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Which Are Better: Ape Hanger Handlebars or Riser Handlebars?

Which Are Better: Ape Hanger Handlebars or Riser Handlebars?

1. Introduction

Introduction - Which Are Better Ape Hanger Handlebars or Riser Handlebars

Photo Credit: @biltwellinc , @throttleaddiction

It is understandable if you are a motorcyclist who never pays that much attention to your vehicle’s handlebars. Motorcycle handlebars tend to have a simple forked design made from round stainless steel bars or rods. Aside from that, they do not have a lot of interesting features or characteristics. However, you cannot deny the importance of handlebars when balancing, controlling, and steering your motorcycle.

Every type of motorcycle handlebar is installed at the front and is the only reliable way to direct where your vehicle is going. But depending on the design and model, a set of handlebars may be better suited for only specific weather, traffic, and road conditions. Also, some handlebars are universal equipment suited for all motorcycles, while others are brand-specific handlebars meant for only Harley Davidson, Honda, Suzuki, Kawasaki, Yamaha, Victory, Indian, and Triumph models.

Two types of handlebars that share few similarities but differ in almost every way are ape hanger handlebars and riser handlebars. Ape hanger handlebars and riser handlebars appeal to different motorcycle enthusiasts due to their differing lists of pros and cons.

2. Ape Hanger Handlebars

Ape Hanger Handlebars

Ape hanger handlebars have a narrow center width and high risers that can put the grips above shoulder height. Raising your arms and holding the handles at such an extreme height, the rider’s posture closely resembles that of an ape with its arms up. Though ape hangers may look comically large compared to the rest of your motorcycle’s frame, many enthusiasts prefer how they complement the look of their vehicles. These handlebars are best suited for riders who care more about style and fun than comfort and stability.

Ape hanger handlebars can come in different riser heights and overall weights to better suit average and taller riders. However, due to the high riser height, ape hanger handlebars are better suited for slow and short commutes since riders cannot turn quickly or clear tight corners while traveling at high speeds. Yet the tall and straight rise ensures you sit with a comfortable, upright back position that relieves strain on your spine.

Another advantage of the high riser height is that it is easier to scan your surroundings ahead and allows you to adjust the rearview mirrors to get a better view of everything behind you.

Though the high risers are the ape hanger handlebar’s most distinct feature, it is also the cause of its many disadvantages. Your arms become fatigued more quickly due to having to keep them raised above your head for a long time. Also, due to your body’s surface area being more spread out, this causes more wind resistance and reduces your vehicle’s aerodynamics. Also, because your hands are subjected to incoming wind and heavy vibrations with little room to reposition, they can become numb, cold, or cramp up.

3. Pros & Cons of Ape Hanger Handlebars

Pros Cons
Suited for slow and short commutes on paved roads Arms become fatigued faster
Improve visibility in rearview mirrors High rise is above shoulder height
Upright & comfortable back position Reduced aerodynamics
Can come in different heights & weights Heavy vibrations in handles
Stylish & fun riding style Hands can become numb or cold
  Cannot turn quickly
  Limited hand positions

4. Riser Handlebars

Riser Handlebars

Riser handlebars are slightly sweptback equipment with only slight bends where the handles meet the center. They are built with an extended width that ensures better leverage and control at the cost of a heavier overall weight. It is possible to quickly turn or change direction by only applying a little bit of force to the handlebars. As the riser handlebars’ width provides good balance, this will guarantee stable handling when traveling on paved asphalt roads or traversing dirt or gravel trails.

The riser handlebar’s grips are spread apart to ensure a comfortable neutral riding position that puts less strain on your back, hands, and wrists. You should be able to ride without straining your back on shorter and longer rides. So your wrists do not suffer discomfort, it is possible to reposition your hands along the length of the handles. If you find the handlebars too close or far from you, it is possible to adjust the position of the handlebars relative to the rider’s seat.

However, due to the riser handlebars’ bulky and heavy build, they cannot evenly distribute weight throughout their structure when braking or climbing uphill. Also, your arms being spread apart increases your body’s surface area, which increases wind resistance and reduces your vehicle’s aerodynamics. You also have to worry about the ends of the riser handlebars hitting other vehicles when traveling between lines of heavy traffic.

5. Pros & Cons of Riser Handlebars

Pros Cons
Comfortable neutral riding position Heavier overall weight
Reduces weight & stress on the back, hands, & wrists Uneven weight distribution
Adjustable Reduced aerodynamics
Better leverage & control Difficult handling when going up steep hills
Can quickly turn with only slight prompting Width makes it hard to maneuver on tight roads and between traffic
Multiple hand positions  
Stable handling on paved roads & rough terrain  

6. Similarities & Differences Between Ape Hanger & Riser Handlebars

Similarities Differences
Both handlebars put less strain on the rider’s back Riser handlebars offer multiple hand positions, while ape hangers do not
Both handlebars suffer from reduced aerodynamics Riser handlebars can handle on- & off-roading, while ape hangers are only suited for on-roading
Both handlebars offer a comfortable riding position Riser handlebars can quickly turn at high speeds, while ape hanger handlebars cannot
  Riser handlebars offer better comfort for arms, hands, & wrists, while ape hangers cause them to become fatigued, numb, or cold
  Riser handlebars come with a wide and heavy design, while ape hangers have more diverse designs
  Riser handlebars offer less visibility than ape hangers

7. Takeaway

Ape hanger handlebars are best suited for riders who prefer leisurely cruising at slow speeds in urban areas and prioritize style and fun over comfort and safety. While they lack protection, comfort, and high-speed maneuverability, ape hangers can help your motorcycle stand out as you go on short commutes.

Riser handlebars are more versatile and well-rounded, able to handle traveling almost any distance and on almost all road conditions. Though heavier and larger than standard handlebars, riser handlebars offer the most reliable handling, balance, and steering.

It is also possible to customize these types of handlebars by adding aftermarket parts or accessories that increase their storage capacity or features, such as handlebar bags or fairings.

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