Tips and Tricks for Stylish, Functional Bar/Riser Combos

Ergonomics is the science of man’s physical relationship to his work space. Prevailing wisdom holds that the more comfortably a person is situated at his desk, next to a machine, and yes, behind the handlebars on a motorcycle, the more safely and efficiently he will perform. We’re not brain scientists or rocket surgeons, but we do take ergonomics seriously, especially as it applies to handlebar design. Because we enjoy riding and modifying so many different kinds of motorcycles—everything from XR’s to chopped shovelheads—we’ve developed some time-tested theories on which motorcycle cockpit assemblies look and work best, and which ones are janky, dangerous or downright dumb.

Our Slimline risers have been many home customers’ go-to bolt-on for over a decade. Their clean styling complements the swoopiness of this vintage H-D nacelle perfectly.
A knucklehead about as perfect as they get. The apes/tall riser combo isn’t our cup of tea, however. Read the story to learn why.

This month’s DIY 101 addresses a conundrum that’s puzzled bike builders for ages: “Will these bars work on my bike?” We know this subject is a headscratcher because dozens of customers email us this question every month. The speedy salvation most people seek is only a Google search away. Here’s two for your enjoyment:

Alas, many people—this writer included—sometimes find the whole Google process tedious, and prefer to come to the source. Without further ado, here are some Biltwell handlebar/riser combinations we’ve used, as well as some tips, hits and misses for each assembly. Use this DIY 101 for inspiration to create your own bar/riser combo, or rip us off completely—we’ll be flattered either way.

Apes with Gordo Risers


Ah, the ubiquitous apehanger. Beloved or bemoaned by chopper cognoscenti on every side of the spectrum. Given my deep motocross and BMX roots pre-choppers, I must admit I hated apes early on—they put my hands too high, and the leverage they generated was counterintuitive (all upward, very little outward.) Then I rode a rigid chopper with a set of Biltwell Apes and I was a believer. The height is stylish without being uncomfortable, and the backsweep puts your hands in the right spot for all-day comfort.

Tips: We strongly recommend never running ape handlebars with tall risers. Reason: the added leverage of tall/wide apes can and will make tall risers (4” or more) flex too much where they mount on the top tree, especially if the tree features rubber isolators commonly found on Harley-Davidsons. We recommend our Gordo risers for Apes: they feature a larger clamp surface to hold bars tight, and their thru-bolt design works with triple trees and springer forks.

Hits: Apes looks best on big bikes: Shovels, pans, Evo choppers, etc.—the longer the better

Misses: Apes tend to look silly on short bikes: Sportsters, for instance, or old Triumphs. Japanese ROMs (regular old motorcycles) are also a no-no. Generally speaking, short wheelbases and tall handlebars don’t mix

Breezer Bar with Thunder Riser

We introduced the Breezer bar a few years ago because too many home customers were putting our Keystone bar on modern Dynas. The Keystone bar has minimal backsweep, so any bike longer than a Sportster forces the rider to reach too far forward, severely compromising ergonomics and comfort. The Breezer bar has the pointy look at the welded joints for chopper style, and enough backsweep to put your hands where they belong on any bike with a long backbone.

Tips: The Breezer isn’t a tall bar relatively speaking, but it does generate enough leverage that we recommend using our Thunder riser for added clamping power. The Thunder riser is a one-piece affair, so it will only fit on top trees with 3.5-inch (89mm) riser-mount bolt hole spacing.

Hits: Dynas; low-slung shovelheads in a stock swingarm or rigid frame

Keystone Bar with Slimline Risers

Misses: Metric cruisers; Classic Bonnevilles of any era; café racers; street trackers
We introduced our first handlebar and riser over a decade ago. Ten years hence Keystone and Slimline still remain a popular combo for an army of home and pro customers.

Tips: Our Keystone handlebar is “flat” in chopper parlance, meaning it has very little backsweep. To maintain sensible ergonomics, we recommend installing Keystone bars on bikes with short backbones and stock head angles. Doing otherwise puts the bar either too far forward or too back in your lap, neither of which is comfortable or stylish.

Hits: Stock and rigid Sportsters (excluding Street Tracker and Café styles); vintage rigid Triumphs (preferably unit era—pre-unit models look better unmolested in our opinion); XS650 choppers

Misses: Late-model Dynas; Shovel, pan or Evo choppers in stock chassis (backbone is generally too long)

Maynard Bars with Murdock Riser

With this bar/riser combo you have a cockpit that’s popular on an eclectic range of custom motorcycles: everything from stretched and raked choppers to lane-splitting Sportsters and practically any Japanese or British chopper with a hydraulic fork.

Tips: The taller the riser, the shorter the bar. The photo shows our Maynard bar (2” rise) with an 8-inch-tall Murdock riser. We assembled this combo for the first time on Otto’s GI Chopper, and it got rave reviews. That bike had a 10-over hydraulic fork on an aftermarket frame with stock angles. Mike’s 6-3, and the ergonomics were perfect.

Hits: Stretched and raked choppers with long forks; stock XL’s (stay below 8” on the riser, however)

Misses: Any bike with Wide Glide forks (too narrow compared to the width of the fork legs); late-model Dynas

Moto Bars and Thunder Riser

This assembly has “Street tracker” written all over it, and for that reason many people love it. Nobody rides H-D Sporties harder than Mark “The Rusty Butcher” Atkins, and he swears by this handlebar. 4130 chromoly and hand TIG welding makes it strong, and perfect small-radius bends and just the right amount of rise and backsweep make it look correct, period.

Tips: Assembled with our Thunder riser this combo provides a rock-solid cockpit for any bike that’s likely to be ridden hard. We’ve also seen club-style Dynas with our Moto bar, but limited backsweep demands the rider be on the tall side.

Hits: Stock Sportsters; Japanese and British dirt trackers; almost any short-wheelbase motorcycle with a swingarm and stock head angle

Misses: Metric cruisers; anything with a long fork, or a frame that’s been raked or stretched

Tracker Bar with Murdock Riser

While the look is still just creeping into America’s heartland, club-style Dynas and modernized FXRs are everywhere on both coasts, especially in California. With six rises and two finishes available, our Murdock riser satisfies Harley customizers hungry for an alternative to the T-bar that defines this style. Our Tracker bar and its taller sibling the Tracker XL work perfectly to complete a cockpit that provides more choices and greater adjustability, never a bad thing.

Tips: Murdock risers look great on practically any Big Twin custom you can dream up, but the package depends on which bars you choose. Our Tracker and Tracker XL bars are wide for a reason: it takes muscle to control a full-sized, high-performance Harley at speed.
Also, these tall 12- and 14-inch tall Murdock risers generate a lot of torque at their mounting point in the top tree, which is why we provide two grade-8 ½-13 bolts for installation. Use thread prep or blue Loc-Tite and torque the mounting bolts to 25-30 ft. lb. (33.8–40.6 Nm) to ensure a safe, reliable finished assembly.

Hits: FXR’s; Dynas; Evo big twin choppers

Misses: As we mentioned with apes, bar/riser combos that are especially tall look awkward on short motorcycles. If you select the Murdock riser for your Sportster, for instance, we recommend the 6- or 8-inch rise on these machines

Zero Drag Bar with Short Murdock riser

Sportsters deserve love too, which is why we offer our Murdock riser in 4-, 6-, 8-inch heights. Coupled with a simple bar like our Zero Drag, the look screams “narrow, tough and fast.” Several guys on the Biltwell crew rock this exact setup, and each man (and one woman) swears by it.

Tips: If you’re not running stock hand controls, consider cutting three-quarters to 1.5 inches off each side of the bar, especially on smaller bikes (Triumph choppers, rigid XL’s, etc.) The narrower profile looks tough on compact motorcycles, and doesn’t compromise comfort or leverage enough to cause a problem.

Hits: Rigid and swingarm Sportsters; old British choppers; chopped XS650s

Misses: Metric cruisers, H-D Big Twins

Summing Everything Up

When you offer as many different sizes and styles of handlebars and risers as we do, the choices can be overwhelming. We went the extra mile in these categories because freedom of choice is an essential tenant of the custom motorcycle credo. If you don’t see a combo that works for you in this feature, visit our website or do search the Googles—we guarantee you’ll find something. Also, please remember Form follows Function. Choose handlebars and risers that make your bike look cool without compromising comfort or handling. And if you have doubts about installing handlebars, click here.

  • Jay casman

    Can any of the bars with a slight rise be used on 2016+ sportsters without having to change my cables?

    • Biltwell

      Jay, good question. If you have ABS or a Roadster model, the options are very limited without lengthening some wires. If it’s not a Roadster and doesn’t have ABS, usually these bars will fit: Keystone, Zed, Tracker, Tracker High, Maynard, Mustache.

  • George Mavridis

    Would the Zero drag bar fit a 2016 Triumph Street Twin without any change? Using all original parts?

  • Jc Oakley

    Great to have diy. Been looking into a lil different set up on my slim and this is very helpful. Only thing that would make this article better would be a bike pic w the set up on it not just the bars+risers. None the less, beggars can’t be choosers. Cheers!

  • Frank Barton

    Any suggestions on preventing slippage? Running Biltwell narrow apes with stock sporty riser. The bars aren’t knurled, and I’ve got beer can shims in, but they still drop every time I hit a bump.

    • Biltwell

      Frank, those stock risers are notoriously crappy. I run our Thunder Riser on my 75 Shovel with our Apes and they clamp like a vise. If you have to use your stock riser, you can lightly dimple the bars with a sharp punch about 50 times around the diameter of the clamping surface. The tiny volcano shapes it makes in the surface adds something for worn out risers to clamp to. Hope that helps.

  • Mikkel Sund

    Thinking of putting the window handle bar on my 2006 Triumph America with stock risers. But not sure if this will fall under the short wheelbase/high handle bar “no-no”? Thoughts??

    • Biltwell

      Mikkel, rules are meant to be broken. If you like the way it looks, go for it! I’ve run these bars on a couple small bikes like an old Triump and a Sportster and I liked ’em. -Bill

  • David Englund

    I’m thinking of building a bobber out of a Yamaha V-Star 1100. I love the style of the Keystone (XL?), but will it work on that bike? Not sure what will fit, as I don’t have the bike yet… Any other suggestions? Thanks! -Dave

    • Biltwell

      David, sure either Keystone will work since it’s going to be a custom bike. Just figure out if you have 7/8″ or 1″ bars so you can keep your existing hand controls and risers.

  • Douglas Baughman

    I am trying to put on some pull back t bars off of a HD deuce onto my 05 super glide but I want to put in a riser because I want them taller now it’s uncomfortable after a while so I’m thinking 4 inch risers but they are flush mount bars so I’m wondering if there is a riser or adapter that I can use to get this done thanks in advance

    • Biltwell

      Doug, i think you are saying that your risers are built into the top triple tree. If that’s your situation, you’ll have to get a new tree that allows you to use bolt-through risers. Good luck!

  • Tony G

    Planning on installing a set of your Chumps on an 07 FXD, trying to locate photos of how this would look. I believe the Chumps will give a more comfortable riding position? Any input or recommendations? Thank you !

  • Jeff Earnshaw

    I have a 2006 Nightrain Fxstbi, I have stock everything up front, and looking to bring the bars up and pulled back slightly for comfort on longer rides. Ideally I’ll keep the same stock drag bars to avoid rewiring – which risers would you recommend?

    • Biltwell

      Jeff, so hard to give a recommendation without seeing you and bike. I’d say get the bars into the most comfortable position, probably with a set of our Murdock pullback risers. The wires and cables will probably need to be replaced so if you aren’t confident doing that, pay a shop. Anything else will probably be a compromise that you won’t be happy with long term.

      • Jeff Earnshaw

        I have 6in stock risers with drag bars, thanks for quick reply! Pic above, I’ve been looking at the murdock pull back. Thanks

    • Jeff Earnshaw
  • Dylan Langley

    Will the Rebar handlebars work for me? Im 5″9 on a 99 sportster with biltwell rigid struts and short sissy bar? Also will they require new cables? Thanks

    • Biltwell


      If you want a laid-back, choppery feel, the Rebars will work just fine. Generally you don’t have to change cables and wires on your bike since these are narrower than stock.

      • Dylan Langley

        Awesome, thanks guys

  • DMD7739

    Really liking the look of the Keystone XL. Would they work on my ’17 fxdb? Would stock work our should I switch out for one of your risers? I find the stock bars comfortable but looking to change up the look.

    • Biltwell

      Keystone XL’s would be a good choice for a bike that size. Risers would just be a matter of taste as they should work fine with your stock ones, but we would recommend some of ours of course! Check the geometry on these bars and make sure that’s what you are going for. Keytone’s don’t have much sweep so you will be leaning into it quite a bit if you are changing from a stock set up. If you are tall, this might be less of a concern.

      • DMD7739

        Thanks for the quick reply! I finally found the stock bar numbers and pullback difference between the stock bars and Keystone XL is fairly significant like you mentioned. Dang I’m a shorty so I guess I’ll need to continue the hunt. These are great looking bars. Thanks again!

    • Biltwell

      I’m 5’9″ and prefer our Murdock pullback risers in 10″ with either a Zero Drag or Tracker bar.

      • DMD7739

        Yeah you got me by a handful of inches I’m 5’4″ rounded up.

  • Terry Tereshyn

    What would be your best recommendation for a riser to go with Frisco bars?

  • Jordi Casas

    hi there, I ride a 2003 sporty xl 1200 custom and recently purchased a Zed bar but I realised the fitting is too low..I am 6,3 and wanted my arms fully extended parallel to the ground.
    I have two options in both I would use the murdock riser
    a) murdock riser + 5″ zed bar
    b) longer murdock riser and original HD drag bar

    may you tip me on aesthetics and murdock riser lengths in both options please?

    many thanks folks

    • Biltwell

      Jordi, I’d go with the taller risers and a flatter bar like our Tracker, Tracker Mid, Tracker High or your stock bars if you liked the sweep on those. Short Z bars like the Zeds on taller risers looks a little goofy in my opinion. -Bill

  • Lester Jan Pearson

    Which one has the best pullback Z/Keystone/Zed Bars for Iron883 2017? I have short arms and sometimes a bad back. still on stock bars now. Does these need cable extensions kits?

    • Biltwell

      Lester, the Zed bars sound like the best choice. They have 3.5″ of sweep as opposed the Keystones 2.5″. They are also flatter which should be a little friendlier to your back.

      • Lester Jan Pearson

        Do you have installation instructions? Do I just get the bars or are there other stuff needed to get it done?

  • Vlad Tololoi

    Hi there! I have a 1990 Sportster which I want to turn it into a club style with a quarter fairing and I am thinking of getting the tracker bars with Murdock risers. What would you recommend, high tracker with 8 inch risers or mid tracker with taller risers? I am about 5.7 and would like to have my hands just a bit below my shoulders (I make long rides). Thanks!

    • Biltwell

      Tracker highs on straight 8” Murdock’s should put you where you want to be Vlad.

  • Christopher Edgar

    Currently I have Chumps on stock rises of my 2003 XL1200S. They look great and feel great. I had them on some 4 inch pull back risers and went back to the stock riser as I didn’t have as good of control and the bike felt unbalanced. I was thinking about using your high trackers as they would seem to give me better control without being bent over as much as the stock bar. Would there be a noticible difference between the6 bars in regards to control and comfort?

    • Biltwell

      Christopher, bars with more than a couple inches of rise generally don’t work on taller risers, especially pullback risers (as you found out). Tracker Highs on pullback Murdock risers would work just fine, plenty of people run that combo. I wouldn’t go with bars that were any taller than than however. I personally run our 8″ pullback Murdocks with our Zero Drags (92 FXR) but I realize those bars are narrower than most people like. Will the Tracker Highs on pullbacks be more comfortable? Hard to say. I do think the tall risers like that have great feedback (I run solid bushings, again not everyone’s taste) They will be flatter and offer less sweep and drop when compared to the Chumps. I like the Chumps too, but I really like a nearly flat, shoulder-width handlebar position. Hope that helps, call our customer service guys at 951-699-1500 and talk to Ruben or Oscar if you want any more help deciding, these guys do this kind of stuff all day and are good at it. -Bill

      • Christopher Edgar

        Thanks for your speedy response Bill. I tried the stock HD bars (thin SS) with the pull backs and it was just ok. I was thinking the high trackers on the stock risers (it has that cool little XL1200S written on it) or maybe riser extensions/spacers (No more than 1 to 1-1/2 inch but not sure what stresses will be induced on the bolts. With the way people drive nowadays I feel I may need lower bars to maintain better control. BTW, I prefer solid bushings too, it vibes a bit but its a frikin machine and machines do that! Beside I won’t fall asleep on the road at night! But I will call customer service to get more info. Great products!

        • Biltwell

          Cool, good luck, hope you find the perfect combo for comfort and performance!

  • Mike Miele

    If I’m looking for that club style look on a 2010 48 with a fairing do you thing the drag bars and a pair of Murdock’s would proper? And if so what height do you recommend?

    • Biltwell

      Mike, with that shorter wheelbase, 8” would probably be just right. If you want to be a little more laid back, go 10” or consider the 8” Murdock Pullbacks (that’s the set up I run on my FXR). -Bill

      • Mike Miele

        thanks man!

      • Mike Miele

        would i be able to keep my stock controls and throttle?

        • Biltwell

          Mike, that’s gonna be tight if you use our zero drag bars, they are very narrow. Hit us up at or 951-699-1500 and our customer service crew can run through the options for ya.

  • Gordon

    I’m on a 2011 Wide Glide – Do you think a 10″ or 12″ Murdock Riser with a Tracker bar would look too disproportionate or weird?

    • Biltwell

      Gordon, I think that would be fine as long as it’s comfortable for you. You might also consider our Tyson bars. I think those might look just a little cleaner on your WideGlide. -Bill

      • Gordon

        Thanks Bill. I took a look at the Tyson bars. Can definitely see why you suggested them.
        Does the horizontal bar on the riser portion serve any practical purpose?
        I’d prefer the cleaner look of the tall riser if there is no practical difference.

        I’m coming from 14” apes. So height shouldn’t be a problem.
        Is the feel very different?

        • Biltwell

          That horizontal bar helps eliminate any torsional twisting, since there is so much leverage on the bar/riser combo. The Murdock’s are way overbuilt with the investment-cast clamp and bases that they don’t need it. Either would be totally fine. Both will offer more rigidity and feedback with a more attack position kind of riding dynamic compared to the apes. Hope that helps!

  • John Palmer-Rye

    I’m 6’6″ on a V-Star 1100 Custom. I’ve got the Road Star 4″ pullbacks (1″). I also run 4″ forward controls. I’m not looking to replace cables/brake line (already re-routed). Right now I have the risers reversed which, while looking a bit odd, gets me more comfortable. I’m looking for suggestions. Maybe Tracker Highs?

    • Biltwell

      John, I’m not sure what riser spacing is on your bike. Our Murdocks are 3.5″ or 89mm apart, so with your metric bike, they may not be an option. Maybe consider our Gordo risers since they are individual and should work. Then a Tracker Mid or High would probably go nice on top of that. At 6’6″ your options are probably limited . Don’t forget, you might be able to modify your seat to get you moved aft a bit, allowing you to stretch out. Good luck!

      • John Palmer-Rye

        Yup. Metric 100mm. I want to keep the risers I have as the have a one piece top, but I’ll look at the Gordos. Suggestions on height?

        • Biltwell

          My guess would be 4 or 6”. Taller is just going to crowd you and be too compact

  • Rohit Budhwar

    Hi, I have 2011 Triumph Speedmaster that i’m trying to make more comfortable for long rides by reducing the reach to the bars. I can either trim the stock bars 2 inches on each side and put taller risers or use the biltwell apes with slimline risers. Which would you suggest? I find the stock 31.5″ bars too wide and get pain between the shoulder blades after long rides.

    • Biltwell

      Rohit, Apes and Slimlinea would work. Also consider the Chumps.

  • Jonathan Gibson

    So I have a 2016 H-D Roadster, I was going for the Street Tracker/Cali Club look. I have the Motobars at this moment but with stock risers, I want to go up so the bars ar e alittle bit more even with my height ( Im 5.8) . What Risers should I do that I will feel comfortable with but wont have to change the Cables?? Help Please!!!

    • Biltwell

      Jonathan, when it comes to cable lengths, our Customer Service dudes would do a better job of accurately answering the question. Hit ’em up at or call M-F 9:00-6:00PM at 951-699-1500.

  • harley pinard

    I’m looking to get the Murdock risers with the tracker low bars. My question is, I’m 6’1 and i noticed with my stock bars (6.5″ rise) that my lower back hurts as i feel a little hunched over. Being the height that i am do you think the murdock risers without pullback would be best for my reach or do you think the murdock risers with pullback would be more comfortable in general?

    • Biltwell

      Harley, what bike are you riding?

      • harley pinard

        Oh yeah that’d help haha. I’m on a 2008 Superglide custom

        • Biltwell

          I bet you’d like the pullback position. Ironically my friend Josh just pulled up on his ’01 Dyna and he’s 6’1″. He’s running our 8″ Murdock pullbacks with our Tracker High bars and loves it. Or if you wanted to skip taller risers, our Chumps bars would be comfortable. Hope that helps!

          • harley pinard

            Awesome Thank you so much! Honestly the best customer service I’ve ever had. Quick and straight to the point reply!

  • David Englund

    Hi Biltwell, think I need some advice… do you think the Chumps will look good on a Vstar 1100? I’ll end up getting some forward foot controls for it, and don’t want to sit in that folding knife position… also don’t want the bars to be too narrow, but add an old school look…
    What do you guys think?

    • Biltwell

      David, the Chumps look good on just about any bike, the Vstar included. If they don’t have the reach you want, consider our Apes. At 12” they aren’t as outlandish as most and would be another good choice.

      • David Englund

        Awesome, thanks, I’ll consider the Apes as well… how about the Flyers? Would they be another option, or will they just look weird? Oh, these decisions…

        • Biltwell

          Oops, I overlooked the Flyers. Those woukd work too, it would just be an aesthetic choice. Good luck!

          • David Englund

            Great, thanks for the support! My ride will hopefully be rockin’ some Biltwell handlebars some time soon, love your stuff!
            Cheers from Sweden!