Monday, October 15, 2012

XS750 Restoration, part 2 -- Clubman Handlebars

While waiting for the front brake parts to arrive, the Clubman cafe racer handlebars I ordered showed up. If you are ever looking for motorcycle parts on E-Bay, I highly recommend TheAlphaMoto. The handlebars I ordered appear to be well made, both the shipping and product prices were reasonable, and shipping speed was beyond fast.

Having never replaced a set of motorcycle handlebars before, I didn't know how difficult to expect this to be. As it turns out, for the most part, it wasn't too bad, but there were a couple of snags...but I'm getting ahead of my story :)

I started by loosening the bolt that clamps the clutch control and left-hand rear view mirror to the handlebar, loosening the two screws on the underside of the turn signal/high-beam/horn switch housing, and removing the left hand-grip. The hand-grips should be pretty snug on the handlebars, so I tried a trick I had learned of while installing heating grips on my V-Strom: blowing the grips loose with compressed air. It worked like a charm!

I don't yet have the brake lever I ordered from E-Bay, nor do I have the stainless steel brake lines, so I had to come up with some way of keeping what little brake fluid there was in the lines from making a mess all over the garage floor. Seeing no better option, I wadded up a paper towel and inserted it in the banjo fitting on the brake line, and stuffed another paper towel in the reservoir. Here's where I ran into my first snag: I could not figure out how to remove the brake light switch from the brake perch. I finally pried it loose with a screwdriver, but not without breaking the switch itself.

Next, I removed the throttle from the handlebars, removed the four allen bolts that tighten the handlebar clamps to the triple tree, and removed the handlebars. It kind of looks like Medusa here, with wires and cables and such flying every which way :)

I began installing the new handlebars by sliding the clutch lever perch on, then the turn signal/high-beam/horn switch housing, and finally the left hand-grip (although the hand-grips will be replaced by E-Bay replacement gel grips).

In this photo, I have the throttle housing back in place, even though I am still waiting on the brake lever.

The (almost) complete installation. I couldn't believe what a difference simply replacing the handlebars made on this bike. Before, it was just another vintage UJM, with a bad paint job, a really ugly seat, and so-twenty-five-years-ago handlebars. Now it's just another UJM with a bad paint job, a really ugly seat, and some seriously cool cafe racer handlebars :) Okay, that was a little harsh. In my opnion, the new handlebars make the bike look at least 50MPH faster than the that's-so-seventies monstrosities that Yamaha put on the bike, but I'm a proud papa, so take that for what it's worth :D

Best of all, I was pleasantly surprised with the comfort level of the new bars. With the rake and anhedral on the bars, I expected them to be mildly to somewhat uncomfortable, but they honestly weren't bad at all, at least for the twenty minutes I spent sitting on the bike in my racing leathers making "vroom-vroom" noises (I kid, I kid!). I'm not saying I'd like to make another twelve-hour, 450 mile marathon ride with these handlebars -- I'm limber, but I don't think my back would tolerate that much abuse; after all, I'm over 40 now :) -- but for commuting back and forth to work and such, these should be just fine.

Unfortunately, I also discovered that swapping high, swooping handlebars with low-slung cafe bars isn't simply a plug-and-play affair. The clutch cable had to make a pretty tight curve to exit the way it was originally routed, and it was a good six inches too long now. Likewise, I have excess electrical wire, and the throttle cable needs to be adjusted and possibly rerouted as well. I didn't realize how significant these changes were until I started playing with the clutch and found it remarkably stiff. It was so stiff, in fact, that I actually broke the ball end loose (I think it was already frayed) while trying to work the clutch. So...I'll have to add a new, shorter clutch cable to the parts list, and maybe a new, shorter throttle cable as well.

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