Making your bike fit your body can be a long process.
My used R came with a standard low seat; it was too low and too hard. I bought the bike just as the BMW Comfort seats were appearing; none was available used, and I didn’t want to order a new untried seat at BMW prices. After trying both medium and tall stock seats, I settled (that’s a pun) on a medium.
Then I lowered the rider’s pegs with the Suburban Machinery kit. My legs were happier, but my left foot wasn’t: with the lower pegs, the shift lever tab was in the wrong place; the lever couldn’t be adjusted because it’d foul the sidestand. Using parts from Touratech and Ace Hardware, I fabricated a new shift lever that moved the shift tab to the right location. Shifting improved a lot.
In hopes of making the handlebar more comfortable, I added a set of 25mm risers. This made the rider’s ergonomics a little better.
By then, the stock seat was demonstrating its poor shape. Starting around the modification circle a second time, I rode up to Rich’s in Kingston WA for a custom seat made on the stock BMW seat pan. Rich’s seat was a wonderful improvement.
But the handlebars were still not right. The stock R1200R bars were too wide, and I didn’t like the grip angle - I wanted more pullback (grips pulled in more towards the bike’s centerline) and more drop (pointing down). While the stock bars can be rotated a little bit in the risers, angle change at the grips was imperceptible and the excess width remained. I longed for the just-right grip position of the Oilhead I rode before.
Rob Tharalson at Thar Engineering
offers the most customizable bars I’ve seen. They’re made in three sections:
With these bars, everything can be adjusted. The center section can be rotated fore-and-aft , which changes the angle at which its end clamps hold the handle sections. The handle sections can each move up and down and rotate in their clamps. The handles have threaded end fittings to receive the stock bar-end weights. I ordered a 3” bend, consonant with the ~3” rise in the stock bars; Rob can make other radii. He also makes handle sections with welded angles rather than radiused bends.
He supplies the handle dimensions and center section length you specify, to achieve the width, height, drop, and pullback you wish. However, each of the four variables interacts with the others. For example, if you adjust for more pullback, the grips will be closer to the tank and may strike it at full lock. Thus, to maintain adequate tank clearance, increased pullback may require that the bars be raised. Neither grips, nor switches, nor your fingers should contact the tank at full lock.
To ascertain how long the various bar sections should be, I spent a lot of time with the bike before ordering, visualizing where I wanted the grips. I made several cardboard test profiles. I found that increased pullback did decrease tank clearance, but was surprised to discover that the also-desired reduction in width moved the grip switches inward over a bulge in the tank to a location that actually provided more tank clearance. I worried that my visualizations might be inaccurate, and ordered the vertical handle sections a bit longer than I measured so I’d be able to raise the bars for clearance if necessary.
Installation of the new bars was not complicated. I covered the tank, removed the controls from the stock bar (there are some pretty small Torx screws in the switch housings) hanging the two hydraulic reservoirs on the windscreen frame, and removed the bar. Then I installed the new bars with only the grips mounted to test placement. The risers remained: on the R, 25mm risers are needed to provide clearance between the Thar Bar’s center section end clamps and the top face of the bike’s triple clamp.
I tried a lot of different combinations of heights and angles to find the best adjustment. After several hours of Quality Garage Time, I found the combination of placement and angles that worked for me:
Sitting on the bike, the correct position was immediately apparent. The angle of the grips is changed, and the bars are both narrower and further aft.
Mounting Details. The extra vertical handle length I specified turned out to be unneeded, and the extra length was cut off. The left (heated) grip is fastened to the handlebar with two small self-tapping screws, and a flange on the grip determines the angle at which the switch pod is mounted. Because I wanted to change the switch pod angle, I asked Rob to not drill the mounting holes; with no fasteners, the left grip rotated a bit, and was retained on the bar by the end weight. After I’ve ridden enough to be certain I have the adjustment correct, I'll hold the pod where I want it, and mark and drill holes for the self-tapping screws.
Plumbing. The upper front brake line runs from the master cylinder on the right grip to a junction block at the front of the tank. The stock line was long enough for the original handlebar with the risers, but was too short to reach the new bars’ position. I thought about using a stock line from an RT, but learned that an RT line would be too long.
I measured my setup carefully, and found that a new line, with the same end fittings and angles as on the stock line, would have to be 100mm longer than stock to reach the new grip position and provide sufficient slack for steering. One must pay attention to 1) the length of the line, 2) the pattern of the banjo fittings at the ends (i.e., the angle and direction that the banjo fittings’ metal lines emerge from the banjo ring), and 3) because the stainless steel line can bend but cannot twist, the relative orientation of the two end fittings. I had the Beemershop order the new line from Spiegler, and I was lucky as to #3: Spiegler’s line came with fittings that can be rotated on the hydraulic line to achieve the correct orientation, so that both banjo rings seated easily without torque on the hydraulic line. I don’t know how other manufacturers address this issue.
In changing the brake line, of course, the front brake circuit is opened and must be bled to ensure that no air bubbles remain in the system. The original clutch line was useable after I pulled the gas tank and changed its routing; the clutch hydraulic circuit did not need to be opened. The stock electrical lines were long enough. A lot of factory zip ties were cut and replaced.
Results. The improvement in rider comfort is stunning. Interestingly, the most significant change I wanted - alteration of the grip angle - was only a small adjustment from the stock position. While I thought I wanted a little more drop, my hands and wrists and arms really liked a lot
of drop. The bars certainly look different - the greater drop reminds me of bikes from the 1920s, and the bars are a bit more than 4” narrower than stock:
Here’s a comparison: stock bars above, Thar Bars below, both with the 1” risers in place.
I like to think I’m generally good-natured, but I’m really