Bust mirrors, not bark: sportsbike hand guards

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Remember this year’s Daytona 200? Or the famous Biaggi/Rossi elbow match from Suzuka in 2001? At the time, there was a lot of drama about how Biaggi did it to force Rossi wide, but Daytona is a good example of why a rider might think it’s necessary to stick an elbow out. Why am I pointing out these two racing incidents? Well, somewhere along the evolution of the motorcycle, dirtbikes sprouted hand guards to both protect the rider from rocks, bushes, other riders and also to protect the controls from hard pointy things, to improve crashability and to keep the brake and clutch from being inadvertently pulled by the dirt when you drag a bar. Essentially a piece of bent aluminum with plastic on top, hand guards are not high-tech. Why not put them on all motorcycles then? Woodcraft seems to think we should.

Obviously, some of those problems are specific to motocross racing. Most racing organization rule books say that if a bar touches the ground, that constitutes a crash. Still, what if you never had to worry about getting too close and tagging someone’s brake lever, dropping the bike and breaking your clutch or expensive Brembo RCS19 master cylinder or even snapping a stock lever. Due to be released in August, Woodcraft’s Hand Guards will greatly improve the crashability of whatever you bolt them to and will also help prevent crashes both on and off the track.

One of the greatest fears of hardcore lane splitters is crashing because you catch your brake lever on a mirror. Even if you manage to stay upright, you’re going for one hell of a ride that’s likely to include literally bouncing off of cars. No fun. On the track, all it takes is a misplaced elbow and your day can come to a screeching, smoking, painful halt.

So why does someone need to go out and engineer a whole new product when there are already a plethora of hand guards available for the dirt market? The dirt stuff tends to be heavy, bulky and focus on coverage first on things coming directly at you with side-on coverage coming in second. If you’re catching large rocks and tree branches in the hands on your street bike, odds are you have bigger problems to deal with. Mounting and physical dimensions also need to be taken into account. Try to bolt a set of aluminum off-road hand guards to your sportsbike and you’ll quickly realize that they won’t fit into the fairing and, even if they did, you’ll lack the bar space and shape to make them work. Woodcraft’s idea is to put a super strong aluminum mount on the end of the clip-on and bolt a large, extremely strong plastic slider to that. The slider curves up and forward to offer protection from the side and protection for the part of the brake lever that’s likely to be hit. Smart.

There are a few downsides though: You’ll need long, aftermarket bars that cost money. Your friends will probably make fun of you too for putting those funny guards on your bike in the same way the first guy to wear a neck brace or a back protector was probably called a nerd. The guards themselves are $180. Replacement sliders are another $80. Still, for a product that’s extremely well-designed and produced in America with the highest quality materials, the price isn’t bad. The $80 replacement cost for new sliders is even reasonable when you take into consideration the cost of what they’re protecting. In 10 years, we’ll probably see guards like this being incorporated into motorcycle design from the factory in the same way Aprilia is incorporating frame sliders into its RSV4.


  • rubber_side_up

    not as adjustable or made in America, but Rizoma has had something like these bad boys in their catalog for a little while. pretty beneficial for lane splitting :)


    • Myles

      Plus the rizoma’s were designed in wind tunnels and stuff so you don’t have any clutch slippage at 300km/hr. Really really important, I always feel like I’m losing power above 270km or so.

      • T Diver

        True. They also cause some vibration around 335km though. Make sure you bolt them on tight. You may as well sell your bike if you don’t get these new fang-dangled accessories.

    • Sean Smith

      I initially remembered those when I went to write this story, and then forgot because these are so radically different. They look very similar, but the Rizomas are much more shiny and much less bashy. Take a look at the differences in mounting to get an idea of their intended purposes.

      • T Diver

        It’s true. Rizoma stuff looks pretty clean in general. Although they charge an arm and a leg. If I recall correctly, they price all their turn signals individually; not as a pair.
        The selling point for their bar hooks was wind blockage. I thought that was funny. I just have this picture of a REALLY fast fancy Italian bike. It’s going so fast it needs to prevent the levers from getting blown back!!! Holy crap the paint is blowing off the bike!!! It’s amusing but I don’t buy it. Your levers shouldn’t be that loose. Hell I’ll bet Skank from NYCs fastest would say these are for chumps. Extra weight outweighs (a pun- how amazing) any wind-related benefits. If you hit your break while cutting cars, that just sucks for you. Be more careful when cutting cars I guess. That’s my expert analysis. (man they make a lot of shit to bolt on bikes.)

        • Sean Smith

          The wind thing is real. What they don’t tell you is that you can just buy lever with holes in them.

        • http://www.facebook.com/beastincarnate Ben Incarnate

          Their turn signals are priced individually, but dang if they’re not infinitely better than the crap that all of the local stores carry.

  • Archer

    I rode with a set of the Rizomas (which, as an aside, are far more elegant than the Woodcraft solid models shown here) on a CBR1000RR in Europe (Lausanne SUI to Milan ITA to Porec CRO), and if I recall correctly, they were adjustable to compensate for lever sweep. They nested perfectly with the Rizoma levers.

  • ursus

    I met a bicyclist who was missing alot of a finger due to a car door opening and cutting his finger off against his handlebar / lever. A version of the doorprize.

    I think about this when riding next to cars. Knees are vulnerable too. Handguards are great.

  • nick2ny

    Those just look like mountain bike bar ends. I feel like I’d go down if I caught the end on a pedestrian’s jacket.

    • Bronson

      Word. Still better than nothing I suppose.

    • Sean Smith

      Like the street bike rider worried about catching branches and rocks, you’ve got bigger problems to consider if you’re catching a pedestrian’s jacket.

      • JOHN

        I agree too much like a Hook.Better idea is to continue the piece back to the handlebars like the MXer’s ones. Check this one out.

  • Dennis

    It’s shaped like a… letter J. Like hook. Yeah, I’d describe it as hook-shaped. They could market it as “Sportbike Bar End Hooks”. Hooks are good at hooking things. Maybe that could be in the ads. “Tired of not being able to hook things with your sportibke bar ends? Get you some Bar End Hooks. Problem solved!”

    • andy727

      Lol! I needed that laugh after all the serious news lately.

  • jonoabq

    Good idea, poor execution. If it’s just a hook, that’s pretty much what it will do…hook things. I’ve seen MTB bar ends hook trees, other bikes, clothing, etc. with extremely violent consequences enough times to to think that this design needs work.

  • Glenngineer

    The biggest concern I have with these, or the Rizoma parts that they are obviously completely ripping off, is that they’re asking to skewer riders. Having one of these slide into your kidney, missing your back armor and spilling your pre-piss juice all over the track is a shitty way to end a track day, because the the dude next to you needed to dispose of more income on some borderline useless sport bike shit.

    • Sean Smith

      These are actually a lot less pointy than the levers and bars they cover up.

  • always_go_big

    I think they should extend the bolt on hand guard concept to cover the arms, legs, feet, head and torso. It could have doors for easy access and windows for use in all weather and an additonal two wheels to help carry the load… hang on, someone already thought of that.

  • Alex

    Eric Wood has spent his entire life racing and many years at the AMA Superbike level (netting top 10′s on non-factory bikes in the old days of super trick AMA SBKS!).

    Per usual with Woodcraft products, there is real thought, experience, and USA-knowhow at work.

    Good stuff.

    • http://www.desmoworks.com desmoworks

      What is USA-knowhow?

      • http://www.faster-faster.com fasterfaster

        Real world problem solving, pragmatism and form over function. It is distinctly different than the Japanese pursuit of perfection and optimization, the Italian belief that anything worth doing is worth doing beautifully, or the German desire to innovate for the advancement of engineering as a discipline.

    • http://www.damiengaudet.blogspot.com damien

      If Eric Wood or someone from Woodcraft looks at this article, please hire me. I’m in Mass!

  • http://www.postpixel.com.au mugget

    Cool stuff. If it helps save your levers in a crash that’s gotta be good. I’ve already got Woodcraft frame sliders and engine cases (great stuff), some other axle sliders – I think these lever guards would help make my bike even more damage resistant. Haha.

  • 85gripen

    This bike has a Rizoma, but only on the brake (right) side. Nothing on the left. Any idea of why you’d rock just one of these? http://www.bikeexif.com/radical-ducati-2