Saturday, 18 April 2015

Project: Enduro Type Handlebar

So far I have been really pleased with the stock handlebar on my Electra 5s (CI). However, during my Leh tour, there were times when I felt the stress on my arms, mostly shoulders, and I faced difficulty in maneuvering my loaded bull on tricky mountain routes with stones and gravel. Though being 'fit n strong' (ahem!) helped me manage those patches, but definitely I wouldn't like to keep stressing my limbs every time I ride through such terrains. As they increase the possibility of an injury. As the trip provided tons of first hand experiences with pain being the least exciting of all, I almost forgot about it after coming back. After my return last year in August, I have done some serious off-roading, during my ride to Mandalpatti Peak. Where me and a buddy took a cycling trail through the mountains. It was hell of a fun doing off-roading(post coming soon). Only few days back I was checking online for some touring mods on my ride and all the mental notes I had taken during the Leh-trip came right back. And here I am with my first mod project: 'The Best Touring handlebar for RE Electra'.

Best Handlebars for Highway Cruising:

So far the most comfy bars I have used were on the big Harley's (partly the comfort was due to the punchy torque and comfy/plush seating). Among bulls, Thunderbird I believe has the most comfy handlebars as stock, as they keep your arms flexed at all time and hence adding no stress on long hours of highway cruising. BUT there is a catch, the cruising bars are not confidence inspiring for dirt/off-road/aggressive riding, as it provides a more pulled back seating posture. Which means, it does not give you that forward leaning stance, which off-road riding requires. Now coming to the looks of those bars, they mostly go well with a laid back cruiser looking bikes like Thunderbird (or the mighty RE Lightning 535 of yesteryear). Electra however is a totally different deal. It comes as a retro looking, blank canvas and it inspires imagination in stock form. Actually the design is very basic and that is what excites buyers (mostly seasoned bikers), to think how they can customize and make it unique. It can be given any look based on your taste. So far I have kept mine looking like a chromed cruiser with bit of vintage look and feel with the stock handlebars. However now after my extensive off-road riding (which is what most of the Leh-Ladakh route can be termed as), I am very much looking forward to try out an enduro/rally setup on my bike. More on this setup in a later post. For now, lets stick to the project at hand. 

Best Handlebars for Adventure Touring (Cruising + Off-roading):

Now I did my search and reading around to know which would be the best handle bar for my needs (touring + off-roading) of the moment. After digging around for few days, I could zero in on the 'RD350' handlebar with center rod. Its not the first time I am seeing or hearing about this particular design. Its been there since Enfields are being customized (which is like for ever!). But what convinced me for this one is the fact that, its the most commonly used handlebar on all rally/trail enfields, without exception.

DISCLAIMER: Images below are not mine and owned by their respective owners. I have used them here for reference only.

 I could guess the reason why. On mud/dirt/gravel this gives that upright stance to maneuver this heavy bike. And the center rod along with the bar-end weights takes care of the characteristic vibes generated by the bull. This bar I could feel is taller and a bit* wider than the stock handlebar, which will make cruising a bit more enjoyable am sure. Well these all are my expectations, based on my experience with similar handlebars. After riding for a while with this new set, I will definitely post an update.

The Hunt:

For this mod, instead of me going out hunting for the accessories, I posted a query in one of the RE pages on fb. Though I wasn't expecting much, but some people like Jijo, Hitesh and Anirudh came forward with suggestions and their experience with the bars etc, which turned out to be very informative. If you guys reading this post, a big 'Thank you'.

Keeping a copy of thread in case you are walking the same path while modding your steed.

The Purchase:

Initially I thought of visiting JC road with the bike and getting the job (purchase and fitting) done there. Then I got free from work a bit late and didn't had time to drop my car and pick the bike to visit JC road. So directly drove there and picked up a mint looking RD350 rally-type handlebar with center rod and end threaded holes (to fit bar-end weights) for 280 bucks. Seeing the (perceived) quality of build of this bar, I would say I am impressed. It feels sturdier than I had expected and fit and finish looks good. Have a look for yourself.

Rider side (rear) view

Front side view

Hole with threading for fitting the bar-end weights

Plastic sheet wrapping on the whole bar to protect the paint and finish. Nice touch! :)

As tomorrow is a shutdown in the city ('Karnataka Bandh' due to Kaveri water dispute), mostly all shops/garages will remain closed. I had to visit the bank for some work, but that's not gonna happen now. So why not get my hands dirty and get this rod fitted myself :) 

Morning I will get to it and if possible will try recording the process and 'gotcha's and will post the updates here. So stay tuned!!

Update [18/04/2015] : Today I swapped the handlebars. Quite a task but I enjoyed it thoroughly. Steps available in a new post, you can access here. This evening I finally took the bike out on the streets, both busy city roads (still much less than peak hour traffic though) as well as open roads where I rode a bit faster (within allowed limits of course). Here are my first impressions:

  • Shoulder and arms quite relaxed all through the ride (compared to stock)
  • It feels easy to filter through tight spaces between big vehicles moving slow on city roads (this was difficult with stock handle, as when riding slow it use to take lot of effort and strength to maneuver it)
  • Due to this newfound agility and effortless maneuvering, I think I was riding a bit faster than usual and kinda aggressively (compared to my usual riding style). I am sure this is more due to the excitement of the new setup and will mild down as I get back to riding more.
  • The bike no more feels like a cruiser from rider's PoV. It looks and feels more like a dirt/enduro bike (not sure what else I was expecting here! lol)
I think a long trip would help me in evaluating the new setup in detail. Will try and update that when it happens.

Update [05/05/2015] : Completed a 1200 KMs trip through Tamilnadu and Kerala and could confirm the new handlebar is a gem. Lots of ghat section riding too and really happy with the way the motorcycle handles now with the new setup.

Ride Safe & Ride Far,


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