BMW K-bike Handlebar Conversion
Update on adjusting the K75's handling...see
I probably should have spent the money in the beginning to buy the
K1200RS I really wanted -- it seems like I've spent enough on this K75
to buy two K12's by now! I haven't been pleased with the riding
position of the K75 standard; the pegs seem like they're too far forward,
and the stock bars made me sit too upright.
It's not a bad seating
position really -- for touring, that is. But I wanted something a
little more sporty, and the classic "sit up and beg" riding
position on the K also gives a rather remote feeling for what the front
end is doing.
A local BMWBMW club member, Steve S., made the conversion on his
identical K75 from the high bars to the K75C bars, and raved about
it. So I decided to give it a try. Let's get to the
bottom line first -- I really like the change and it confirms everything
Steve said; it gives you a completely different feel for what the front
end is doing, and removes most of that low-speed "tippy"
feeling the K75 has. You really feel like you can lean into the
turns much more securely than with the standard, "high" bars,
and it brings a lot of fun into riding the K75.
It does take a while to get used to though. All that's needed to
steer the K75 with the original bars is a light touch -- there's plenty
of leverage on that big tiller! The lower bars were a bit scary at
first -- it takes a real push to get the bike turned. But that
reduction in leverage is, to me, what now gives the bike more feel than
it had before.
There's only one tiny disadvantage: it
does put just a tiny bit more weight on your palms, so you may need an arm stretch
once and a while. But I really don't think it's bad at all, and
for me, the pros far outweigh the cons. Plus, the standard bars were
uncomfortable on my wrists anyway, but in a different location.
If I keep the bike, I'm planning on getting a set of rearsets from
Omar's. They look like quality pieces, and I think they would
complement the forward-leaning riding position. With the standard
footpegs that are still on the bike, my feet still feel like they're too
far out in front of me; but this is mitigated somewhat by riding with my
feet on the passenger pegs on longer trips. Steve mentioned that
BMW also listed a set of rearsets for the K75, but we're not sure if
they're still available.
Installing the bars really isn't that difficult, just kind of a
pain. It was made much more complicated on my K because I had to
also transfer over the heated grips. If it wasn't for that, it
would be a pretty easy job. I also did it without taking apart any
cables or the handgrip assemblies on either side of the bike; this may
or may not work for you, probably depending upon the layout on your
You'll need some replacement black cable ties to snug everything down
when the job is completed. The only tools you should need are:
4, 5 and 6mm Allen wrench
Flat and Phillips bladed screwdriver
Assorted wire cutting/splicing tools
if you transfer the heated grips.
If you are installing heated grips and
the new bars don't have the hole drilled on the bottom, you'll need
a selection of dril bits, starting at about 3/64" and going up
to 5/16", along with a drill and a small round file to deburr
Hopefully the photos will help -- I think
there's a couple of tricks that can save some time. Let's begin...
thing is to remove the "dash pad" that covers the 4 bolts that
hold on the handlebars. There are two 5mm Allen bolts underneath
that come out pretty easily.
You don't have to remove any of the
wires that attach to any switches you have on the dash -- except if you
have heated grips, you'll have to unplug them from behind. My
heated grip switch is the farthest one on the right, so I reached behind
and unplugged it after I removed the pad.
Next, snip any cable ties that hold the clutch, throttle and brake cable
and anything else that is attached to your bars. The wires that
are left holding the dash pad on should be long enough that you can move
the pad out of the way to get to the 4 bolts that hold the handlebars
If you have heated grips, you'll probably have to move or remove your
fuel tank to get to the connector under the tank that attaches the
heated grip wires to the wiring harness. I've been able to do any
maintenance necessary without ever having to completely remove the tank,
but...someday I'm sure I'll have to completely pull it.
Pull out the two clips under the tank at the
rear; carefully remove the radiator shroud, and the tank should lift up
(the radiator shroud is held to the bike by a pin that fits into a
rubber grommet on each side under the front of the tank).
the fuel tank up and slid it over to the left, which gave me enough
clearance to work underneath.
While I was at it, I removed the
seat to give me more room to work. Once you have the fuel tank
moved, unplug the wires for the heated grips.
They fit into a 4-way
connector under the tank, and you should be able to unplug the four
wires that lead down from under the existing handlebars and lead to the
connector. As we shall see, I ended up clipping my wires anyway,
so if you have to cut them at this point, it should be alright.
Snip the cable ties that hold the front
brake line to the frame tube (see yellow arrow in the photo on the
give enough play in the brake hose so that you can remove the grip
assemblies from the stock bars without having to disassemble anything or
remove any cables.
Next, you'll have to loosen the grip assemblies on each side.
First remove the covers above the directional switches; do this by
removing the #2 Phillips head screw (indicated by the yellow arrow in
the photo of the right-hand switch).
Then loosen the 4mm Allen
screws that hold each grip onto the handlebar. After you do this,
the grip assemblies should be loose and ready to remove.
If you have heated grips, you'll have to
first remove the two Phillips head sheet metal screws on the left hand
grip. They are under the rubber part of the grip itself -- peel
back the edge of the grip nearest the directional assembly and you'll
see the two screws.
They serve to attach the grip to the
handlebar. You should then be able to remove both grips along
with the heated grip wires. Pull slowly and make sure the wires
Now it's time to take out the old
handlebar. Remove the four 6mm Allen screws holding the handlebar
to the clamps. You may need a helper for this part, although I
managed to do it by myself.
You'll have to hang on to everything to make sure
nothing scratches the tank; I put a towel over the front part of the
tank just in case. Also, the right side assembly includes the
brake master cylinder; so you may want to have a bungee cord or some
rope or tape or a partner to hold this upright so that it doesn't leak
any fluid after it's removed.
After you remove the last bolt that holds the handlebars to the clamp,
everything will come loose; make sure you're holding on! You
should then be able to slide the bars as far as you can to the left and
work the right grip assembly off the right side of the bar.
was just barely enough clearance/room on my bike to do this -- there's
no way it was going to work until I removed the cable ties holding the
brake line to the frame tube. Once I did that, it gave me just
enough room to pull the right handgrip assembly off the bar.
Once you've done that, the left side is easy -- move the bar over to the
right and slide the left hand grip assembly off. You should now
have the old handlebar in your greasy hands, and the right and left hand
grip assemblies should be free and dangling!
You may need to drill a hole in the new bars
for the heated grips. Even if you don't have heated grips now, you
may want to drill the hole in case you add them later. I've found
that if the hole is there, you can feed the wires down through without
removing the bar.
But if you don't have the hole, and you later
decide to add heated grips, it's a much bigger job because you'll have
to completely remove the bar to drill the hole. Bottom line: the
hole isn't that hard to drill, so do it now!
I placed the bars in a vise, using some old foam rubber to pad the jaws
to help grip the bars and to protect the paint. The hole needs to
be somewhere near the center between the bend, and in a position that
will be underneath the bar when the bar is installed. It doesn't
have to be exactly in the middle; as long as there's enough room to feed
the wires down underneath the bars.
Whenever you're drilling a hole in metal, it's usually a good idea to
start with a small pilot hole and work your way up. I started with
a a 3/64" drill and slowly worked my way up to the 5/16" hole
that is about the minimum size you'll need to squeeze the wires
through. You may also want to use some oil to lubricate and cool
the drill bit as you drill. When you're done, use a round file to completely deburr
the hole, both inside and out.
All you have to do now is
reverse the installation procedure with the new bars. Locate the
new bars in the clamp on the bike, but only partially tighten one bolt
to just hold the bars for now (unless you're reinstalling the heated
grips; see next paragraph). Slide the control assemblies on to
the new bars. The trickiest part is reinstalling the heated
I've done this a couple of times and here's the trick: you'll need an
old piece of 18-20 gauge wire. First feed that wire up through the
bottom hole and out one side of the handlebars. You may want to do
this prior to clamping the bars. Then wrap that
piece of wire on to the wire from the heated grips and fasten it with
some electrical tape.
You can then pull the spare piece of wire
down from the end of the handlebar down through the hole, and the heated
grip wire should come along with it. Pull gently or the wires will
come apart. In other words, you feed wire up from the bottom hole,
and pull the heated grip wires back through. Don't try to feed the
heated grip wires down from the end of the bars to the hole in the
middle -- you'll be at it forever!
I had to cut the wires leading to the BMW 4-way connector under the
tank. I went to Radio Shack to look for a replacement connector,
but found that Radio Shack is not like it used to be. They barely
have any electrical items any more and the clerk didn't even know what I
was talking about. I ended up using small sized wire twist cap
connectors, like the ones you might find behind a switch plate in your
house. I filled them with some dielectric grease and simply
twisted the wires together, then wrapped them tightly with electrical
This will probably be looked upon by some as a crude method,
but it works and I can always do it differently next time I find one of
the 4-way connectors. The problem with the 4-way connectors is that
you can only use them once. (NOTE: Since this article
was written, I found Posi-Lock wire connectors for splicing wires; these
things are the greatest, and actually make doing electrical jobs
fun! I'll never use twist caps or solder again! Check out
review of Posi-Lock connectors)
All that's left is to tighten everything up. But before you do,
sit on the bike and rotate the new handlebars up and down to find a good
riding position. Just remember that there are some adjustments
that you can make, either now or later, by rotating the bars to find the
best position for you. When you find the position that's best for
you, make sure you torque
the handlebar clamping bolts to the correct torque as specified for your
Both Steve and I found that the new bars gave the front brake line too
sharp of a bend where it attaches to the bottom of the master
cylinder. The solution is to slightly loosen the banjo bolt and
rearrange the brake line to straighten the line as much as
possible. Don't forget to use some cable ties to secure the brake
line back on the frame tube.
One more thing: I also rearranged the clutch and fast idle cable on the
left side, and the throttle cable on the right side. I pulled the
cables up behind the dash pad a bit to take out some of the slack that
results from the lower bar.
You may want to consider replacing the
cables with the "C" length. I left the stock cables in
place, and there's just a bit more cable visible sticking up behind the
dash pad, but it's not bad at all. I did not use cable ties
to secure the clutch and fast idle cable to the left side of the new
bar, but I did use a small cable tie to secure the two cables together
without attaching them to the handlebar tube, and this seems to work
The photos below illustrate the differences between the high and low
The yellow arrow
(left) points to the 4-way BMW stock connector. I had to cut the
wires coming in and out of this connector; it can't be reused once the
wires are connected. I ended up using electrical twist connectors
which seem to work fine.
The blue arrow points to a vent line that comes out of the fuel
tank. The white plastic item is a one-way valve. On this
bike, this line was attached to the crankcase at the front of the
It appears to have been plugged at the crankcase at the
factory, so this line sits under the tank. I didn't want to take
the chance of fuel leaking on to the hot engine under the gas tank (do
you blame me!), so I re-routed this line to point towards the back of
the tank, and added a 1/4" ID line from the valve that now hangs
down off the swingarm along with the overflow lines for the fuel tank
and the radiator overflow container.
The red arrow points to the fuel tank overflow line; it was too short
and kept coming off, so I replaced it also.
Make sure you replace both of these lines and check everything else
under your fuel tank before you replace the tank and button everything
|Here's a not-so-good photo of the original bars: higher and farther
back. Note the location of the handgrip when compared to the blue
lines projecting vertically from the left side of the BMW tank logo and
horizontally across the top of the grip.
||Here's the bike, unfortunately from a slightly different perspective, but you can
see the "C" bars are lower and farther forward. Note the
difference in location when compared to the blue lines, again projecting
vertically from the left side of the BMW tank logo and horizontally
across the top of the grip.
I've been very pleased with the front end feel resulting from the
lower handlebars. I decided to again see what effect raising the
fork tubes (effectively lowering the front of the bike) by 1"
would have. I'm happy to report that it's made another nice
difference in the way the K75 handles. It's definitely taken out
the top-heaviness at slow speeds that is characteristic of the K75
I raised the forks in their clamps by exactly
1". It's very easy to do on this bike -- simply loosen the
four Allen bolts, sit on the bike and give a big push down on the
handlebars. The forks will push up through the top of the
clamps. This has really made the bike much more responsive,
especially at lower speeds.
I had previously tried this with the higher bars, but didn't like the
feel. The lower bars seem to give a better feel for the front
end, and raising the fork tubes has been another step forward in the
One last thing: here's
an article by Ted Verrill about going the other way -- installing
"C" bars on a K75S.
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