Harley Davidson Motorcycles

What Features to Look for When Buying Sissy Bars for Your Harley Motorcycle?

What Features to Look for When Buying Sissy Bars for Your Harley Motorcycle?

Sissy bars are mounted on the rear fender of the motorcycle to provide back support for the rider or passenger and additional space for luggage. Before purchasing a sissy bar, consider what kind you need depending on the nature of your trips, whether they are tours, two-up rides, etc. 

This article focuses on the factors you need to consider when buying a sissy bar for your Harley.

What Features to Look for When Buying Sissy Bars for Your Harley Motorcycle - infographic

1. What to Look for When Buying a Harley Sissy Bar

1.1 Material

The material is the first and foremost feature to look for in a sissy bar for your Harley. A sissy bar should be made of a strong, robust, and sturdy material able to support you, your passenger, and your luggage. Sissy bars hold the weight of a passenger so they need to be well-built. The best materials for sissy bars are bar steel, mild steel, or stainless steel.  

1.2 Thickness

After the material, the second feature to look for is the diameter of the bars. The thickness of the sissy bar often depends on the bike’s overall weight. About half-inch bar is the minimum thickness if you plan to install a sissy bar on a lightweight Harley. The ideal diameter for Harley Sportster, Dyna, and Softail sissy bars is 5/8".

1.3 Height

Sissy bars can come in three height ranges: short, medium, and tall. A short sissy bar is pressed against the seat and keeps the passenger from sliding off the back of the bike. However, it doesn’t provide complete back support. Short and medium sissy bars support the lower back, while taller sissy bars rest right in between the shoulder blades.

The height of a sissy bar will depend on the height of the rider or passenger. However, if you plan to go on a long ride, it is best to get a taller one as they have more carrying capacity.

The height of a sissy bar also varies depending on the model. They typically have a height ranging between 8.5” to 30”. You can also adjust the height of a sissy bar by customizing it to better suit your needs. The best height for Harley Sportster, Dyna, and Softail sissy bars is 25”.

1.4 Hardware Availability

Getting a sissy bar with included hardware will save you time and money that would have been spent buying all the necessary hardware. This also makes installation quick and easy since all the bolts and nuts will be provided. Sissy bar hardware bought separately may not fit your bike and may take a long time to install.

1.5 Rustproof

Rusting of the sissy bars is the major issue that most riders face. Sissy bars are usually made of steel or iron that are highly prone to rusting when exposed to the elements. If you go touring frequently, it is more likely your sissy bars will get rusty. When steel or iron is subjected to moisture or acidic substances, rust begins to form. When purchasing a Harley sissy bar, look for one that has chrome plating or is coated with rust-resistant paint.

1.6 Fitment Compatibility

The compatibility of the sissy bars helps you in many ways, it saves time and money. Get a sissy bar that’s specifically designed for your bike model since it will likely fit perfectly during installation. It’s recommended you purchase a sissy bar from the same brand as your sissy bar.

1.7 Easy Installation

Look for the sissy bar that’s easy to install. It’s a crucial thing to keep in mind, there are some sissy bars that require a lengthy and laborious installation, you’ll have to remove rear fenders to install them. To get rid of all the hassle, buy sissy bars that are easy to install. It’s best to get sissy bars with built-in cuts that wrap around the turn signals. Additionally, go for the sissy bars that come with the hardware to make installation easier.

1.8 Luggage Rack

There are a few components you really need to pay attention to when getting a sissy bar. In a complete sissy bar setup, you get the mounting brackets or side plates, an upright bar or hoop, a pad, and a luggage rack.

If you are getting a sissy bar, the only luggage rack that will be compatible is one built by the same brand or manufacturer. If you plan to get the luggage rack and sissy bar separately, you may have to customize them to make sure they fit. So, it’s recommended to purchase a sissy bar and luggage from the same manufacturer.

If you can, get a sissy bar with a built-in luggage rack. Many brands offer a Harley sissy bar with a built-in luggage rack that opens at a 90° angle and offers back support.

1.9 Spread Distance

Another important thing to encounter is the spread distance when getting a sissy bar for your Harley. Spread distance is the distance between the side plates of the sissy bars. Measure the width of the rear tire and fender to help you choose the correctly-sized sissy bar. You can also use these measurements to customize your sissy bar’s dimensions if necessary. Measuring spread distance will ensure you find a sissy bar that best fits your motorbike if you don’t find a sissy bar for your specific Harley model.

1.10 Damage Resistance

Sissy bars can also be beneficial in keeping you safe in case of an accident. When you face an impact from the back, sissy bars act as a shield or barrier that protects you. For this purpose, they need to be strong and damage resistant. So in case of a collision, sissy bars should be strong enough to absorb the impact. If they lack damage resistance, they can collapse and cause you an injury.

1.11 Side Handle Welding

Another important thing to look for when buying a sissy bar Harley is the welding of the side handles. Passengers can hold the side handles on the sissy bars to keep their balance and keep themselves from falling off. The side handles should be strong enough to bear the weight of a passenger and luggage.

1.12 Detachable or Rigid Mounting

Sissy bars come with two mounting systems: detachable and rigid mount. It’s your personal choice what kind of sissy bar you want for your Harley. If you are getting a sissy bar for touring, it’s best to get a detachable bar so you can remove it after a tour. The detachable sissy bar is easy to install and remove. On the other hand, if you want to get a sissy bar for daily commutes and city travel, it’s best to buy a rigid-mount sissy bar.

1.13 Styling

The last thing on our list is styling: color and design. Sissy bars come in different designs and styles. Try to choose the one that best compliments your Harley’s look. If you own a fully black motorcycle, a black pointed or round matte finish sissy bar will give it a smooth, uniform appearance. However, if you choose a chrome sissy bar, it will give your Harley model a striking look.

2. What is the Best and Quickest Way to Find a Suitable Harley Sissy Bar?

Sissy bars are aftermarket parts attached to the motorcycle’s rear that help improves storage capacity, comfort, and aesthetic appeal. This equipment comes with two separate pieces: the mounting bracket and the backrest. The mounting bracket is usually model-specific and the backrest is universal. Most manufacturers make the sissy bars as a universal item that fits almost all motorcycles. It’s the mounting bracket that makes a sissy bar model specific.

When looking for a Harley sissy bar, find a bar/pad setup you like, check the manufacturer, and search for suitable mounting brackets by that manufacturer. This is the easiest way to ensure the proper fitment of the sissy bar.

3. Last Words

A sissy bar can be a useful addition to a motorbike. To choose the best Harley sissy bar, you need to examine a few factors, including material, thickness, and height. The sissy bar should be made of sturdy material and have an appropriate thickness and height relative to the rider or passenger. Furthermore, it should come with free hardware, be easy to install, be compatible with your model, be damage resistant, and be rustproof.

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