Metric Thunder Weblog

Tech Tip: Installing Ape Hangers


If you were to ask me “what’s the most common trend in motorcycle cruising bikes today?” I’d have to say it’s the increase in the number of bikers that are making the switch from stock or standard type handlebars over to ape hangers. I’ve seen everything from 10″ to 21″ or more in vertical rise in riding down the road.

With that in mind, we decided to make the move ourselves and report our experience here for your reference.

Apes front view
Baron’s 17″ Kong Bars on an ’04 Vulcan 2000

Choosing the right bars is really as personal a decision as buying the right set of pipes for your bike. Style, comfort, cost and local legal restrictions are just a few of the considerations. Remember there are some really important points to think about before you buy:

  • Factor the cost of the bars, new cables and/or hydraulic lines, new grips and installation costs into the overall pricing decision.
  • If you plan on riding long distances it’s important to understand that with the higher apes, it’ll require an adjustment to increased wind resistance and decreased blood flow to your arms and hands.
  • Make sure that the apes you choose will fit with your current risers, if not then you’ll need to buy a pair that will do the trick.
  • Make sure to consult someone with experience when deciding on cable/hydraulic line lengths. As a general rule of thumb, mock up your new apes and run your existing cables & lines upward toward the switch housings, throttle and brake levers. Then attach some string from the end of your existing set up to the termination point. Measure the string length used to determine your “over stock” length requirements. Always a good idea to add 1″-1.5″ to your measurements to allow for extra play.
  • Start to finish, this project can take up to 4 hours or more even if done by a professional. That said, don’t rush the prep time or the job itself, it’ll be well worth it in the end.

    Mike holding Apes
    Our Vulcan VN2000 is being prepped for the operation

    Now it’s time to really get organized. Get everything you need ready before you begin. It’s not a bad idea to have a note pad handy to refer to as you’ll be removing quite a few small parts so that when it comes time to re-assemble, nothing will be left to chance or a foggy memory before you drank that six pack.

    Remove one piece at a time and remember what parts and screws go where…you don’t want to come up short or with too many parts left over when the job is complete.

    Ape protection
    Be Sure to Cover Your Painted Parts Before it’s Too Late!

    Basically the first goal is to remove the stock bars, let the hydraulic lines and cable dangle, then clip the electrical wires at an even point from the switch housings.

    You’ll want to start by carefully removing the top covers/clamps on the stock risers to detach the existing handlebars from the bike. You’ll want to disassemble the switch housings from both ends of the stock handlebars. Next is removal of the throttle cables from the right side grips & clutch cables from the left side levers. Hydraulic clutch and brake lines should be removed but remain in tact for the moment.

    Apes old wiring
    As you can see the old set up had too many crimped wires

    Ape wires
    Make sure you have enough multi-colored wires on hand to get the job done.

    We really wanted to clean up the front end of the bike which makes hiding electrical wiring inside the bars was a must. The 1.25″ diameter handlebar tubing and slotted openings near the grip ends made the task a bit easier. Getting the internal wiring done right IS the single most time consuming part of this process. Making a mistake here is like sewing the patient back up and finding out you attached the wrong arteries, that patient just may not get out of bed!

    wires wires-1
    Taking the time to solder and heat shrink
    the insulation is well worth the trouble

    Make sure to only use shielded wires and avoid crimp connectors if possible. Soldering wires with heated shrink wrap will eliminate the potential of a crimp connection vibrating loose after miles and miles of road vibration. Take the time to safely install wires under the clutch perch. De-bur all wires and cables & make sure there are no rough edges or any sharp parts that can damage wire or cables.

    apes wire2 ape headlight
    Almost ready to run the electrical inside the handlebars

    Apes john at work
    After all your wiring is soldered, it’s time to run ’em through the Apes

    Everyone has their own take on the best way to get all those wires through the handlebars. We’ve found that if you attach a string to one end of the wiring, plug the other end of bar, put the string down the middle, then blow into the bar…the string will come through a little easier.

    ape comp ape comp-1
    Things are starting to come together

    Now that the electrical is complete, it’s time to take a much needed break and admire your hard work. Did someone say “lunch?”

    Apes lunch break
    Make sure that all of the essential food groups are represented
    to fuel you up for the remaining steps

    OK so put down that tasty meal and let’s get back to work. It’s time to remove all of the cables and hydraulic lines and replace them with some shiny new braided steel.

    A couple of key points to remember:

  • Again, plan ahead
  • No bound, pinched,or rub points
  • Make sure that your are using the correct cables for the bike.
  • Keep cables clean.
  • All cables/lines need to have a little bit of give or free play.

    Cables,(clutch, brake and throttle), are much easier to install than hydraulic brake and clutch lines. So start with the cables first and finish with the hydraulic lines.

    apes brake lines
    Add brake fluid and bleed the lines as
    the last step. Speed bleeders are a must

    Brake fluids can be corrosive to paint so be careful to protect your bike while filling and bleeding the lines. If any fluid does get on the paint, quickly use some water and a cotton cloth to remove the fluid. Water is supposed to dilute the acid or corrosiveness in the brake fluid.

    Now it’s time to button things up. Install the throttle side grips first by inserting the two cables, (push/pull or throttle/idle), into the throttle grip or grip sleeve. Secure in place with the switch housing and test the throttle for proper operation.

    Trouble shooting and preventative measures:

  • Try to fit all wires safely under the clutch perch.
  • Mount controls,lines & cables carefully to avoid damaging any parts.
  • Be careful of brake fluid leaking onto painted surfaces.
  • Take a 10-15 minute test ride to insure that all parts are working properly. Then check thoroughly for any leaks or fluid deposits.

    Quick Recap:
    Be patient, plan ahead and work your plan. Keep everything, (mostly nuts screws and bolts), in a neat and organized space. Make sure no wires or cables are pinched or cramped.

    As with most projects “THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAILS!”

    Apes at Cook's
    In the end, the extra effort will be worth the outcome

    Apes JBJ
    Our thanks to John and the team at JBJ Cycles for doing
    the heavy lifting and for the clean installation

    Ape-Barons Logo
    Special thanks to John & Rolf at Barons
    for donating those great looking Kong Bars

    Barnett Logo
    Thanks also go out to Jennifer and the crew at
    Barnett Performance Products for supplying the cables and lines