HAND SHIELDS OR WRAP-AROUND HANDGUARDS? MR. KNOW-IT-ALL

HAND GUARDIANS

Dear Mr. Know-It-All,

Wraparound handguards are used by almost 100 percent of off-road racers. I get that motocross doesn’t have tight trees and brush to grab your clutch or front brake and smash your fingers, but there is still plenty of bar banging, crashing, hurt hands and broken levers in motocross.
So why do almost no motocrossers use wraparound handguards?
I know, I really should have known, but please educate me.
Thank you,  John Barnhart

Steward Baylor runs hand shields at all GNCC events.

Actually, John, most of the top off-road racers use hand shields or deflectors rather than full wraparound guards. Why? First, the really tight world of national enduros, where you bang through trees that are 28 inches apart for a 125 miles, are rare in today’s racing. GNCC events are faster and consist of incredibly cobby terrain, but there’s very little bar-banging with saplings that slice your little fingers into splinters. Extreme enduros are mainly obstacle-driven events, and the top pilots want to be able to dismount easily and move easily over the bike. This includes upper-body positioning and hands on the bars. Full-wrap handguards do protect your hands and provide protection for the levers and grips in the case of a fall, but the top guys want to be able to dismount in the case of a fall and not get their hands or arms stuck in a full-wrap handguard. For tight enduros they are still prevelant.

Motocrossers, at least the top racers, even have an issue running hand shields. It’s a visual thing. Ricky Carmichael says he can’t handle the look, and it affects his performance. It’s much the same with some riders who must have a crossbar and a pad rather than a bulge bar. 

We like to run hand deflectors (like the stock KTM shields or Acerbis flags) on both motocrossers and our off-road machines. I remember two schools of thought on this; the first came from Dick Burleson. When full-wrap handguards started becoming the norm in national enduros, DB said it took away the incentive to miss the trees. He also felt that the speeds went up and the crashes when you clipped a tree hard were more severe. But, I also remember Scott Summers and his 28-inch bars with full-wrap guards. He said he mowed through everything in sight. 

Back in 1983 nearly every off-roader on the east coast ran full-wrap aluminum hand guards.

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