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How to Choose the Right Sissy Bars for Your Motorcycle?

How to Choose the Right Sissy Bars for Your Motorcycle?

Back in the day, motorcycle sissy bars were a popular aftermarket part used to improve the style and aesthetic appeal of chopper motorcycles. These versatile steel bars are now a form of self-expression, help mount rear fenders to the bike, improve pillion comfort, and help mount motorcycle luggage bags.

For long-distance interstate rides and motorcycle camping trips, motorcyclists can attach their luggage to sissy bars to make room for the side panniers. When riding with another motorcyclist, sissy bars can be used to help tow a broken motorcycle to the nearest repair shop or gas station. In case your motorcycle falls over, you can use sissy bars to pull your bike back upright. Due to its versatility, a motorcycle sissy bar has become an essential motorcycle accessory for owners of cruisers.

However, choosing a motorcycle sissy bar can be a time-consuming and difficult decision. This article discusses the features to look for when choosing a motorcycle sissy bar.

1. Sissy Bar Materials

Sissy bars can be made from many different materials available on the market. The most common materials motorcycle sissy bars are made of include stainless steel, rod iron, welded chain, and aluminum. Chromium plating or chrome finish help make sissy bars wear-resistant, weather-resistant, rustproof, and aesthetically pleasing. Your sissy bar must be made of a high-quality sturdy material to support luggage and passengers, prevent corrosion, and withstand the impact of a collision.

Best Sissy Bar Materials
Material Pros Cons
Stainless Steel Round Bar  Highly Durable
Can Withstand High Stress
Offers Maximum Storage Capacity
Highly Finished Look
Less Rust Susceptibility
Difficult to Maintain
Requires Frequent Cleaning
Prone to Scratching
Rod Iron Bars  Durable
Adequate Weight Capacity
High Rust Susceptibility
Less Stress Tolerance
Aluminum  Lightweight
Easy to Install
Aesthetic Appeal
High Corrosion Resistance
Easy to Maintain
Bends Easily
Can Not Carry Heavy Luggage
Not Readily Available
Low Wear Resistance

The most popular sissy bar materials are rod iron and stainless steel. While both are durable materials, stainless steel is the sturdier of the two. Hence, it is the better option.

2. Dimensions & Weight Capacity of Sissy Bars

To ensure you get a sissy bar that fits your vehicle, you need accurate measurements. Before you make your purchase, here are a few measurements to pay attention to:


On average, sissy bars can be 8.5’’- 30’’ tall; however, the height of the sissy bar must suit the heights of the rider and/or passenger.

Riders who want to improve their motorcycle’s aesthetics and style prefer sissy bars that are 25’’- 30’’ tall. Taller sissy bars are also suited for riders who frequently travel with a passenger and carry luggage.

Meanwhile, riders who prefer solo rides should get medium sissy bars for optimal comfort. Medium sissy bars are about 16”-24” tall.

Shorter sissy bars are 8.5’’-15’’ tall and help keep the luggage or the passenger secure, ensuring a safe and comfortable ride.


For maximum weight capacity and sturdiness, the sissy bars should be 9/16 or 5/8’’ thick. 5/8’’ (15.8 mm) sissy bars tend to be more expensive. If you are looking for a budget-friendly option with adequate strength and durability, choose a set of 9/16’’ (14.2 mm) sissy bars. However, they would not be as durable as 5/8” thick sissy bars.


The width between the sissy bar side plates is called the spread distance. Ideally, the spread distance should be about 12’’-16’’ wide. When ordering a custom motorcycle sissy bar, measure the width of your motorcycle’s rear fender to ensure the right fit. If you do not know how to get the right measurements to buy the right fit for your motorcycle sissy bar, you can have it measured from a mechanic to order the right side plates for your sissy bars.

Bolt Size

Usually, the hardware kit comes with the sissy bars, so you don’t have to order them separately. The most common sissy bar bolt sizes are ¼-28, 3/8-16, and 5/16-18. Bolt size depends strictly on the size of the fender and the holes in the sissy bar.

You need at least four bolts. The fractions ¼, 3/8, and 5/16 indicate the outer diameter of the bolt shank. Meanwhile, the numbers 28, 16, and 18 are the number of threads present on the length of the bolt. To avoid confusion, it is best to get your sissy bar’s sizes to ensure you buy the right bolts.

Remember, bolt sizes will be different depending on the motorcycle and should match the size of the specific fender.

Weight Capacity

Sturdy sissy bars can support luggage weighing over 255 lbs/115 kg.

Sissy Bar Dimensions
Height Short Sissy Bars: 8.5’’-15’’
Medium Sissy Bars: 16”-24”
Tall Sissy Bars: 25”-30’’
Custom Sissy Bars - 30”-35”
(Standard Height is Usually 25”)
Thickness 9/16 in - 14.2 mm
5/8 in - 15.8 mm
Width/Spread Distance (distance between side plates) 11’’- 18’’
Depends on the Width of the Motorcycle’s Rear Fender
Bolt Size 1/4-28
Weight Capacity 55 lbs/115 kg

3. Sissy Bar Base

3.1 Fender Strut Mounted Sissy Bar

Typically, sissy bars are mounted to the rear fender strut on all motorcycles. The biggest hindrance when installing a strut-mounted sissy bar, especially on Harley Davidson motorcycles, is relocating the rear turn signals. If you choose compatible sissy bars designed specifically for your motorcycle’s model and year, you can easily install the sissy bars without removing the rear turn signals.

3.2 Swingarm Mounted Sissy Bar

Though sissy bars can be mounted to swingarms, it is not recommended if your motorcycle has a live suspension. Mounting sissy bars to a swingarm can run the risk of a broken swing arm, a dysfunctional rear suspension, and the increased likelihood of getting into accidents.

The sissy bar must pivot in the same direction as the swingarm and have enough clearance to avoid colliding with the rear tire. Therefore, a swingarm mounted sissy bar is only practical if your motorcycle features a hardtail frame.

4. Mounting Style

Detachable Sissy Bar

Rigid Sissy Bar

Motorcycle sissy bars are available in the following two mounting styles:

Detachable Sissy Bar - In addition to the docking kit, this type of sissy bar comes with release buttons and rotary latches for convenient installation and removal.

Rigid Sissy Bar - Lacks an easy removal latch assembly. Removal is more time-consuming than a quick-release detachable sissy bar since it may require:

  • Removing OEM fender-mounted reflectors using a micro-filament line
  • Using of a powerful adhesive remover
  • Removing screws and other hardware

5. Sissy Bar Styling

Whether you want a classic or an aggressive blacked-out look, chrome-plated and black powder-coated sissy bars are readily available on the market. To match the look of the sissy bars, sissy bar mounting hardware can come in chrome or black coating as well.

Sissy Bar & Docking Hardware Styling
Sissy Bar Coating Pros Cons
Chrome Finish  Shine
Conspicuous Look
Easy to Clean
High-Quality Plating is Expensive
Low-Quality Plating Quickly Comes Off
Prone to Scratching & Smudging
Black Finish  Modern Aggressive Styling
Easy to Clean
Easy to Maintain
Can Be Glossy or Matte
Adequate Corrosion Resistance
Coating Chips Off

6. Sissy Bar Compatibility & Fitment

Not all sissy bars are universal fits. It is recommended you purchase sissy bars from the same brand as your motorcycle or from businesses that off motorcycle parts like Viking Bags.

These brands provide premium-quality sissy bars and can help you find products compatible with your motorcycle. Before making a purchase, make sure to scan the fitment lists available on the brand websites. Do not purchase a sissy bar if your motorcycle’s model year is not on the list.

You can also use an aftermarket sissy bar’s model number as a reference when commissioning a custom-made sissy bar.

7. Integrated Luggage Rack & Luggage Capacity

Buying a motorcycle sissy bar with a built-in luggage rack can improve comfort on tours and also provides a ledge to place your luggage.

Having your backpack safely mounted on the luggage rack will help put your mind at ease. When riding solo, you would not have to worry about keeping your luggage secured. Sissy bars with a foldable luggage rack help prevent loose straps from getting caught in the rear wheel, chain, or sprockets. If you are an avid tourer or motocamper, a sissy bar with a foldable luggage rack is the best choice.

8. Takeaway

Motorcycle sissy bars are no longer just decorative accessories. This aftermarket motorcycle part has many functions that contribute to riding comfort, storage capacity, safety, and touring capability.

To buy the right motorcycle sissy bar, conduct thorough research, find sissy bars, and check compatibility based on the model and year of your motorcycle. Most motorcycle sissy bar brands provide a list of motorcycle models and years compatible with a specific sissy bar. If your search for a sissy bar becomes unsuccessful, you can have one custom-made to fit your motorbike.

Related Readings

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Should You Buy New or Used Motorcycle Sissy Bars? - Beginner Buyer’s Guide
Quick-Release Sissy Bar Installation on Harley Davidson Motorcycle Without Turn Signal Relocation

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