Mudguards are more important than waterproof clothing for commuting. For while you'll seldom get caught in downpours, you'll often find yourself riding on wet roads. Without mudguards, you and the bike will be sprayed with dirty water. That's a squelchy disaster if you cycle in your work clothes and it's unpleasant even in bike gear, particularly when you put it on again for the journey home… Your bike will need cleaning and lubricating more often too. Fortunately, you can fit some kind of mudguard to any bike.
Bigger is better
Spray coming off the tyre spreads out the further it travels. So the closer the mudguard sits to the tyre (within reason – see Safety, below), the better it protects. The most effective mudguards are long ones that fit to the frame and fork, shrouding a large arc of each wheel. The width of the mudguard is important too. It must be wider than the tyre. If the guard sits close to the tyre, around 10mm wider overall is enough. If the guard is a long way from the tyre, wider still is better.
Mudguards can be jammed by mud, sticks, or small stones picked up by the tyres. This is why mountain bikers don't use frame-fitting mudguards: there's not enough clearance to use them safely off-road.
However, mudguards can jam on road too. A bit of road grit is all it takes. If that happens to the rear wheel, you'll skid. If it's the front wheel, the mudguard can fold up behind the fork and you'll go over the handlebar. It's important that front mudguard stays can snap or pop free, so that a jammed mudguard is released and won't concertina behind the fork. To stop jams in the first place, avoid fixing the mudguard too close to the tyre. Aim for 10mm or more of space above the tyre.
Fitting & removal
Full-length, frame-fitting mudguards attach to: eyelets on the frame and fork; the chainstay and seatstay braces; and the fork crown. If your bike doesn't have eyelets at the dropouts, you can use P-clips fastened around the fork legs and seatstays instead. If there's nowhere for a bolt to go in the fork crown, seatstay brace or chainstay brace, you can bore holes in the mudguard with a bradawl and attach it with cable ties.
Fitting full-length mudguards isn't very complicated but does take a while. If your bike has disc brakes, you may need to bend one of the stays to clear the brake calliper. If the mudguard shares a set of eyelets with a pannier rack, use longer bolts and put the rack struts closest to the frame with the mudguard stays on the outside. Note that while you can take frame-fitting mudguards on and off, you won't want to do so too often.
Partial mudguards tend to fit at the rear to the seatpost or saddle rails, and at the front to the down tube, the fork crown, or the fork brace (the arch on suspension forks). You don't need any special frame fittings and the guards can usually be removed quickly. The downside is limited coverage – which you may be prepared to accept if your commuter doubles as a racer.
Here's a selection of good mudguards.
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*
*Based on a lower rate tax payer including an Extended Use Agreement forecast - a total saving of 25% (not including an Extended Use Agreement forecast.)
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