Ape hanger handlebars are a style of handlebars which rise much higher above the motorcycle than stock handlebars. In the early days of custom motorcycles, what are now known as "old school" Bobbers were being built from motorcycles brought back from military action overseas by servicemen or purchased as surplus from the military.
These handlebars are Wild 1 Chubby OUTLAW 'Z' 10" Ape Hanger Handlebars by axiomcycles:
Common on custom choppers, you may recall what might have been your first sight of ape handlebars in the movie, Easy Rider, on the Captain America chopper. While various locales have different regulations on how high ape hangers can extend when measured above the seat, there are readily available commercially in heights up to 20 inches above stock.
So why choose ape handlebars? Truly, it is a matter of style and taste since these bars do look very cool. Riders what to make clear statements about their personalities with the motorcycle they choose to ride, and this is one sure way to do just that. But there is a slightly more practical reason. Because the ape style handlebars cause the rider to sit more upright on the seat, this configuration for handlebars can help those right back problems be able to ride for more miles without developing back pain.
The disadvantages of ape hanger handlebars include the fact that some less experienced riders feel less in control of their motorcycle when sitting with arms outstretched and even raised above shoulder level. While it may be true that really tall apes may cause arms to grow tired after a while, most riders who like this control configuration don't find this to be the case at all. The only other disadvantage is that there may be a slight difference in wind resistance, perhaps costing a mile or so in top speed or reducing gas mileage fractionally, but these differences are so small, they are nearly not worthy of noting.
When considering the installation of ape hanger handlebars on your own motorcycle, keep in mind that brake cables, throttle cable, clutch cable and electric starter wiring must be extended to allow for the extra distance to the attachments points on the taller handlebars.
For anyone who has done wrenching on their own bike, these changes are really not very challenging, but your local motorcycle shop can do the work if you are not equipped to tackle the job.
If you want to make the change from stock to apes especially, you can purchase a kit which has everything you need and clear instructions on exactly how to make the change. This means you have a variety of options if you do want to try out the ape handlebar look on your customer motorcycle or chopper.