Convertibars Handlebar Risers For A Moto-Guzzi Sport
Text and photos by Jonathan VanderVelde for
I recently fell in love with a cherry-red Guzzi sport
1100, offered for sale by a nice young man who only rode it Sundays and
never, ever, raced it.
As it was very late in the summer, the asking price had
dipped to the “Holy Crap, what a deal!” level and I was practically
forced to buy the bike, in spite of some slight misgivings about the
A test ride revealed that my hands became uncomfortable
after about fifteen minutes in the saddle. However, since a
previous owner had fitted some rather bizarre, semi-circular bar grips
(imagine a couple of those mini-footballs we had as kids, with
handle-bars rammed through the long axis), I optimistically chose to
assume that these were the main source of the problem. I went
ahead and bought the bike, but alas -- after switching the footballs out
for regular sport-bike gel-grips, I was still experiencing hand pain.
Finally forced to emerge from my cocoon of denial, I had
to admit that the problem was probably caused by the long, loooong,
stretch to the clip-ons. Still in love with the bike (although
admittedly, there was trouble in paradise...) I decided to do some
research to see if there was a way to relocate the position of the grips
so they were more upright and/or closer to to the rider.
The stock Guzzi clip-ons for the 1100 Sport and Daytona
downward at about 5 degrees from the horizontal. So one quick and
easy alteration that raises the hand position slightly is to flip those
babies upside down on the forks. This brings the operator’s hands
up about two inches and barely alters the look of the bike at all.
In my case, however, this had already been done by the
previous owner. The peculiar grips that the bike came with were
starting to make more sense to me at this point; somebody had clearly
been struggling with this problem before I bought the bike.
After a bit of research into possible options, I decided
that aftermarket bar-risers were the way to go. Unfortunately, it
turns out that many of the slickest bar-risers, like the Two-Brothers
Racing offerings, are specific to a particular model of bike. This
is a problem in terms of fitting the sport 1100/Daytona series of Guzzis,
or any other bike with production numbers too low to have generated a
big aftermarket product selection.
While there are risers now available for the newer V-11
series of Guzzis, there seems to be nothing built specifically for the
previous generation of machines. What I needed was a set of
“universal” risers with maximum possible flexibility—a design that could
be adapted to the heretofore unexplored country of the Sport 1100
without major machining or heartache.
Convertibars Handlebar Risers
After several more weeks of research, I settled on a
Convertibars, made by a company called Invex in St Paul, Minnesota.
These “convertible handlebars” are built around an
aluminum, figure-eight clamp, with the larger circle of the ‘eight’
locked around the fork upright just under the triple tree, while its
smaller attached mate projects out to the side (or the front, or the
back depending on how you rotate it) in the same plane (see the photo at
the top of this page).
An “L” shaped handlebar fits into this second clamp and
can be raised, lowered or turned independently. A big selling
point of the convertibars design is that they can be switched quickly
back and forth between an aggressive sporting profile and higher
An Allen wrench is provided by the manufacturer that
fits into a rubber end-cap on one of the bars. During a ride, a
quick stop by the side of the road and about thirty seconds loosening
and retightening is all it takes. I’m told that about 25% of
Convertibars buyers actually purchase the product to get a lower than
stock hand position for track-days on their too plush rockets!
More important than the ability to switch
configurations, from my point of view, was the fact that the extreme
flexibility of the bar system offered an infinite range of adjustment.
This seemed likely to raise my chances of finding a single workable
configuration on my Goose.
Measuring the Handlebars
The first hurdle to buying and fitting the kit was
determining the correct size of clamp to order. Since I happen to
live within spitting distance of St Paul, I was eventually able to get
some hands-on assistance from the factory in this regard.
Like all the bar-riser makers, Invex produces clamps
sized only to fork tubes of the common, standard dimensions. A
little research in the Guzzi archive told me that a ’95 sport should
have a fork diameter of 41.7mm, which naturally, is not a standard
Convertibars clamp size (nor indeed do ANY of the other manufacturers
carry it). 41mm diameter and 43mm diameter were the closest sizes
available. When I discussed this situation with a very helpful
fellow at the convertibars help-line, Tim Tamscin, he suggested that I
bring the bike in to the shop to be measured.
Photo 1: Measuring stock bars.
|Photo 2: Convertibars handlebar risers with shims.
According to Tim, the numbers quoted in the
manufacturer’s literature are often nominal rather than actual, and some
forks actually taper anyway, so physically measuring your fork diameter
is a good idea on any model of bike that they don’t have data on yet.
The photo (left) shows Tim measuring my fork tube at the
correct point with a set of Vernier calipers.
The measurement is taken as close as possible to the
underside of the triple-clamp, right at the stock clip-on. A
previous measurement I had taken indicated a diameter of 41.65mm using
an old Vernier caliper from my garage.
With a nicer instrument
and, no doubt, a better hand, Tim measured 41.56mm. This is too
far from 41mm or 43mm for these standard clamps to simply slip into
place and go, but luckily an easy solution exists.
Sitting right there at a computer on the shop floor, we
jumped on the Internet and ordered some 0.02” (0.5 mm) aluminum shim stock
from McMaster Carr. Eight dollars later, I had two square feet of
material winging its way toward me via UPS.
Back at the Convertibars stockroom, we then picked out a
“universal” bike kit with 43mm clamps, selecting the extended length
option. This standard variant adds about 2 cm of extension between
the big and small clamp, a useful option for bikes like the Sport 1100
that have pinch-bolts sticking straight out to the sides of the
In order to rotate the whole bar assembly from back to
front or visa-versa, this extended length allows the vertical part of
the handlebars to clear those pinch-bolts.
Also, the longer variant allows the maximum amount of
rearward extension if that should be your preference (and it was
The Convertibars guys were extremely helpful in fitting
my rather less common bike, and I would endorse their customer service
to anyone. Since for the majority of their buyers a personal visit
to the shop is impractical, they maintain a telephone help-line to
advise you both before and after you purchase a kit.
Convertibars also has a full refund policy; if you find
that your kit wont fit, you get your money back. This is
especially valuable for anyone trying to fit a motorcycle like my Guzzi
Sport, which has not been previously tested with the product.
handing me my kit, Tim took me on a short tour of the Invex/Convertibars
shop floor. I saw rack after rack of beautifully finished 7/8”
Stainless Steel bars of various lengths (there are several options),
machined aluminum clamps, special bar-weights and other goodies that
come as part of the standard kit.
There were also various extended length clutch-cables
and hydraulic lines that they provide for bikes which are known to
I also saw the computer-controlled milling machine which
carves each clamp from a solid aluminum billet in approximately 12
minutes. Stainless steel Allen-bolts and a quartet of stainless, female
fittings complete each clamp as it comes off the line.
The quality of the machining and finish is quite high,
and clamps are available in a natural or black-anodized finish. I chose
black, as my stock bars are black, but the bright finish probably would
have been just as appropriate.
Installing the Convertibars Handlebar Risers
There are two possible impediments to fitting any sport-bike with
handlebar risers: the fairing and the cables.
Either of these two can limit or even prevent
repositioning of the handlebars. Based on experience, Invex
recommends an extended clutch cable and/or hydraulic lines for most
popular sportbikes, and they include the parts in a model-specific kit
Taking a look at my heretofore-untested bike at full
steering lock both ways, Tim had made a tentative prediction that a
couple inches of height could be gotten without fitting longer cables.
He hastened to make clear that this was only a guess, however, and that
the only way to absolutely be sure was to actually install the bars on a
given model of bike.
Each kit is fully guaranteed, so my risk was mainly my
own time and I was eager to get started. In pursuit of quick
results, and from a general reluctance to get in over my head
project-wise, I was really counting on being able to raise the bars
without installing new cables (or God forbid, cutting into the
Longer cables or alterations to the brake reservoir,
etc., would be modifications for the next round of improvements, once I
had convinced myself that bar-risers were actually going to help.
Arriving home with my kit, I watched the short,
instructional CD ROM (complete with kitschy, blue movie background
music) and got down to business. I carefully measured the
necessary shim length by calculating the internal circumference of a
closed clamp (Pi x Diameter for anyone who slept through high school
Marking the shim stock with a sharpie, I used heavy
kitchen scissors to cut two strips of material one mm shorter than this
length, and as wide as the clamp itself. Each shim was held around
increasingly small cylindrical objects until it had enough curve to be
easily inserted into a loosened clamp. So far so good...
The next step was to remove the existing grips.
These can sometimes be carefully peeled off for re-use, but as I had a
new pair I wanted to try anyway, I cut the old ones off with an Exacto
Photo 4: Old handlebar grips.
Photo 5: Removing old bars.
Photo 6: Removing triple clamp.
Photo 7: Routing the handlebar cables.
As you can see, the old grips are actually 1” I.D.
touring grips fitted over PVC clear tubing on my 7/8” clip-ons. This had
been an earlier experiment in vibration reduction which I was content to
abandon as only slightly helpful (if at all).
With the grips off,
hand controls were unscrewed and removed from the stock bars to hang
down onto the fairing.
Next the triple-clamp was removed. Starting with the
central nut, which luckily, does not play a role in holding the
steering-head together, each of the three Allen heads on the upper face
is completely loosened and then the plate is gently tapped from
underneath until it frees up enough to be pulled off the tubes.
The ignition lock and wiring will remain attached, so it
can actually be pulled away only a few inches and set forward near the
Smaller Allen wrenches were used to unclamp the stock
clip-ons and remove them. Next the Convertibars clamps were slipped onto
the forks and tightened slightly. With the shims, the fit turned out to
Hand controls were then loosely clamped into position
around the new Convertibars bars, which are then supposed to be slipped
into the clamps. It became necessary to slide the clamps as low as
possible on the fork tubes to let this happen, as the control cables had
just barely enough slack to get the base of the bar into the proper
Routing the Cables on an 1100 Sport
A good deal of grunting and cursing was heard up and down the alley near
my garage, but the bars eventually popped in. Next came routing
the control cables and adjusting and checking the bars.
At this point I went through about three hours of
pulling cables this way and that, putting the triple clamp in place,
tightening things, turning the steering to full lock, cursing, loosening
things, pulling the triple-clamp, re-routing cables, replacing the
triple clamp, tightening, testing, cursing, undoing, etc., etc...
Let me save fellow Sport 1100 owners a great deal of
frustration by cutting directly to the chase. Using the stock
clutch cable and hydraulic line, there is one routing configuration, and
one only, that actually works.
It requires the cables to be routed, not around the
outside front of the steering head (which would be preferable), but to
pull them back beneath the triple clamp between the fork tubes and the
vertical handlebar tubes (see Photo 7).
The red lines in the graphic show the final position of
my cables, while the black lines indicate the routing that would be
preferred in an ideal world. Without longer cables that go outside
the front of the fork tubes, it is obvious that it won’t be possible to
quickly and easily rotate the main clamp body forward around the fork
The triple-clamp would have to be pulled and cables
brought around to the front of the fork. Not a huge job, but not
completely painless, either. Since my main goal was simply to find
a single new (and better) position for the bars, this lack of easy
conversion was not necessarily a big negative, but I will note that in
order to make full use of the convertibility feature of the product a
Sport owner will need a longer clutch cable, brake line and throttle
You will also need to go with the shortest option when
choosing the vertical length of the bars. Otherwise, pushing them
low in a forward position will bring the lower end of the bar into
contact with the horizontal ledge of the fairing.
It can be see that, with the set-up that I finally
found, the left bar can go no higher than a certain point due to binding
of the clutch-cable fitting on the underside of the triple-clamp (see
the blue arrow). The right bar, on the other hand, can go no lower
than that same height in order for the hydraulic fitting to clear the
upper side of the triple clamp, while at the same time the
ignition/throttle lines prevent it from getting much higher.
The graphic exaggerates these conditions for clarity,
but in reality, at one magical bar position, both grips are at the same
height and angle, everything fits, and the rider ends up with his hands
about two inches higher and three inches farther back than the stock
clip-ons, even reversed, would allow.
In turning the steering to full lock either way,
everything just barely clears the fairing; it would be hard to get
another centimeter of height without making contact, so the benefit of
adding custom cables would be strictly in facilitating conversion, as
there’s no more height to be had.
As far as the controls go, although the cable routing
looks a little startling at first, nothing binds or hangs up. The
clutch lever must be turned farther underneath the bar than the stock
layout, in order to get it’s rather long fitting under the triple clamp,
and the subsequent bend around the fork tube is somewhat severe.
As it turns out, this bend put enough pressure on the
clutch cable to suck out every iota of slack, and even a little bit
more. After a few days of riding, I realized that the clutch was
basically never quite completely disengaging, and that I was
experiencing unintentional slippage. A couple of turns at the
clutch cable adjustment under the bike gave me back some slack and cured
As far as I can tell, the bike is currently operating in
a safe and mechanically sound fashion. A tuner at one of the local
Euro-bike shops looked it over and came to the same conclusion.
The clutch cable bend looks a little odd, but everything seems to
The handlebars seem extremely firm, and I feel perfectly confident
cranking them around and putting weight on them.
The pain in my hands and wrists has been reduced by
about 80 percent, and as an added bonus, the bars project out to the
sides a bit farther, giving me better leverage and making it easier to
pilot what is, after all, a big, heavy machine.
Perhaps at some future date I’ll order a custom
clutch-cable and hydraulic line so that I can route them around the
outside of the steering head and quickly convert back and forth from
high to low. On the other hand, since I cant imagine really
wanting to reposition the bars down low (at least until Moto GP realizes
its mistake and comes a knocking at my door), maybe I wont bother.
In any case, my experience with the Convertibars product
has been pretty much unalloyed satisfaction, and I can now say for
certain that it WILL fit on a Guzzi Sport 1100 with the existing cables,
and that it WILL increase comfort and usability.
Fit and finish are good, flexibility is extreme and
customer service unimpeachable. Two painless thumbs up for Convertibars
from this satisfied customer! T he following are some photos meant to
show the change in bar position:
Stock (blue) vs. Convertibars Handlebars