I love my old R1, but having been badly spoiled by things just as fun while eminently more comfortable, like MO’s 2015 Bike of the Year, the KTM Super Duke R, it’s time to take the old girl the next step from supersport to naked bike. The first instinct is to throw on a dirtbike handlebar; the easiest way to do that is with an LSL Superbike bar kit, which I have used previously and very satisfactorily on a Kawasaki ZX-9R. But I didn’t want to lose the R1’s sportbike aesthetic entirely, and did want to keep its flyscreen fairing and ability to suck up straights on the occasional track day.
Everybody’s heard of Helibars, but I’d never tried them before. Not long after contact, a beautifully machined-from-aluminum-billet and polyester powdercoated pair of clip-ons arrived swaddled securely in bubble wrap. The hardest part of the install was rooting around trying to find the 36mm socket I know I have to remove the top triple clamp, then going to Sears to buy a shiny new one.
Rather than reinventing the wheel, the Helibars TracStars simply re-angle the handlebars: Instead of angling downward from the fork tubes, the Helibars are just about perpendicular. So even though they attach below the triple clamp just like the stock bars, they’re about 1.5 to 2 inches higher at the grips and a bit more rearward where you hold on, which feels like a lot more when you’re droning along the freeway. The Helis take you about halfway to a real naked-bike riding position, relieving a lot of pressure from your wrists at cruising speed but not placing you all the way upright either.
You have to guess Yamaha had a team of engineers slaving over their computers for months to come up with the perfect angle for the R1’s bars, but the Helis don’t feel the least bit awkward to me in street use. I haven’t yet ridden them around a racetrack to see how I’d like them there, but in a full tuck they seem perfectly okay also.
Unlike the Yamaha pieces, there aren’t any positioning bolts that lock the Helis into the factory-spec angle, so you can clamp them onto the fork tubes at the angle you like best with the two 6mm bolts per bar (instead of the stockers’ single 8mm bolts). The kit even includes two nuts so you can replace the old bars’ positioning bolts (thus plugging the holes in the top clamp) even though you don’t really need them anymore.
Once installed and snugged up as per the included 10-page instruction booklet, all was swell. All the cables fit fine, so did the switchgear and brake fluid reservoir – and a clever pair of expanding inserts mean you use the stock bar-end weights too. Part number TS09073-B, $279, fits R1s 1998-2003 and ’08-’12 R6s, but Heli makes bars for nearly all sportbikes, as well as for tourers, cruisers and all kinds of motorcycles, at their facility in Cornish, Maine. Two thumbs up and eight other comfortably elevated digits as well.
For more information, visit https://www.helibars.com/