Riding mostly desert and mountain single track, having some protection from flying rocks, tall brush, and trees is not a bad idea. We tried many different hand guards in both ‘flag’ and ‘bark buster’ styles. Most experimentation resulted in dissatisfaction from poor performance, quality, or fitment.
Before I get into the review of 2 different items by Enduro Engineering, I would like to rip on Acerbis and Cyrca for a moment. Since I believe that running the Acerbis was a mistake that contributed to a significant injury, I am going to start with them.
Acerbis make some great products. We own and will continue to purchase several Acerbis components. The Rally Pro appear to be the most popular bark buster in the Acerbis lineup. The X-strong comes off as nothing more than a dumbed down version from an aesthetics perspective. I probably see more Acerbis guards on bikes than all others combined. However, to be blunt, there handguards are crap. This makes me thing that the popularity has more to do with looks (they look very cool) and name recognition than anything.
What I don’t like about the Acerbis bark busters:
- The inner frame is a weak material. Without having any knowledge of their manufacturing process, I would guess they go with a softer metal to make it easier to bend with the plastic guard already on the bar. Likely some stamping type process. A stronger metal would probably need to be heated or have more force applied than the plastic could take. Regardless, several tip overs on rock laden hills resulted in badly bent guards. Mind you I am not talking about high speed bailing or ghost riding drops. These were the oh-crap moments that come from running up a tight track on someone’s back wheel when he stalls type drops. To make things worse, trying to straighten a reinforcement bar that is encased in plastic is a joke. You have no real way to clamp or pound on it without chewing up the plastic, and the plastic makes finding the actual curve of the metal pretty much impossible.
- The protective area of the guard is not very tall. I knew this going in but I uncharacteristically let buying looks and popularity get the better of me. It cost me dearly. I suffered a very bad break on my left hand. It almost cost me a finger but thankfully after 3 surgeries things are pretty good. An on-coming rider panicked on a narrow trail and ran into me. I stopped just off the side of the trail and leaned into a barbwire fence to let him by. The idiot went into a wide-eyed panic and never let off, and never moved over. We went bar-to-bar on the left side. He hit the Rally Pro and then smashed my hand. I cannot help but to think that a proper deflection area would have bounced his bar over my hand. Heck, an average flag that squished my fingers would have been better than taking the bar straight to the knuckles. The only good part was the Rally Pro broke his hand as well. A small payback for his stupidity.
- As with the injury, the deflection zone is just about useless in the brush and when getting pelted with rocks. The low profile fails to push brush far enough up or down to keep from getting smacked in the hands. And, the chances of a rock zeroing in on such a thin slice of plastic is minimal. So, unless you are smacking into actual trees, the Rally Pro offers little protection.
Cyrca Pro Bend
I read the reviews, then I spent the money. It was a lot of money. I picked up a set specifically for Pro Taper 1-1/8″ bars, started mounting them and, bam! Disappointed. They packaged 2 left deflectors. Okay, stuff happens so I wait for replacements. After they arrived, I began to mount the supposedly flexible mounting points that people talk about. It is a bunch of bull if you ask me. Sure, if you have just the right bend bar (I run RM Low), super thin perches, etc. maybe they would be easy. For my setup, I had to rearrange everything. The very first ride after I sacrificed my desired positioning for controls to get the overpriced Cyrca’s installed, I dropped the bike and the POS Pro Bend bar bent. Makes me wonder if that is how they got the name. I am not joking when I say I took them off the bike as soon as I got home.
On to Better Things
Enduro Engineering Debris Deflector
Hands down the best handguards I have purchased are Enduro Engineering (EE). I first purchased the EE Debris Deflectors because I was absolutely sick and tired of paying large sums of money for handguards. Two bikes, 2 riders, lots of rocks and trees. It gets expensive. Aside from the low price point, I really liked that EE offers a full line of replacement parts and that the deflectors (plastics) can be easily acquired and swapped when graphics on the bike were changed. Even switching from the red bike to the orange bike, which in the past typically meant a buying a new kit, was nothing more than a cheap set of flags.
The first thing I noticed when I took the Debris Deflectors out of the packaging was the bar inserts. Bah, I despise the style that EE uses as they do not ‘lock’ to the bark buster bar. This means they are going to spin if dropped at a bad angle. Worse yet is that the short insert is smooth so it is going to get pushed into the bar and pinch the throttle on right side drops because it is too short to put the proper thickness of spacers, and too smooth to not get pushed in from the impact. Rather than just “dealing with it,” I immediately grabbed the inserts from the Acerbis Rally Pro’s, and a bar from the EE kit, and figured out how I was going to make them work. All it took was a little time with the Dremel to get a good locking fit between the EE bar and the Acerbis bar insert. The result? Well how about well over 250 hours of rides that have seen everything from drops in massive rock gardens, trees, brush, limbs and race roost with ZERO bending, ZERO jammed throttles, ZERO broken levers (running stock levers) and ZERO movement on the bars. In fact, the setup is so amazing that the modified EE setup has been moved from old bikes to new bikes (we have 2 sets), with only replacing the deflector to make it look fresh again.
I will also point out that the bar mount (not the insert) for the EE Debris Deflectors does not require a ‘special’ mount for Pro Taper bars (just get 7/8 or 1-1/8 as needed). The aluminum of the bar mount is strange in that it forms to the bar so well that you need to smack them with a rubber mallet to get them off (after removing the bolts of course), yet they never got bent, and never deformed. These things act like they are welded on!
Other than the bad inserts, the only complaint I have about the EE Debris Deflectors is, because of the modifications I guess, they took what seemed to be all of the flex out of the bars. This does not matter much on the tight trails, but it does cause me to fatigue quicker in the bumps and open areas. You feel everything! Because of my getting tired of being tired from the stiffness, I reluctantly decided I would go back to a flag style deflector again.
Enduro Engineering Roost Deflector
When it came to searching for flags, I stuck to my typical interest in finding the best option rather than brand loyalty and looks. I explored many options. The only one manufacture that I was not open to was Cyrca – the only way I will ever look at Cyrca again is if it was free (bitter? Maybe just a little). My primary considerations during the search were:
Stiffness. Did the setup look like the deflector was going to roll like the Uniko kit?
Breakage. Even after taking my less than cat-like reflexes (which can lead to crashes) out of the picture, I know the deflector is going need to be somewhat durable when dropped in the rocks. Low cost means I won’t worry about it so much, good design means I would not need to worry so much.
Mounting. Do I need something special for the Pro Taper bars? Clearance around the perch, lines, thickness of the mount.
Looks. Ugly is ugly. I don’t need ‘Acerbis cool,’ just not ugly.
Before I started to look for a flag, I made up my mind that I was going to buy different levers. I keep spares with me, but I would just assume not have to use them. More on the lever search may be written, but suffice to say I ended up with a breakaway lever. Keeping with the lever theme for a moment, I thought it would be cool if someone had a flag that would ‘break away’ like the levers do. As it turns out, EE had, as in had not has, such a flag. The flag accepted the same deflector as the Debris Deflector and I already had a few packages (different colors) laying around, plus the ones on the bike were still in great shape so I thought I may as well give them a try. The fact that EE sold a mounting kit (no deflector) for a very reasonable price made the decision even easier.
I ordered up the Moto Roost Deflector mounting kit from RockyMountainATV (RM) on a Saturday. On Monday when I checked the order status, I found that the Moto Roost Deflector had been discontinued (RM was still shipping my order) by EE and replaced with the “Solid Mount Moto Roost Deflector.” To this day I wondered what they learned that caused them to discontinue the line. Was there a problem with the breakaway function of the prior generation? I decided to go ahead an order up the solid mount as well so I could compare them side by side.
Both mounts use the same bar mount. The only difference is the tip where the deflector flag attaches to the mount. The original tip is slotted to allow forward movement on the mount, and it includes a spring to return the deflector. The solid mount has no spring, and the slot is machined to form a tight fit around the mount which eliminates movement (thus the ‘solid’ mount I guess). The mounts themselves are typical high-quality machine work, but are nothing special in the strength department. I am sure that I could easily bend them or twist them by hand once mounted to the bar.
The deflector mounting bar– deflector mounts to the mounting bar, mounting bar mounts to the bar mount –for both kits is the same, which is a thick piece of plastic that has good strength. I am reasonably sure it would fold and then regain its shape. Unlike the impression (not saying they would) I get from the stock KTM deflectors, I do not ever expect it to snap because of a hit or wreck. The most likely outcome is the bar mount will bend.
After some careful examination I decided that I could not pick a winner between the two based on function alone. The breakaway functionality was cool, but what happens when, not if, they break since the product is discontinued? It looked like I could take the tip and spring off the non-solid mount and bolt it to the solid mount arm, but it was obvious that a lost or broken spring or tip would mean I was switching to solid mounts. Decision made, going with the solid mount.
Mounting was a bit more involved than I expected. The levers that I ‘wanted to run’ did not fit with the bar mounts. Again, maybe more on this in another post, but they did fit fine with the Streamline Reflex levers that I picked up. I still had to move the kill button closer to the grip than I like. It is now in the body bump zone, but I can deal with it later if needed. Also, the amount of room between the lever mounting bolt and the bar mount is minimal, which has me a little concerned that I could end up with a stuck lever after a spill. The thought that I can bend the mounts by hand minimizes the concern.
We played sweeper for the first loop of a desert race on the first ride with the EE Solid Mount Moto Roost Deflector. I instantly noticed that the bars had some give, which translated to more control. Sure, this does not say anything about the deflector, but it did confirm that I prefer not to run bark busters, at least not run them all the time. The actual testing came when bushwhacking hillsides to get around the Novice carnage on the harder sections. The deflector mounting bar had just enough give to keep the bars from wanting to get pulled from my hands and not impede forward progress, yet they never pushed in far enough to hit my hands. I also did not experience any noticeable hits on the hand from the brush. I have not crash tested the solid mounts yet, but I assume they are going to twist from awkward drops on the rocks where the flag may get caught. Time will tell. Still, I am satisfied with the performance and price. I think I will be fine with buying replacement parts as needed. I may even pick up an extra mount kit just to have it for when I bend a mount to the point that is cannot be bent back. As for my son, he is not convinced and is sticking with bark busters.
Having over 100 hours with the EE Solid Mount Roost Deflector kit, I can say I am completely satisfied. I did bend a mount but I just took it off, smacked it with a hammer, and put it back on. The flags get chewed up pretty bad in the brush but it is only cosmetic. They are definitely one of the most satisfying accessory purchases I have made. If there is such a thing as a great deflector, this is probably it.