Mud sticks to everything! Perhaps you live in a rainy area, or use your bike for commuting. There are times where fenders and mudguards make quite a bit of sense.
When I lived in Portland, Oregon recently, it was mandatory to have fenders and a rain flap on your bike for group rides during potentially rainy days. My top pick for my bikes is SKS fenders, as they fit well, were easy to mount, and were lightweight.
One of the big problems with mudguards on mountain bikes is the fine line between lightweight, and sturdy enough to handle impacts and mud accumulation. Mountain bike mudguards can be a great thing in the right conditions, protecting you and your bike from heavy accumulation of mud, and potentially saving your drivetrain.
Suspension Specific Fenders
To help work through this, SKS has improved moldings to stiffen the mudguard over a standard curve design. Check out the SKS Shockblade, an easy recommendation for suspension forks. It is easy to mount to most forks, and is not flimsy at all.
Mudguards on a Budget
The reality is that a mudguard can be quite simple. Essentially it is a barrier between you and the elements. The RightOn Folding fender is perfect and at a super low price.
The guards cost less than $10 US. So if they get ripped off from a branch, or tear from use, they are easy to replace. The design is simple, and can mount to nearly any bike.
The cool thing with mountain bikes is that mudguards can be simple or quite complex depending on your specific needs. The quality of design varies significantly as well. One of the main things to realize is how exactly will you affix the fenders to your particular bike?
There are some incredibly simple designs that make you wish you had though of them! Check out the Fifty – Fifty Adjustable Mudguard. It is easy to install on your fork, or on the rear of your bike, and is very light.
Some fenders add many useful features to them. Take this great fender:
This system allow for length adjustment, and is easy to attach to the bike. It can also be removed quickly as well. Another cool feature is the build in LED lights. When riding in bad weather, you can never have enough lights to alert drivers of your presence.
Are Mudguards Worth It?
Here is the biggest question, are mountain bike mudguards worth the money? Lets look at a few positives for using some type of fender or mudguard:
- Keeps bikes cleaner
- Can protect suspension components
- Keeps rider cleaner or dryer
- Helps protect expensive drivetrain components
If you do ride in muddy conditions frequently, there are several positives behind mudguards. The obvious is keeping the bike cleaner overall. However, there are a few things beyond basic cleanliness that are important here.
On mountain bikes, suspension is usually exposed. With that, getting mud in the wrong places can shorten the life of the moving suspension parts due to the grit. Beyond the suspension, mud and drivetrains do not mix well. After some races, the chain is simply thrown away. That chain may only have 1 day of riding on it. The mud does so much damage, that it isnt worth cleaning and salvaging.
In general, a fender of some sort will help keep the rider itself cleaner and drier. Knobby MTB tires have a tendency to throw dirt and water around. A fender can try to redirect that spray, and perhaps keep most off your face.
In general, mountain bike mudguards have some reasonable positives, but there are some strong negatives that are common amongst riders.
- Fitment/clearance issues
Space to Fit Fenders
While you might think that most mountain bikes have considerable space to fit fenders or mud guards, many actually dont. Sometimes the forks have limited space or riders choose oversize tires. One of the keys in using protection like this is to optimize the distance between the fender and the tire. For muddy conditions, you want more room, since the mud will accumulate, and then wedge between the guard and the tire making the bike quite hard to move.
Many people would say that aerodynamics isnt an issue on mountain bikes. But if you are a commuter, you will see fairly quickly that mountain bike mudguards are like big sails. Due to MTB tire sizes, there isnt a way around this, the fender will be big no matter what to create the protection you desire.
Here is one of the big issues, true functionality. If you are riding off road, and it is wet and muddy, you are probably going to get messy. For commuting on pavement, that is a different story, as some guards will help to keep you dry from road spray.
With the advent of plastics for mudguards, weight isnt normally an issue. But it can be. Remember, mud is sticky and you have just introduced a huge surface prime for collecting it.
5 Tricks for Mudguards
Remember, mud is sticky! So a trick that some racers use is no stick cooking spray. If they know that an event, ride or race will have mud they spray down the bike with no stick cooking spray. It will help for a little while on cutting down what sticks to the bike. Try not to get any on the brakes!
If you are using mountain bike mudguards, carry a few zip ties around with you. While you are off road, bikes snag things like bushes, twigs and other debris. With that, fenders take a lot of abuse, and can be dislodged. Having a zip tie or two can help to refasten a fender, or tie it out of the way somehow.
Bikes that are ridden in the elements will collect water, dirt and other debris. This can help cause issues with the frame, drivetrain and other working parts. Periodically, it is a good idea to disassemble the bike for cleaning. At that time, using various lubricants and protectants can save you trouble in the long run from rust and corrosion.
While most fenders and mountain bike mudguards have some type of mounting built in, it can be a good idea to modify further for your particular application. Adding holes for more zip ties, nuts and bolts or to match up to an existing mount are all excellent ideas.
A buddy flap is a piece of rubber or plastic attached to the end of a fender. It got its name from group rides, as the extra little flap significantly cut down the spray from the fender, saving the rider behind from an extra soaking. Even if you ride alone, these flaps are great ideas because they also cut down spray off of you!
There are hundreds of accessories for bikes on the market, mountain bike mudguards is just one of them. For some bikes, fenders work awesome, and others, you will struggle with them rubbing, breaking and in general not fitting very well. When you do get them to work right, they can be an advantage in certain conditions.
Refer back to the tips above to work on perfecting your installation. There are many different designs available, some simple and some quite complex. Generally, every mudguard is generic, so it fits many bikes, but not specifically to any particular bike. Some modification might be needed.
If you are in a rainy situation, I would recommend getting some type of flap on the end of both fenders. While you think that just fender will do the trick, a flexible flap nearly doubles the effectiveness. I have seen people buy commercial flaps, or build their own. Either way, they are awesome to have!