If you are a “fair weather” cyclist, you don’t need mudguards, but if you are a serious cyclist, and don’t live in a desert climate, mudguards are a must-have. If you’ve never used mudguards, you’ll be surprised at how much water they keep off. There’s nothing worse than cycling through town and country when it’s wet. Even when it’s not raining the spray from the road can soak you in minutes. Wet roads won’t just spray you with water, but all the oil and pollution that vehicles drop onto the road.
The water kicked up by your wheels is much worse for your bicycle than the clean rain falling from the sky. If you ride in wet conditions without mudguards, your chain, derailleurs, and brakes will all get sprayed with sandy, muddy, scummy water, often mixed with gasoline residue. This is very bad for these parts. In group rides, your companions will also thank you for using mudguards. Without ‘guards, you’ll be spraying them with filth from your rear wheel.
Mudguards fall roughly into three types
Traditional / full-length mudguards
These are the mudguards commonly referred to as traditional mudguards because they’ve been around for many, many years. Full mudguards are long versions with V-shaped stainless steel stays. They are attached to eyelets on the frame. You will need to have eyelets on the rear dropouts and bottom of the forks to use this type. Due to their length and sides, they cover a large percentage of both wheels.
Commonly fitted to touring bicycles, they provide the best protection to rider and bicycle both from spray generated by the wheels. They keep all the water and mud away from the brake calipers, front mech. They also keep water away from a saddlebag and rear light that you might have attached to the Saddle/Seat post.
These types of guards are available in several widths so check your tire width before purchase.
- Best coverage
- Protects bicycle as well as rider
- Protects the rider behind you
- You need to have mudguard eyelets on frame and forks.
- Can be difficult to fit
- Won’t fit all bicycles
Clip-on race mudguards
Many new age bicycles are designed for fair-weather use and are not intended for serious cyclists. Unfortunately, they are poorly designed and that makes it difficult or impossible to install full-length mudguards.
This is particularly true of road or racing bicycles, which often are made without frame eyelets to attach the mudguards. These bicycles are made without sufficient clearance under the brake bridges and calipers to allow mudguards to clear the tires. If you are stuck with such a bicycle, clip-on may be your only option.
Shorter, clip-on mudguards are slightly better than nothing, but very much worse than full-length mudguards. These mudguard struts are attached by either toughened rubber bands or P-clips on the rear stays and fork blades. They are designed to be thin around certain contact areas but still provide good splash protection to the rider.
The benefits of clip-on guards are that they will fit most road bicycles, regardless of how little clearance there is. They tend to be lighter and easier to fit. They are also easier to remove if you want to drop the guards when the sun comes out or for an early-season race.
- Fit practically any frame
- The best protection if you don’t have mudguard eyelets on your frame and/or forks
- Light weight
- Easy to at and remove
- Not as much coverage as the traditional type
- Not as robust as traditional long mudguards
Seat post mounted mudguards
Seat post mudguards are one of the most effective ways of keeping you warm and dry, used especially on mountain bicycles. This style is great for anyone wanting basic protection, and it will fit any bicycle without worrying about clearance or eyelets. It does mean your feet get wet from the front wheel, but it’s still better than nothing.
- Fits on any bicycle
- Easy to install and remove
- Only protects the back from spray
There are several things you need to bear in mind when you are choosing which mudguards to go for. Different types of bicycle will have elements that will affect your available options.
- Length: The longer the mudguard, the better the coverage and guards with mud flaps provide more comprehensive protection than those without. The more of the wheel they cover, the more spray they’ll keep contained.
- Wheel Size: Different bicycles will run different wheel sizes, and this will affect the fit of the mudguards. 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 tires.
- Tire width: This is one for the hybrid bicycle riders out there. Because the width of tires on this type of bicycle can vary so much, some use narrow road tires, some much fatter MTB style ones. So you need to make sure the mudguard you go for is wide enough to accommodate them.
- Wheel Clearance: This is one that’s a particular issue on road bicycles. They often have very little clearance between the wheels and the bicycle frame, and the wheel and the brake caliper, which means a lot of mudguards won’t fit. Additionally, most road bicycles won’t have the threaded eyelets for bolting them to.
- Front Suspension: Front suspension on the bicycle means you can’t bolt a mudguard on at the apex of the forks as you would on a rigid framed bicycle, so you’ll need to get an MTB specific guard. The alternatives here include small guards that fit underneath of the frame or a stretchy neoprene or rubber guard that straps between stanchions at the top of the forks.
- Rear suspension: You can keep the worst of the weather making its way down the top of your shorts by popping on a clamp on mudguard to the seat post of the bicycle, and hang down over the rear wheel.
- Threaded eyelets: The majority of mudguards out there bolt directly onto the bicycle frame, which means the bicycle needs to have the right elements built in to allow this. This includes threaded eyelets at the rear of the bicycle, at the dropout where the wheel fits into the frame and another bolt at the apex of the forks at the front. Most hybrid bicycles will have these elements, but the majority of road bicycles and mountain bicycles won’t.
- Fittings: Having a plastic cover close to your tire means there is a chance of additional noise as flopping guards can rub on the side of the tire or bounce up and down on top of it. No one wants to ride a noisy bicycle, so the quality and security of the fittings are just as important as the length and coverage.
- Ease of fitting: As the guards will be going on a bicycle that is also ridden without them, 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 bicycle. Too many parts to get lost or slide under the fridge are never a good thing.