VC GUARDS F5 HANDGUARD REVIEW
Review by Nic Hall & Drew Rohde
You might not be running handguards on your mountain bike right now, but don’t be so quick to scoff these accessories just yet. Mountain bike handguards are definitely not a must-have for all riders, and we’re not here to convince you that you need ‘em to ride bike parks or flow trails. We have however seen the light and believe there are certain geographic regions and types of riders that will greatly benefit from these handy little deflectors. If you live in an area like ours that has lots of overgrown trails, dense shrubbery and cold winters, winter handguards could be a very worthwhile investment. We’ve got plenty of juniper and manzanita brush scratches in ours that each mean saved skin and gloves.
Victory Circle Guards sent us their F5 handguard set and were kind enough to make a set with custom Loam Wolf graphics to showcase their customization capabilities. We threw them on a few different ebikes back during our cold spring and have been passing them around all summer long.
The VC Guard F5 Handguard Lab
VC or Victory Circle offer their winter handguards in a few different styles and nearly any custom graphic can be applied thanks to their in-house graphic team. We were sent the F5, which is VC Guards’ original design. They have a very similar look to traditional flag-style moto handguards. The guard is made of a reinforced, injection molded plastic and is designed to deflect when impacted without breaking.
A single support arm has a hinged clamp that allows for quick install either inside or outboard of your brake clamp with a minimal 12mm of real estate required. The design of the bracket allows it to sit up above brake levers, shifters, and dropper levers. The shield is slotted in order to provide up to 3cm of adjustability and all the hardware is anodized in several different colors to match your build.
The shields are available in either black or white for $60 or in eleven graphic designs for $65. Their custom design process is very user friendly and only requires a minimum order of six sets should you want to create your own guards for a shop or riding crew.
The Dirt on VC Guard F5 Handguard
The F5 handguard is easy to install and swap between bikes thanks to the hinged design of the clamp. The notched channel on the guard provides quite a bit of adjustability and allows owners to slide the guards in or out to ensure you’ve got the coverage you need without sticking out too far beyond the end of your grips.
The shield is firm enough to deflect everything from desert shrubs and cacti to juniper and our trail-building nemesis, manzanita brush. Even in the cold, high-desert temperatures the handguards stayed flexible and did not crack. The coverage is large enough to protect both your knuckles and avoid accidental brake pulls by branches without looking too goofy. We really enjoyed the fact that the winter handguards also kept our hands protected from the cold air, meaning they stayed warmer and drier during winter rides.
We were stoked on the custom decal work that VC was able to whip up in short order and think it’s a great selling point for shops or riding crews that may want to customize their bikes and offer some protection. The decal sets fit perfectly and were easy to change out when they started to show wear. The custom color match hardware added just a bit of pop to an otherwise subdued product.
Compared to the AVS mountain bike handguards we reviewed a few months ago, we feel like the somewhat “flat” or squared plastic shield is a bit basic in appearance and leaves a little bit to be desired. We do however really like the fact that we can customize these guards and no doubt easy to work with shape makes that possible.
From a practicality and performance perspective, we are totally stoked on handguards and enjoy having them on our eMTBs especially! We don’t plan on putting them on our DH bikes and don’t think riders who live or ride in wide open areas will need them, unless they want the wind protection for winter rides. However, if you live in an area of the southwest with overgrown trails, sharp desert shrubs, or anywhere that you regularly explore more overgrown and tighter singletrack at speed, then having a set of knuckle protectors is a no-brainer. After taking some friends who laughed at our “wannabe moto” accessories on our favorite pirate rides, they quickly changed their tune as their torn gloves and bloody knuckles had them taking the slow line while we could lean into corners with confidence. After months of use cutting in raw trails, ebiking through the brush to explore new zones and blasting through cold winter air, both sets of our VC F5 handguards are still in one piece and keeping our hands safe.
$59.95 w/o Graphics
$64.95 w/ Graphics