Are Barkbusters Truly Universal?
The Blizzard handguards from Barkbusters are sold as a “universal” product. We wanted to see just how true this claim was, so we took a set and tried them on several staffers’ motorcycles and Twisted project bikes. We also wanted to test how well they do their job of keeping your hands warm. Read on for a look at how the installation went on a variety of bikes, as well as our riders’ road-test reviews.
Adventure-Tested R1200 GS
To start our experiment, I mounted the Blizzard guards to my R1200GS. The installation could not have been easier — it literally took 4 minutes. I installed them over the OEM handguards with just a few simple steps: remove the bar-end bolt, remove the stiffener from the Blizzards, reinstall the bolt with the handguard, and attach the inboard strap. The Blizzards more than doubled the coverage of the stock handguards, and there was no interference with controls. I took them for a 66-mile ride in Massachusetts and Rhode Island on a crisp, 34-degree Fall morning. I needed to turn on the heated grips about 2/3 of the way in, but this was a pretty unusual circumstance — those temps are colder than I normally like to ride in.
Next up was a 2009 Buell Firebolt ridden by one of our IT masterminds. He had to use some of the supplied hardware, and the handguards took around 15 minutes to install. He said they definitely made a difference on his cold morning commute. One note: the handguards did come in contact with the fairing before full lock. However, the Blizzards are designed to give if they touch fairings or windscreens.
Adapted for Cruiser Bars
Our third victim was supposed to be a Victory Cross Country, but we were unable to install the the Blizzards with the supplied hardware. There was no bar-end expander in the kit big enough to deal with the 1″ cruiser bars. A call to Barkbusters revealed that part B-074 is needed for 1″ bars; apparently, the company doesn’t normally include that expander in the kit because so few cruiser riders buy the Blizzards. Is it because they aren’t chrome?
In the vintage bike category, we had a 1970s Honda GL1100/l owned by one of our expert customer service techs. Installation required changing to an open-ended grip as well as drilling and tapping the factory handlebar to accept an M6 or M8 bolt. The sweep of the bars positioned the guards in a downward position that wasn’t ideal, but still ended up being effective for wind/weather protection. It also made it more difficult to maneuver the bike when pushing it around in the garage, but that was entirely related to the geometry of the stock bars.
KTM Adventure Combo
A web staffer’s KTM 990 Adventure was next to try on the Blizzards. It too was a quick, easy job, requiring less than 5 minutes; however, that’s partly due to the bike having Barkbuster VPS handguards already installed. The Blizzards simply went over them to increase the wind protection and add a little insulation. The KTM also has a Kaoko throttle lock, and its function was retained with the handguards installed. The 990 owner praised the Blizzards for dramatically reducing wind chill — combined with heated grips, the Blizzards let him ride year-round in New England with gloves designed for warmer temps. Using gloves with less insulation and bulk provides more dexterity and a more comfortable ride. As a bonus, the thinner gloves are easier to don and doff, so picking up his Dunkin Donuts coffee at the drive-through window is much easier.
Finally, once it turned to winter here in New England and almost no one was riding due to ice and snow, I test-mounted the Blizzard guards on some of the bikes here at Twisted Throttle headquarters. First up was “Old Reliable,” the Twisted KLR650, which happened to be in the photo studio. It has Barkbusters VPS handguards installed, so I used the same technique as I did on my GS and just mounted the Blizzards over the existing handguards. It took 18 minutes to install, most of which was spent searching for tools. The installation was solid and offers about a 60% bump in coverage. If you have Blizzards in addition to heated grips, you can be assured that at least your hands will never be cold.
Matched with Bar Ends on a Street Triple
Next I moved to the showroom and installed the Blizzards on our Triumph Street Triple, which has R&G bar end sliders in place of the stock bar end weights (the R&Gs are also weights). Installation was a snap, taking less than 10 minutes. The Blizzards looked good on the S’triple and do not affect the controls in any way.
Last up was the BMW S1000RR. Unfortunately, I was not able to install the handguards, because the inside diameter of the clip-on tubes was too small for even the smallest expander provided with the Blizzards. I’m not sure if they would work at all with the RR’s massive bar-end bolt.
In conclusion, while the Barkbusters Blizzards may not fit every bike, they do fit most, and they take very little time to install and remove. One other advantage is that nothing permanent needs to be done to your bike. The Blizzards are certainly easier to install than heated grips, and they accomplish a similar result, extending your riding season into the colder months.