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Best bicycle mudguards for winter 2021: protect your bike

Cyclist magazine
8 Aug 2021

When wet weather comes a-calling it’s time to give your bike a little fender loving care

The title might say for winter, but so far the summer of 2021 has taught me that if you live in the UK it’s not worth ever taking your mudguards off. So, whatever the time of year, it's worth remembering that bicycle mudguards will protect you from road spray – leaving you dryer, comfier and infinitely more presentable. As a bonus, they’ll also protect your bike and kit from wear, while saving anyone riding behind you from a face full of second-hand tyre gunk.

Surprisingly useful in the British summer, and essential once winter proper rolls around, mudguards are far and away the best upgrade you can make. Below we've rounded up a few of your favourites. From quick to clip on and off options, to traditional full-length bolt-on versions, if you're not sure which set will best suit you, scroll down for our guide on the different styles and what you'll need to fit them. 

Covering every style, here are ten of the best bicycle mudguards you can buy…

1. The best traditional full-length mudguards – SKS Chromoplastic

If your bike has the mounting points, these are the best mudguards you can buy. Full-length, and held in place by steel struts and stainless hardware, once chopped and bolted into place, they’ll provide exceptional coverage.

With a rubber gaiter at the end of each, the blades themselves are made of plastic with a thin layer of aluminium foil sandwiched inside for strength. The stainless steel stays provide for easy fitting and the quick-release clips are safer than standard fixings, preventing front wheel lock-up if anything gets trapped between guard and wheel.

An involved product to fit, you’ll need a hacksaw and patience to get them on. Alternatively, expect to pay a shop for around half an hour of labour. Infinitely adjustable to follow the curve of your wheels, and tough enough to last decades of rough usage, they’re as good as it gets.

2. Best money-no-object mudguards – Portland Design Works Full Metal Fenders

Buy now from Condor for £79.99

If you’re in the market for a set of ‘proper’ mudguards then buy once and buy right would be our advice – and the Portland Design Works Full Metal Fenders are about as good as mudguards get.

Coming in a range of sizes to fit everything from 700 x 30c tyres up to 650b x 65c, and available in silver or black, there’s likely a set to match both your bike and aesthetic sensibilities.

Thanks to their rubber tails, coverage is as good as any, plus they look gorgeous. As with any set of this style, fitting is more than a two-minute job and requires some mechanical nous and a hacksaw. However, once set-up, removal and reinstallation are far quicker, so you can easily jettison them once the sun comes back out.

Yes, these cost a lot and do the same job as the SKS Chromoplastics, but they are very lovely to look at. Enough to make rainy days seem a bit brighter. Read our full review here

Buy now from Condor for £79.99

3. The best clip-on racing bike mudguards – SKS Raceblade Pro XL

Suited to bikes that don’t have the standard fixing points, SKS’s Raceblades instead strap directly onto the fork blades and seatstays. A favourite among riders who want to keep using their best road bike through winter, the current version is a significant improvement on previous models.

Fitting is easier than ever, using a simple notched rubber strap, and adjustment is a doddle, too, with eight 2.5mm hex bolts on the stays allowing you to change the height and angle. It took us just a few minutes to set them up from scratch. Just make sure to add some electrical tape to your frame and fork first if you want to keep your paint pristine.

Far better than stubbier clip-on models, protection is still slightly limited around the brake callipers, fork crown, and bottom bracket areas. However, they’ll still easily keep the worst of the road spray off your clothes. Read our full review here.

4. The best mudguards for gravel bikes – SKS Speedrocker 

If you’ve got the mounting points we think the SKS Chromoplastics are the best mudguards you can buy. However, if you need to fit protection to a broad-tyred bike without bosses, the brand’s Speedrocker mudguard set is also excellent.

Designed for tyres over 32mm, they’ll cope with models up to a little over 40mm. Very robust, they provide almost the same length and coverage as traditional alternatives, with just a bit of extra spray getting around them.

Fitted with easily adjustable steel stays and multiple fixing points they’re disinclined to move around, even when used offroad. Strapping on with a mixture of stretchy rubber and velcro straps, we recommend popping a bit of electrical tape around your frame first if you’re fussy about the paintwork. Read our full review here.

5. Quickest fitting road bike mudguards – Crud Roadracer Mk3

These almost full-length mudguards fix via Velcro-style strips stuck to the inside of your bike’s fork and seatstays with an apply-once adhesive pad. Meaning that once they’re on, they’re on semi-permanently, happily they’re not particularly visible.

It’s a design that makes fitting and removing the guards themselves a doddle. There’s no need for tools or fixing mounts, and by following the easy to understand instructions provided on the box, both mudguards can be in place within minutes.

Both units come in two parts and wrap a good stretch of the tyre. Certainly, they’re long enough to protect the rider – although not so much anyone following in their slipstream.

Weighing in at 260g the pair, they’re suitable for tyres up to 38mm wide and will work with both disc and rim-brake systems. Similar to the SKS Raceblades but less sturdy, these are easy to fit and offer decent protection.

6. Best minimalist racing mudguards - Quickguard mudguards V2

Covered in grease, fiddling about on your hands and knees, trying to attach that rear mudguard to your bike. It is a flaff we can all do without, honestly.

Luckily, Quickguard mudguards do away with the above and ensure simple installation in just two minutes with a set of guards that do not need attaching to the frame. Instead, the Quickguard utilises the quick release/thru-axle.

Compatible with up to 32mm tyres, theses are a perfect option for riders with multiple bikes and little patience! Read our full review here

7. Best Retro Mudguards - Velo Orange mudguards 

Buy now from Velo Orange

Now, the Velo Orange's wide range of beautiful retro mudguards do carry the reputation of being difficult to fit. It is a labour of love, especially on the rear, but one that is worth it once attached. Equally tricky might be navigating the import duties and postage involved in getting these from the USA into the UK. Still, we think it's worth it. 

That's thanks to a full wrap of the tyre, protecting bike and rider from road grit and grime, durability provided by the hammered alloy material and the ability to work with a wide range of different tyres, too.

Buy now from Velo Orange 

8. Best strap-on mudguards – SKS S-Board and S-Blade fixed

Made from robust polypropylene, these German mudguards have a feeling of quality about them. The front is easy to fit via rubber straps which loop around the fork.

With a variety of holes (a bit like a belt), this can be fitted to almost any road bike, even those with wide aero forks.

We found the fit snug and secure, while the guard itself protects from behind the front fork to around 160mm above the road. Enough to keep your legs free from road spray, but not necessarily enough to ensure your socks stay dry.

Slightly fiddlier to fit, the rear guard attaches to the seat post via a pressure-fit bracket which then needs tweaking with an Allen key.

With its roots in mountain biking, this beavertail-style guard does a fine job of protecting the rider but does little for the bike or anyone drafting behind. A bit tricky to get on, once in place these proved solid and reliable, keeping road spray off the rider, if not the bike.

9. Best bum-flap style mudguard – Ass Saver

Buy now from  Cyclist Magazine for £9

Ass Saver mudguards are made from a thin, pliable strip of black plastic which saves on unnecessary packaging by printing the fitting instructions on the underside of the guard itself, which is neat.

Equally neat is the fitting, which took us no more than 20-seconds to complete – including the time it took us to read the instructions.

The guard is pre-folded into a V-shape and is simply secured by inserting one end under your saddle (it works with any standard saddle). Requiring zero tools and only a modicum of intelligence, at 38cm long, this lightweight option offers pretty limited protection against road gunk.

Covering just your lower back, this diminutive guard might help your shorts soak up a little less water, and for a few quid and 19g extra weight, that might well be a worthwhile proposition.

Buy now from  Cyclist Magazine for £9

10. Best modern aluminium mudguards – Kinesis Fend Off

These mudguards from UK brand Kinesis would be a handsome addition to any winter bike. Formed of sturdy anodised aluminium in a neat square profile, they’re almost as pretty as the Portland Design Works fenders yet only half the price.

Like their more expensive rivals, they’re fiddly to mount, but very sturdy, and offer superb coverage, all while remaining rather handsome. The rear guard uses double stays for extra stability, as well as brackets at the brake bridge and behind the bottom bracket.

By comparison, the front guard makes do with one bracket for attaching at the fork crown and a single set of stays.

Once installed, both will stay securely in place, while further removal and refitting is a less involved process than initial set-up.

One particularly neat touch is the cut-out flaps that form part of the packaging. Available in a 40mm width to accommodate tyres up to 34c, or 50mm wide to accommodate up to 45c, weights for the sets are 637g and 707g respectively. An excellent value traditional-style option.

What to consider when buying bicycle mudguards...

Clearance and eyelets

Check your bike out. Are there eyelets built into the frame where full bolt-on mudguards can be fitted? Is there sufficient clearance between the frame and the wheel to accommodate the kind you’re considering?

If the answer to either of these questions is no, you’re more than likely looking at clip-on guards – although it is possible to fit full guards to bikes without mounting points by using P-clips (available from DIY stores, but look for ones with rubber linings to protect delicate frames).

Length and style

Depending on what kind of mudguards your bike can take, you’ll also want to consider what length of mudguard your bike should wear.

Full mudguards are longer and shield the rider, their bike and anyone drafting behind from wheel-spray and road muck. Flaps on the end of these guards make a surprisingly big difference to the amount of protection they offer.

Shorter mudguards and single under-the-saddle options will provide drastically less protection for you – and none for any riders following.

Brakes

Traditional full-length mudguards have a bracket that attaches at the brake bridge (rear) and fork crown (front) – check that these options are available if your bike has disc brakes.

Depending on where the brakes are mounted, you might also need to get creative with how to fit them around the callipers.

Clip-on style mudguards avoid this problem by using brackets that mount further up the seatstays or fork legs or attach to the down tube or seatpost.

If your bike has rim brakes, it’s vital you choose the correct size of mudguards – trying to fit guards that are too wide is likely to jam the wheel and prevent the brakes working.

For tips on how to winterproof your bike and keep riding through the cold months, click here.

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