The 2016 SKS Raceblade Pro sets a new benchmark for temporary mudguards. Infinite adjustability and solid mounting make for an excellent package.
The previous incarnation of the Raceblade dates back nearly a decade, and in 2010 Shaune gave them four stars. I've bought two sets over the last five years and fitted a fair few more for friends and clubmates. They were by far the best option for bikes with limited clearances, no eyelets or no traditional brake bridge mounting points – increasingly common now disc brakes have allowed seatstays to evolve beyond calliper-bearing duties.
There were always two issues with Raceblades: the lack of adjustability and the length. Adjustability was limited to bending the stiff steel stays into exactly the right shape – and once you had all eight arms just right, you did not want to go changing. The length was what it was – short. These guards were for keeping mud and water off you, not anyone following – and the very short front guard was only protecting your face, not your lower legs much.
The 2016 update has been a long time coming, and clearly a lot of thought has gone into the redesign. There are now two models of Raceblade: the Pro and Pro XL. The Pro (355g) is shorter and has skinnier tyre clearance than the Pro XL (365g), which once fitted comes pretty close to replicating the coverage of a fixed mudguard.
Both share the same hinge mechanism, and this is the magic of the 2016 update. Fundamentally the old model was a one-bike setup, whereas the new one can be swapped between geometries in a few minutes. Also there's a new fixed flap design instead of the old too-fragile rubber bumper lip.
The process of fitting is to slacken off all eight of the 2.5mm hex bolts, so the guard can move in and out, and angle up/down. You then position the mount, secure the rubber strap, adjust the guard so it clears the tyre by 15mm, then tighten all eight bolts. The guard can be slid in/out to adjust length and coverage of brake callipers if wanted. In practice this is a quick and easy process, one that I did a few times in pre-ride anger when I realised the skies were darkening and the guards were on the wrong bike for that day. Certainly a huge improvement on the previous model.
Fitting to carbon or steel forks presented no problems, including aero profiles, and unlike the old model it's now impossible to lose the tiny rubber bumpers or strap as it's now all one thick piece attached to the mount. If you want you can zip-tie the mounts in place, but I found the rubber straps to be perfectly stable even over a 200km all-day effort, including a section of pretty rough gravel track. In the box you get four clear plastic strips to protect paint/carbon finishes – I'd recommend using these, as even the tiniest bit of grit under the rubber will start to eat paint if left.
Dimension-wise, the Pros (pic below) cover 519mm front and 680mm rear, fitting up to 25mm tyres, whereas the Pro XL is 565mm front, 730mm rear, and will take 25-32mm tyres.
In practice it is perfectly do-able to run the narrower, shorter and 10g lighter Pro over a 28mm tyre without rubbing. You might need to bend the steel stays out a wee bit, but that's been a common tweak of the classic SKS Raceblade Long full-cover mudguard for years.
The Pro is available in silver, black or 'carbon look', the Pro XL (below) in just silver or black.
Over a month or so of short, long, dry and soaking wet rides on old steel and new carbon bikes, both the Pro and Pro XL worked flawlessly. They hang on tenaciously, don't move of their own accord, and are easily adjusted back into place if knocked.
The quick and simple adjustability makes for long-term cost-effectiveness, without the frustration or time re-bending difficult steel stays. And the new rubber strap design is fast, faff-free and can't get lost, unlike the old double-strap design.
All in all this is an exemplary update to an already venerable product. Well worth the wait – and the 40 quid price tag.
Since this review, the RRP has gone up to £44.99, and another sibling has joined the Raceblade family: the Pro XL Stealth – the colour is the main difference, the other is the price – £49.99, due to the specialist painting costs involved.
A winning redesign – you'll be clean and dry for decades to come
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road.cc test report
Make and model: SKS Raceblade Pro/Pro XL
Size tested: Pro: 700x23-25 Pro XL: 700x25-32
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
For people who don't want to or can't fit fixed mudguards, but don't want to get wet or filthy.
SKS says: "The ultimate clip-on mudguard set for road and cyclocross bikes for tyre width between 25 and 32mm. Its smart, double hinged quick release fitting system also fits aero forks and is also compatible with disc brakes, direct mount brakes and thru axles. Mudguards can be perfectly adapted to the radius of the wheel by adjusting the length of the stays. Its superlight extra long mud flaps give additional spray protection. In addition to using the quick release rubber straps it can also be fixed in place with zip ties. Includes adhesive protection kit to avoid damaging the paintwork. * Disc brake compatible: Please be mindful of the brake wire."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
weight: 365 g
wheel size: 28 "
length front fender: 565 mm
length rear fender: 730 mm
available from: January 2016
weight: 355 g
wheel size: 28 "
tyre width: 25 mm
length front fender: 519 mm
length rear fender: 680 mm
available from: January 2016
For what they do, the level of performance, they are excellent. But £40 is a lot of cash.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Excellent. Didn't move or make a sound over 200km of rough, fast riding.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The hinges. It's all about the hinges.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
For many, £40 will come across as a lot of cash for temporary mudguards, but the design works perfectly and there's very little else to mark them down on.
About the tester
I usually ride: Merida Ride 5000 Disc My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo-cross, club rides, general fitness riding, mountain biking, Dutch bike pootling