Buyer’s guide: Mudguards for keeping you dry this winter

We help you find the right mudguard for your bike + 8 of the best

by David Arthur   October 22, 2013  

Curana C-Lite mudguards - rear

road.cc reviews

SKS X-Blade £19.99
8/10

SKS S-Blade £12.99
7/10

If you’re determined to cycle through the winter whatever the weather, than a easy way to making it a little less unpleasant is by fitting your bicycle with mudguards. They will prevent a lot of the spray created by the wheels from turning you into a soggy mess.

Mudguards fall roughly into three types; traditional full-length metal mudguards commonly fitted to touring bikes, clip-on plastic guards that will attach to most road bikes, and mountain bike style mudguards that attach to the downtube and seatpost. This choice means there is a mudguard to fit just about every type of bike, from a carbon race bike to a flat bar commuter. This guide will show you the best type of mudguard for your bike.

Think mudguards aren't cool and that they'll spoil the lines of your bike? Think again, even the professional cyclists will be fitting mudguards to their racing bikes through the winter. Here's a photo of young pro Lars van der Haar's winter bike, complete with rear mudguard. Interestingly he's only fitted a rear mudguard, presumably dispensing with the need for a front mudguard.

Mudguards also offer a performance advantage. Yes, really. Ride without mudguards and your feet will get soaked, and then get very cold, and your legs will be saturated by rear wheel spray, and when that also chills it can really effect your ability to push hard on the pedals. As well as sapping your motivation. So by keeping as much of the water off your body as you can, you're obviously going to be able to ride for longer, and faster, when the roads are drowning.

For commuting mudguards are a no-brainer really. If you want to cycle to work through the winter, than mudguards go a long way to ensuring you stay reasonably dry. If you have to carry a rucksack a rear mudguard will stop it getting covered in dirt, and then leaving a trail of dirt through the office or factory.

Yes, you might think they look daft on your carbon racer, but that’s not as daft as you’ll look with a brown line up the back of your jacket and sodden shoes from the front wheel spray. I often hear people say that mudguards ruin the clean lines of their road bikes, which I'll agree with, they certainly do. But if it's the difference between being dry or absolutely soaked and covered in road muck from head to toe, then I'll happily ruin the clean lines of my bike for the winter months. I'm more interested in keeping dry so I can keep cycling and training through the winter. And if you're riding in a group, those following your wheel will appreciate your mudguard.

Full-length mudguards

  • Pros: Best coverage, protects bike as well as rider, protects the rider behind you
  • Cons: Can be fiddle to fit, won't fit all bikes, limited clearance, can be rattly

These are the mudguards commonly referred to as traditional mudguards, because they’ve been around for many many years, and are most often a permanent fixture on touring bikes. Due to their length and sides, they cover a large percentage of both wheels and provide the best protection from spray generated by the wheels.

Some full-length mudguards are longer than others. Some have a large rubber flap on the end of the front mudguard. The longer front mudguards really help to stop your feet from getting soaked through, there's a surprising amount of spray kicked up by the front wheel, and your feet are right in the firing line. The longer the front mudguard, the more chance of your feet staying dry. And having a long rear mudguard will keep spray from hitting the person following behind you, when you're riding in a group.

The other advantage of these mudguards is they offer the most protection to the bicycle as well. They keep all the water and mud away from the brake calipers, which really don't like being dowsed in gritty water, and it's the same for the front mech too. They also keep water away from a saddle bag and rear light that you might have attached to the saddle/seatpost, so that's another plus for mudguards.

These mudguards are very sturdy. They mount to frame using lightweight steel stays bolted to specific eyelets at the dropouts, as well as fixing at the brake calipers and, on the rear mudguard, bolting into the frame behind the bottom bracket. They can take a bit of time to setup, but one in place they're very sturdy and will survive a lot of abuse.

The frame needs to have extra clearance.This can lead to a lengthening of the wheelbase by stretching out the chainstays. Long reach calipers - as the caliper as to be mounted higher in the frame to give space for the mudguards - also have to be used in preference to regular short reach brakes.

The fact they can only be fitted to frames with the necessary mounts and clearance does limit them, but there are plenty of bikes designed to accept them. Most common are those that fall into the touring/Audax category of bicycle design, with a variety of frame materials including the most common steel, titanium and alloy. It’s even possible these days to buy a carbon fibre frame with the necessary eyelets and clearance for these mudguards.

Not everyone wants, or has space/money for a second bike built specifically to take mudguards. Luckily bicycle designers have cottoned onto this and many regular road bikes come with concealed mudguard mounts. So without mudguards it looks like any regular road racing bike, and look close enough and you'll find mounts that turns it into a mudguard-equipped winter bike. 

http://road.cc/sites/default/files/imagecache/galleria_900_nocrop/images/Trek%20Madone%20Two%20Series%202.1%20(2013)/Trek%20Madone%20Two%20Series%202.1%20-%20front%20hub.jpg

Concealed mudguard mount on a Trek Madone 2.1

The recently reviewed Trek Madone 2.1 has mudguard eyelets just behind the dropouts on the fork and frame, out of view until you need to utilise them. The new Canyon Inflite also has unique mudguard mounts and they've designed their own mudguards, made by SKS, to be compatible with these mounts. So there's increasing choice if you look for it.

The SKS Chromoplastic mudguards are one of the best known, and very highly regarded, full-length options. They’re made by sandwiching aluminium strips inside a plastic housing. The resulting profile is quite deep which makes it stiff and sturdy. Stainless steel stays fix them in place and the Secu-Clip on the front means they pop out of the housing in case anything gets caught up between the mudguard and tyre. You get a generous mud flap on the front and a reflector on the rear. They’re available in several sizes to fit tyres from 20 to 45mm

Another option are the Axiom Rainrunner Deluxe Reflex mudguards. They have a seriously solid feel, both guards have a rubber mud flap on the bottom and once fitted they look great and perform well.

Clip-on mudguards

  • Pros: Fits road bikes without mudguard eyelets, lightweight
  • Cons: Less protection than full-length mudguards, compatibility and clearance issues with some bikes

If your road bike doesn't have mudguard mounts, the good news is there is a lot of mudguards designed for such bikes.

These mudguards don’t require the frame to have eyelets or long-reach brake calipers, or extra clearance. Instead, they attach to the frame using a simple fastenings like rubber bands, velcro or zip ties. This gives far better versatility than full-length mudguards as you aren’t hindered by bike choice, and means you can keep riding your favourite road bike through the winter if you want to.

The main downside of them is they don’t wrap as much of the wheel, nor have the sides or front rubber flap that full-length mudguards offer. This means they don’t keep as much of the rain and spray off your body or bike. However, they do keep the large majority of water off and can make a huge difference on wet roads. And when spring rolls around, they can easily be removed and stored in the garage until winter, restoring the clean lines of your road bike.

They're also much lighter than full-length guards, and some people might just want to fit a rear mudguard for those legendary winter club runs up north where if you turn up without mudguards you're forced to spend the whole ride at the back. No one wants a face full of water and mud from following someone closely without mudguards. Fitting these type of mudguards can be fraught with compatibility issues, which usually focus around the limited clearance on regular road bikes. It's worth having a read of your reviews first, and checking with the manufacturer to see which bikes they're compatible with.

For a long time the SKS Raceblade was the favoured choice in this category. The Raceblade Long mount at the brake callipers on L-shaped connectors that slip up behind the brake. At the dropout they attach to another connector that's held in place by the quick release so there's no need for any mudguard mounts at all, you can fit these 'guards to a full-on race bike and because they don't sit underneath the brake callipers (save for the very thin mounting bar) clearance generally isn't an issue.

The other popular options is the Crud Roadracer. As long as you've got 4mm between the top of your tyre and the inside of your brake calliper, the Roadracers will slide in. The Mk2 version is the longest of any clip-on mudguard, almost as long as full-length mudguards, and have a front mech protector too.

You don't need mudguard eyes: Roadracers attach to the frame with reusable cable ties and some natty little brackets held on with rubber bands. That makes the Roadracer’s incredibly light, just 200g for the pair.  The weight is saved because Roadracers do not the four stiff metal stays used on conventional mudguards to keep the guards from touching the wheel or tyre. Instead, the Roadracers have just two flexible plastic stays and are designed to 'float' above the tyre, with some little strips of soft brushing on the inside of the stay-clip to rub very gently on the rims and keep the guards central.

Fitting these can be a fiddle, especially getting the mudguards to float centrally over the wheels, but with a little patience it's possible to get a good setup. Also getting the mudguards to fit some frames can be an issue: I've taken a pair of scissors to mine in the past and simply adapted them to fit my bike.

Mountain bike style mudguards

  • Pros: Will fit almost any bike, loads of clearance regardless of frame design
  • Cons: Limited protection, won't protect rider behind you, feet will still get wet, bike gets no protection

The other type of mudguard are those favoured by mountain bikers. Mountain bikes, because of their variety of design with factors like suspension and huge tyres, means a mudguard has to be fitted very high above the wheel. The solution are mudguards that clip onto the seatpost so the height above the wheel can be adjusted accordingly, and at the front, attached to the downtube.

These type of mudguards are useful for commuting bikes, especially where clearance might be an easier because of frame design or wide tyres. Their simplicity of fitting makes them attractive, they can be whipped off in a minute too. And while they don't provide 100% protection compared to full-length options, they do keep a surprisingly high degree of spray off.

The seatpost-style mudguard is one favoured by quite a few professional riders, but they’re more for keeping your own back dry than worrying about the rider behind you getting a face full of Belgian toothpaste. They are very easy to fit though, with none of the fiddly compatibility issues that can plague closer fitting clip-on mudguards. These type of mudguards really only protect the rider from mud and spray, the bike will still get covered in road crap thrown up by the rear wheel.

Similarly, a mudguard attached to the downtube also offers the same simplicity of fitment. Protection from front wheel spray is limited to riding in a straight line through, the mudguard obviously don’t track the front wheel through turns. Such a mudguard is ideal for commuting and town bikes though, as they will easily fit a variety of wheel sizes, and will fit in minutes.

This SKS S-Blade will fit seatpost diameters between 25.4 and 35mm. It's optimal with 18-26mm rubber, 28mm upwards shows signs of compromise with tell tale spatter congregating along the peripheries. Getting everything aboard is effortlessly simple but you'll still need a 4mm Allen key for tweaking the angle.

For the front the Crud Catcher is perhaps the best known of this breed of downtube mounted mudguard. Okay it's not as effective as a full guard but sometimes you don't want (or can't fit) one of those, and it's an excellent solution for many bikes.

If you want an even simpler mudguard, then the Ass Saver might interest you. It’s as minimal as you can get, a narrow strip of plastic that hooks onto the rails of the saddle, and provides just enough protection from rear wheel spray. It’s not so good on heavily saturated roads, but for the occasional puddle it does make a small difference.

Another mudguard, and one ideal for commuting bikes, is the Full Windsor Quickfix rear mudguard. There are two models, which only differ in how you attach them to the bike: the Fold'n'Fix is fixed with cable ties, while the QuickFix is attached with poppers. Each is a tapered piece of plastic, that's wide over the wheel, narrower at the 'neck' of the seat stays and then wider again where the mudguard meets the seat tube. To put it on, you fold the plastic by pinching and feed it through the gap above the brake bridge. It then attaches to the seat stays and the seat tube, either with cable ties or poppers, depending on which model you have

 

34 user comments

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The cruds are great, but it's worth noting that if you have toe overlap on the front wheel then you may well damage them when track standing (or at least I did!).

tom_w's picture

posted by tom_w [76 posts]
22nd October 2013 - 19:57

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+1 for PDW Full Metal Fenders. A bit heavier than plastic guards but beautifully made and with pop-out stays in case you get anything caught in the wheel.
Still love the lightweight simplicity of Crud Roadracers for close clearance bikes too though.

SteveW

posted by Steve Worland [95 posts]
22nd October 2013 - 20:01

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What about keeping the bloke behind you dry?

Sir Velo

Raleigh's picture

posted by Raleigh [1728 posts]
22nd October 2013 - 20:05

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I bought some Daniel Salmon Super Profil aluminium mudguards, about 30 years ago, and they still look very modern.

"Hey..... Let's be visible out there."

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posted by Neil753 [451 posts]
22nd October 2013 - 20:07

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I have just fitted a set of SKS Race Blade Long on my Roubaix just in time for the monsoon the South West has thrown at us for the last few days.
They were a bit fiddly to fit and fine tune, but they are so efficient.
Very pleased with them...

posted by Rouboy [62 posts]
22nd October 2013 - 20:08

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I'm running SKS chromoplastic for my 2nd winter and they are great, i had to get creative with the cable ties on the front as my forks aren't drilled but they still don't rattle. For a quick emergency fix the San Marco Ass Saver is well worth keeping in your rucksack!

posted by antozzi48 [17 posts]
22nd October 2013 - 20:25

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Raleigh wrote:
What about keeping the bloke behind you dry?

This...

"And having a long rear mudguard will keep spray from hitting the person following behind you when you're riding in a group."

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posted by David Arthur [1419 posts]
22nd October 2013 - 20:34

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The Crud Roadracer Guards are ok if your purchasing around £23 but the rear guard does 'chatter' and wobble side to side and needs securing using both zip tie holes around the seat tube. Easy to break but spares are available direct from Crud. At the time I should have bought SKS but at £40 these are to expensive and get bad reviews

posted by Roberj4 [184 posts]
22nd October 2013 - 20:45

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Running race guards on my Bianchi. OK but not really enough coverage and movement of them is a pain with rubbing tyres but overall a far more pleasant experience riding in the wet, HOWEVER my 20yr old Orange P7 with full guards (Halfords) works a treat and keeps me drier for much longer.
Yep they look stupid but the benfits far outweigh the cons.

posted by Guyz2010 [281 posts]
22nd October 2013 - 21:35

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Oh yeah, sorry David Worried

Sir Velo

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posted by Raleigh [1728 posts]
22nd October 2013 - 21:42

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Raleigh wrote:
What about keeping the bloke behind you dry?

Just work hard enough to keep him off your wheel.

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posted by giff77 [1040 posts]
22nd October 2013 - 21:43

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Neil753 wrote:
I bought some Daniel Salmon Super Profil aluminium mudguards, about 30 years ago, and they still look very modern.

Yeh me too, nice robust piece of kit but the alloy stay clips wear out eventually and are costly to replace (if you can get 'em).

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posted by harman_mogul [116 posts]
22nd October 2013 - 22:45

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If you do much group riding, you'll need better mud flaps on all of those.

posted by edster99 [148 posts]
22nd October 2013 - 23:23

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Mud Guard? Mud guard? What's next, garlic bread?

Between the S and the LOW

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posted by bikeboy76 [1188 posts]
22nd October 2013 - 23:51

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Conti Ultras? Must be rolling over muddy gym floors and pillows, those things ripped on a 1cm pavement gap on me.

[custom] '12 Cannondale CAAD10 - Rival

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posted by badkneestom [128 posts]
23rd October 2013 - 4:35

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If you're thatworried about guards "ruining the look" of your "carbon racer" on the commute to work, then I'd suggest you can probably financially afford an N+1 purchace of a proper commuter bike, where they probably won't look so out of place. There's other advantages, such as not knacking the drive train of your fancy bike with all the crud that's on the road and flicked upn by the wet.

of course, you may be running into storage issues or s-1 problems.

posted by Al__S [494 posts]
23rd October 2013 - 8:39

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I've had a bit of trouble with mudguards recently....

i've had the same set of sks Bluemels on the fixed commuter for about 6 years and are brillant, easy to fit & to get spares when things wear out.

for the last few years I've run crud cathcers on my Sunday bike as she didn't have clearance for much else, bit of a faff to set up & they break easily but work pretty well. Only major issue I had was that I run my cleats pretty far back on my shoes giving me a bit ot toe overlap on the front, i broke the front guard twice in one week!

The Sunday bike has since become a Kinesis GF ti Big Grin which space for proper guards so i thought i'd buy something nice to complement the frame. Ended up with a set of curanra c-lites. Very nice looking set of 'guards they are made of aluminium composite rather than a reinforced plastic they are rather stiff nad dont bend. As I found out when I snapped the front off. entirely my own fault as I was trying make it fit a bit better in the form forks. also despite being very slimline in appearance the rivet that hold the fixings onto the guards sit about 5mm proud so don't be fooled. I wasn't able to get the rear to fit without it rubbing, unless I had it about 3cm away form the wheel, which kind of defeats the object of a slimline 'guard. Since then I've been trying to get on to curana to get some spare parts but they seem to be doing their best to ignore me Angry

So this weekend I went out and bout another pair of SKS Bluemels for the granfondo and she looks lovely they fit well, don't rattle & I'm dry!

Carpe Diem ab absentis: seize the day off

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posted by Coodsta [95 posts]
23rd October 2013 - 9:14

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Roadracer MK2s on my CAAD8 (23mm tyres). They come with a range of 'ends' and after a little bit of tweaking, didn't rub at all. Toe overlap is a minor inconvenience, but when the roads are wet I keep as upright as possible and steer as little as possible anyway.

In fact the only inconvenience is that you can't pop the bike up and walk it on its rear wheel when the guards are fitted.

Boardman CX Team '14 | Cannondale CAAD8 '12 (written off, SMIDSY) | Scott Sportster '08

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posted by Gizmo_ [759 posts]
23rd October 2013 - 11:00

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Tortec Chromotec full length are very similar to SKS Chromoplastic and available in multiple widths for either 700c or 26". There is also a version with a reflective trim.

http://road.cc/content/review/2716-tortec-reflector-mudguards

They also make a Raceblade style clip-on set.

Road.cc reviews - mudguard section here.

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posted by Simon E [1910 posts]
23rd October 2013 - 12:44

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What about fixing to a bike with disc brakes ? I can get one on the rear but not the front because of the position of the caliper. Tried bending the stay but it just looked ridiculous and didn't really work

Argon18 E-112 - Scott Spark 910 - Boardman Team Carbon - Planet X XLS

posted by colinth [183 posts]
23rd October 2013 - 12:59

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Crud RR have poor durability IMO - have had two sets explode in showers of plastic due to foreign objects flying up into them (3 times) and 1 toe overlap calamity.
I'm running SKS RB Long which generally perform a bit better and seem more durable, although have broken two clips in 1 year, once due to foreign objects and once due to fatigue failure - I expect more failures this winter!
Always carry some cable ties!
PDW next time for me. They make good stuff.

posted by ficklewhippet [37 posts]
23rd October 2013 - 13:06

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The Ass Savers Smart Ass is simple and effective if you don't want to switch to fitted mudguards. Don't expect it to be as effective as full mudguards but great in an emergency. Hard to find on the high street but we've got some http://bit.ly/1dnl8Jb

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posted by thepocpac [11 posts]
24th October 2013 - 17:36

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keith roberts wrote:
I've had the Crud roadracers on my Bianchi for the last three winters ...excellent pieces of kit, a bit fiddly to get on but good coverage and easy to whip off when the sun starts to shine..just unhook the rubber rings, undo the reusable cable ties and store in the shed till it starts raining again. ideal. and they don't spoil the look of the bike that much.... Big Grin

Ditto. I had my Crud Roadracers back on in under 10min the other day, but with weather unpredicatability I've kept them on for the past few weeks. You hardly know they're there sometimes.

Shades

posted by Shades [181 posts]
28th October 2013 - 15:02

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I've run the Crud road racers permanently for years, and once they're set up (little tweaks on the side stays to pull them central) they work great. I did break the front one eventually, and though this is annoying they are easy to remove without tools if it happens. I'd also say that I'd much rather that they broke than jammed my wheel and sent me flying over the bars like a more solid guard might. I'm trying out the full SKS guards this year, and I'm having a bit of trouble with toe overlap (which I didn't have with the Cruds). I'll run the SKS's for this winter and see if I've warmed to them by the time the weather warms up

posted by YourMum [12 posts]
29th November 2013 - 13:56

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Big thumbs up for SKS Chromoplastic full mudguards, been using a set for 15years - excellent durability and performance.
They keep almost all the crud off me and the drivetrain for much greater longevity of both.

posted by Trull [57 posts]
2nd December 2013 - 8:39

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Gone through a number of pairs of Raceblades and Crudguards over the years - if you don't like rattling, they annoy the hell out of you At Wits End and will eventually rattle themselves into oblivion. I was riding behind a friend using SKS Longboards with mudflaps and was still getting a face-full but they're still my choice.
A roll of heavyweight, 6" wide plastic damp-proof membrane from a builder's merchant will give you a lifetime supply of mudflaps.

Make mine an Italian with Campagnolo on the side

posted by monty dog [358 posts]
4th January 2014 - 17:27

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Just too my Crud Roadracers off my Canyon Roadlite as the rubbing was beginning to drive me mad - they struggle with 25mm tyres though worth noting they fit nicely on my summer carbon bike with 23mm tyres. Gonna stick with a SKS Racebkade on the rear to prevent club members getting soaked. I don't bother with the from one as the toe overlap becomes even worse. Next winter I will be buying a frame with mounts and clearance such as a Dolan Preffisio as proper mudguards are so much better than the crappy temporary plastic ones

posted by kingbucko75 [4 posts]
4th January 2014 - 18:05

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SKS is good but as with most similar styles a fiddle to fit. My most recent pair have plastic "breakaway" front fittings (good idea) but the rear fasteners appear to be just plated steel - how much does that save? (Rivendel sell stainless replacements)

I've found a rear rack handy on many bikes and although overlooked by the manufacturers, the addition of a thin sheet of plastic catches or deflects a great deal of dirt and water when not carrying cargo.

Ride your own ride

posted by CanAmSteve [120 posts]
12th February 2014 - 15:23

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edster99 wrote:
If you do much group riding, you'll need better mud flaps on all of those.

A piece of 35 mm x 3.5 mm neoprene strip (available as a roll of several metres for not much), of about 200 mm length, fitted at the end of the rear guard with about 100–150 mm hanging down. Magic. Every club that rides as a group should do it.

harman_mogul's picture

posted by harman_mogul [116 posts]
12th February 2014 - 20:02

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Full length SKS guards always snap at the rear for me, so I thought I try race blades long, the front guard bracket snapped within three months but sks replaced that unfortunately the replaced bracket came lose and was lost and sks haven't answered my email; so I'm using an old full front and a new raceblade long rear Confused

Howl Like a Bianchi

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posted by HLaB [54 posts]
12th February 2014 - 22:45

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