What are bike mudguards?
Let’s get this out of the way before we go any further. Bike mudguards are not cool. Some manufacturers – and even cyclists on this side of the Atlantic – refer to them as fenders, but even calling them by the same name as Jimi Hendrix’s guitar is not going to make them sexy.
But boy are they useful if you cycle in a climate like ours.
There are, broadly speaking, two types of mudguard: those for frames with mudguard eyes – ‘fixed mudguards’ – and those for frames without, known as clip-on mudguards. Of course even if your bike has mudguard eyes there’s no reason why you can’t use clip-ons like the Crud Roadracers if you’re looking for a lightweight, easily removable solution.
Why fit mudguards?
Shun them at your peril. Turning up for a December club run on a mudguardless bike will not win you any friends and there’s a good chance it will alienate people. Many clubs have rules about mudguards during Greenwich Mean Time: you can violate them if you like but you’ll be forced to ride at the back all day.
How did we test the mudguards?
We tested these mudguards on a bike with mudguard eyes, long-drop rim calipers and 25mm tyres. Since the all-road type of winter bike is configured differently from one to the next it isn’t feasible to comment definitively on disc-brake compatibility.
The best bike mudguards tested
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SKS Bluemels Stingray mudguards
Fair play to SKS – the Stingray is its attempt to jazz up the reliably humdrum mudguard by introducing colours such as ‘lime green’, ‘blazing red’ and ‘ocean blue’. In between the colours is a cool matt black and the whole underside of the mudguard is in the feature colour – thought not for long, of course, and the idea of ‘statement’ mudguards won’t appeal to everyone.
The Stingrays are wider than standard road bike-designated mudguards: SKS says they’re for ‘all road’ gravel-type bikes. We measured the Stingrays at 5cm across (it says 45mm), which is too wide for the brake bridge of an average winter road bike unless you trim them.
The Stingrays have full-length steel stays that are meant for bikes with braze-on, fixed mudguard eyes.
So they may not fit the traditional skinny-tubed winter training bike but if you have a bike that runs the 28-38mm tyres that the Stingrays are aimed at, they will do a great job at providing full-length cover and are built with the quality and durability that SKS is renowned for. They come with a five-year guarantee to prove it.
Kinesis Fend-Off mudguards
These new anodized aluminium mudguards from Kinesis are a good alternative to the reinforced ‘chromoplastic’ that market leader SKS uses, and the overall weight is on a par too.
The rear uses the same fixing points as a traditional fixed mudguard. The front has just one stay each side that can be easily bent to mounting points higher up the insides of disc-brake forks if necessary.
Since they have a single stay at the front a breakaway clip is not included. The end of the stay does fit the SKS-type clip, however, and is a solution if you’re worried, but there’s a degree of movement since they’re designed for a V stay and it doesn’t look right.
Fitting is straightforward, with plenty of clearance between mudguard and a 25c tyre. The squared-off edges turn slightly downwards rather than enclosing the top of the tyre, which means they can handle wider 28c tyres.
There are optional polypropylene mud flaps for front and rear that can be cut out from the included header card.
Dare we say it, the Fend-Offs actually look cool with their laser-etched graphics and matt surface, and they’ll last for years, too.
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SKS Raceblade Long mudguards
The Raceblade Longs are for bikes without mudguard eyes. They’re a plastic mudguard of two halves, joined by steel brackets, the faces of which are held together by the brake caliper bolt. At the dropouts, the QR skewer passes through wafer-thin steel eyelets that clip to the ends of the stays – also working as safety breakaway clips – and clamps them in place. Obviously that makes them incompatible with thru-axles and track hubs.
The rear does not reach down as far as the chainstay bridge, meaning Raceblades can be fitted to bikes with close clearance between tyre and rear of seat tube.
It sounds complicated but it’s very easy to set up. Out of the box the Raceblade Longs fitted a standard 700C wheel and 25c tyre with no bending, hacksawing or fettling, achieving an impressively even gap from guard to tyre. A 28mm tyre would be pushing it in clearance terms.
The Raceblade Longs will keep your clubmates, your bum and your feet as dry as any mudguard, but the payback is gaps at the fork, seatstay bridge and bottom of seat tube leaving those areas exposed.
M:Part Primoplastics mudguards
Last year’s Primoplastics had ‘Pop-off’ couplings, but these use the traditional style where V stays pass through the wings of two steel stay carriers that are riveted to the underside of the mudguard – presumably to avoid accidental pop-offs.
The M:Parts are the fixed mudguard type. They’re made from a flexible polycarbonate that is perfectly stiff when fitted thanks to its rounded profile.
The mounting procedure is exactly the same as that of the SKS Stingrays and breakaway clips for the front are included. There’s a plastic rather than steel bridge for connecting the rear to the frame’s brake bridge. It’s too early to say, but metal brackets tend to fatigue and fail eventually: maybe a plastic one is superior. Either way, mudguard bridges are replaceable.
The M:Parts have built-in, rubbery mud flaps that are perfectly placed, wrap around the lower part of the tyre – something a flat flap clearly cannot do – and give both mudguards a good length and a welcome extra level of protection from spray.
If you’re weight-weenying you’ll notice that the M:Parts are the heaviest on test, but winter bikes are supposed to be heavy, remember?
Crud Roadracer Mk3 mudguards
British brand Crud has thought of everything with this third version of the Roadracer guard that is designed for bikes with no mudguard eyes.
The Mk3 uses a super-sticky type of Velcro that is stuck in strips to the insides of the fork legs and seatstays. Alcohol wipes are supplied in the box and it’s essential to give the areas of the frame where the strips are to be stuck a very thorough clean first.
Keeping the fixing points up high means no fouling disc brakes and Crud claims the Mk3s are suitable for tyres of up to 38mm too. Since they’re relatively flat that seems feasible: they swallowed the 25mm tyres of a test bike. And they’re so light!
The rear comes in two halves: the bottom half can be left off if your bike has less than 4mm between tyre and seat tube.
Crud supplies stick-on brushes to stop the rear mudguard hitting the tyre, as it can do due to fewer fixing points.
The rear is a little short and needs a homemade mud flap.
Thanks to their versatility, light weight and ingenious design we would say the Cruds are the best clip-on mudguards in town.
Watch: Winterise your bike
What to look for in a bicycle mudguard
The basic idea behind a mudguard is to stop water coming off the wheels onto the body: the longer the guard, the greater the coverage and the more protection they offer — full guards also keep a lot of salt-laden winter road spray off your bike. Very narrow guards or those that are too flat or far away from the tyre will also reduce protection.
As road bikes have become lighter and more sport focused, fittings and/or clearance for ‘proper’ mudguards has fallen out of favour and many people don’t have the financial wherewithal or inclination for a dedicated winter bike. All is not lost, though. There are now plenty of options for the ‘close clearance’ bike, from simple clip on and off options that avoid the brake and normal attachment issues, right through to fenders that look like traditional guards but bypass clearance issues through clever design — and plenty in-between.
Bicycle mudguard fitting
Having a plastic cover close to your tyre means there is a chance of additional noise as flopping guards can rub on the side of the tyre or bounce up and down on top of it. No one wants to ride a noisy bike, so the quality and security of the fittings is just as important as the length and coverage.
Ease of bicycle mudguard fitting
As the guards will be going on a bike that is also ridden ‘sans fender’, the ease of fitting and removal is important, as is the speed and simplicity. We like a mudguard set to be easy to keep together off the bike. Too many parts to get lost or slide under the fridge are never a good thing.