You have to grow old, but you don’t have to grow up. That’s the mantra of a lot of sportbike owners who, like me, still enjoy blasting down a twisty road but whose limber years are behind them, making riding a sportbike anywhere else an exercise in masochism. Convertibars has come up with a way to give you the sporty crouch you want on a Sunday morning and the higher rise you yearn for the rest of the week.
Convertibars consist of three main components: “Cyclops” clamps, which attach to the fork tubes; risers that fit into the Cyclops clamps; and bars that fit into the risers’ heads. Along with the bar components, the kit for my 2000 Honda VFR800 came with a longer braided stainless-steel hydraulic clutch hose and top front brake hose, both made by HEL USA, to take advantage of the added height possible with the Convertibars. (HEL also supplied a complete set of lines for the bike, agreeing with me that connecting new stainless lines to 17-year-old rubber hoses made little sense. They’re not part of the Convertibars kit, but they made a substantial improvement in brake feel, and reduced effort at the lever and pedal.) Two longer throttle cables, made by Motion Pro, are included. There are also two aluminum spacers for the brake and clutch master cylinders; more on these later.
Installation is pretty straightforward; there’s really only one way to put everything together. Adjusting it is another matter. There’s a fair amount of adjustability available—the position of the clamps, the height of the uprights and the angle of the bars—but it’s largely defined by the limits of steering lock and fairing clearance. Those limits vary by the bike and the model; the VFR’s cockpit is exceptionally tight.
The first configuration I tried required the spacers that provide clearance between the master cylinders and the risers’ heads. The spacers are 1/4-inch thick, and while that doesn’t sound like much, it moves the levers that much farther way from the grip. I wear size 11 gloves, and I found the reach annoying even with the VFR’s adjustable levers dialed all the way back. (Convertibars says I’m the first person who’s ever mentioned this, so maybe it’s just me.) Later I found what I think is the only bar angle that doesn’t require the spacers—just barely—and that’s where I tightened everything down.
The other issue is that the Convertibar’s bar section doesn’t accommodate the stock bar-end weight, nor does the kit include any alternate weights, although several types are available at extra cost. I capped the open ends of the bars with the plastic plugs that came with the heated grips I installed, but I’d still rather have a way to reuse the VFR’s weights, which I figure Honda put there for a good reason.
Convertibars told me most years of VFRs present the perfect storm of difficulties when it comes to building a kit, requiring every trick there is—longer hydraulic hoses and throttle cables, and spacers for the master cylinders—and complicating installation (no argument from me on that last point). But eventually, after everything was buttoned down and I’d found the ideal position, the word that came to mind was “transformation.” With the bars high enough that the master cylinders just brush the fairing bubble at full lock, the riding position is much more upright than the stock VFR bars, and the bars offer more leverage thanks to being wider. I sit up straighter with far less neck and wrist pain than before, and the added leverage is welcome in the curvy stuff. On the highway the windblast is worse, but a taller windscreen is on the way.
In theory you can adjust the Convertibars up or down for different types of riding, but there’s too little room for that in the VFR’s cockpit, and besides, I intend to leave them right where they are. At $524.70 (same price for silver or black) for everything I received, it’s not the cheapest way to improve the comfort of your sportbike, but it’s the most effective I’ve found yet.
For more information, call (651) 789-1002 or visit convertibars.com.