Tiger Project: Barkbusters Handlebar Guards and VPS Plastics

Impact and element protection for your hands and your bike.

Sam Bendall - LiveMotoFoto.com

Unscheduled dismounts or accidental drops can result in snapping a clutch lever, bending the handlebars, or potentially damaging the front master cylinder of bikes like the Tiger 800 XC. Any of these can definitely take the fun out of your adventure or make it problematic when trying to get back to civilization.  

Sadly, the stock hand guards that come on the Tiger 800 XC are flimsy plastic bits that offer no real impact protection. They mount to the end of the handlebar, clutch, and brake lever assembly. With no means to displace the load of the motorcycle during an impact, it’s likely that such an impact can result in damaging the clutch and brake levers.

Sam Bendall

These Stock Guard Have Gotta Go

Remember when Will Smith was given the "Noisy Cricket" in Men In Black? "I feel like I am gonna break this damn thing." That's exactly how I feel about these crap plastic guards. 

There are a number of hand guard solutions on the market, but for this project, I opted to go with the Barkbusters Handlebar Guards. This Australian company is known for making reliable and durable aluminum guards that create a barrier around the motorcycles primary controls. Instead of mounting to the clutch and brake levers, the Barkbuster guards are structurally clamped towards the middle of the handlebar near the risers and mount on the end of the handlebar.  

Sam Bendall

Beefy Guards for a Burly Bike

Adventure Motorcycles are not dirt bikes. They are heavy machines and when they fall, they fall hard.

Installation of both parts was relatively straightforward and took only 20 minutes and three tools: Two Allen keys and a Phillips head screwdriver. I managed to use the original bar end bolt that secured the stock guards to secure the aluminum brace to the grip. Then, I used all the supplied hardware in the Barkbusters kit.  

Barkbusters makes a number of plastic guards to protect against debris, wind, and rain and for this first application, I went with the VPS system. VPS stands for Variable Protection System and comes with two additional plastic pieces that screw into the primary guards. There are two options—low and high. In the extended or high position, the added amount of material provides more coverage. Since it’s winter in California, I opted for the higher position.

Sam Bendall

VPS Plastics In Place

The VPS plastics with the variable protection bits are mounted in the highest position for maximum wind deflection. Come Summer, I'll drop them down one setting.  

If you’re feeling like adding a splash of color into your ride, the VPS Plastics come in a variety of hues. 

So far, the system feels robust and for just under $150, it’s not a bad investment. Just looking at it mounted to the bike inspires more confidence. However, only will time will tell if they really can take the abuse.