Louisiana Bill Updates Maximum Handlebar Height Legislation

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Louisiana state lawmakers have approved a bill that would change the maximum height of motorcycle handlebars.

Current state law restricts handlebar height to no more than 15 inches above the seat, a somewhat arbitrary level, but a common choice with 17 other states. The House has voted 87-0 in favor of Senate Bill 582 to change the maximum height to the rider’s shoulder level, as measured while sitting on the seat. SB 582 was introduced by Democrat senators Rick Gallot and Gary Smith.

The shoulder-level limit is used by 12 other states, with Louisiana joining their ranks upon the approval of Governor Bobby Jindal. The new law makes the limit relative to the rider’s body whereas the existing limit affected all riders regardless of body size.

For the most part, the law affects aftermarket ape hanger handlebars which place the rider’s hands higher than conventional handlebars or clip-ons. Higher bars tend to reduce a motorcycle’s handling, but some like the aesthetics. Some manufacturers produce motorcycles with high ape hangers or mini-apes.

In the picture above, Motorcycle.com‘s own Tom Roderick illustrates the height of the 2012 Harley-Davidson Seventy-Two‘s mini-ape hangers. T-Rod stands six-feet tall and the Seventy-Two puts his hands at below shoulder level. A shorter rider however may find the Seventy-Two’s handlebars to be at a higher angle.

Victory’s High Ball also uses tall handlebars which are adjustable, though combined with its low seat, may not make it legal in some jurisdictions.

Here’s a breakdown of various handlebar height limits from the AMA’s state-by-state motorcycle law database:

15″ above seat:
Alabama
Alaska
Connecticut
Delaware
Distric of Columbia
Florida
Georgia
Hawaii
Indiana
Maryland
Michigan
Missouri
Ohio
Rhode Island
Texas
Vermont
West Virginia

Shoulder-level:
Arizona
Illinois
Louisiana
Maine
Massachusetts
Nevada
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New York
North Dakota
South Dakota
Utah
Wyoming

10″ above fasten point:
Mississippi

15″ above fasten point:
Nebraska

Eye level:
Oklahoma

6″ above shoulder:
California

30″ above seat
Washington
Wisconsin

No limit
Arkansas
Colorado
Idaho
Iowa
Kansas
Kentucky
Minnesota
Montana
New Mexico
North Carolina
Oregon
Pennsylvania
South Carolina
Tennessee
Virginia

[Source: AMA, Louisiana State Legislature]

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  • bbtowns

    I’ve never understood ape hangers. I’ve only ridden one bike with them, but it’s handling was nothing short of awful. You take a heavy bike with a long wheel base, and then remove the handling. It might look cool, but so would a Zorro cape without the deleterious handling affect.

  • doc

    It’s about comfort on long hauls, not handling. The guys running ape hangars are not trying to carve canyons.

  • Jimbo

    I’ve had my shoulder level apes for over 10 years now. I went through various handlebars to find my “comfort zone” my bike fits me like a glove and I can handle it just fine in many different conditions. I don’t believe in laws restricting handlebar height, as a rider, just use “common sense”