The first, and hardest, thing to do when putting on new bar ends is removing the old ones. This can either be nightmarishly difficult or a walk in the park. It may depend on which Loctite application guy was on shift when your bike was assembled. Kawasaki puts red (permanent) Loctite on the bar ends. We don't know why.
Photographs of the enemy:
When you order new OEM bolts they come pre-slimed:
Make sure the screwdriver you are using is as nearly new as possible. Look at the tip of it and make sure you can see NO rounding or notching of any kind. The less it bites, the more of your force is wasted trying to press it into the bolt head in the first place.
If turning with a screwdriver doesn't work, there are a lot of other methods listed below, but you could just save yourself some time right off the bat and drill the head off the bolt. Many people have tried some of the other ways and ended up doing just that in the end. You're going to replace the bolt with an Allen-head one, anyway. Yes, you are.
Get a 1/4" cobalt drill bit (or any kind of bit designed for drilling in metal) from any hardware store, and drill straight through the center of the head. The head will pop off and the bar end will slide right off.
From there, clamp a vise-grips onto the remaining part of the bolt and turn it out, perhaps using one of the heat methods below to assist.
Replacing the bolts
When you're looking for replacements, go to Ace Hardware or the equivalent and get two hex (Allen) head bolts to replace the Phillips). Bring your bar ends and the old bolts with you to see how they fit. A standard size is: m8, 1.25, 50 mm long. Yours might be a different length, depending on your new bar end, but the diameter (m8) and the pitch (1.25) should be the same. Get chrome or stainless if you can.
Alternate bolt removal methods
- An impact driver takes the force of a hammer and turns it into rotary torque. This is a very useful tool, especially for older vehicles with stubborn fasteners. Can usually be used for screws or nuts/bolts.
- Most modern, quality cordless driver drills have multiple torque settings. Using a good bit, start at the lowest setting and let it ratchet for a second or so. Keep doing this on each successively higher setting. There are purpose-made cordless impact guns made by Makita and the like, too.
- In the absence of an impact driver, smack the butt end of your regular screwdriver with a hammer while turning. Put additional turning force into as you make the hit. DISCLAIMER: This is pretty dangerous, so use great caution about doing it. If done poorly or with too much force, you stand a chance of hurting yourself or punching the screwdriver tip through something, or breaking whatever you're working on.
- Get a #3 Phillips screwdriver bit that fits into your socket wrench. Holding the bars with one hand, use the other hand to turn the ratchet and your stomach to put pressure on the ratchet. The Loctite on that bolt makes it feel like you are destroying the screw when it starts to move. Make sure you keep lots of pressure on the bolt until it is all the way out. If you ease up the pressure when it's partially out you may destroy the head.
- This will sometimes help crack the bolt loose: Find a piece of rubber, like an old piece of heater hose or garden hose, and split it up the side. Put that over the bar end to protect it from scratching. Then clamp the bar end with a large pair of vise grips. Now turn the bar end and the bolt at the same time.
- For the budget-conscious: Soak the bar end first for half an hour, using a ziplock bag filled with hot water. Turn the entire front end so the bar end you are working on is as low to the ground as it can go, and rubber band the bag onto the bar end. Next, cut a cross section of a bicycle inner tube and put it around the bar end. Attach vise grips very strongly and turn. This should get some movement. Now, impact drive with a sharp phillips head.
- An alternate method, faster but requiring the use of an additional tool: The hot water is on the right track, but you can get far better results in a fraction of the time with a heat gun, a #3 Phillips bit, and a ratchet drive. Using this method, the bar ends can be off in a matter of minutes.
- The heat gun is nothing fancy. Any heat gun/paint stripper has enough heat to soften up the Loctite. Any place that sells paint will sell heat guns. You can also buy them at hardware stores, some auto parts stores, hobby shops, Amazon, or Harbor Freight. Here's a look at the products offered by Wagner.
- Point the heat gun mostly at the end of the bars to avoid getting too much heat on the grips. The heat transfers very quickly along the bolt and, even though you can feel your grips get warm, there probably won't be enough direct heat blowing on them to do any damage.
- With the gun on high, warm up the bar end for only about 60 seconds. After this, you could try to use a screwdriver, but it is still pretty stiff. Instead, use a #3 Phillips bit in a 3/8" or 1/2" ratchet or breaker bar. It should spin right out.
- Don't have a heat gun? Don't have a father you can borrow one from? A hair dryer probably won't put out enough heat, but you could use a small butane or propane torch. Another suggestion is to hold a soldering iron against the bolt, and let it conduct heat straight to the Loctite. A lighter may work, although you may melt your thumb along with the red goopy stuff.
Anything you can do to soften things up before you start wrenching on that bolt will definitely help.
Finding new bar ends
All bar ends are not created equal. The bar ends on the EX250 are designed for solid bars. Many bikes have hollow bars that use an expanding rubber thingy to hold them on. ZX-10Rs and some others have completely weird bar ends that actually screw into the bar.
Our bars aren't solid, but they do have a tapped end as though they were solid. Also, H-D bikes and knock-offs have 1" bars, whereas the rest of the world uses 7/8" bars. Most Kawasaki sport bike bar ends will fit. HOWEVER, the "lip" at the end of the bar end on our bikes seems to be unique to the EX250 and EX500. This means that if you use anything not designed for one of these two bikes you will have a little gap between the grip and the bar end, unless you do a little bit of monkeying around to remove it (and it will never be perfect). See photo below:
The stock bar ends are steel and seem quite crash-resistant. Many aftermarket bar ends are aluminium and grind away during a crash. Grinding away means crash energy is being used up, and your bike still works fine without nice bar ends. That said, the stock bar ends are also quite long and help to preserve the tips of your levers. Take your pick, and try not to crash.
A couple things to think about
- The purpose of the bar ends is to dampen the vibration of the handlebars. This is one place where weight is a good thing. Most of the aftermarket ends are made from aluminum, or even a kind of nylon-ish plastic. Those may not be heavy enough to do the job they are supposed to do as well as the OEM product. They do come in pretty colors, though. eBay is a good place to look.
- The stock bar ends weigh five ounces (142 grams).
- When you change the weight of the bar-end weights, you change the resonant frequency of the handlebars. Going to heavier bar ends will lower the frequency at which the bars buzz. This is not necessarily a good thing -- the buzz at 8k RPM is much harsher than 9k if you retune your bars there (~10 oz weights handily accomplish this; avoid 10 oz).
- There is a set of bar ends from MurphKits for the Kawasaki Concours that are adjustable. They have an O ring that sits between the bar end weight itself and the bars. You vary the tightness of the center screw or bolt to change the rpm range where the bar ends become effective. These will most likely work on the 250, but contact them before you order.
- If you find bar vibration to be a problem, and you'd like a good-looking, heavyweight bar end, look at the ones from HVMP. They are milled from solid stainless steel and come in 14 and 17 ounce models. Mounting hardware (stainless allen screws and lock washers) is included. They are $60 shipped, compared to about $40 from Ron Ayers for OEM and hardware. HVMP usually recommend the shorter 14 oz for sportbikes.
- Here is a 17 ounce HVMP mounted on an EX250 (left) and with aftermarket ProGrips (right).
- Remember: When you replace your bar ends, use allen-head bolts, which are much easier to remove.