You depend on your motorcycle to carry you to distant adventures – and to bring you back safely. You won’t meet that goal if your bike breaks down in the middle on nowhere. To help ensure your bike performs reliably during your adventure rides there are some things you should do before venturing off into the unknown. In particular, you will want to consider adding the following:
- Skid plate
- Bark busters
- Crash bars
There are other protective items you might add to your motorcycles but there is a universal need for the three listed above.
The bottom and sides of your motorcycle engine are vulnerable to being punctured when riding in rocky terrain and on those occasions when you drop your bike in tough terrain. If you puncture your engine cases you will lose all of your oil. No oil = a seized engine, a long walk home, and a hefty repair bill.
Some manufacturers include a plastic skid plate with a new bike. If so, replace it with a stout aftermarket one as soon as you can. A stock plastic skid plate won’t be strong enough for serious off-pavement riding. A google search should reveal the various aftermarket skid plates available for your motorcycle.
Bark Busters – aka Handguards
Handguards, often called Bark Busters the same way tissues are often called Kleenex, protect your hands and motorcycle levers from damage and breakage. The greatest advantage handguards offer is they can keep your brake and clutch levers from being broken when your motorcycle is dropped (and you will drop it). Breaking your clutch lever when you are in the middle of nowhere is a real bummer.
There are a variety of different types and designs so it shouldn’t be difficult to locate a set that fits your bike. I prefer the one made from aluminum but have heard there are some made of stout plastic that are quite strong. Whichever way you go, the point is they should be strong enough not to flex when dropped or hit, thus providing adequate protection for your fingers and levers.
Note that some manufacturers include plastic wind guards with the purchase of a new bike – don’t confuse these wind guards with actual handguards. The plastic wind guards help shield your hands during cold and wet weather and also provide protection from bug strikes but are not even close to being strong enough to provide any real protections during a fall, crash, or tree strike. For example, check out the stock wind guards that the Honda XR650L comes with in the picture below. There is no way those wind guards will protect your hands or the levers during a fall.
Crash bars are designed to protect the engine in the event of a fall. In particular, they help ensure your engine cases aren’t punctured when (not if) you drop the bike. Some bikes, like the DR-Z400S have very thin side cases that are easily punctured so added protection is necessary if you are riding off-highway.
Another example is the heads of the BMW GS boxer series of motorcycles. They stick out to the side and are prime candidates for damage in a fall, as you can see in the photo below. In this case the motorcycle actually has two crash bars. One set, red in color, are in place to protect the fuel tank (and headlight). The second set, black in color, is located in front of the cylinders to protect them during a fall.
A google search for your particular motorcycle will reveal what aftermarket crash bars are available. With only a bit more searching you can even get real-world reviews from riders using those bars.
There are other things you can do to protect your bike from damage during a fall. However, the three items listed in this article – skid plate, handguards, and crash bars – are minimum protection for most dual sport adventure motorcycles.