Monday, 20 February 2017

Riser Guide: What to look for

The riser is the centrepiece of your set-up. Everything works around it.

After leaving your club bow it's likely you will be looking for an intermediate bow set-up to carry you through your next few years of archery.

Club Bow: Samick Polaris
Club Bow: Samick Polaris


Risers are primarily categorised by how you connect limbs to them. There are several different mechanisms in use, though 90% of risers use International Limb Fitting (ILF / HDS*). The next most popular is Hoyt Formula (paralever).

Now Hoyt Formula limbs and risers are generally more expensive than ILF, and from all the tests I have seen there is absolutely no difference, especially not at the beginner/intermediate level.

A riser should stay with you for a very long time. some people will stick with their first riser all the way through their archery life. There's nothing wrong with this at all. What you gain from a more expensive riser is less weight, more customisation. I have heard there is a different flex on different risers, but have not noticed any difference myself at all, or seen anything to back this up.

Because 90% of risers are ILF, a similar percentage of limbs are also ILF. This makes it the ideal choice for a beginner who is likely to go up in limb poundage a few times before you reach the right weight for you.

*It is worth noting that HDS stands for the Hoyt Dovetail System, which is the same thing as ILF, just Hoyt wanted to be a bit different and confuse people!


I'm not exactly sure how to describe this. Basically the technology is the ability to add other parts onto your riser, such as sight, longrod, toprod, dampeners.
This is quite a simple one. the more you can add on, the better. At this point you won't know what you will end up requiring, so it's better so be able to add everything, than add nothing.

Limb Adjustment

There are two types of limb adjustment; Vertical: being able to change the poundage of the limbs, by adjusting the fitting screws in and out. Most risers have this, certainly all the ones I have looked at have. Lateral: This gives you the ability to rotate the limbs left and right. In an ideal world you shouldn't need this. Some of the better bow manufacturers such as Border discuss not adding this on because if the limbs are made correctly, then you never need to change limb alignment. But, if you are going to be moving up in limb weights, buying cheaper ones, and even second hand ones, there is a good chance you may need to adjust your lateral limb adjustment.
Vertical adjustment is essential, Lateral is a nice to have. I would recommend it, though I have never needed it yet.


You will hear many reviews talking about the grip,how it feels, whether it's better for smaller or larger hands. Ignore them all! The grip is personal to you. The material, shape and position of your hand upon it is completely your choice. The grip is the reason you really need to go and try out arise before buying.
Anecdotally, the riser I have ended up with is supposed to have a grippy rubber material more suited to smaller hands - if you listen to what forums tell you - yet I have pretty big hands, and it fits perfectly.

Material and Weight

Wooden, steel, magnesium, cast aluminium, forged aluminium or carbon, those are your options. They are also in that order of price, and almost in that order of weight
 I'm going to ignore Wooden and steel as being a bit outdated. Magnesium is akin to cast aluminium, though likely to chip more easily.
Carbon risers are the most expensive and the lightest. Now light isn't always the best. you will be more affected by wind when shooting outdoors, though it will make it easier after your 5th dozen arrows to keep your arm up!
In the beginner/intermediate realm of risers we have to decide between cast and forged aluminium with the odd magnesium (usually older) riser thrown in. Essentially cast aluminium will chip more easily than forged, and the forged is technically stronger. Not that your riser is likely to snap however.
So we'll go Forged if possible, Cast if not, and see if any good magnesium risers are out there.

Weight is largely driven by the material, though there are differences within the riser groups. We will assume lighter is better, especially as we will likely be adding a load more stuff on to your riser that will weigh it down.

The range risers weigh is around 1080g – 1400g, though most seem to fall right into the middle of this range.


Painted or Anodised. Quite simply, anodised will hold up better and chip less. It will of course be more expensive. Anodised will still chip however, so don’t think by going for this option you will have an unbreakable riser!

Riser Length

There are a few different lengths for risers to choose from out there. Essentially, for Field Archery you want a shorter one (21” or 23”), and target archery a longer one(25”).
I’m not going to go into this too much, and as I focus more on Target Recurve, which is you are wondering the one they do at the Olympics, and you will do at most clubs in the UK, I’m going to answer for this one. The longer the bow and limbs are, the less the string will band at your fingers, and so the easier it is. If your draw length is really long then you want a bigger bow, and shorter, you want a smaller bow. The reason for this is because if the string is not being pulled as far back it tends to make the bow a bit unstable.
But we are going to worry about the overall length later when I talk about limbs. You can readily get limbs in all sorts of lengths, and as you will be changing your limbs every now and again as you progress, it makes more sense to get a riser that will last you.
For this reason, get a 25” riser.

Resale Prices

Think of your riser as an investment. A good one will hold its value well, and a poor one will drop significantly. Risers on the whole hold their value very well. Due to a huge demand in bows and risers recently, if you buy a half decent riser you will likely sell it for between 65% and 85% of our initial purchase cost.
This does also mean if you were wanting to apply some dubious maths to justify spending far too much on a riser, you can say you are investing the money, but because the riser will resell quite well, you are not actually spending this money, rather than putting it in a safe place, somewhere not affected by inflation.
No, it doesn’t sound like a great argument to me either, but it persuaded me to spend more than I could afford at the time anyway.


So how much am I going to have to fork out for a new riser?
Intermediate risers start at £66 and work their way right up. The range I was looking to spend was from the cheapest possible to around £180. Strangely enough there is a gap in the market at this point, and the next risers are around double this.

Now you don’t want to go spending too much on a riser, because lets face it, archery can get very very expensive very quickly. You will want to spend about 33% of your budget on a riser. This is your budget for absolutely everything you will need, though you don’t have to buy it all at once, if fact it’s probably best not to.

Buying second hand.

A riser is a lump of metal you hold to fasten the limbs to. It is quite hard to damage other than just cosmetically, though it is still possible!
As I have said before, risers hold their value well, so it may be hard to find good deals on used risers. I originally went out looking to buy one, but having watched numerous eBay auctions for used risers sell for more than a brand new one with warranty from a shop, I decided to just buy new instead.
If you do buy second hand you do really need to try the riser out before you buy. If it’s a recent one, you could visit a shop, then buy online. You are probably going to want to buy other stuff later from the shop, so it would be a good plan to have a look around other items in there at the same time.
My advice on where to buy, is not from an auction site at all, have a look on forums such as, or for some really amazing deals go to the websites of your local archery clubs. You will often find adverts for bows on there unbelievably cheap. Do remember to check online for the cost of the bow new, and don’t be afraid of buying a complete set from someone online, especially on forums and club sites, they are much less likely to be selling rubbish goods, whereas eBay is much more anonymous.