Apart from sundry oddities, like clip-ons, ape-hangers and Jota bars, that's about it. And yet the right handlebars are crucial to comfort on a bike, and make a big difference to how the bike feels, and consequently how the rider perceives the handling. High, pulled-back bars encourage a laid-back riding style; conversely, low bars which a long reach forward make the whole bike feel more racey and you ride accordingly. But between those extremes, even small adjustments make a big difference.
One of the things that made me buy the Bonneville was the position and angle of the handlebars. It is said that the method for getting the bars adjusted right is to sit on the bike with your eyes closed and put your hands where you think the bars ought to be. Get someone to measure the position of your hands, and adjust the bars to suit. I didn't need to do this with the Bonnie. From the moment I sat on it in the dealer's showroom, I knew that the bars were dead right. They made the whole bike feel tailor-made to my dimensions, and that was a big factor in persuading me that this was the bike for me.
But most men, me included, are never happy until we have had a fiddle about. Take that how you like. Yesterday I started to wonder if they might not be even better if they were a little lower and closer to me. I moved them a small amount backwards and downwards - possibly an inch at the bar ends, no more. Then I went for a ride.
For about half a mile, they felt great. But then I started to wonder if they were as good as all that. I felt a bit like a rider on one of those vintage machines, where the bars end somewhere near the rider's knees. The position they made me adopt, which was only a fraction different from the normal position, felt wrong - too relaxed, not 'on top of it'. And I was less able to hang onto the bars in the wind, which meant I could feel my back taking more of the strain of keeping me upright. With two miles, I was heading for home.
So I put them back to normal - or so I thought. In fact, this time I went too far the other way, even though they looked perfect. It took three or four attempts before I had them back to standard. I have just been for a ride into town to pick up some stuff for Anna, and they are perfect again. Phew.
For the record, I have never felt any desire to go as far as this:
A couple of safety notes if you are thinking of altering your handlebars (sorry if this is obvious, but ...)
- Make sure the bars are bolted up tight when you are done. And then check again.
- Swing the bars and make sure that they don't either hit the tank or trap your thumbs on full lock in either direction.
- Start the engine and swing the bars from side to side, listening to the engine note, to make sure that the throttle cable isn't under strain at any point.
- Finally, adjust levers and mirrors to suit the new position.