One thing that confuses some people is compatibility with other components on their motorcycle. Your skid plate needs to fit with your engine guards, and vice versa. All racks, whether they mount to the sides or the top on the back will need to match the accessories you plan to use with them, usually bags, hard cases, storage containers for fuel or water, and any other bolt-on items that require specific mounting points. I look for the most compatibility and scalability so I don't get stuck with hardware that is only compatible with one solution.
I started out all matchy-matchy with an SW Motech skid plate and engine guards, or 'crash bars' as they're also called. I didn't give the skid plate much thought at the time since it appeared to me that bolting a 3mm slab of aluminum under the bike would be hard to mess up. The skid plate left plenty of room for the crash bars, which was my main concern.
I fell in love the with the SW Motech crash bars for a few reasons. First, they were the narrowest profile I could find, which is a huge plus for splitting lanes and fitting the bike into tight spots. Second, they were extremely stout and offered an enormous amount of coverage from the headers all the way up past the engine next to the radiator. They fit the bike beautifully and came in a nice shiny black to match all the hardware on my motorcycle.
To this day, over 12,000 miles later, when the bike falls over or hits the ground in a crash, everything is protected. I can lay the bike on its side on the ground without worrying about any damage occurring, but the impact that the equipment can handle is pretty amazing. You're welcome to check out our Riding Videos to see some of the abuse we put our bikes through.
When on the ground, the bike rests on the rear passenger peg, the crash bar, and the hand guards (I went with the Barkbusters). Unfortunately- or fortunately for you, I've taken SW-Motech to task on the trail with more spills and crashes than I can count by now, one of which occurred fully loaded at a gas station on concrete. Onlookers seemed more affected by the sight of the bike on the ground than I was since I was prepared for this inevitability, and the bike was fine. I can attest that SW-Motech is making quality equipment that stands up to real world use and abuse, and I would highly recommend their hardware for use on adventure and touring motorcycles.
Here are some photos of the installation of the SW-Motech crash bars on the F800GS. The SW-Motech skid plate is also pictured below. (We had it powder coated black to match the bike).