If you own a motorcycle or have been around bikers talking shop, you’ve probably heard at least one conversation about crash bars. Also called highway bars or engine guards, crash bars are those tubular pieces of alloy or aluminum, usually bent in an oval or rectangular shape, that you see extending out to either side of a bike behind the front tire and in front of the motor.

Are Motorcycle Crash Bars Effective?

The use and effectiveness of crash bars has been a topic of debate for decades and there’s not really a definitive end in sight. There are several reasons why proponents of crash bars choose to use them on their motorcycles.

  1. Rider protection. Many riders swear that their crash bars protected their legs in low-side crashes or even side-swipes.
  2. Crash bars protect your paint. This one is actually pretty undeniable. If you drop your bike, the crash bars may protect the paint on your tank and the sides of your bike from damage.
  3. Crash bars protect your engine. Motors are expensive and even if you’re in a crash, you want to protect them from damage. Crash bars (aka engine guards!) may help do that.
  4. Additional lights and leg positions. You can mount extra lights and foot pegs on them.
  5. Extra handholds. Crash bars give you something to grasp if you drop your bike.

Crash Bar Studies

There have only been two real studies focused on the effectiveness of crash bars for safety reasons. The Hurt Report of 1981 determined that they weren’t of use because even though they decreased the risk of ankle and foot injuries, the risk of injury to your upper leg was increased. The Transport Research Laboratory in Britain conducted another study in 1995 that concluded that crash bars decreased a rider’s risk of leg injury by as much as 25% without increasing the odds of injury to other body parts.

Motorcycle Crash Bars

For now, you’re just going to have to use your own common sense and judgment on the entire safety debate about crash bars. Regarding the other reasons to use them, the decision is an individual one. Some people like them for the reasons listed above, or just because they add extra chrome to the motorcycle. Other riders who prefer a more bare-bones, traditional look don’t like them so much.

Regardless of whether or not you choose to use crash bars, ride safe and have fun!

You can find Brian Wilson on Google+.