Loose motorcycle handlebars can be more than just annoying; they can be dangerous.
If your bike’s bars slip while riding, it can throw your front tire, cause unexpected throttle input, pop the clutch out, release the brakes, etc.
Bars on motorcycles do more than controlling the steering—they house the controls to some of the most fundamental riding components, but just how do you fix loose handlebars on a motorcycle?
Here’s the Short Answer to How to Fix Loose Handlebars on a Motorcycle:
Adding lock-tight to your riser bolts is a sure-fire way to fix loose handlebars on a motorcycle. It also helps to loosen the rear bolts first and to use a torque wrench, not an Allen key, as hand-turned Allen keys don’t generate the spec torque required for proper riser bolt tension.
The first thing to do when your handlebars come loose is to pull the riser bolts out of your riser.
Then, apply red Loctite to the riser bolts before torquing down the bar.
When you tighten your bars, you want to use an Allen socket wrench to achieve the torque required to tighten them down. As we mentioned above, a hand-turned Allen key won’t do the trick.
We also suggest tightening the rear riser bolts first before you tighten the front. Tightening the rear bolts first bypasses the slippage that potentially happens when you start with the front bolts, as the torque can pull the bars forward.
Follow those three basic steps to stop your motorcycle’s handlebars from slipping while riding.
If you really want to take some preventative steps, or if your bike bar situation requires a little extra TLC, here are a few pro tips from some custom bike builders:
USE 150 grit sandpaper-measure your clamp and how wide it is and cut out a piece of sandpaper. Trim the piece to fit inside the bars and clamp down the bars. Works in a pinch, but not the best option as paper wears down over time.
Emery cloth use the same as sandpaper in step one, but use emery cloth instead. A little more durable then paper but still not a great option for over time.
Similar to the sandpaper and emery cloth method, you can also use some aluminum mesh, the stuff made for use with wood screws. The wood-screw-mesh has a harsh surface, which makes them durable but forces you to really shove and hammer down on the bar clamps to get them inside. Still, once you get them in there, they’ll keep those bars in place.
You can also use a rasp, a tool made for filing or scraping down metal objects to create textured grooves inside your riser clamps and handlebars. These grooves will increase the friction at the points of contact.
Here are a few more motorcycle handlebar tips from the bike building pros:
Lapping compound used on the handlebars. It is a grinding and lapping compound, that is a mild abrasive. It is great for valves to make sure they seal properly. You can apply it inside the risers to help the bars grip better.
Cut a beer can and shim the risers. Similar to some of other methods, is putting a piece of the beer can inside the risers- great for ‘side of the road’ fixes. It will work to help clamp your bars down.
How Can I Stop My Motorcycle Handlebars from Moving?
You can tach-weld your motorcycle handle bars to the risers if you’re really adamant about stopping your bike’s handlebars from moving while you’re riding.
I’ve noticed that the tall, ape-hanger bars have a tendency to slip more so than straight bars and beach bars, likely due to the extra torque put on them when riders pull back and down on them.
The added length and weight of the metal bar material add pressure to the bolts in your riser.
So you’re riding your bike with your fancy new ape hangers on it; you know, the real tall handlebars that pull your hand up high in the air.
You installed them yourself, tightened the riser bolts, hop in the saddle and let it rip but as soon as you squeeze the throttle, your bars slip down in the riser!
One ape-hanger enthusiast had this to say:
Mine only slipped when I hit a big hole and pulled back on them. I move them back and torqued down the bolts, they have been good so far. Some guys have wrapped a piece of rubber tube around the bar inside the clamp.
The rubber tube acts like the emery cloth and aluminum mesh we mentioned in the first section. The fact is that different styles of handlebars behave differently, and we’ll get into why they slip in the first place in the next section.
For now, we can say that ape-hangers are more prone to slipping than other bars, depending on how you install them.
Or, as one rider put it:
I’ve put a couple of sets on different bikes and the biggest thing I’ve found is that once they are are on they are like mag rims on cars once you ride a little you have to go back and retighten them. The last 3 sets i put on I got them tight as all get out rode or had the guys ride about 100 miles and then comeback and i would retighten. everytime i got about a 1/3 of a turn on each screw and the slippages have not been happening since i started this. ialso knowthe emery cloth thing works but have not tried it.
What Causes the Handlebars to Get Loose?
Damage and wear and tear on a motorcycle’s suspension and riding on old tires are the main reasons motorcycle handlebars come loose, as the riser and riser bolts are forced to pick up the slack when the shocks and tires aren’t absorbing road impact, like potholes and bumps, etc.
Suspension is a fundamental part of motorcycle performance and handling.
If your suspension springs are past their prime, if your fork seals are blown, or if your suspension is simply tuned improperly, your motorcycle riding dynamics can shift dramatically.
If the suspension gets soft enough to allow front-end wobbling, vibration will travel up through your handlebars, and your tires will absorb as much of the slack as they can.
This wears your tires faster until your bars eventually absorb the bulk of the vibration caused by any impact with potholes and bumps on rough roads.
This vibration eventually causes the riser bolts to loosen, and the slightest pressure will cause your motorcycle handlebars to loosen while riding.
- A poorly adjusted chain can throw your wheel alignment out of whack, increasing vibration and wear on your tires, eventually loosening handlebars.
- In some cases, riders adjust the suspension in their rear but don’t adjust the front.
Motorcycle suspension is a dynamic operation.
Changes in one wheel’s shocks affect the physics of the other; significant retuning in the rear needs to be accommodated for in the front suspension, otherwise it won’t absorb the shock like it’s intended to.
In short, suspension issues increase the wear on your tires and can cause additional vibration in the handlebars. Once absorbed by your risers, that vibration loosens the riser bolts and, therefore, your motorcycle’s handlebars.