Well, it looks like the two most important people in the crashbar preferenece debate have spoken up. sambamboo and jdrocks have both have what I would classify as "very severe" crashes, while using SW-Motechs (jdrocks) and HBs (sambamboo). If you search through the forum, you can see pics and narration of the above incidents and decide for yourself.
Yes, the HBs can deform, I don't consider that a good thing. This characteristic resulted in damage to sambamboo's radiator.
What appears to be the most common reason folks choose the HBs is "radiator protection." I consider this a bit of a falsehood, and not simply because of sambamboo's experience. In dropping/laying a bike on the ground, the two primary factors affecting how close the the central mass of the bike will get to the ground are the width of the handlebars and the lowest and most extensive lateral projection on the frame. So, the SWMs project quite far laterally, at a point fairly low on the frame. This, in conjunction with the wide bars on the V keep the rad pretty far away from most stuff when the bike is "down."
Additionally, from my experience, and from what I've gleaned over the last couple of years, the clutch and stator covers are/should be of greater concern, as they are positioned at lower points on the bike and more exposed to damage when the bike is "down" on uneven terrain. I dropped my bike on some fairly good sized rocks this past summer, and had I not had SWMs, I would have cracked my clutch cover open - both times I dropped it, the rocks were prevented from smacking the clutch cover by the SWMs.
I also think the SWMs are better positioned for mounting foot begs.
See posts 47 and 49 where an unprotected stator cover was cracked. BTW, Sanjoh is a member of this forum as well.
Sorry for the delayed response - been busy. Hope that provides some clarity on the basis of my statement - beyond blind/arbitrary "preference."