February 20, 2023
Though they may seem small in the scheme of things, there’s no doubting the outsized impact a pair of handlebars can have on the look and feel of a motorcycle. From easy-riding ape-hangers to the flat bars of classic flat-track racers, anyone building a bike—or customizing their current ride—eventually is faced with a decision: What kind of motorcycle handlebars are best for me?
Luckily, we’ve created this motorcycle handlebar guide to help you meet that decision head-on. Dig into the details of the different types of motorcycle handlebars below and find helpful tips on how to select the right bar for your bike.
With so many Harley-Davidson motorcycle handlebar styles to choose from, it can be difficult to know where to begin. Kick-start your search for the perfect handlebars with the breakdown below.
Ape and Tallboy Handlebars
An especially tall and wide handlebar option, ape and Tallboy bars deliver a classic “fists-in-the-wind” look, giving the appearance that the rider is hanging from the grips. But this motorcycle handlebar type isn’t purely about looks. Particularly for taller and long-armed riders, ape and Tallboy handlebars can offer a more comfortable fit while riding. However, because handlebar height is regulated in many areas, be sure to check local laws before opting for a tall handlebar style.
Taking their name from the flat-track race bikes that inspire their design, tracker handlebars are typically wider and taller than stock bars, making them suitable for riders with longer arms or those who prefer a more aggressive riding posture. Their increased size also offers riders a little more leverage.
Drag bars are narrow, wide, and flat, with little to no rise between bars and bike. Their low profile typically lends itself to an aggressive riding position, with a straight elbow and a neutral hand and wrist position. Much like tracker bars, this is a motorcycle handlebar type that offers riders a high degree of leverage. Curved and straight risers can be used to minimize stretch to the controls and maximize comfort.
Fused and Chizeled Handlebars (Z Bars)
Compared with the minimalist drag bar, Z bars, also known as Fused and Chizeled bars, typically feature an edgy, eye-catching look that’s a great match for a classic chopper or cruiser. While they all share a unique angular cut and wide handle, Z bars come in a variety of heights. At their tallest, they can closely resemble ape and Tallboy handlebars, much like our own Fused Handlebar and Chizeled Bar. When on the shorter end of the spectrum, they offer a hand position that’s similar to tracker bars. Of course, be sure to check local laws to ensure your handlebars of choice are allowed.
Take it easy with the laid-back and relaxed position offered by a pair of beach handlebars. This distinct type of handlebar is flat and quite wide, spreading your arms and giving you room to breathe. While this retro-style handlebar can be quite comfortable for cruising, it can actually be a little too wide for some riders. To ensure that a pair of beach bars is the right fit, make sure you can reach the controls when the handlebar is fully turned.
For shorter riders or those who prefer an upright, relaxed riding position, reach handlebars offer an ideal alternative. With their additional pullback, they’re designed to bring the controls closer to the rider for optimized elbow and wrist position and increased comfort
Virtually every bike features a different stock handlebar type. On Harley-Davidson® motorcycles, just about every model has its own distinct handlebar that’s selected to complement the style or use of the bike. While many riders might find this stock shape an ideal fit and style for their bike of choice, others may desire a different look.
Of course, choosing a bar for your bike is about much more than just style. At the end of the day, when choosing a set of handlebars, you need to land on a pair that you can ride comfortably for long periods. You need to not only look right but feel right, too.
Where the bar positions your hands, wrists, and arms directly affects how you will feel when riding your motorcycle. To get a better sense of the right position for your body, take note of the three factors at work on any set of handlebars:
These three measurements will determine your ability to reach the bike’s hand controls and, ultimately, your overall feeling of comfort and control. However, these measurements are not necessarily the end-all, be-all when it comes to fit. Many bars can be mounted using various handlebar risers that affect the final positioning. True to their names, straight and tall risers will increase the height of the bar, while pullback risers will bring the bar closer to the rider.
Just as every rider possesses a unique style, they also come to their bike with a unique height, reach, upper body length, and riding preferences that will dictate their relationship to a bike’s controls.
Luckily, given the sheer number of Harley handlebar styles available today, along with components like risers that offer greater customizability, each rider should be able to find a set of bars that’s right for them—without compromising on either comfort or style.