The SKS X-Blade is a brilliant solution for a wet bum when you don't want to fit full mudguards.
Seatpost-mounted clip-on mudguards sweep me back to South London housing estates where sinewy young men dripping in bling would swoosh through on mountain bikes so cool, you knew they were hot. Mercifully, the SKS X blade rear dirtboard leaves me with much happier memories. Made from a curious dual compound composite material, it oozes a highly engineered, rugged refinement synonymous with the German brand.
Ease of fitting is equally important and I'm a real fan of their tool free pressure fit clamps, having previously hoisted my cyclo cross bike skyward by their bottle cage. The X blade uses the same mounting principle-pull the elasticated webbing tight before pushing the clasp shut - some very obvious resistance is a good sign, since the system needs pressure to hold it rock steady.
Now, it's just a question of tweaking alignment so the guard's voluptuous profile is not creating unnecessary air resistance or fouling the tyre. Talking of shape, this is a world away from the generic 'whale tails'. A broader profile affords better coverage with 2.1 section knobbly tyres, while additional length with a final swooping flick safeguards against spatter being lobbed at the rider's upper body.
As we'd expect, the material is highly UV resistant so shouldn't age badly or turn brittle after a few seasons' use - but the rubberised centre section is supple, thus avoiding fracture and deadening the thud when repeatedly struck by stones. Night owls and urban guerrillas will be pleased to learn that reflective stickers adhere very soundly, as does some clay type soil, which necessitated more focused scrubbing and application of bike wash.
It works admirably with smaller (24 inch) diameter hoops too. Aside from sticking out like a sore thumb, they work well enough on 700c road bikes, although seat tubes, front mechs, bottom bracket and chain rings still get blasted with that delicious watery cocktail of salt, slush, unspent diesel and dung too. Previous generations of this design had a reputation for relocating mid ride but ours has been impeccably behaved.
Superbly designed and made clip on guard offering excellent rider protection.
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Make and model: SKS X-Blade
Size tested: 26 + 27.5in
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?
"The high-quality 2-component dirtboard for the rear wheel of mountain and trekking bikes. Whether you ride 26", 27.5", 28" or 29", we have the right X-BLADE for you in the range. Due to the quick-release mounting, the dirtboard can be fitted to almost any seat post and optimally adjusted to the wheel using the 2-joint technology". Does what it says on the tin.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Dual density composite construction, pressure fit adjustable post clamp, articulated hinge for precision alignment.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
High quality composites and sterotypically Germanic attention to detail means the X blade morphs to fit pretty much any machine in a matter of minutes, offering enviable rider protection from mud, stones, spray and similar projectiles. Easily the best of the "Whale tail" genre I've used to date.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
High quality materials, great design, extensive coverage. Works quite well on cyclo crossers too.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Nothing of note.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? Quite possibly.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, primarily for mountain bikers though.
Age: 38 Height: 1m 81 Weight: 70 kilos
I usually ride: Rough Stuff Tourer Based around 4130 Univega mtb Frameset My best bike is: 1955 Holdsworth Road Path and several others including cross & traditional road
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo cross, commuting, touring, fixed/singlespeed, mtb,
Shaun Audane is a freelance writer/product tester with over twenty-eight years riding experience, the last twelve (120,000 miles) spent putting bikes and kit through their paces for a variety of publications. Previous generations of his family worked at manufacturing's sharp end, thus Shaun can weld, has a sound understanding of frame building practice and a preference for steel or titanium framesets.
Citing Richard Ballantine and an Au pair as his earliest cycling influences, he is presently writing a cycling book with particular focus upon women, families and disabled audiences (Having been a registered care manager and coached children at Herne Hill Velodrome in earlier careers)