I was having lunch recently at a roadside diner when a motorcyclist rode by with handlebars that placed his hands at least a foot over his head. That got me thinking about the safety and legality of mimicking a primate on two wheels.
I am primarily a sport-bike guy, so I am hard-wired to ride with my hands at a height that many would consider oddly low. The opposite end of the spectrum is foreign to me, so I was compelled to do some research on the phenomenon known as ape hangers.
The motorcycle that sparked my interest was on an Arizona street, so I decided to check the legality question first. Arizona Law states:
“A person shall not operate a motorcycle, all-terrain vehicle or motor driven cycle equipped with handlebars that are positioned so that the hands of the operator are above the operator’s shoulder height when the operator is sitting astride the seat and the operator’s hands are on the handlebar grips.”
Other states have a variety of bar height regulations. Several limit the height by specifying a maximum distance above the height of the seat, such as 15”. Others mandate that a motorcyclist’s hand height must be below seated eye-level. Why are ape hangers illegal in many states? Lawmakers and law enforcement officials claim that they are a safety issue both in terms of control of the motorcycle and visibility while riding.
My further research revealed that there are riders who are amazingly committed to riding with ape hangers. There are a couple of Facebook pages dedicated to the style. There is also an active website, apehangers.org, that is dedicated to promoting the style, and that pushes for changes to what they feel are oppressive state laws.
Interestingly, the website’s manager states that he started the site after he was ticketed for excessive handlebar height on the way to Daytona Bike Week. He states, “That pissed me off soooo much I pulled up my tent stakes, rode straight home, and started up this website, apehangers.org deticated [sic] to apehangers…”
I guess in the end, it will be up to the planet of the apes who love the style to harness their jungle fever and wage “gorilla” warfare on what they feel are unfair restrictions on hanging from chrome plated vines as they ride!
Here is a look at some of the more extreme examples of the “apes” and their hangers:
Courtesy of AllAboutBikes.com