Check out the latest article on HeliBars for the K1600GT/GTL!
For years we have used the above tag line “Peformance Shouldn’t Be Painful” and we really do mean it. Sport bikes, sport touring bikes, cruisers shouldn’t be painful they should make you want to take to the open road not just for a 10 minute jaunt but a cruise towards the Horizon. That is why we produce HeliBars, and have been for 26 years. What we address are the same things that are outlined in the article below. Enjoy the read:
Most of us recognize the importance of at least a perfunctory visual check of our machines before we set out for a scoot, but what many riders forget is that it’s just as important to check your body position, too. Out on a one-lane country road 30 minuted into your ride is not the ideal time to be wondering, “Uh, why are my hands tingling? Why are my shoulders tight? And damn it, why does my neck ache?”
But that’s often how it goes with riders. Many of us simply don’t acknowledge the obvious things-such as the body-to-motorcycle relationship-until it’s too late.
In a nutshell, my doc said every part of the body affects the other parts: Fingers affect the wrist, which affects the elbow, which affects the shoulders and so on. Just think of those “Dry Bones” lyrics and you’ll get the point: “With the finger bone connected to the hand bone, the hand bone connected to the arm bone…”
That first line is one all riders should memorize: A motorcyclist’s main connection points to his bike are his fingers. And it’s no wonder that when most of us ride, those points are usually being tweaked in some very malevolent ways. The doctor mentioned the following parts as being especially vulnerable:
Wrists: They’re often turned to odd angles so the fingers can grip the bar. This puts pressure on the median nerve in the wrist/forearm (carpal tunnel), causing numbness and fatigue.
Elbows: These are usually extended up and away from the rider’s torso and rotated out from the bike, which places stress on the ulnar nerve, or “funny bone”
Shoulders: They’re being constantly flexed and rotated from holding the elbows up, which often exacerbates tendonitis in the rotator cuffs, causing aches and fatigue. Most riders also reach forward to grip the handlebars, rolling the shoulders. This adds flex to the trapenzius muscle, placing strain on the base of the neck and between the shoulder blades.
Trapezius and Neck: Rotating the shoulders means the large group of neck muscles that control spine position flexing. Constantly working these muscles creates discomfort in the neck and alters the upper spine’s alignment. This realignment can also affect the lumbar area of the spine, resulting in lower back pain.
It seems if you experience two or more of those symptoms (like tingling and/or aches) then your position of control is incorrect. The POC is where the contact point of your body meets the control point of your bike, i.e., where your hands grip the handlebar. So after I broke down all the fancy medical phrases into layman’s terms, I was left with these crucial bits of advice:
- My wrists shouldn’t twist and should stay as straight as possible in relation to the forearm.
- Elbows should point down as much as possible and hang rather than be held up.
- Shoulders need to be relaxed and dropped rather than suspended or flexed when riding.
- My reach should be reduced so I don’t roll or lift my shoulders to grab the handlebar.
- I should steer with my arms, not my neck, shoulders or back.
The most effective way to correct all my body’s tweaked biomechanics was through the handlebar.
Since I started working at HeliBars nearly 6 years ago, I have gotten phone calls and emails weekly looking for a solution to make the Honda Goldwing Riding experience more comfortable. We have had a bike in house since 2007 and the design team has been diligently working trying to come up with the most affordable way to make the ‘Wing as comfortable as possible. The design was nearly complete in 2012 and then they had to figure out: how do we produce this masterpiece and make it affordable for the masses. (First prototype’s would have made the bars $3200!) So they went back to the drawing board and looked at production methods and TADA! They are done! First production units will be shipping out the door December 16th, 2013.
It’s been a long wait, yes, but it will be well worth the wait when those riders get their bars and can not only ride in superior comfort, as only the Goldwing can provide, but also with increased control & handling without having to change out the suspension.
Thanks for the patience, thanks for believing in us and enjoy the ride. We KNOW you are gonna love it!
~ Jennifer Pettengill, G.O.T.O.
We see if comfortable equals fast
What are they?
Heli-Bars is a well known company which specializes in producing motorcycle handlebars that are more comfortable than stock. Their emphasis has been primarily on making machines more suitable for long distance riding but now they also feature a line called TracStar, which is aimed at the sportbike crowd. The big question when testing a product like this is obvious. Does improving street comfort come at the expense of racetrack efficiency?
The installation of these bars was very straightforward. In fact, this is listed as a direct stock replacement, which means that no other parts should be necessary to do the install. We found this to be absolutely true. A glossy color spread of instructions is included. There are very accurate photos of each step of the process, along with supporting text. There were no surprises and the entire job from parking to riding the bike took less than ninety minutes. We recommend following their instructions to the letter, including the one about placing/stuffing a rag around the work area. Besides protecting from scratches, this step may help you to avoid having to remove body work to retrieve a screw if you happen to drop one at the wrong spot. Our installation time does not include a trip to the hardware store, where we bought a 36 mm socket for the triple clamp bolt and a small #8 Torx bit that was thin enough along its stem to fit into a severely recessed hole.
What they do
The normal way of making a sportbike more comfortable involves bar risers, which are essentially lifting blocks for the handlebars. This has always seemed contradictory, since a lot of engineering gets violated when you move the handlebars to a different location. The Heli Bars kit for the BMW S1000RR attacks the problem a different way, by setting the downward slope of the clip-ons at a shallower angle. These bars made the position feel closer to that of a sport touring riding position while maintaining the look and feel of a sport bike. In fact, experienced riders would not immediately recognize that these are aftermarket bars, especially since the mounting points and manufacturing style are identical to the OEM pieces. Compared to the very steep angle of the stock bars, the modified slope of the Heli-Bars results in a bar end that is a full two inches higher than stock. That two inches is enough to make a significant difference. The results are a more upright riding position and a more natural position of the hand and forearm.
To test the bike with the new bars, we conducted before and after riding sessions over the same one hour loop, which included surface streets, highway miles and twisties. The first thing noticed was increased confidence when maneuvering on surface streets around congested traffic. This was the result of both the added leverage and the slightly more upright position. The second obvious improvement was that the bars promoted a proper riding position, putting the forearms closer to parallel with the ground and the elbows at about the same height as the hands. Once into the curves, flicking the bike into a corner was definitely easier and the bars engendered more confidence going around blind turns. The result was that Heli-Bars encouraged a faster pace through curves, high speed sweepers and switchback on-ramps. As you would expect, highway comfort was vastly improved. S1000RR riders regularly complain that their hands and wrists get numb within about 20 minutes of riding. (Which incidentally, is the length of an average trackday session.) We too had experienced this with the stock pieces but that numbness did not occur when riding with the Heli-Bars. The noticed improvement in street comfort alone would have been enough to justify switching to these bars but we still had a track test to perform.
Autobahn Country Club, in Joliet, Illinois, was where we conducted the track portion of this review. The Full Course at this facility has 23 turns so there was plenty of opportunity to experience the bars in a variety of different cornering situations. We’d ridden here a few months previously with the stock bars, which provided a frame of reference for comparison. On the track we noticed that it felt much more natural to drape our outside arm over the gas tank. It was also easier to experiment with different entry points, as the added leverage of the Heli-Bars provided extra confidence when flicking the bike into turns. Switchback transitions were also made with less effort. The pavement was wet for a few of these sessions, giving us the opportunity to see how the bars performed in catching a slide. Even at this extreme, the Heli-Bars were very predictable and showed no tendency to make us overcorrect. In fact, there was nowhere on the track that we found ourselves wishing we had the original-equipment bars.
For both road and track use, these Heli-Bars proved their worth. In every environment, the big BMW was a more comfortable and better behaved motorcycle. This $319.00 improvement quite literally transformed the bike’s ergonomics, making it much nicer to live with no matter what environment it was used in or how aggressively it was ridden. Here at TrackdayMag.com, we’re used to sacrificing comfort to get better performance. In this case, much to our surprise, it was upping our comfort level that increased performance!
Here at HeliBars we often hear moving tales of how our product has “saved” the day by allowing riders to ride longer. To be more passionate about their sport. To feel the wind whipping by them as they hit the open road. Some as they enter their golden years of 70, 80 and beyond. Others as they hit the open road for the first time. It’s heart warming to hear their stories.
This story brought our hearts to our throats and tears to our eyes and we want to share it with you. Please allow us to introduce to you Officer Jamie Bernau of the Mesa Police Department Traffic Unit. Below is an email we received from Officer Bernau on April 8th:
Working at HeliBars can be extremely rewarding. Helping those that have a passion for motorcycling stay in their seats longer, either for the day or through the years, is so much fun. We love to see people smiling! Below is the motorcycle review we received from Officer Pruet of the Arizona Highway Patrol.
My name is Officer Jake Pruet. I am a motor officer with the Arizona Highway Patrol and a motorcycle instructor. Our department recently purchased the new Kawasaki Concours 14 police model from Beaudry Motor sports in Idaho. We really enjoyed the motorcycle; however, the sitting position was somewhat uncomfortable for a police officer using the motorcycle for 10 hours a day. We were forced to lean forward on the bike with our arms locked out and all of our weight was on our wrists and lower back. This created a problem with not only rider comfort, but officer safety as well. I conducted research on the internet and I received information from Steve Beaudry, founder and owner of Beaudry Motor sports, where our motorcycles are built, about an adjustable handle bar system from Helibars. I completed my own research of the product and determined that, while the cost was more than higher bar risers, the benefit would greatly outweigh that cost. I completed my research and forwarded it to my department which ultimately purchased a set for each of the 10 motorcycles we currently have in the fleet. Steve Beaudry worked with Helibars to modify the current set up that extended the brake lines, to a system that completely replaced the stock brake lines and the factory junction with longer lines.
I could immediately tell that the motorcycle handled very differently and that it was almost effortless to turn during slow maneuvers. I was pleasantly surprised to find the sitting position perfect for our line of work. My back was completely straight and my arms were bent at the elbow and my shoulders and wrists were relaxed. This was now my new favorite police motorcycle.
I completed several rigorous tests in the field and in training. I tested the handlebars in slow, tight maneuvers and was able to complete a 16’ u-turn with almost no effort. The motorcycle now makes quick left to right and right to left transitions with almost no weight felt at the steering head. At freeway speeds, the Helibars set actually makes the ride even smoother and at high speeds, is completely 100 % stable and firm. I tested the Helibars set under extreme braking and felt no movement.
Research and Development:
After testing the setup, I had some minor concerns about how my department, as well as other police departments, were going to mount their police radios. Our current design had the radio mount bolted to the bottom bolts of the top clamp. These bolts need to be torque to a specific torque setting and we were concerned about radio technicians or others needing to remove the mount and not properly torque the bolts. I contacted the owner of Helibars, Harry Eddy, and informed him of my issue and offered a simple solution to machine two threaded holes directly next to the current bolt holes. Harry’s designer quickly made a prototype drawing and sent it to me for approval. I was amazed to discover how exact the design was to what I needed. Harry immediately made a working prototype and shipped it out for test fitting. The new top clamp design was a perfect fit and after tweaking it slightly , Harry made 10 clamps and immediately shipped them to us to swap out.
I have shown the Helibars setup to numerous other motor officers in the Phoenix area that are either riding the new Kawasaki or are purchasing them soon. The look on the officers faces are a complete smile from ear to ear. They are amazed, just like I was, on how drastically different the seating position is. I believe that with these new Helibars, the new Kawasaki C14P motorcycle is in the running to become the best police motorcycle on the market and the Helibars system is a must for anyone who rides a Concours, either civilian or police.