Ultrasonic guided waves in hollow cylinders (pipes) are today widely applied as rapid screening tools in the inspection of straight pipe segments in oil, power generation and petrochemical processing industries. However, the characteristics of guided wave propagation across features such as bends in the pipe network are complicated, hampering a wider application of the developed techniques. Although a growing number of studies in recent years have considered guided wave propagation across elbows and U-type bends, the topic is still not very well understood for a general bend angle φ, mean bend radius R and pipe thickness b. Here we use 3D Finite Element (FE) simulation to illumine the propagation of fundamental guided pipe modes across bends of several different angles φ. Two different bend radius regimes, R/λ 1 and 10 (where λ denotes the wavelength of the mode studied) are considered, exemplifying 'sharp' and gradual or 'slow' bends. Different typical pipe thicknesses b within these regimes are also studied. The results confirm the expectation that different bend radius regimes affect the waves differently. Further, while as observed in earlier studies, at moderate bend radii, fundamental modes travel almost unaffected by an elbow (bend angle φ = 90 degrees), we find that as the bend angle is reduced, there is a progressively larger extent of mode-conversion. These trends and results are validated using experiments. © 2013 American Institute of Physics.