Motorcycle crash bars are crucial equipment if you ride off-road, and they’ve even saved a street bike or two from calamity. At the least, they can help prevent minor damage from becoming expensive parts replacements; at best, they can keep the motorcycle operable so you can get to your destination. To learn more about how they work, check out this blog.
As installations go, crash bars are a relatively easy project you can tackle in your own garage, with relatively few tools and some good tunes. Read on for some helpful tips and advice on the installation.
How Long Does It Take To Install Crash Bars?
Ballparking it, you can expect to spend anywhere from 1 to 3 hours on the job. That mostly depends on how much bodywork you have to remove to get to the mounting points. Fortunately, many crash bars—especially those for adventure bikes—are designed to pick up easily accessible hardware on most motorcycles. But remember, it’s not a race. (KTM owners, we’re looking at you.)
There’s one additional factor that might add some time: In a few cases, the crash bar hardware replaces one or more engine mounting bolts that extend all the way through the engine. These are large, important pieces of hardware. This means you may need to support the engine while a critical bolt is out. If you don’t, the engine can sag and make lining up the holes a difficult to impossible task. You can support the engine with a simple bottle jack.
What Tools Do You Need?
As for tools and supplies, that depends on the particular bike model you have. But at a minimum you’ll want a basic set of wrenches, sockets, ratchet handles and extensions, plus large bits (hex and Torx) as needed by the original and replacement hardware. Most crash bar hardware is likely to have internal hex cap screws — you could get away with L-shaped hex wrenches, but we both know how that looks.
Regarding the torque wrench, you’re going to need it for the engine mounting bolts. As our resident wise guy, Marc Cook, notes: we’re talking about your calibrated torque wrench, not the one that’s been rolling around in the bottom of your tool box for 25 years. Since you’re tightening the bolts that hold your motor in place, using the correct specific torque (check the specs in your owner’s or service manual) is quite important.
Ride, Test, Repeat
One key point: As you get started with the install, don’t bolt everything down too tightly. Loosely assemble each side and, assuming the crash bars join in front of the frame or engine, then join the front half before tightening everything down. The basic idea is to assemble everything loosely and then tighten in sequence. If you fully tighten one end down, you might find the other extreme won’t line up or you’ll be creating stresses in the bar you don’t want.
After you’ve mounted the bars, go for a ride to let your new hardware take a set, and then check the torque again a few hundred miles later. Generally, right after installation is when bolts are likely to loosen up the most, so you might as well get that initial inspection out of the way. In addition, most manufacturers recommend that you check the torque on major nuts and bolts as part of the yearly inspection that you, of course, faithfully do. So don’t forget the crash bar as part of that inspection.
Finally, if you have to use the crash bar in anger, always commit a fairly thorough inspection as soon as you can, checking for loose or broken bolts, excessive bends that might have the crash bar hitting part of the engine or frame, and broken welds. Most crash bars are made of a material designed to bend substantially before breaking, but it pays to look.
For more tech tips and a look at a crash bar installation, watch our video below!