Dirt Bike Handguards for Hand and Lever Protection

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Dirt bike standing on a hill showing handlebars with a red river landscape on the background

Blasting through the forest on narrow single tracks, riding through rock gardens and jumping over giant ledges and logs is what riding dirt bikes is all about.

And it’s the best feeling you can have right up to the moment you hit your hands against those tree branches and limbs and rocks and roots. In the worst case scenario, you also break your brake or clutch lever in the process.

Luckily, there is a simple solution to prevent this from happening. You can save your hands from hits and protect the levers and forward controls on your dirt bike with handguards.

Next, we will explain what dirt bike handguards are, why you need them and what kind of handguards there are available. In addition, we will help you to find the handguards that best suit your riding style.

What Are Dirt Bike Handguards?

A handguard is a cover that is installed on both ends of the handlebar on the front side of the grips. Dirt bike handguards protect your hands against hits from tree branches, flying gravel and during crashes. They can also keep you hands warmer during colder riding days as they provide protection from wind and cold. In addition, handguards protect the brake and clutch levers as well as forward controls from any damage when you fall or ride on tight trails.

Dirt bike handguards are a great way to protect both your knuckles and the levers and other forward controls on your dirt bike. After all, levers are very easily bent or snapped off when you drop your dirt bike or hit your handlebar to a tree.

Read also: Setting Up Dirt Bike Handlebars For Trail Riding

Left side of a handlebar with a wrap-around handguard attached to it

Why Do I Need Handguards on My Dirt Bike?

Dirt bike handguards are essential equipment when riding on the trails. They can save you time and money, and prevent injury. We personally believe every rider should have handguards installed on their bike.

Not convinced yet? Here are some advantages that the dirt bike handguards bring to the table.

1. Protection From Gravel, Dirt and Tree Branches

As we all know very well, riding on trails involves flying dirt and gravel especially when riding on muddy trails after a rainy day. Handguards protect your hands pretty effectively from all of that. In addition, they save your hands from hitting against tree branches and limbs on narrow single tracks.

2. Protection From Bad Weather

In addition to shielding your hands from dirt, gravel and tree branches, dirt bike handguards also provide protection against nature’s elements. The handguards form an air pocket that diverts most of the rain, wind, and cold you face while riding.

When you add other items to the combo, such as waterproof gloves and heated grips, you don’t have to worry about you external elements ruining your riding day.

3. Protection for Brake and Clutch Levers

Every time the bike falls on the ground or hits against a tree or a rock, there is a big chance that also the levers take a hit. And if you are out of luck, your brake and clutch levers gets snapped off. This is where the handguards—especially wrap-around handguards—can save the day and your money.

4. Protection in Crashes

In addition to protecting your hands and fingers from smaller hits, such as those from tree branches, handguards will protect them also in crashes. In the case of a serious accident, metal handguards are the ones you will want to have.

The dirt bike handguards are designed and composed in a such a way that the maximum possible force of impact is diverted away from your hands and wrists. Thus, everything in close proximity to the handguards, including your hands, stays untouched.

Read also: Dirt Bike Skid Plate For Engine And Frame Protection

Dirt bike handlebar with dented handguards that have been repaired with zipties

How To Choose the Right Handguards

Choosing the right dirt bike handguards is actually quite easy. The type of the handguards you need to get depends on what you want out of your handguards.

The first thing you need to consider is what type of riding you are mostly going to do. This sets you on the right track with finding the solution that fits your riding style.

Do you want the highest protection? Do you want some specific features from the handguards? Are you looking for a permanent solution or something temporary that doesn’t break the bank to test how dirt bike handguards operate?

The answer to these and other questions can be found in the design of the handguards. In the next section, we will cover in detail the different types of handguards available for dirt bikes.

Last thing you need to find out is the size of your handlebars as some of the models are handlebar size specific. If you have stock handlebars on your bike, you will need handguards that fit a standard 7/8″ handlebar. And if you have after market handlebars (fat bars), you should have handguards designed for a 1 1/8″ handlebar.

If you don’t know the size of your handlebars, it is fairly easy to figure out. You need to find out the thickness of your handlebars in the spot where the mounting clip will go. This will be just inside of where your grips and levers are.

Read also: Dirt Bike Pipe Guard for Head Pipe Protection

Dirt bike handlebars with orange and white colored handguards

Different Types of Dirt Bike Handguards

When it comes to dirt bike handguards, there are basically two types of designs to choose from: the wrap-around handguards and deflector style handguards.

Wrap-Around Handguards

The full wrap-around handguards protect the levers very well. In addition, they provide the best protection to your hands in many types of riding styles. On most single tracks, you will continuously get hit by branches, trees and riders roosting in front of you.

Full wrap-arounds offer great protection and are very robust. They can also be adjusted separately from the level height and width positions giving more precise control on how to set them up.

These type of dirt bike handguards have some great benefits. They typically protect your handlebar controls the best possible way. When you drop the bike or hit any obstacles, they tend to last the best. When full wrap-around handguards are properly installed and in the correct position, it’s very hard to break levers or damage the controls.

Another benefit is that they last very long. Most handguards are made of aluminum or metal and can easily be bent back in place in a vise with some heating. While the initial cost is higher, they do last very long.

The downside with wrap-arounds are injuries and the way they deflect off of trees or obstacles. Typical injuries that may happen with these type of handguards are hand injuries, when your hand slides inside the handguard. This may cause wrist injuries or twisted fingers. Some riders say that when slightly hitting a tree, the wrap-around handguards do not give away and can cause more abrupt deflection causing a crash. We have found that with correct alignment this can be minimized.

Deflector Style Handguards

The deflector style handguards are a more lightweight solution for protecting your levers and other controls. They also deflect roosting, offer a good sliding off of trees but can jam your fingers on impact.

These type of dirt bike handguards come in different mounting points and offer various levels of protection. Many trail bikes come with flexible flap style handguards out of the factory that work well in many conditions. They offer a good protection and are easily replaced.

Depending on the mounting style, they might break off easily. The standard factory flaps can break when dropping the bike and they also offer medium protection for levers. The plastic housing that usually connects to the clutch and front brake mounting perch can break off, but replacing them is cheap and easy.

Some manufacturers are offering metal mounting points and some with separate brackets directly to the handlebar. These usually offer a compromise between the lightweight design of open design deflectors and full wrap-around handguards.

Read also: Dirt Bike Graphics And Plastic Kits

Old and dented wrap-around handguard on a dirt bike

Focus on Hand Protection

The primary reason for installing and choosing the right type of dirt bike handguards is for protecting yourself. Hand injuries are one of the most common injuries in dirt bike riding. The correct handguards can protect you in many scenarios when correctly installed and positioned.

It’s important to remember that different styles of dirt bike handguards are designed for different types of riding conditions. Do not use full wrap-around handguards on a motocross track or ride without any handguards on a tight single track. Or at least recognize the risk and take measures to eliminate unnecessary injuries.

Read also: Where To Ride My Dirt Bike Near Me

Hand gripping the left handlebar of a dirt bike with index finger around the lever

Our Dirt Bike Handguards Recommendations

The best dirt bike handguards to get are the ones that protect your hands against rocks and terrain, tree branches and limbs as well as the wind and cold. The best handguards are designed more for trail riding and offer a great level of protection.

If you want full wrap-arounds, we recommend you to get complete dirt bike handguards from Cycra for many reasons, but mainly for safety and durability. Cycra Composite Pro Bend Handguard Kit (click to check the current price on MotoSport.com) is our choice for you. These full wrap-arounds are made of composite and they are easy to install. We simply love them!

If you want deflectors, our recommendation for you are handguards from KTM PowerParts or your dirt bike manufacturer standard style deflectors. KTM PowerParts MX Handguards (click to check the current price on MotoSport.com) are lightweight, easy to install and affordable even in case of breakages so they are a great choice for many riders out there. They offer a good protection for most conditions and do well in tight single tracks.

For added durability, we can also recommend the more robust deflector style handguards. Our favorite is Cycra Stealth Primal Kit Cycra Stealth Primal Kit (click to check the current price on MotoSport.com). They mount directly to the handlebars and therefore eliminate breaking the clutch or brake perch when crashing.

Read also: Ultimate Guide To Dirt Bike Tire Pressure

Conclusions

The type of the dirt bike handguards is often related to your skill level and the conditions and trails you ride in.

As you improve, the hand protection requirements change. More advanced riders seem to prefer deflector style protection for their lightweight design and more controllable deflection off obstacles.

At the end of the day, choose the level of protection that best fits your riding style and the level of protection you are after. This way, you will always have the right dirt bike handguards on your bike.

Last updated: March 8, 2022