How to Choose Ape Hangers: 5 Essential Tips to find the right Handlebar
Are Ape Hangers comfortable? How do I choose a size? How are they on long rides? Are they practical?
These are the types of questions you may be asking when considering installing Ape Hanger Handlebars on your motorcycle.
The driving factor in all of these questions relates to height. The height of the Ape Hangers you choose is going to have the greatest influence on bar comfort, riding style and the looks of the bike.
Let’s explore some elements you should consider:
1. Choosing Height
Ape Hangers generally come in a set range of heights: 8 inch, 10 inch, 12 inch, 14 inch and 16 inch. Some can go as high as 18 or 20 inches, but at this height they can be a bit impractical and uncomfortable.
To eliminate the guess work in choosing which height is best for you, start by taking a few easy measurements before purchasing a new set of bars.
To decide what height you would like your bars, it is important to consider the ‘riders triangle’. The three points of the triangle are made by your contact with the seat, the Handlebar grips and the foot pegs.
The Riders' Triangle is formed between the contact points of the Seat, Grips and Foot Pegs
Your body weight will be distributed between these three points, placing different amounts of pressure on each body part. Incorrect distribution can lead to pain in the rider’s wrists, back, neck and shoulders.
To get a feel for your ideal riders’ triangle, a simple exercise you can do is to sit on your bike with your eyes closed.
When seated on your bike lift your arms up with elbows slightly bent and hands in a fist shape as if holding onto bars and take note of the position your body naturally takes. In general, your hands will be most comfortable at some height below your shoulders, with hands spread slightly wider than shoulder width. Run a tape measure down from one hand to the height of the risers on your bike to get an approximate height that you find comfortable.
It should be noted that the same height Ape Hanger may put the rider in a different position on different bikes, due to variances in seat heights and fork length.
For example, compare the mounting points on this Harley Davidson Sportster 72 and a Honda Fury:
The distance between seat and risers can vary on different bikes.
As seen in the illustration, there is a large difference in heights between the surface of the seat, and Handlebar risers. As such, the same size Ape Hanger (say, 12”) on the Honda Fury will put the riders’ arms up much higher than the Sportster.
2. Will my cables reach a set of Ape Hangers?
In most cases, extended cables will be needed to fit any Ape over 10” or 12" in height, depending on the bike. It’s always a good idea to measure your cables before you purchase a set of Ape Hanger Handlebars, especially if you’d like to avoid extending the cables.
Simply measure the amount of free cable from your riser to the switch housing, stretching it out straight, and compare this measurement to the dimensions of your favourite Handlebar.
We have listed the cable length for each Handlebar at the bottom right hand corner of its dimension sheet. It’s always a good idea to allow an extra 1-2 inches cable length to route along the curved bar, as the dimension listed is a straight-line distance.
BarCraft lists the cable length for each Handlebar.
3. Do you prefer leaning forwards or sitting up-right?
If you suffer from sore back, shoulders or neck and are currently running low stock bars you may want to consider Ape Hangers as they will raise your riding position, shifting more of your body weight from your hands to the seat. This will also create a more upright posture for the rider, reducing bending and strain on the back muscles and neck.
If you find yourself preferring a lower riding profile but like the bobber look, a good compromise can usually be found with a set of mini Ape Hangers, 8 – 10 inches in height.
4. How about long distance riding?
If you commonly find yourself on rides that extend for hours, especially on the highway, you are more likely to be aware of any little niggles that cause you to end up sore, uncomfortable and in need of another coffee break before continuing along the next stretch of road.
Take note next time you find yourself on one of these rides to which parts of your body are becoming sore. Would shifting more weight to the seat and sitting more upright alleviate the issue?
The overwhelming response is that the change in weight distribution that Ape Hangers offer dramatically increases comfort and reduces pain in the wrists, back and shoulders.
5. Do Ape Hangers affect handling?
If you go for a tall Ape Hanger (14” – 18”) you may notice that the turn-in on your bike feels slower to react. This is due to the fact that you will have to the lean the bars over a longer distance to tip the bike into a curve. It won’t affect the safety or handling of the bike, but changes the responsive feel of agile cornering and performing tight radius turns.
Finding a trade-off
Generally speaking, adding more height to your Ape Hangers gives the following characteristics:
- Can increase comfort by straightening back, lifting chest, relieving weight from arms
- Improves visibility in mirrors
- Looks awesome!
- Fun to ride
- Reduces reaching towards the handlebars
Con’s to consider include;
- More wind resistance at speed
- Increased vibration at handle grips
- Can cause numbness and cold hands if above shoulder height
Keep a trade-off between these factors in mind when choosing your ideal height. Consider the type of riding you do most, whether it’s a daily commute, long distance touring or backroad fun, to decide how the above factors are going to influence you.
Conclusion: Is it worth it?
Yes! Ape Hangers are the most popular modification on Harley and cruiser motorcycles for good reason. They’re fun to ride, and just make you feel damn good when looking at that machine.
Being able to change the look, feel and comfort of your bike is just as enjoyable as riding it. Experimenting with new parts and refining the look of your bike helps you to get the most out of the whole experience.
One sweet Panhead chopper, running a set of 14" BarCraft Ape Hangers.