try using shorter bars.

Their logic said they needed wider/higher bars for more leverage, but they were having no success (rules at the time predicated no chassis modifications in the classes they were riding, and we'd tried all the usual stuff with raising/lowering forks, messing with shock settings, etc etc etc).

My logic said the riders could have been perpetuating weaves by reacting, and the best thing they could do was reduce inputs and use the 2 bloody great gyroscopes under them to sort the weaves out.

I was right.

Just another perspective.
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Old 12-13-2014, 01:48 AM   #7
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Works like this, I had a bike with wide bars go into a tank-slapper one day, the leverage allowed me to save it, alas, it also tore my right bicep off the bone, it probably would have hurt less falling off ;).

Off road, you really need that, on seal, not so much.

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Old 12-21-2014, 12:16 PM   #8
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I have a 2002 BMW R1150RS which has pretty narrow rubber mounted bars. At speed you turn with counter steering and weighting a peg, and it takes very little effort, even in tight road turns, like those that are posted at 10 MPH, but can be taken easily at 20+ mph. I also ride this bike on gravel several times a year, for practice or just to see what is out there. The shorter bars have never been an issue. I have been lost and ended up on easy 2 track, and the bars were not an issue there either. That time the goal was NOT breaking expensive body or bodywork in a tip over. Maybe that is just a BMW thing with the suspension isolating braking forces from turning forces. I would not know, I am happy with what I have. I would not make them any wider.

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Old 12-21-2014, 08:31 PM   #9
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As I have a habit of riding adventurously on inappropriate bikes, I very much enjoy wider straighter bars somewhat akin to dirt bike types. the leverage it gains me has kept me in control and upright many times, where smaller bars have not always worked out so well.
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Old 12-21-2014, 09:25 PM   #10
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The wider the bars, the less force is needed to turn them, but the further you have to move them.
That explains why there are wide bars needed offroad, because some obstacle hitting your front wheel might push it another way than you want with might.
For road use on the other hand, as in modern aviation it's best when the bars don't move at all and you can stay in your optimum body position.
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Old 12-22-2014, 12:10 AM   #11
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I like wide bars, narrow bars make the bike handle heavy and slow. I ran low narrow bars (stock) and S fairing earlier this year to help in the winds I was riding into on the way home from work. Apart from the heavier slower steering I found the bike more stable at walking pace - with wide bars (mine are flattrack bars) you are constantly over correcting at those speeds, the narrow bars slow the steering down so much there is no more weave. Not what I was expecting. I have gone back to my wide bars, I'll put up with the hammering in the wind for more control.
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Old 12-22-2014, 09:21 AM   #12
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wide bars

The biggest difference for me is ergonomics.

I hardly ever notice the leverage differences too much.

I'm tall with long arms (38" sleeves) and having wide bars "opens up my chest" and let's me breathe a little easier.

Try it on your bike. Grab the bars inside the hand grips where your hands are only 12" apart and ride like that for a few miles, then do the same with hands on the grips, then try it with your hands just on the very outside of the grips. Not a huge difference for a few miles, but it adds up over a 12 hour day in the saddle.

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Old 12-22-2014, 03:02 PM   #13
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Body dimensions and bar mount & bar size matters.

Very slow tight right turns require the left arm fully extended and control of the clutch. Reach too far and clutch control might be hindered, or control the clutch and don't reach far enough. Ditto with slow tight left turns & throttle control.

Hanging off matters. If the body is hung off to the inside the outside arm needs to reach across and remain relaxed. (Or help support the body, not the best practice, but might be happening.) Proper bar & mount fit for the bike & the rider's body matters.

I don't need leverage. Countersteering a well designed chassis is easy. I need comfort. Relax the face, neck, shoulders, torso, arms, wrists, hands, let the elbows drop down, and the bars should place the hands in a comfortable position. If not, fix the bike dimensions.
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Old 12-23-2014, 05:50 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by ROAD DAMAGE View Post
The biggest difference for me is ergonomics.

I believe that ergonomics are the most important factor

leverage doesn't happen if your muscles get cramped from a contorted position
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