The stock handlebars on the CB350 are pretty comfortable, but they put your hands pretty high up so you look like you’re riding one of those gangsta bicycles from the 1950s. The ergonomics of the stock bars are pretty good, though.
The mirrors are also mounted way high up, making the bike look like a goofy long-eared rabbit and screwing up the lines on what is otherwise a compact, pretty machine. That aside, it seems like it’s working out pretty well for the guy in the CB350 ad from 1971.
I was looking for a set of handlebars that would drop the control position down a couple of inches, but nothing crazy. I also wanted to find a way to install bar-end mirrors, and the stock bars had metal plugs welded in the ends to prevent that. I didn’t want to change the way that the handlebars felt, but I did want a little more forward lean. Clubmans or clip-ons would just be a little ridiculous (and soooooo 2014) on this little bike.
After some research, I decided on a set of reproduction handlebars made by Emgo for the CB400F. They’re “euro” style with a low rise and slightly less pull-back than the stock CB350 bars. Once they arrived, I made some measurements and found that the pre-drilled holes were in the right spots for wiring and the mounting pins of the switch housings. I was ready to install.
It was one of the scarier operations that I’ve performed on this bike. Because the switch wiring goes through the handlebars, it is necessary to disconnect all of these wires so that you can remove them from the old handlebars and install the switches on the new handlebars. No less than 12 wires in the front harness must be disconnected. For most of these terminal connections, it’s the first time they’ve seen the light of day in 40 years. I pity the fool that doesn’t document their wiring before disconnecting it all. I said a prayer and got started.
Next I disassembled the switch housings by removing the screws that help them together. I disconnected the throttle cable from the throttle sleeve and removed the left grip. I left the brake and clutch cables connected even though the service manual recommended removing them. Honda can’t tell me what to do!
I taped up the disconnected end of each bundle of switch wiring in order to avoid putting stress on the terminals while pulling them through the bars. I loosened the bar clamps to point the center hole upwards and began to slowly thread the wiring out of the old handlebars. After about 20 minutes of gently pushing one end and pulling the other, I got the bundles out. The handlebar was naked! I removed it.
I installed the new handlebars and reversed the process, slowly threading the wiring from the switch holes to the center hole. I had some trouble getting the right switch housing mounted. I also found that the throttle sleeve was rubbing against the inside of the housing, so I thought the sleeve was the problem. I tried grinding down the outer edge of the sleeve, but this did not really help. After about half an hour of cursing and moving the housing around without success, I figured out what was going on. I had left too much wire on the outside of the handlebar inside the housing, and the bulk of the wiring was preventing the housing from closing on the bar cleanly. I pulled some of it through, and everything worked properly.
I hooked all the wiring back up and turned the key to see if there were any obvious electrical issues. The starter begin turning over ON ITS OWN as soon as I turned the key, so I immediately turned the key back to the off position. I almost had a freak-out, because there is nothing worse than an electrical issue. I settled down and traced the starter switch wire. I disconnected it and turned the key. No starter turning. Okay.
I opened the right switch housing back up and found that all of my fiddling earlier had worn the insulation off of the starter switch wire and it was grounding out against the handlebars. I added some electrical tape and reassembled it. I turned the key. No starter turning! I pressed the starter switch and the starter kicked right up.
The horn also seemed at first not to work, but then I discovered that I had just left its wire disconnected in the front harness by accident.
I installed the grips and discovered that the left grip actually was not long enough to cover the space between the left end and the housing. After talking to the owner of my local motorcycle shop and comparing to some old stock he had in the back room, I believe that this is because the CB400F (which these bars were made for) has a larger left switch housing than the CB350 twin. I’m planning to fill the gap with a bar clamp and to mount a mirror on that. For now I’m just dealing with it and using a bar-end mirror.
Let’s do a side-by-side comparison.
I liked how the bike felt before, but I really like the way the bike feels now. In the new riding position, I feel that I’m closer to the machine. The position is still upright but definitely more aggressive. If you’re thinking about doing this modification, I would recommend that you go for it. Drop me a line if you have questions about this.