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What you need to know when buying bicycle mudguards

One of the most unpleasant things about riding in wet weather is getting a soggy bum and a rain splashed face by water that’s flung up in the air by your bike wheels.

If you’re getting your steed kitted up for the season ahead, mudguards are most definitely your friend.

With the right mudguards, you can keep the worst of the mud at bay. Image copyright Phil and Pam via Flickr.

There are several things you need to bear in mind when you are choosing which mudguards to go for. Different types of bike will have elements that will affect your available options.

Length

If you want maximum protection from wet bottoms, soaking feet, and to prevent spraying the face of the person behind you if you’re riding in a group, then you want the longest mudguards you can fit. The more of the wheel they cover, the more spray they’ll keep contained.

Wheel size

Different bikes will run different wheel sizes, and this will affect the fit of the mudguards. As a general rule, road bikes will be 700c and hybrid bikes can be 700c or the smaller 26inch diameter.

MTB’s have 3 possible wheel sizes – 26 inch, 27.5 inches (also called 650b) and 29inches. This can make getting full-length mudguards tricky or practically impossible, but there are other options.

Check the size of your wheels to make sure you get right sized mudguards! If you’re not sure, the wheel size will be written on the side of the tyres.

Tyre width

This is one for the hybrid bike riders out there. Because the width of tyres on this type of bike can vary so much – some use narrow road tyres, some much fatter MTB style ones – you need to make sure the mudguard you go for is wide enough to accommodate them.

Brands like SKS sell mudguards in a range of different width fittings. Check the width of your tyres – again, this is written on the side of the tyres if you’re not sure – and select whichever option comes closest. Each option will usually fit a narrow range of widths.

Threaded eyelets

The majority of mudguards out there bolt directly onto the bike frame, which means the bike needs to have the right elements built in to allow this. This includes threaded eyelets at the rear of the bike, at the dropout where the wheel fits into the frame, and another bolt at the apex of the forks at the front.

Most hybrid bikes will have these elements, but the majority of road bikes and mountain bikes won’t. Luckily, there are a variety of mudguards that clamp onto the frame at either the seat post or the rear stays.

The bike on the left has mudguards fitted, and on the right you can see the threaded eyelet, where they attach. Image copyright Russ and tangdersons on Flickr.

Wheel Clearance

This is one that’s a particular issue on road bikes. They often have very little clearance between the wheels and the bicycle frame, and the wheel and the brake callipers, which means a lot of mudguards won’t fit. Additionally, most road bikes won’t have the threaded eyelets for bolting them to.

Luckily, there’s a huge range of mudguards that are designed to overcome these challenges. Designed either to fit very closely to the wheel, or with a shorter length that starts just after the pinch points, these will attach to the frame using special brackets, ties or rubber straps.

The added advantage of these is that they’re a lot easier to take off again if you want to remove them for racing.  There’s also no reason why you couldn’t use these guards on other types of bike, so long as they fit the wheel size and tyre width.

Two options for road bikes; the SKS Raceblades on the left, and the Crud Road Racers on the right

Front suspension

Front suspension on the bike means you can’t bolt a mudguard on at the apex of the forks like you would on a rigid framed bike, so you’ll need to get an MTB specific guard.

The alternatives here include small guards that fit onto underneath of the frame, or a stretchy neoprene or rubber guard that straps between stanchions at the top of the forks.

None of the options will keep you completely mud free, but it will guard against the worst of the spray that your front wheel will kick up.

You need to check that the mudguard you fit doesn’t touch the wheel when the front suspension is fully compressed.

This short mudguard from Mucky Nutz will keep the worst of the mud and crud from flying up and hitting you in the face as you ride

Rear suspension

If you’ve got full suspension on your mountain bike, the chances are you’re not overly worried about getting a little muddy.

You can keep the worst of the weather making its way down the top of your shorts by popping on a mudguard like the Topeak Defender or the SKS XTra Dry. These clamp on to the seat post of the bike, and hang down over the rear wheel.

However, there’s a further complication; if you’re running a dropper seat post, you won’t want the clamp getting in the way of the dropper movement which affects where you can clamp it.

Secondly, you want to make sure that the mudguard isn’t going to get in the way of you moving around on the bike; you don’t want to catch yourself on it if you’re hanging back over the rear wheel down a steep section, for example.

Basically with mountain biking, waterproof shorts are the way forward.

Headline image copyright Phil and Pam via Flickr

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