Most mountain bike brands that have been around for a while have a healthy list of professional riders testing and using their gear. French hand protection company, AVS Racing, is no different. Their sponsorship list includes Elliot Heap, Karim Amour, Miranda Miller, Nico Vouilloz, Rae Morrison, Sam Hill, and a host of other fast folks.
AVS stands for Arnaud Vincent Sport, named after the French moto racing founder and expert shredder. Arno saw the hand guard trend in dirt moto go from aftermarket applications in the 80s to its nearly ubiquitous levels today where they are often mounted at the factory. Following a few dirt naps and close calls with tree branches, Arno wondered why no one has designed a lighter guard specifically for mountain bikes. He took it upon himself to make it happen.
I for one have had my hands unexpectedly pulled off the bars by blackberry bushes, broken fingers on trailside trees, cracked the master cylinder casing on a brake lever, and cursed angrily at rocks that found their way from my friend’s rear tire to my bar-clenched fist. I was keen to see if the AVS guards could keep my fingers feeling better throughout the season.
While the AVS guards may look dead simple, designing a shape that will work with any cockpit setup while protecting the rider’s hand and brake lever must have required a good deal of testing. The optimal position for the clamp is right against the grip. There, it offers maximum hand and lever coverage and doesn’t require that you relocate any other cockpit essentials. With my brake levers in a comfortable, quasi-horizontal descending position, the aluminum guard supports arc roughly 1cm over the lever blade. I was initially concerned that the guard support might rotate down on impact and push my brake lever in. Thus far the mount hasn’t budged on impact.
While I haven’t pressed the furthest limits of these guards, I have smacked them into a few trees. The plastic guard is just strong enough to deflect the handlebar and let me get through the tight spot unscathed. I’m sure that if I hit the guard more squarely on a tree or branch it would pull my bars sideways and I would likely crash, but that same crash would happen without the guards and I’d rather have the extra protection.
I have also noticed fewer blackberry cuts and tears in my skin and gloves than usual, and my hand hasn’t been ripped off the grip by a thorny vine yet this season.
While not every rider lives where there are plants trying to gouge their hands or tight, treelined singletracks, most of us might benefit from a touch of hand protection. AVS hand guard kits with aluminum supports retail for €69.99, and those with plastic supports go for €49.99.
We would like to thank AVS Racing for sending the hand guards along for testing.