Are Mudguards Worth it for Commuting?


As bike commuters, mudguards seem like an afterthought when kitting out our trusty steeds. But could these unglamorous extras in fact be a useful upgrade for daily riding?

In this rundown, we’ll assess the benefits of fitting mudguards to make an informed decision on whether they’re worth it for your particular commute.

What Are Mudguards?

Before weighing up the pros and cons, let’s kick off with a quick refresher on what bike mudguards actually are and what job they do:

  • Mudguards (also sometimes called fenders) are curved panels that attach to the frame behind the wheels.
  • They work by extending wheel coverage to catch water, grit and trail debris thrown upwards by the spinning tyres.
  • This helps protect both the bike from grime and rider from getting covered in road spray while cycling.

Most regular bikes don’t feature mudguards as standard. So they require aftermarket buying and specialist fitting to add them onto your existing commute machine.

Why Add Mudguards for Commuting?

We break down the main advantages below that mudguards offer over riding guard-less on wet and dirty trails:

1. Stay Clean and Dry

Commuting quickly gets miserable when you arrive not only tired but soaking wet too.

Having mudguards keeps you and your clothes cleaner by providing a physical barrier blocking wheel spray and splashes. No more wet streak up the back or swampy feet when protected by guards!

Being drier and mud-free also means avoiding messing up the office, car or house after locking up too. Your colleagues will appreciate you not stinking out the staff kitchen while making a post-ride coffee.

2. Prevent Grime Build Up

Mudguards help reduce grimy chain lube and oily road residue clingging onto your shiny two-wheeled pride and joy too.

Left unprotected, wet and muddy rides cakes your components and frame by flicking contaminated spray all over the bike. This speeds up drive train wear while requiring you or your LBS frequent deep cleaning sessions to prevent damage.

Fitting guards avoids much of this crud splashback that will otherwise inevitably build up – keeping moving parts cleaner and your frame sparkling for longer between wash downs.

3. Improve Riding Comfort

Having crud and chilly spray blasted up your backside by the rear wheel makes for an unpleasant commute. It distracts your focus from riding while promoting lower back stiffness and saddle soreness.

Mudguards eliminate most of this unpleasant spray and debris nuisance. This helps you better concentrate on the road ahead rather than constantly dodging filth. You’ll certainly be more comfortable mile after mile without having a wet backside too!

4. Enhance Safety

Vision permanently impaired by spray, hands and feet numbed by biting cold water, and body posture affected by riding to avoid spray are not safe conditions.

Minimising distracting spray and chilling water funnelling up from wheels enhances sensation and control in hands and feet. It also provides clearer sight of the road surface. This reduces accident risk and discomfort that promotes distraction or loss of vehicle control.

So while not safety devices in themselves, fitting mudguards promotes safer commutes through enhanced riding comfort and focus.

5. Save Money

Protecting frame and components from the accelerating effects of road grime build up saves you money as well time.

Mudguards help avoid replacing worn out chains and cassettes sooner than needed. Their protective coverage also extends the lifespan between deep cleaning or parts replacement too.

Added durability combined with cleaner riding makes guards a worthy financial investment over their lifetime.guards. Factor in saved cleaning costs and reduced part replacements too when weighing up value.

Why Forgo Mudguards While Commuting?

However, there are also reasons you might choose to keep cruising guard-less on your commute too:

1. Upfront Cost

Quality mudguard sets with bespoke fitting kits don’t come cheap compared to mass market rigid plastic flaps.

You can expect to pay anywhere from $50 / £40 right up to $150+ / £100+ for a premium set from brands like SKS and Zefal. And that’s not factoring in professional fitting charges either if you don’t DIY them yourself.

This is a pricey upgrade if you’re trying to commute on a tight budget.

2. Added Weight

Mudguards do add extra weight over running clean guard-less. Premium metal designs can tip the scales at up to 1 to 1.5lb per set.

You’ll potentially feel this hindering get up and go if chasing maximum speed commuting on a performance road bike.

3. Negative Aero Impact

The curved fender profile also hampers aerodynamic performance – increasing drag compared to a smooth frame and wheel.

Again, sleek full-carbon speed merchants are most impacted. But guards create turbulence and flow detachment even on regular hybrids which affects maintaining momentum above 15-20mph.

4. Style Cramping

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but not everyone digs the aesthetic look of mudguards – especially on flashy bikes!

Minimalism rules for some riders where guards can upset the smooth lines and purist appearance. If standout style holds higher priority over practicality than guards likely don’t make the cut.

5. DIY Installation Challenge

Proper fitting is crucial to effective spray protection. But getting highly adjustable guard sets sat right at both front and rear commonly frustrates home mechanics.

Even with online tutorials, removing wheels/forks and wrestling with fiddly stays tests skill and patience. Many simply give up and take guards straight back off after a few fitment struggles and rounded bolts!

Types of Bike Mudguard

Okay, now we understand the core case both for and against fitting mudguards. Next we’ll cover the main kinds of designs out there to help match options to your commuting needs:

Full Length

Nearly reaching the ground for maximum spray coverage, full length guards provide the ultimate wet weather protection.

But their extensive surface area creates lots of turbulent airflow – hampering aerodynamics at higher speeds. Heavyweight metal designs also negatively impact acceleration and climbing agility.

Full length suits city and touring bikes focusing on comfort and weather protection over pace.

Mountain Bike Clip-On Guards

Super short and made rigid plastic, these guards bolt to fork and seat stays for no-fuss fitment.

Their limited coverage still offers rear wheel spray protection at least. However, shorter guards struggle to tame front wheel wet kicks on corners or washouts down loose trails.

Their simplicity appeals to mountain bikers but still leaves road riders exposed.

Race Guards

Purpose made for performance road cyclists, race guards aim for the best balance between spray protection and aerodynamic impact.

Sized longer than MTB guards but truncated compared to full length, models like the SKS Raceblade strike this optimal blend. Reduced frontal profile cuts through wind better for only minor top speed loss.

For riders chasing velocities over 25mph, race guards make guards viable without too big a pace penalty.

Best Mudguards for Commuting

With the different designs covered, here are our top recommendations for commuter-focused mudguard upgrades:

Best Value Mudguard – Zefal Swan Road

Price is the main blocker for most considering guards, so the Zefal Swan provides exceptional protection per penny at under £15.

Available in multiple size options to fit most bike frames, its classic full length profile keeps the worst of wheel spray at bay. While heavier than premium guards, Zefal still makes the Swan durable and easy to DIY fit at home.

If no-fuss guarding on a budget is the priority, the Zefal Swan delivers.

Best Commuting Mudguard Set – SKS Bluemels

German brand SKS has long held pole position for quality bike protection accessories. We rate their Bluemels guards as the ultimate commuting upgrade.

Combining durable stainless steel rails with plasticised covers, the Bluemels blend robust weather sealing with fuss-free fitting and servicing. The mid-length variants also balance spray stopping with retaining bike handling and eliminating excessive drag.

A proven commute performer across decades for good reason!

Best Clip-On Mudguard Set – Ass Savers

Sometimes keeping things simple makes the most sense for casual commuting. If that sounds like your kind of vibe, then the unique Ass Savers deliver.

As the name suggests, these minimalist snap-on plastic flaps shield specifically against rear wheel soakings. And boy do they work well for such a basic and invisible guard solution!

For middling mileage riders prioritising convenience over comprehensive coverage, clip on an Ass Saver.

Best Full Length Mudguard Set – SKS Raceblade Long

If maximum commute protection holds higher priority over marginal speed loss or weight gain, then the SKS Raceblade should be your number one candidate.

With mud flaps almost tickling the tarmac, the Longboard blocks virtually all water, grit and crud kicked up towards both rider and bike parts. It completely cocoons wheels for urban foul weather commuting while still retaining easy installation.

When nothing less than total spray elimination will do, go Longboard!

Are Mudguards Worth It For Commuting?

So back around to our original question – should I invest money and time into fitting mudguards for daily commuting?

Here is our verdict on whether guards make sense based on various usage scenarios:

For fair weather pedallers: Mudguards aren’t vital for those lucky enough to enjoy predominantly dry commutes. Save your cash until UK weather dictates!

For casual short distance riders: Just back protecting using Ass Saver clips offers worthwhile benefits without big cost or fitting troubles.

For penny pinching budget buyers:
Cut cost Zefal plastic guards still transform wet commute misery without too big an investment.

For foul weather warriors:
Frequent stormy slogs demand the spray stopping power only full guards like SKS Bluemels deliver.

For tempo chasing tarmac terriers: Maintain race pace but add vital grit protection using specially profiled guards like the SKS Raceblade.

We firmly believe guards benefit most regular bike commuters for improved comfort, cleanliness and bike protection. Only pure performance road cyclists might justify skipping them when chasing every second of speed!

Have we convinced you on the merits of mudguards then? Or maybe provided reasons to stick with spray roulette by dodging guards for now? Let your fellow riders know either way!

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