A couple of years ago, when I took my first foray off-road, I soon began to understand why bikes that head away from the tarmac have handguards; I found myself squeezing between a gatepost and a dense bramble bush and every time I let the clutch out and moved forward, the lever got caught in the brambles, disengaged and I went nowhere.
Luckily, this was a low-speed issue though many riders will be familiar with the smack on the knuckles from a stray branch or hefty bit of foliage that is unseen as they happily charge along a Greenlane or trail. They will also probably be familiar with the inevitable tumble that is an occupational hazard of riding off-road which, if luck is against you, can break a lever and leave you stranded if you have no protection.
These are the main reason for adding a pair of handguards to a bike; they guard the hands – the clue is in the name – as well as the levers. For off-roaders, they are essential to protect the hands and levers but for road bikes, they can be useful for the same reason but to offer protection from something different.
1. Royal Enfield Handguards
The first thing I find that starts to get cold as the weather turns is my fingers. Of course, I have written many times about my love of heated gloves and how well they can keep my fingertips warm and hence, able to use the bike’s controls safely.
However, a pair of handguards can also offer protection from not just impacts but the effect of wind chill. With an ambient temperature of 0°C, 60mph of wind-chill on exposed handgrips creates an effective temperature of -12°C, so hands exposed to air can get very cold, very quickly.
This pair of handguards from the official Royal Enfield accessories catalogue would appear to be aimed at protecting hands from wind and rain firstly and heavy falls or altercations with dense undergrowth secondly, though they will inevitably offer more protection than nothing.
Fabled handguard manufacturer Barkbusters produces a set that mount to the ends of the bars - like these do – but also have a mounting inboard to added strength and protection.
However, these Enfield versions are super quick and easy to fit and certainly, on the road, make a very real difference to how my hands feel. Luckily, I haven’t needed to assess their strength as they hit the ground from a standing or riding position…
Fitting them is easy – you simply remove the bar-end weights that are fitted to the bike from the factory and then, replace them with the handguards, with a rubber bush between the end of the bar and the metal mounting brace. Ten minutes and you’re done – it’s that easy.
You can, of course, adjust the guards once they are fitted to offer the best protection for your hands, depending on whether you have adjusted the bars’ position and how large your hands are. Not only do they help deflect the wind away from the hands, but they also help to give the bike a more purposeful adventure-style look, which is never a bad thing.
The metal mounting bracket is finished in metallic silver and on the outside, the plastic guards are smooth and well-shaped. Inside, they are less so but then, that’s the business end.
They are marked left and right, just in case you can’t work it out and there are several paint marks on the inside of the pair we got – no idea what they are for but we’re glad they’re on the inside.
There is virtually no downside to fitting these handguards. They deflect wind and rain away from the hands to help reduce the cooling effect of windchill and don’t seem to affect stability or noise levels at all.
They will provide some protection to the hands, as well as the clutch and brake levers, in the event of a tumble or impact off-road, though I haven’t tested the extent of this.
They look good too and are well made. The only real issue is that because you have to remove the bar-end weights, you can get a little more vibration up through the bars, which can blur the mirrors. However, for a cost of less than £75 all-up, it’s a price worth paying.
Deflect wind and rain away from the hands
Offer some protection from tumbles and undergrowth
Removal of bar-end weights can lead to vibrations