Over the last 5 years we have tried many different hand guards in both the ‘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.
In the case of Acerbis, they make some great products. We own and will continue to purchase several Acerbis components. However, there handguards, well, suck. The Rally Pro (and X-strong, had both and they seem to be the same garbage) appear to be the most popular bark buster in the Acerbis lineup. I think this has more to do with looks (they looks very cool) and name recognition than anything.
What I don’t like about the Acerbis bark busters:
- They have a very weak reinforcement bar that reminds me of Pot Metal. Several tip overs on rock laden hills resulted in badly bent guards. 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 suffered a very bad break on my left hand when an on-coming rider panicked on a narrow trail and ran into me (I stopped just off the side to let him by). 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 deflector would have bounced his bar over mine. The only good part was the Rally Pro broke his hand as well (payback for his stupidity). Also, in the brush and when getting pelted with rocks, the low profile guard fails again as brush does not get pushed up or down far enough to keep it from hitting your 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.
The Uniko flag variants that Acerbis makes are again, cool looking, but all the ones I have tried have one fail in common – they roll when hitting brush at higher speeds. By roll, I mean if you smack brush or small tree limbs with the top or bottom of the protection area they will twist in that direction. This in turn results in the brush or tree limbs still smacking you in the hands. Bottom line, I think the Uniko protection is for roost-only.
Next up, Cyrca Pro Bend. Ah, Cyrca. I read the reviews, spent the money on 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 (bunch of bull if you ask me). Sure, maybe if you have just the right bend bar (I run RM Low), super thin perches, etc. they would be easy, but 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 the better (is there such thing as a great handguard?) handguards I have purchased – 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 (2 bikes, 2 riders, lots of rocks and trees). I really liked that the initial purchase point of the EE lines were relatively inexpensive, that they sell a full line of replacement parts, and that the deflectors (plastics) can be easily acquired and swapped when graphic and bike plastics were changed.
When I took the Debris Deflectors out of the packaging, the first thing I noticed was the bar inserts. Bah, I despise the style that EE uses as they do not ‘lock’ to the bark buster bar, which means they are going to spin if dropped at a bad angle. Worse yet is that the short insert is smooth which means it is going to get pushed into the bar and jamming the throttle on right side drops because it is too short to put the proper amount of spacers, and too smooth to have any packing resistance. Rather than trying to ‘deal with it,’ I immediately grabbed the inserts from the Acerbis Rally Pro’s, the bar from the EE, 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 take all 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 try a flag-style deflector again.
When it came to searching for flags, I stuck to my typical interest in finding the best option rather than brand loyalty, so I explored many options during my search. 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?
- 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 (Had, not Has) just 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 easy. 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.” What had they learned I wondered. 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 a spring to control the movement. The replacement 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. I do not see it ever snapping 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 decide 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? I 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.
For the first ride with the EE Solid Mount Moto Roost Deflector, we played sweeper for the first loop of a desert race. 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 that 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.