Contributor Todd Parkes replaces the levers on his Honda CBR500R
Standard levers supplied with most motorcycles are ugly, generic, mass-produced, chrome, longish and cheap. Many are not adjustable, so people with big or small hands never feel quite comfortable and most just feel cheap to handle.
And they will break even if you just drop your bike off its sidestand. Even if the lever just bends it will probably snap if you try to straighten it.
Whether your taste is sports bikes and you want to feel racy and have a look not dissimilar to Marquez’s bike, or if you are on a laidback cruiser and want a bit more of a custom or stylish look, those levers have got to gain some attention.
While my bike is only entry level, I do enjoy it and want to personalise it.
The more I looked at those levers, the more I thought they looked all wrong.
Searching for levers
So I googled “levers” and found the cheapest were just $25 and they went right up to $400-plus.
My local stores on the Gold Coast didn’t have much in stock would only order them in. Most did not want me to look at anything under $300.
I’m all for supporting the locals but they have to be helpful and stock the parts affordably.
Back to the net and I came across Aussie company Rad Guard who also make great radiator protector guards.
They carry more than just radiator guards and their stock included sets of Evo1 brake and clutch lever sets for many popular models.
Their prices were very competitive with them sitting on a special at the moment for $189 (normally $230) plus postage.
I’d dealt with Radguard before for various bikes I had and their willingness to help and go beyond impressed me great.
I bought the extendable and foldable set for my CBR500 and they arrived via courier in three days at less than $1 dearer than standard mail.
I was impressed by the packaging, a labelled boxed set with bubble wrap and foam balls as well as a future purchase discount, a brand sticker and a gift stubby holder.
Fitting the levers
I watched a couple of YouTube clips on how to change the levers and thought it wouldn’t be too difficult.
It is a good idea to have a can of silicon lube at hand to squirt down the clutch cable as it often gets neglected, also to lightly lube the pivot points of the levers and mechanisms.
Be careful with the tools so as they don’t slip and mark those new levers which look beautifully coated.
The brake lever went on smoothly, no dramas.
The clutch one was a lot trickier.
Make sure to loosen off the lever adjustment to provide some “play”. It was really like replacing a brake cable on the old Malvern Star in a sense when hooking and unhooking the cable.
Have the manual nearby or the most relevant website to specify the freeplay you need. Check at both ends and don’t forget the locknut.
You will need to fiddle around with the freeplay to get it right, so don’t rely on a straight swap without adjustment.
Take it for a test ride and you might find they need another adjustment tweak to et them just right.
You can adjust the length of the levers through quite a range. The six-stop wheel adjusts the reach of the lever to suit your hand size.
My first ride with the new levers provided a noticeable improvement in feel over the original levers. The only negative was that the brake lever had some up/down freeplay in its mounting.
Personalising your bike is fun and this is one of the simplest and low-cost mods you can make to the look and feel of your bike.
HeliBars, maker of adjustable handlebars and risers, has developed a new handlebar for the BMW K 1600 B and K 1600 Grand America. Made of 28mm seamless German tubing, HeliBars uses its in-house, five-axis CNC mandrel bender to shape the handlebars with minimal distortion to the tubing. The handlebar is 2 inches closer to the rider and 1 inch wider than stock, retains stock lines and cables and has no crossbar for easier refueling. Available in black or silver powdercoat for $349.
Improve your 2013-2019 BMW R 1200 or R 1250 GS model’s comfort with a new Corbin saddle. Its more sculpted seating area and Comfort Cell foam will keep you comfy all day. Front saddle options include three heights, low, standard and high, all of which are compatible with the factory rear or can be matched with a Corbin passenger saddle. They’re all easy to install and work with your bike’s key lock. Prices start at $433 for non-heated saddles and $493 for heated options.
Moto Machines is now the exclusive U.S. distributor for English exhaust manufacturer Scorpion, and it has a new “Red Power” system that’s designed with a shorter, more circular silencer with a subtle taper, a machined billet end-cap and a laser-engraved logo for a classy appearance. Red Power exhausts are available in brushed stainless steel, matte black ceramic and satin titanium finishes, and fit a variety of European and Japanese sport, ADV and sport-touring bikes. See website for fitment and pricing details.
Twelve years after buying my 2006 Triumph Bonneville T100, with 38,000 miles on the odometer, the very conventional suspension was showing its age, the 41mm fork feeling somewhat less springy, the shocks a bit unbouncy.
I whined to EIC Tuttle, and he called up Race Tech, which happily offered to bring my bike up to date. Race Tech sent a pair of its G3-S IFP shock absorbers, a fork kit with new springs and its Gold Valve Emulators, which would effectively emulate the cartridge fork on many more sophisticated bikes.
To do the necessary wrenching I went to my local technician, Herb Varin at C&H Motorsports here in Central California. He pulled the fork apart and enlarged the holes in the damping rods, and drilled four new ones. The original holes would no longer be responsible for controlling the flow of oil, as the emulator deals with the compression damping, while the rebound damping is done by the oil viscosity. The emulators are held in place by the new springs, which are rated at 0.8 kg, suitable for my 230 pounds. The neat thing about these emulators is that they can be tuned by controlling the flow of oil; Race Tech advised me to use 15 weight. However, adjusting means pulling off the fork tops and fishing the emulators out, so it is not the simplest of tasks. And a bit messy.
Along with the fork kit, Race Tech sent along a pair of G3-S IFP shock absorbers, which come with preload and rebound damping adjustability. These have Internal Floating Pistons in their reservoirs, and preload was preset for my weight; a pinwrench is needed to alter the preload. The rebound damping has a hand-turned adjuster knob, one way for stiffer/slower, the other for softer/faster. Sag was set at the factory at about 30mm, and the spring rate is 2.2 kg.
The Bonnie is not going out on any racetrack, but the improved comfort and handling on my county roads has made a major difference. When leaning into a curve the occasional ripple seems to even out, and less harshness is evident on a rough road. Cruising around town the fork provides an excellent feeling of control, even when bouncing over manhole covers. I went out with several friends who have stock Bonnevilles, one who rides slightly more aggressively than I do, the other, less, and I like to say they were both a bit envious.
The springs ran $130, Gold Valve kit, $170, shocks, $900. If you send the fork off to Race Tech, the cost of installing the kit will be about $175. Of course, most riders, including myself, have the ability to change the shocks.
The only problem is that while I am happy with the settings that Race Tech advised me to use, I’m wondering what might happen with a little bit of fiddling. Who knows?
For more information, see your dealer or visit racetech.com.
Spectro Performance Oils’ Spectro Shine is a silicone-based spray-on cleaner/polish that gives your motorcycle, ATV, UTV, scooter, automobile, snowmobile or watercraft a showroom finish. It creates a protective barrier that keeps road grime, bugs, grease, dust, dirt and mud from sticking to polished surfaces. For the best results, first clean your vehicle with Spectro Motorcycle Wash and then finish with Spectro Shine. An 18-ounce can retails for $10.99.
What do bikers believe in the most? I’d venture a guess that the most common answer is freedom. When you’re going down the highway at 130km/h, you get the impression that the world is your playground. Nothing can stop you when you’re moving that fast, with the wind blowing in your face and all is right with the world. That feeling you get is freedom, and that’s what a motorcycle represents.
Even if you’ve never thought about it as such, your love of motorcycles can also be your pipeline to financial freedom. The motorcycle industry is currently experiencing some interesting changes. With those changes come a stream of new trends that a savvy entrepreneur with a love for two wheels and a motor could take advantage of.
If you want to make money with your love of riding, tap into these four trends that the motorcycle industry is experiencing.
1. Shifting to a Younger Demographic
The motorcycle industry was built by the Baby Boomer Generation. Their desire to get on the open road and enjoy all that life had to offer meant that the motorcycle lifestyle was a perfect match for them. However, as the Boomers grow older and start to retire, they just aren’t investing in the industry like they used to. That’s a problem in and of itself but it gets worse: there aren’t as many young riders to take their place.
That’s quickly changing. Execs of motorcycle manufacturers all over the globe are slowly starting to realise that they’ve failed to reach a younger, progressive, more diverse audience. And they’re working to change that. Gone are the big, flashy, $30K Harleys of yesteryear; in are the vintage cool models that harken back to the 50s and 60s, when motorbikes had their own unique edge. That, and they cost under $10K.
How You Can Bridge the Generational Gap
One of the biggest reservations Millennials have about getting into motorcycles is the cost. Already rattled by record levels of student debt and ever-growing inflation, Millennials are more frugal, whether they want to be or not. Buying a big, expensive Harley just seems like another unnecessary debt.
What they’re asking for is an easier, more inexpensive way to get into the lifestyle. Ride-sharing, which has been popularised by the Uber and Lyft models for cars, could easily be extended to motorcycles. You could rent out your own bike, or even develop your own mobile app centred around motorcycle ride-sharing.
2. The Rise of the Electronic Bike
There was a time when vehicles powered completely by electricity was the stuff of science fiction. With a greater emphasis on environmental conservation against the rising cost of fuel, automotive manufacturers across the globe are trying to turn science fiction into science fact. The motorbike industry is no exception.
A Super Charge for Your Bank Account
As the demand for electric bikes grows, manufacturers are going to invest more money into R&D and marketing towards these electric bikes. Many sources from within the industry and those who watch it closely say that electric bikes will be what saves the industry. By investing now, when giants like Harley Davidsons’ stocks are at their lowest point, you can enjoy a big return on your investment when those stocks grow.
3. Growth in Motorcycle Accessories
While actual sales of bikes have been slowing for the past few years, sales of motorcycle accessories have continued at a healthy pace. It may not seem apparent why at first, but consider the following:
As technology advances, helmets, pads, gloves, and the like become more lightweight and more supportive
Old accessories wear out and need replacing
Bikers who’ve lived their entire life riding on two wheels can’t ever have too much gear
When you consider all of the above it makes perfect sense. People may struggle to drop $15K on a new Ducati but it’s not too hard to get a $50 jacket with the logo of a beloved brand.
Give the People What They Want
No big mystery about how to tap into this steady source of revenue. If you want to make some good money through accessories, you need to start up an online business that sells them. The advantage of using a web-based platform is that you can opt for a drop-shipping model. This means that you don’t have to maintain or ship your own inventory. When you do get an order, you contact your supplier, and they ship the product directly to the customer. You make money, your supplier makes money, your customers get great products – everybody wins.
4. Women Want to Ride Too
If there’s one demographic that the motorcycle industry is kicking itself over, it’s women. Back in 2015, the number of women riders reached a new all-time high. The Motorcycle Industry Council reported at the time that women accounted for around 14% of all riders on the road. The issue is that companies are marketing to the same group they have been for close to 40 years: Baby Boomer men. As far as women go, the industry’s outlook has been way out of touch – make it smaller, make it pink.
The awesome thing is that women riders, especially in Australia, are gaining traction, whether the industry pays them any attention or not.
Make the Ladies Feel Welcome
Because it’s good business, and because it’s the right thing to do, you need to start looking at ways to encourage more female ridership. One thing you could consider doing is to start your own motorcycle rider’s training service. As more young riders get into the life, especially young women, they’re going to want mentors who can help them get into the lifestyle, choose the best gear, and of course, learn to ride.
It’d also be an awesome idea to start your own women’s motorcycle club. There’s plenty of MCs out there that cater to men exclusively. It’s way past time that the ladies had their time to shine.
Why is that so many motorcycles have rearview mirrors that are better at providing a view of your shoulders than of what’s behind you? Good explanations are nonexistent, but I’m sure it has a little to do with a lot–styling, clearance, cost, etc.–because the manufacturers of our motorcycles just aren’t that inconsiderate without reason. On the other hand, they’re the ones who have started including fiddly little cables that loop around underseat hooks as a substitute for convenient keyed helmet locks, and I can’t think of anything less considerate that that. Dang cables are never long enough, and removing the seat can be a pain if luggage is installed.
Leave it to an engineer to do something about this stuff rather than just complain about it. You have probably heard of Al Jesse–he’s the guy who created a line of rugged motorcycle luggage suitable for around-the-world travel that is still highly sought after by big-mileage ADV riders. As part of a semi-retirement plan Jesse recently sold the luggage business to the guy who fabricated it for him, and is now happily tinkering away on other projects under the Moto Manufacturing banner. They include the MirrorLok, an ingenious little bolt-on that he designed to address the problems of obstructed mirror view, vibration and the lack of a helmet lock on many motorcycles.
The MirrorLok starts with a solid hunk of black powdercoated aluminum a little less than 3 x 1 x 1 inches in size that has smooth, rounded edges. This mounts to your existing mirror mount on one end, extending outward at the angle of your choice. Your stock mirror mounts in the outward end in a threaded socket dampened with thick polyurethane O-rings, which absorb vibration and improve the view in the mirror. On my BMW R 1200 GS, both mirrors ended up about 1-inch higher and about 2.5 inches farther out as well as clearer at speed on the highway, greatly enhancing the view to the rear.
Appreciating multi-purpose designs, Jesse has also included a sturdy spring-loaded, pushbutton-locking shackle on the MirrorLok for helmet D-rings or cable loops (yes, even the cheapo one that came with the bike) that opens with a key. Moto Manufacturing also offers its own sturdy gear security cables in a 16-inch length to make it easier to secure helmets with or without D-rings to the shackle (e.g. around the chinbar), and a 42-inch length for multiple helmets and/or other riding gear such as jackets and overpants.
I had no trouble at all installing the MirrorLoks, though more detailed instructions would have made it easier still (the installation video on the website does help). Vibration blur in both mirrors has been reduced enough to notice a difference, and I especially like the wider field of view–it allows me to see not just around my shoulders but nearly the entire lane behind me and well out to the sides. The only downside is that I tend to bump into the mirrors more often now getting on and off and walking around the parked bike (perhaps this is another reason the manufacturers make them narrow…).
I would suggest investing in MirrorLoks primarily for the wider field of view and the helmet lock(s), since how much mirror clarity improvement you experience will vary from bike-to-bike. And though they’re sold as a pair you don’t necessarily have to install both….
MirrorLoks retail for $125 per pair and come with mounting hardware specific to your bike, as well as a promise from Moto Manufacturing to make good on any defects. The 16-inch gear cable is $8.95 and the 42-inch is $12.95.