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#1
Old 05-05-2003, 11:18 PM
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Those really, really high handlebars on choppers

Inspired by the "loud pipes on Harleys" thread, I'm inspired to post a motorcycle question of my own.

I've seen modified choppers with handlebars that rise far above the rider's head. The riser has to raise their arms high above their head to steer, brake, shift, so on.

What's the point in having such high handlebars? Fashion? Does it lend some slight advantage to motorcycle handling? Something else?
#2
Old 05-05-2003, 11:23 PM
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I saw - in real life - my first set of those just a few months ago, so I asked a cycle enthusiast at work about 'em. He told me that they are called "ape hangers," they're a pain in the butt (or the arms) on long trips, and they make handling worse. Fashion would be the only good answer, then.
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#3
Old 05-05-2003, 11:40 PM
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The long forks aren't exactly a performance modification, either.
#4
Old 05-06-2003, 01:17 AM
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They change the steering characteristicts for the worse.
#5
Old 05-06-2003, 01:32 AM
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Some recumbent bicycles have high bars so that the arms are horizontal and outstretched (example). The rationale here is that this position minimizes the frontal area of your arms and reduce air resistance.

Of course if the handlebar is actually higher than the rider's shoulders then it defeats the purpose. Fashion is the only reason I can think of.

Incidentally, experiments have shown that the best handling for a two-wheel vehicle is achieved by a vertical steering axis. Any tilt is therefore for show or for design convenience (front wheel and handlebar positions determined by other constraints, and steering axis just connects the two). (Source: Bicycle Design by Mike Burrows)
#6
Old 05-06-2003, 02:04 AM
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Re: Those really, really high handlebars on choppers

Quote:
Originally posted by elmwood
What's the point in having such high handlebars? Fashion?
Yep.
#7
Old 05-06-2003, 02:05 AM
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There is a bit more to it than that. Of course, a bicycle is a very different machine from a motorcycle in terms of applied power, speed, and weight. I don't have time right now to pick a single link, but if you Google "motorcycle steering geometry" you will find many articles explaining the need for rake in the steering axis.

That said, I have to agree that "ape hangers" and elongated forks look loke trouble to me, and I have heard that ape hangers are illegal in many places due to visibility constraints.
#8
Old 05-06-2003, 02:16 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by hammerbach
There is a bit more to it than that.... you will find many articles explaining the need for rake in the steering axis.
Rake is the offset between the wheel axis and the steering axis. For each steering axis angle there is a correct amount of rake. A chopper with a 45-degree steering axis can be made to handle reasonably well by choosing the correct rake, but it still won't handle as well as a bike with a more vertical steering axis with a correct rake. Mike Burrows' book uses an older book on motorcycle steering geometry as the primary source.
#9
Old 05-06-2003, 08:38 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by scr4
Incidentally, experiments have shown that the best handling for a two-wheel vehicle is achieved by a vertical steering axis. Any tilt is therefore for show or for design convenience (front wheel and handlebar positions determined by other constraints, and steering axis just connects the two). (Source: Bicycle Design by Mike Burrows)
Straight up and down may give you better handling-- but what if you're aiming for stability? Then you'd want your two wheels further apart.
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#10
Old 05-06-2003, 09:41 AM
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Forks and ape hangers are strictly fashion, as far as my experience goes. My husband is quite the Harley mechanic, and he says it makes it difficult to maneuver. Picture yourself with your hands up in the air on a long trip. I'd last about 10 minutes!
#11
Old 05-06-2003, 10:56 AM
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I talked to my friend at work again just a half-hour ago. "Fashion" is definitely the asnwer. "You mostly see 'em," he says, "with people who are devoted Harley fans."

Oh, and as for stability and handling and vertical steering axes, there is some Straight Dope on these things laying about.
#12
Old 05-06-2003, 11:12 AM
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At first glance I thought you were talking about the chopper bicycle that was popular in Britain in the 70's and 80's - presumably named after the motorcycle. I can attest from many an injured knee/elbow that this is one of the most unstable and ludicrousley dangerous bikes ever..........but still really cool. I wanna get a new one.
#13
Old 05-06-2003, 11:39 AM
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Google Images comes through again!
#14
Old 05-06-2003, 12:22 PM
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I think its more design than fashion. On Discovery channel Mon nights is a program called American Choppers (?) & they make them, its a great show to watch as each one is a work of art with a theme.
#15
Old 05-06-2003, 01:39 PM
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Good rule of thumb: if a mod is seen strictly on choppers, and nobody with a sportbike employs it, it probably has no performance or handling benefit. Ape hangers are apparently terrible for bike geometry (though, obviously, this is dependent on their size).
#16
Old 05-07-2003, 03:36 PM
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They are mostly for style and the look (yes I know that is fashion, but I just hate to use that word). I have had ape hanger bars on previous Harley's of mine and they are not uncomfortable if setup right. The longest one day trip I took with my ape hanger bars was just over 650 miles. Sure I would drop one arm down at a time every now and then to rest it and relax it, but I do the same on long trips with regular bars. My apes were setup so that my arms were straight out from the shoulder, maybe slightly above and were very comfortable. They fit with the whole style of the bike and looked kick ass on there. I did not have the front forks raked out any more than stock, and the handle bars followed the same angle so they looked like they flowed nicely.
#17
Old 05-08-2003, 04:55 PM
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A biker that I used to date told me that people use the ape hangers just because they're illegal. So it's a little more about looking like a rebel than fashion, according to that guy. I'd have to agree. I think they really look stupid, so the fashion of it doesn't appeal to me at all.
#18
Old 05-09-2003, 12:11 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Mithril
So it's a little more about looking like a rebel than fashion,
No difference.

But back to the OP, for those of you that have had these on your bikes: don't they rotate in the clamps during emergency braking? With all that leverage, seems like they could. Dangerous if that happened.
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