7th November 2010 Words: Neil Webb
Want protection from the worst the British winter can throw at you, but don’t want to carry extra weight when the sun comes out? Welcome to the world of removable rain stoppers.
It is one of the sad realities of being a cyclist in the UK, but one we all have to come to terms with: it rains — a lot in some places. If we want to be more than fair weather cyclists, that means we are going to get at least a little wet. There are great clothes available to prevent moisture ingress but the one thing that can make wet rides massively more bearable is a decent set of mudguards.
Many people ride bikes without fittings, or the clearance required to fit a traditional set of mudguards — and have neither the cash nor the inclination for a dedicated winter bike. Thankfully, these days there is plenty of choice when it comes to clip-on fenders that will fit road bikes with the tightest of clearances.
However, even in the depths of winter, it is often dry for long periods of time. The last thing you need is extra bulk and accessories bolted to your bike when the low winter sun is shining. For the single bike owner, the ability to quickly remove said mudguards is a godsend. Thankfully, this is also viewed as vital by the designers of all those we have grouped here.
SKS practically invented this market with its Race Blades, but now there are a plethora of options. We have gathered seven together to see if there is a contender ready to take the originator’s crown.
What to look for
All good mudguards need to keep the water off you and as much of the bike as possible. The longer the guard, the more of the wheel it will cover. While a short rear mudguard will still prevent most of the water from hitting you, it does not stop those riding behind getting a faceful — not great in a social riding situation. Short front mudguards just mean wet feet, negating half the reason for using them.
No one likes a noisy bike. Badly fitting mudguards can be responsible for all sorts of rubs, squeaks and rattles so it is imperative that they have a solid fixing mechanism, do not come loose on rough roads, have quality fixtures (all the models tested have stainless steel) and do not move around too much. On top of this, ease and speed of removal is well worth considering.
As these are probably going to be attached to your favourite bike, you need to make sure they will not leave dirty great scratches on your beloved paintwork. Rubber straps themselves will not cause damage, but dirt and winter salt underneath them, combined with miniscule movements, can destroy a paint job in a scarily short space of time. It is best to use a protective film or electrical tape beneath any brackets.
Our 7 of the best
SKS’s Race Blades have been updated since their inception with a natty aero fork adapter, a rubber spoiler to increase coverage and now include frame protector pads to keep your paintjob pristine. However, they still need drilling during set-up to fit securely. While only a one-off job, it’s a faff we could do without.
The long guards give great coverage, and they are very solid once fitted — especially if you use the optional zip-ties. Dependable, but due a drill-free update.
Cheapest on test, the Roadguards have a clunkier appearance than the others. The large fixing bracket is not fantastic on anything but roundish tubes, falling down particularly on aero or tapered forks. The plastic block and jubilee clip system doesn’t conform well enough on irregular shapes.
For those with traditional tubes, however, the great value fenders use Nyloc stay fittings facilitating simple, reliable set-up and keep the guards very steady. Coverage is as good as any but the Cruds.
Tortec Razor Guards £27.99
Sharing guard profile and stay attachment fittings with the RSP, the Tortec’s differ only in stays and fixings. However, this shows what a difference stay shape and fixings can make. Shorter, higher mounted stays reduce flex and wobble on bumpy roads and the stiffer rubber straps hold the brackets more securely.
A winter’s worth of salt will show if harder rubber has the required longevity, but only a slightly short front fender prevents higher marks.
8/10 Best on a Budget
Unlike any other guard here, the updated Cruds offer as much coverage as a traditional set of mudguards. Clever design allows fittings to all but Rizla clearance frames. However, they are nowhere near as quick to fit or remove as the others. The trade off is in performance — nothing here comes close for dryness.
They rarely rub, thanks to the pile strip rim supports, are seriously light thanks to the all plastic fittings, and they look great. With free spares available online there’s little to fault here.
Unlike any of their lookalikes the R1/R2s have one huge advantage: three point fixing. Both guards fix to the brakes as well as the frame or fork. This totally eliminates the usual wobble, flex or occasional tyre tapping. With integrated straps, they are also great for occasional use as you cannot lose any small parts.
Simple to fit and remove, incredibly solid and a polished aluminium finish are all fantastic. It’s a shame they are among the shortest on test as it prevents the coveted full marks.
Sharing a loose rubber strap fitting with three other sets here, the twinned rubber straps on the Zefals speed up fitting and are one less thing to lose in the shed over the summer. There are a couple of oddities, however. The only way to adjust the position over the wheel is by adjusting the stay length therefore you can be left with exposed prongs, especially on the rear guard. The stainless steel is hard to cut down and, if left, can snag when getting on or off.
With stays that mount low on the fork legs, the RSPs suffer more movement on rough roads than other guards tested. The extra leverage allowed the fender to knock the fork crown or bounce on the tyre but, if set up with enough clearance up front to prevent this, the trade-off was excellent foot protection from the long front fender.
Five part stay brackets didn’t help the solidity and allow for wandering parts during sunnier times: room for improvement from RSP.
Tortec Razors offer a good compromise between value and performance and the SKS Race Blades have great coverage for clip-ons, but there are clearly two stand-out performers in this test.
For someone who wants a simple guard to click on and off when conditions dictate, nothing comes close to the quality feel and solidity of fixing of Topeak’s DeFender R1/R2 set. If only they were an inch longer they’d be perfect.
The second generation Crud RoadRacer 2 improves on an already great product. If you want a set of mudguards to fit to your tight clearance bike for the winter — and you’re one of the 99 per cent of riders with a road bike they fit — there are no better guards in terms of weather protection. If only Mr Crud could come up with a way of removing them super fast.
This article first appeared in the November issue of Cycling Active magazine