Updated July 2019
The constant spray of dirty water from a guardless bike on a wet road is worse than being rained on. Unless you ride in full cycling kit and are happy to soak it, you'll want guards any time it isn't dry. You or your bike shop can fit some sort of mudguards to any bike.
What Do Mudguards Do?
Road mudguards keep your clothes clean in all kinds of weather, with full-length frame-fitting mudguards offering the best spray protection.
You only really need a rear mudguard as your back wheel is generally the only one that throws water and mud up onto your back. Clip on mudguards are readily available at pretty much any bike shop, and they do make a big difference.
To fit mudguards, your bike ideally needs threaded eyelets at the dropouts and enough clearance between the tyres and the frame, fork and brakes. There are workarounds, however, and special guards are available for close-clearance race bikes.
Bicycle mudguards need to be matched to the diameter of the wheel and the width of the tyre, otherwise water will splash out at the edges. Frame-fitting mudguards fit to eyelets at the dropouts, and to the fork crown or the chainstay and seatstay bridges. You can use P-clips and cable-ties if your bike lacks the necessary holes in the frame.
If the frame eyelets for the mudguard are shared with a pannier rack, fit the rack struts closest to the frame and the mudguard stays on the outside.
If your bike has disc brakes, you may need to bend one of the mudguard stays or uses spacer washers to make it clear the calliper.
Take care that the bolt attaching the guard at the drive-side dropout isn't so long that it touches the chain when it's on the smallest sprocket.
Mudguards and Safety
If anything gets jammed under a front mudguard, the guard can fold up behind the fork and jam, stopping the bike dead. Some mudguards have 'safety release' stays to prevent this from happening: they snap free when force is applied.
Of course, the more space there is between tyre and mudguard to begin with, the less likely anything will jam in there. The mudguard shouldn't almost skim the tyre or road grit won't rattle through. Disc, cantilever, and V-brakes don't significantly limit mudguard clearance, while deeper drop sidepulls (57mm) provide clearance on road bikes and sporty hybrids.
Check that the front mudguard doesn't catch on your toes when you turn the wheel side to side. Stand over the bike and put one foot on the forward pedal with the cranks at quarter to three. If your toe blocks the mudguard, you will need to take care when making tight turns at slow speeds. At higher speeds, you steer by leaning, so it’s not a problem.
Adding road mudguards to your bike can change it from being a piece of sports equipment into something suitable for daily commuting us, but are mudguards necessary? Mudguards will not only keep you and your clothing clean, they’ll also keep your bike a lot cleaner too. They aren’t necessary, per se, but if you don’t have any road mudguards then you must be prepared for what may come.
There are a number of different types available suitable for a wide range of bikes. Let’s take a look.
Traditional full-length mudguards
Full length mudguards offer the best protection for you and your bike. SKS are renowned as the best available, made from a laminate of plastic and aluminium, and featuring stainless steel fittings and special quick release safety tabs to prevent twigs jamming the front wheel. They’re well designed and last well. The only downside is that they can be tricky to fit and can make transporting the bike in a car a pain.
Will my bike accept full length mudguards? Not all bikes have the necessary tyre/frame clearance for full length mudguards, or the fixing points to attach them. Separate ‘p-clips’ are available from good bike shops to attach guards to bikes with no attachment points, but if your bike doesn’t have enough clearance you’ll have to use one of the other mudguard types. If in doubt, check with your local bike shop.
'Crud Catcher' style mudguards
These are front and rear mudguards designed to fit onto bikes which don’t have the clearance or fitting for full length, traditional mudguards. The front guard usually attaches to the downtube with zip ties (some bikes have dedicated mounting bosses) and the rear attaches to the seat post.
This type of guard affords some protection but cannot rival the effectiveness of a full length, close fitting mudguard. However, they are easy to fit, offer basic protection, and are compatible with practically any bike. That means if you want to put your mountain bike into commuting service, you can.
Clip-on 'Raceguard' type mudguards
German accessory manufacturer SKS began marketing short, clip-on, close-fitting guards for road bikes with minimal tyre clearance. Designed primarily for road racers adapting their bikes for winter training, they’re also eminently suitable for roping your road bike into commuting duty.
They attach to the seatstays at the back and the fork at the front, and are quickly removable if you want to go racing at the weekend. Since SKS brought out their ‘Raceguard’ design, a number of manufacturers have begun to produce their own variants.
Here are some of the better bike mudguards out there:
The longest mudguards on the market, the Longboards will keep your feet completely dry. The front is so close to the road that you should avoid riding off kerbs. The 3.4mm wide stainless steel stays are sturdy so the mudguards seldom rub the tyres, and the front ones have safety-releases. There are only two sizes: 700x35 (for tyres up to 25-28mm) and 700x45 (for tyres up to about 35mm). If you need a different size, try SKS Chromoplastics.
Cyclescheme Price: £23.82*
Tortec Reflector Guards
As well as the rear reflector that you'll need by law for riding at night, these guards have reflective stripes down the sides to make them stand out in car headlights. They're otherwise similar to SKS Chromoplastics, with stainless steel stays that are designed to pop free if the front guard jams. They're available in 26in and 700C diameters in all common commuting-tyre widths.
Cyclescheme Price: £23.82*
Crud Roadracer Mk3
Crud's Roadracers are designed for bikes without mudguard eyelets. The front attaches to the fork legs, the rear to the seatstays and the seat tube. They're particularly suited to close-clearance road bikes but will fit bikes with tyres as large as 700x38. Once attached, they can be fitted and removed in seconds. Low-friction brushes under the edges of the guards prevent them wobbling about.
Cyclescheme Price: £23.82*
Unlike many mudguards that fit to the seatpost, this one doesn't have a habit of pivoting out of position. It doesn't strap on; it screws in place, a bit like a plumber's hose clamp, using that sticky-out circular dial. It goes on and off easily, and it's long and wide enough to provide decent coverage too. For wider tyres, the Zefal Deflector FM60 does the same job.
Cyclescheme Price: £8.85*
If your mountain bike doubles as your commuter, off-road guards will keep the worst of the spray at bay on trails or tarmac. Most off-road rear guards fix to the seatpost. The Mudhugger is more effective as it attaches to the seatstays and fits just above the tyre, where it won't interfere with a dropper seatpost or a seatpost-mounted rear light (or luggage). It comes in two sizes: for 26in/27.5in wheels and 29in.
RRP: £23 / £27.50
Cyclescheme Price: £15.66 / £18.73*
This 34g mudguard attaches to a rear rack; stays aren't required. Most bikes with racks will also accommodate mudguards, but some of them do without. It might because clearance is tight for frame-fitting mudguard, or it might be because the bike goes off-road too. This is a solution. It offers better spray protection than seatpost-mounted guards because it sits closer to the tyre.
Cyclescheme Price: £7.49*
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