View Full Version : 22mm plumbing copper handlebars?

08-12-2010, 12:28 PM
Hi AZ Krew!

I need a set of ridiculously radical zombie ape hangars for a chopper project. I have seen a chromed steel one on Ebay U.S.A. that would probably just about suit at a push, but I have a problem or two with that. I would really like to make everything on this chopper and it will be expensive getting them to the U.K. Has anyone tried using 22mm copper tubing and plumbing bending tool for bending up custom zombie hangar bars? I'd like to hear your thoughts or experiences please. They would get more green and zombiefied with age to. How cool!:D

Thanks and all the best.


08-12-2010, 03:40 PM
I haven't heard of copper pipe being used, but there are numerous threads on the use of EMT (galvanized conduit) for not only handlebars, but also seat rails and other uses. Try a search for EMT.

08-12-2010, 04:23 PM
I suppose it could work if you didn't mind the weight, and made sure to get straight (hardened) rather than coiled (soft) copper tubing. The patina as it aged would look good. If the weight is OK, though, you might want to use brass pipe instead, because having the bars bend or break when you were doing emergency turns would be dangerous. I'm just not sure about the bend strength being sufficient on copper tubing of that size.


08-12-2010, 04:42 PM
Thanks for the reply Locutus.

EMT is a handy material no doubt. I have lots of it all over the factory at work and have used it lots in that application. Bending anything other than a 90 degree curve scares me with EMT. I don't think I could create nice, elegant and good looking bars with EMT. What I am concerned about is the softness and malleable properties of copper in use for handlebars from a safety point of view, but those properties make it so easy to work and create a unique handlebar. Steel has far more tensile strength. The bars I intend to create would be about 26" rise by about 24" width. There could be a huge amount of leverage on them when hill climbing on a crank forward chopper. I'm not at all sure on this. EMT would be fine structurally I am sure but I do not think my general purpose lightweight pipe bender is up to bending EMT acurately. The pipe bender at work is heavier duty but does not have the necessary forms for handlebar sizes unfortunately. I think it would be easy to create the bars in copper but they would not be strong enough. I just don't know. Such a dilemma.

Many thanks and all the best.


08-12-2010, 04:53 PM
Thanks for tour thoughts Marcus.

The bike is a fixed gear chopper so I expect it will not achieve great speed. It is more of a cruiser. More for style than practicality on this project. A bit of an adventure and diversion for me. Weight is not the greatest consideration with this particular bike, but I would like to be able to motivate it by pedal. I was certain to use hardened copper pipe. The bike is intended for charity rides and fun rides, like the London sky ride rather than every day use, and just something fun, different and hopefully a bit spectacular.

Thanks for your thoughts.


08-12-2010, 05:54 PM
Would the copper fit over the EMT? Could you slide it over the EMT then bend it into the shape you want. That would give you an outter sleeve or skin of copper over an inner EMT steel handle bar? Just a thought. Some times these wierd ideas spark some cool items. Like I said, just a thought. Good luck.

08-12-2010, 06:59 PM
V, there is a book about building your own pipe bending tool by a gentleman named Vincent R. Gingery. The tool is fairly easy to build and you can custom make the bending dies to your own specifications. It would be able to bend the EMT tubing to greater than 90 degrees. It is also a good project to practice welding on. :jester: here is a link to Amazon that shows you what it looks like http://www.amazon.com/How-Build-Pipe-Bending-Machine/dp/1878087215/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1281653275&sr=1-2

08-12-2010, 07:02 PM
How about having steel bars electroplated with copper? That way you get the strength of steel with the look of copper, including the cool green oxidation. I don't know how affordable it is, or if you can DIY. Metallic copper paint is the easy answer, but it doesn't oxidize the same and only looks convincing until it has some wear and tear.

If you don't want to bend the steel yourself, you could weld sections of EMT factory elbow together to get as much bend as you want, all with a consistent radius. Assemble the pieces on top of a pattern and make any adjustments to the cuts with a grinder or file before tacking them together and you'll get a shape that you can reproduce for the opposite side. Grind the welds flush when you're done, and it will look like a factory handlebar, in any shape you want with nice smooth curves. I've had good luck with this method for some simple shapes I've made.

08-13-2010, 09:57 AM
Thanks for all the suggestions people. I have got some copper pipe today and will give some of these ideas a go. If it fails miserably I will have to get the bars from the U.S.A. We will see.

Many thanks and all the best.


08-13-2010, 12:16 PM
Hi Tim,

A few years ago my sons and I built my wife a recumbent. We were going after a vintage look and copper handlebars fit that theme nicely. We had no bends, but rather used fittings and sweat joinery to get the shape we wanted. She rode with these for about a year or two and they did ok, but did not measure up to the abuse of being tossed in the back of a pick-up truck for transport. I replaced them with EMT.

The picture shows that bike at the Oshkosh air show one year. The red strap was a temporary fix to a failed sweat joint. I would never discourage anyone from trying anything, but based on my experience, you might find that copper tubing is a bit flimsy for your application.


08-14-2010, 04:11 AM
Hi Bill.

Many thanks. I agree that if they were to be short, stubby bars it would be ok. Perhaps for another less radical project. The bars in your picture look great though.

Thanks again and best regards.


08-26-2010, 10:20 PM
how about some kind of lattice, truss configuration of small copper piping into ape hanger shape, or a group of smaller piping brazed together? or you could trying casting some brass ape hangers.