The Nock MTB Handguards promise to offer the right blend of form and function. Do they live up to this claim?
Love them or hate them, handguards are becoming more common on the international race scene, and the local trails. There’s quite the spectrum available, from the rather large Barkbusters MTB Handguards, to what I’d say anecdotally is the market leader from AVS Racing, who’re Nico Vouilloz and Sam Hill’s brand of choice. The Nock MTB Handguards are ridden by 2020 EWS Champion Jesse Melamed, as well as Ibis’ Robin Wallner.
Nock’s MTB Handguards sit somewhere in between the AVS Racing Handguards and Barkbusters in terms of size. Handguards seem to be most popular on Enduro and eMTB race bikes, probably due to the warp speed these bikes achieve on unfamiliar trails. It may also be due to the weight and clutter increase that handguards add to your bike and cockpit. The Nocks weigh in at 169 grams for the set.
I fitted the handguards to my 170/160mm Moustache Game 6 eMTB, however the clearance was quite tight with my brake levers, despite the guards’ clamp only taking up 10mm of space on the handlebar. If you need to run any of your cockpit controls right next to your grip, then the Nocks aren’t going to give you full coverage to the end of the handlebar.
The Nocks come in two pieces, and you need to fit the guard itself to the aluminium handlebar clamp. The supplied nuts and bolts do the job but tightening them to the required 1.5nm feels terrible. This is because there’s a fair bit of play in the nut groove, causing it to rotate a fraction before the bolt bites. Compared to the high-quality feel of the guard itself, the sketchy feeling installation of the handguards doesn’t give the best first impression.
The handguards come without decals applied. There’s an alcohol wipe supplied with the guards to clean them before applying decals, and alongside the main decals Nock provide another sticker sheet with multiple graphics in varying colours to customise your guards.
Once the guards are fitted, you need to set the distance of the guard from your grip. Nock recommend 7-9cm in distance, and this is easily achieved via the adjustment on offer. Once again, depending on what cockpit components and geometry you’re running, you may need to compromise on Nock’s setup guide, or your cockpit setup. Nock recommend that closer is better, but depending on where your brake lever is situated, you’ll need to take what you can get.
Out on the trail, my experience with the Nocks was mixed. Whilst it’s nice to have them take away the sting of branches hitting your hands on overgrown trails, with 135mm grips and running my hands on the end of my handlebar the guards didn’t protect my outside knuckle from skimming trees. This was made abundantly clear by the two trees I clipped during testing that took skin off my outside knuckle. This is meant to be one of the key features of the Nocks, and they even feature a MicroSHOCK pad on the outside of the guard to cushion the blow when it slams into your knuckles.
If you run your hands more inboard than the Nocks would be great, and the MicroSHOCK padding is a clever idea, but for my cockpit setup and hand position on the handlebar they weren’t offering protection against the main thing I’d want them to protect against.
This being said, when I ran a simulated test with my cockpit controls and the guards playing nicely, and running my hands slightly inboard, I could see the guards would do the job when you clip something on the trail, and the MicroSHOCK pad makes plenty of sense. If you live somewhere with ungroomed trails and plenty of encroaching bushes, the Nocks could be a great option to save your hands even if they don’t quite cover the edge of your knuckles, as they do take the sting out of spiky bushes.
In terms of pricing, the Nocks retail for $109.95 through MTB Direct. Barkbusters retail for $79.99, and although I haven’t tried them, I assume their gargantuan size would provide the full coverage I’m looking for. AVS handguards retail for $120.
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Overall, the Nocks have lots of promise in the handguard market, but there are a few areas I’d like to see them improve in. Complete coverage for people running their hands on the end of the handlebar could be achieved by making the guards slightly wider. If you’ve made the decision to get handguards, I don’t think a slightly larger size would put many riders off. It’d also be great to see a full compatibility guide on their website regarding cockpit components, as it would be a shame to purchase the product, only to find it doesn’t play nice with your cockpit controls and geometry. Finally, the grooves that the nuts sit in could be a tighter fit to make installation less stressful.
All this being said, if you like the look of the Nock MTB Handguards and you ride lots of overgrown trails, French lines, and want protection from thorns or sharp bushes, they definitely do the job in this area.
- The guard itself feels high quality and sturdy
- The MicroSHOCK pad on the inside of the guard makes sense
- Great for overgrown trails and creative line takers
- Loose nut groove makes installation a stressful experience
- The guards didn’t work with my cockpit geometry and hand position on the handlebar
- Just a touch more coverage on the outside of the guard would make a world of difference