How to Measure Motorcycle & ATV Cables

If you’re changing the handlebars on a motorcycle or ATV, you’ll probably need to change the cables as well to account for the different size or orientation of the new bars. 

How to measure motorcycle ATV cables

Changing cables means you’ll have to measure them first. Measuring cables is easy if you know what you’re doing, and here’s how to do it in 4 simple steps.

Tools Needed – Measuring Motorcycle or ATV Cables

  • Screwdriver
  • Allen or Torx wrench for handlebar clamps
  • Length of thin-gauge wire
  • Tape measure

Step 1: Install New Handlebars

The only way to know how long your new cables need to be is to measure them with the new handlebars in place. 

ATV handlebars cables measuring

Remove the old handlebars, and install the new bars as follows:

1. Remove the handlebar grips

2. Loosen the controls (don’t remove the bolts)

3. Undo the bar clamp bolts

4. Remove the handlebars, and slide the controls off them

5. Fit the new handle bars

Step 2: Measure Lengths for New Cables

Run a length of thin-gauge wire from the control on the handlebar, along the path you wish the cable to run, to the desired destination: carburetor, clutch linkage or brake linkage. 

Measuring ATV cables

Follow these guidelines:

1. Allow the wire’s path to curve naturally, and don’t put any sharp bends, kinks or angles in the wire

2. Keep the wire’s path away from components that get hot and might damage the new cable once it’s installed

3. Avoid painted components so the new cable won’t chafe against them and spoil the paintwork once installed

4. Don’t stretch the wire, but ensure it has enough slack so there’s no resistance against the new wire once it’s installed

Repeat this process for the throttle, clutch and brake cables

Step 3: Measure Cable Lengths

Hold the thin-gauge wire straight and measure it. Remove the old cable, hold it straight and measure it. Only measure from the ends of the old cable’s housing. Don’t measure the wire extending out of the housing at each end. Repeat this process for the throttle, clutch and front brake cables.

Step 4: Calculate New Cable Length

Compare the measurements of the thin-gauge wire to that of the old cable to determine the length of the throttle, clutch and front brake cables.

If the measurement is within an inch or so, you should be good to go with the stock-length cable. However, it’s recommended you don’t reuse the old cable and instead fit a new one, because it’ll provide smoother response and operation. If you need a longer or shorter cable, you should have no trouble finding an aftermarket part in the exact size you require.

Partzilla has all the OEM parts and aftermarket parts you need, including cables for your motorcycle or ATV. Stay tuned to the Partzilla blog for more repair and how-to, maintenance, tips & tricks, guides and troubleshooting articles. 


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