There’s basically two ways to cut down your handlebars to make them narrower. You can grab a hacksaw and go to town on them or you can get a pipe cutter and get an even and precise cut. For this demonstration I did both, using the hacksaw on one end and the pipe cutter on the other end.
First, I used the pipe cutter method. I called several hardware shops trying to find a good pipe cutter since we didn’t have one lying around the office (Imagine that–we don’t even have a good chain breaker here. Where is Park Tools when you need them?) Most places tried to sell me a pipe cutter that costs about $125, which is great for a shop, but a little impractical for our purposes and yours. The expensive ones take about ten seconds to cut through your bars, while the one that I got took a long time. The one I bought cost about $15 at Home Depot. There was another model that cost $25 and in hindsight I should have bought that one. The more expensive tool may have taken less time because the blade is bigger.
Before you begin make a mark on both ends of your bars at the point that you want to cut them off at. You want to make sure that you cut the same amount off of each end or you’ll end up with lop-sided handlebars which is no good. To cut your handlebars with a pipe cutter, attach the pipe cutter to the bars by tightening the large screw at the bottom until the bars rest between the roller mechanism in the pipe cutter and the blade. Now, turn the pipe cutter in a circle around the bars repeatedly. You need to tighten the pipe cutter gradually as you go, and I do mean gradually. This process is going to take a while but when you’re done you’ll have an even cut with no jagged pieces of metal sticking out to make mince meat out of your hands. If you have the time I definitely recommend this method. My only suggestion would be to take your bars off of your bike and get a couple of videos to watch because it does take a while.
On the other side of my bars I used the good ol’ hacksaw. This method is much quicker but the outcome isn’t as good. It’s rare that you get a straight cut all the way through the bars and you always have to file down the end after your done. Hacksaws are inexpensive and so are the blades. You can get a good hacksaw for under $5 and blades usually run about a buck a piece. However, I will admit that the ones I used come ten to a pack at the dollar store so they weren’t the best to begin with (foreshadowing).
When you begin you’ll want to take it easy and get a good groove cut into your handlebars. Try to keep the blade as straight as possible the whole time. Once you cut a decent groove into your bars you can start sawing as fast as possible. This method only takes about 2 minutes with a new hacksaw blade that isn’t cheap as hell like mine were. The two minute plan didn’t work for me because I was using blades that cost about ten cents a piece and I ended up breaking both of them before I cut all the way through. Bummer.
I had only brought two blades to work with me so after I broke them I thought, “Well I’ll just use the pipe cutter to do the job the right way.” Unfortunately, I had dulled the blade on the pipe cutter and it wasn’t going to cut through my heat-treated Standard Strip bars. I tried for a while before I finally gave up, luckily I had managed to cut a groove into the bars that would guide a hacksaw blade so I ran to the hardware store bought a good hacksaw blade. Then I returned to finish the job in a minute flat while Jared laughed at me and took pictures. Normally I wouldn’t have been so concerned about getting this finished right away, but since I was going to a skatepark with Glenn Milligan and Mark Losey that afternoon I had to get this project finished.
So what did we learn from this little tech tip? Well, other than the fact that everyone now knows that I am a cheap-ass and should have bought good tools to begin with, we know that the hacksaw works the fastest when you have good blades, but it isn’t the best way to do it. We also know that the pipe cutter does the best job, but you should get the $25 one, an extra blade, and have some time on your hands. Finally, we have learned that as a combination the pipe cutter and the hacksaw do a good and quick job at cutting your handlebars.
Random information regarding this project:
Cost of pipe cutter: $15.05 including California sales tax
Cost of Hacksaw: I don’t know I’ve had it for a while.
Cost of Hacksaw Blades: $.20 for the two cheap ones
$1.07 for the good one
Hardware stores visited while looking for pipe cutter: Five, save yourself the gas and hassle by going to Home depot.
Actual time it spent to cut handlebars including hardware store visits: Four hours
Actual time it should have taken to cut handlebars: About 5 minutes.
Moral Of The Story: Be prepared. Have all the proper tools with you before you begin the job and things will run a lot more smoothly for you than they did for me.