motorcycle with high handlebars


High handlebars, often referred to as “ape hangers,” have become a distinctive and iconic feature on many custom and cruiser motorcycles. These handlebars, which rise much higher than standard ones, are more than just an aesthetic choice; they profoundly impact riding ergonomics, comfort, and bike control. What are the real benefits and drawbacks of motorcycles with high handlebars? This exploration will dive into these aspects, evaluating whether high handlebars are worth the hype or if they present more challenges than advantages.

motorcycle with high handlebars

Motorcycle with High Handlebars:

Benefits and Drawbacks

Visual Appeal and Style

One of the primary reasons riders opt for high handlebars is their striking visual appeal. High handlebars give motorcycles a unique and often aggressive look that stands out on the road. This custom aesthetic is particularly popular among cruiser and chopper enthusiasts who value style and individuality.

Enhanced Customization

High handlebars often go hand-in-hand with other customization efforts. Riders looking to create a bike that reflects their personality frequently choose ape hangers to complement other modifications, such as custom paint jobs, unique exhaust systems, and tailored seats. This level of personalization can make a motorcycle truly one-of-a-kind.

Cultural and Historical Influence

The popularity of high handlebars can be traced back to the chopper culture of the 1960s and 70s. Iconic movies like “Easy Rider” showcased bikes with exaggerated ape hangers, embedding them deeply into motorcycle lore. This cultural and historical connection adds to the allure of high handlebars for many riders seeking to pay homage to that era.

motorcycle with high handlebarsImpact on Riding Posture and Comfort

While they undoubtedly look cool, high handlebars significantly influence riding posture and comfort, which can be both positive and negative.

Ergonomic Considerations

High handlebars can lead to a more relaxed posture by allowing riders to sit upright, reducing strain on the back. This upright position can be more comfortable for long rides compared to the forward-leaning posture required by sport bikes. However, if the handlebars are too high, they can cause the rider to raise their arms above shoulder level, leading to potential discomfort and circulation issues over extended periods.

Long-Distance Riding

For long-distance touring, finding the right balance in handlebar height is crucial. Moderately high handlebars can improve comfort by mitigating pressure on the wrists and lower back. Nevertheless, excessively high handlebars may cause fatigue in the shoulders and upper arms, making long rides more taxing.

Control and Maneuverability

High handlebars can affect how a motorcycle handles, both positively and negatively. Understanding these effects is crucial for safe and enjoyable riding.

Enhanced Leverage

High handlebars can provide greater leverage, making it easier to steer and control a heavy cruiser or chopper at low speeds. This can be particularly beneficial for navigating through tight spaces or handling the bike during parking.

Reduced Precision

On the flip side, high handlebars can reduce the rider’s ability to make precise and quick maneuvers, especially at higher speeds. The increased height means that small movements of the handlebars result in larger directional changes, which can require more effort and concentration to manage, particularly during aggressive riding.

motorcycle with high handlebarsLegal Considerations and Safety

Transitioning to another critical aspect, it’s essential to be aware of legal regulations and safety concerns associated with high handlebars.

Regulatory Compliance

Many regions have legal restrictions on the height of motorcycle handlebars. These regulations are often in place to ensure the safety of the rider and others on the road. For example, in some areas, handlebars must not be higher than a certain distance from the seat or shoulders of the rider. Always check local laws before installing high handlebars to ensure compliance.

Visibility and Reaction Times

High handlebars can affect a rider’s visibility and reaction times. When arms are extended high, it can limit the rider’s ability to quickly reach other controls, such as brakes and turn signals. Additionally, the rider’s line of sight may be compromised, particularly in traffic or when making turns, increasing the risk of accidents.

Maintenance and Adjustments

Another crucial factor to consider is the maintenance and adjustments required for high handlebars. Proper installation and regular check-ups can prevent potential issues.

Proper Installation

Installing high handlebars requires more than just swapping out the existing ones. It often involves lengthening the cables for the throttle, clutch, and brakes. Ensuring these cables are correctly installed and routed is vital to maintain the bike’s performance and safety.

Periodic Adjustments

High handlebars can shift or become loose over time, especially if the bike is ridden on rough terrain. Regularly checking the tightness of the handlebars and the condition of the cables can prevent accidents. Proper maintenance routines should include verifying that all components related to the handlebars are secure and functioning correctly.

motorcycle with high handlebarsCost Implications

High handlebars can also have financial considerations, both in terms of installation and potential long-term costs.

Initial Installation Costs

The initial cost of purchasing and installing high handlebars can vary depending on the brand and type of bars chosen. Additionally, the need to replace or extend cables and other components adds to the overall expense. For those not comfortable with DIY installation, professional labor costs should also be factored in.

Long-Term Maintenance

While the upfront costs can be significant, it’s essential to consider long-term maintenance expenses. High handlebars may require more frequent adjustments and checks, especially if they affect the bike’s handling significantly. Factoring in these potential costs is crucial for budget-conscious riders.

motorcycle with high handlebarsPsycho-Social Factors

Beyond physical and financial implications, the psychological and social aspects of riding with high handlebars should not be overlooked.

Rider Identity

High handlebars are often a statement piece, reflecting the rider’s identity and preferences. They can evoke a sense of freedom, rebellion, and individualism that many motorcyclists cherish. This psychological boost can enhance the overall riding experience, providing a deeper emotional connection to the bike and the culture.

Social Perception

Society’s perception of motorcycles with high handlebars is mixed. While some view them as symbols of coolness and freedom, others might see them as impractical or unsafe. This social perception can influence how riders are viewed by others on the road and within their communities, for better or worse.


Making an Informed Decision

Deciding whether to install high handlebars on your motorcycle involves considering multiple factors, from style and comfort to legal compliance and safety. While they offer a unique aesthetic and can provide ergonomic benefits, the potential drawbacks related to control, visibility, and long-term costs must not be ignored.

Balancing these pros and cons, along with personal preferences and riding habits, will help you make an informed decision. Whether you’re driven by the allure of classic chopper culture or looking to improve your riding comfort, understanding the full impact of high handlebars ensures that your choice enhances both your riding experience and safety on the road.

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