Update 22 February 2020
How to get rid of the vibrations after installing these handguards. Read about it here:
Now on to the review…
Why do you need a good set of handguards? In my opinion, a set of sturdy handguards are an absolute must on any off-road or adventure bike. They serve 3 main purposes: (1) protect your hands from the elements, (2) protect them in a crash and (3) protect the brake and clutch levers when taking a spill.
My Versys-X was fitted with all the factory bells and whistles, including the crash bars, fog lights, panniers, centerstand and handguards. The latter are simple plastic one-point handguards. I needed something more sturdy.
Due to its shape, a universal set of handguards won’t fit the Versys-X’s handlebars. I tried fitting a set, but couldn’t get it aligned properly. That’s why I opted for a set of bike-specific backbones with VPS deflectors from Barkbusters.
For more information on the Barkbusters products, please head over to: https://barkbusters.net/
Everything arrived in quality packaging. The backbones and deflectors are packed separately because you can opt for different deflector styles. All the necessary hardware and clamps are neatly packed along with the aluminum backbones and the instructions.
The instructions and packing list are printed on a double-sided A4 page. All the pictures and diagrams are self-explanatory, making it clear and concise.
By far, the most difficult part of the installation was removing the bar-end weights from the handlebars. If you try to unscrew them, you’ll quickly find them to spin forever, much like a stripped bolt. This is because each weight is firmy held in place by 2 rubber bushings. The only way to get them out is to spray some lubricant into the handlebar and start twisting.
It’s surprising how heavy these bar-end weights actually are. Each side is approx. 350 grams. Thanks to their weight, they do a great job in eliminating the vibrations. I know because I rode the Versys-X briefly without the weights in and it was horrible!
The aluminum Barkbusters backbones come with their own weights but not nearly as heavy. I’d guestimate the weight of the Barkbusters to be around 250 grams per side. Therefore, I definitely expect more vibrations with the Barkbusters installed, but more on that later…
Once the factory weights are removed, it’s time to install the backbones. This is fairly easy because everything fits in one particular way only. It actually took me more time to remove the weights than to install the backbones. Each part, bolt, washer is high quality and fits perfectly. Before torquing down all the bolts make sure you have everything aligned to your desired position.
The deflectors simply bolt on the backbones with self-tapping screws. I opted for the VPS deflectors, as I feel they complement the angular look of the Versys-X best. I felt the Storm deflectors were too big, even though they offer better protection.
Granted, these handguards don’t come cheap. The backbone kit was 99 US$. And the VPS deflectors were another 44 US$. Why a few plastic parts are so expensive is beyond me… But for this money, you get a kit which actually fits as advertised, making the installation a breeze. You just don’t find this level of precision in cheaper kits.
On the Road
Now the moment of truth… Having driven the bike without any weights, I knew how bad the vibrations could get. It made the ride unbearable. I reluctanly fired up the engine and went for a test ride…
With the Barkbuster handguards I can feel a bit more vibrations in the handlebars. To be honest, I was expecting worse, given the weight difference. Below 6k rpm and over 7k rpm it feels pretty much like stock. You can definitely feel some vibrations creep up around 6,500 rpm. It’s perceptible but not too annoying (even on longer rides).
The fit and finish on these handguards are top notch. It felt very satisfying to install something that fits perfectly for once. I also like the new look. Wind protection is similar to the stock ones but the Barkbusters will offer much better protection in case of a spill.
On the road, you’ll feel a bit more vibrations. It’s bearable though and definitely something I can live with it. Unfortunately I dropped the bike on its side, too. (Just once, I swear…) Besides some minor scratches on the edge of the left backbone, everything held up fine.