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Portland Design Works mudguards review

6 Nov 2017

Don't let the price put you off, Portland Design Works has made a 'proper' set of mudguards

Cyclist Rating: 
Solid feeling mudguards with high quality fixings. Durable and no annoying rattles
Pricey, may require additional specific fitting kit e.g. for some disc brake bikes etc.

For want of a better term, ‘proper mudguards’ – that’s to say, full-length guards that are a more permanent fixture on your bike, using bolted stays - can be, well, quite a faff.

There’s usually a certain amount of jiggery-pokery required to get the fit just right for any given bike, predominantly to make sure they don’t rub – which personally, is something that drives me mad.

In an attempt to lessen some of the fitment foibles, manufacturers have developed ‘quick fit’ guards (we’ll be reviewing some of these later too), that in many cases can be popped on, or off, in a matter of seconds, using rubber straps and the like.

Of course there are compromises though. In terms of the amount of coverage these easy-on/off guards offer and how stable (read: rattly) they can be once in situ (some better than others, granted), in my opinion there’s no substitute for a full set of bolted guards.

‘Proper mudguards’ then offer maximum protection not just for you, by keeping you dryer (and therefore likely warmer) and your kit much cleaner against that endless stream of chilly spray from the road surface, but also protects your bike.

Let’s not forget decent mudguard coverage will stop a good deal of muck and grime ending up on your drivetrain and components too, so will likely prolong the life of your bike as a result.

Hey, good looking

I don’t think anyone has ever said a set of mudguards looks good, but as they go, Portland Design Works has achieved something very rare. Its Full Metal Fenders look superb, appearing to almost blend seamlessly with the circumference of the tyres once fitted.

As I expected, fitting was not a two-minute job, and required an ounce of mechanical nous (and a hacksaw), to trim the stays, and a few of the supplied bolts to the appropriate length.

The stays also needed a slight tweak to their bend angle (an easy fix in the vice) to be spot on for this particular Cannondale Synapse Disc, which also required that I bolt the front guard to the rear of the fork crown, not the front, as the regular fitting method intends.

Just for clarity here though, this might sound drastic, but none of this is a big deal. In fact it’s all perfectly normal.

Based on my previous experiences fitting full-length mudguards, as I insinuated earlier, I’d always expect a degree of fiddling.

Portland Design Works’ instructions are at least very clear and concise, and with their help I had the guards good to go in around 35 minutes, so hardly an all-nighter in the shed in any case.

Another plus was there are relatively few small parts, unlike some I’ve fitted which feel like they come with a full-on Meccano set.

The good news is fitting full mudguards should be a one-time thing. After the initial set-up you’re unlikely to have to make many tweaks, whereas more flimsy, quick-fitting guards often need constant attention to keep them from rubbing and rattling incessantly.

There’s also nothing stopping you un-bolting them in summer, as now they’re set they’ll be easy to bolt straight back on in a matter of just a few minutes come next winter.

Solid stuff

With four points of attachment at the rear (both seat stays, the brake bridge and behind the bottom bracket) and three at the front (both fork legs plus behind the fork crown) the Portland Design Works Full Metal Fenders felt super solid once fitted.

Heading (quite deliberately) straight for some of the more notoriously rough rural lanes on my regular training loops, I was confident these mudguards were every bit up to this part of the test. And they didn’t disappoint.

Subsequent training rides and commutes alike have continued to be pleasantly rattle, squeak and rub free.

The only adjustment I’ve needed to make was due to operator error, when I over tightened a bolt whilst checking them and split one of the plastic quick release safety mounts.

Whilst I admit a degree of hamfistedness on this occasion it’s worthy of note, so as not to repeat my mistake – don’t be a gorilla with the Allen key, where the plastic fittings are concerned

Whilst I am very grateful for the fact these Portland Design Works Full Metal Fenders went about their duties silently, what’s most pertinent is the level of protection they offer, and in this regard the coverage is as impressive as their solid construction.

With low hanging rubber flaps, both front and rear, the guards drop to an extraordinarily low level, meaning you’ll be popular with whoever is sitting behind you on the Sunday club run, plus your feet stay so much drier too, with much more of the front wheel spray being deflected by the guard.

The close fitting arc of the front mudguard does a good job of helping to eliminate toe overlap issues. It’s unavoidable in certain situations, but the slim, sleek design helps a great deal to reduce the risks.

The hard anodised finish is durable and gives these aluminium mudguards a premium look, that is in keeping with their premium price tag.

Ultimately the Portland Design Works Full Metal Fenders delivered everything I’d want from a set of mudguards, and other than the fact they cost just shy of a hundred quid, I can’t find anything to complain about.

If you’re in the market for a set of full, or should I say ‘proper’ mudguards then buy once and buy right would be my advice - the Portland Design Works Full Metal Fenders are about as good as mudguards get.