If the trails are muddy where you live the best MTB mudguards will catch the water and dirt thrown off your wheels, keeping you and your bike cleaner and lighter after a ride. Sometimes called fenders, mudguards are an essential accessory for riding in winter, during/after rain and any time you don't want bits of crap ending up in your face or all over your frame pivots (yes, that's all year round!).
Plenty of things can make riding miserable, and mud or water flying into your eyes is definitely one of them. It can slow you down, and nobody likes getting their gear and bike super dirty as it gets heavy and cold when wet. The best MTB mudguards help with this by keeping the grime off you and your bike.
Modern MTB mudguards come in front and rear options, while front fenders come with zip-tie or bolt-on attachments. Increasing numbers of fork brands (Fox, Marzzochi, Suntour and more) now come with handy bolt holes in the back of the fork brace, enabling you to directly mount a mudguard without the need for zip-ties.
Sure, you could take an old tube, chop it up, and zip-tie one end to your fork crown and the other to the fork brace to make a homemade mudguard of sorts, but purpose-built models available for only a few bucks are considerably more effective, and some are even pretty snazzy-looking in appearance. Here is our pick of the best MTB mudguards around.
Best MTB mudguards
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Available in Mini (386mm), Standard (494mm), and a 21mm longer Max Protection version, the hard plastic ProGuard comes in polished black with ten colored decal options. With 24 zip tie mounting holes, the ProGuard allows for a metric ton of mounting options to accommodate different fork and tire combos, all while keeping your face free of mud.
As the inside of the fender is liable to pick up a bit of mud, it has an indent running down the center of the mudguard to reduce clogging and blocking. The Proguard features what the brand calls 'the seal shield' down the sides to prevent errant mud from finding its way onto your fork uppers.
Graham Cottingham tested the ProGuard and said, "If you're looking for the best bang for your buck winter upgrade, the Rapid Racer Products ProGuard Max Protection is a must."
Check out our review of the RRP ProGuard Max Protection.
The hard plastic Mudhugger Evo (long) is made from 100 percent recycled polypropylene and is designed to fit 27.5 and 29 inch tires. The side braces are attached to the fork legs with zip ties but if you want a more secure fitting, Mudhugger has a bolt-on option for select forks from Fox, RockShox, and Ohlins although you may need to use an adapter.
The Evo (Long) offers the most coverage for the luckiest conditions and extends 185mm forwards and 330mm back. It is possible to adjust the shape though and Mudhugger has a guide to creating more clearance on its website. Mudhugger also does a small version if you don't need as much mud protection.
Ever wondered what those little bolt holes on the back of your fork arch are for? We're not totally sure, but Syncros has made good use of them with its trail fender. Made from impact-resistant polypropylene, the Trail Fender bolts directly onto the fork with two included Torx bolts, for rattle-free coverage.
Syncros have six different fender options to fit a range of different forks so it is worth checking on their website for compatibility as the fenders have specific compatibility.
MarshGuard was one of the first to offer a simple, flexible fender that slots in just below the fork brace. Designed by Jason Marsh, Greg Minnaar's mechanic, and used by mechanics and riders on the World Cup circuit, the brand claims it has more race wins than any other mudguard.
It's lightweight, easy to install, and does well to protect stanchions and seals from gunk being flicked up off the front wheel. Although at high speed it might not be quite big enough to keep your face mud-free. MarshGuard also has an additional The Stache attachment that closes the larger gaps between the tire and fork braces and reduces forward spray.
The Original model was designed for 26in wheels, but MarshGuard offers models for 29in and 27.5in wheels along with different colors and graphics.
For ultimate coverage, the Crud Fender XL is tough to beat. Made from injection-molded plastic, the fender attaches to the fork lowers with rubber bands and can be fitted and removed in seconds. You know this one is good because UK downhill superstar Danny Hart uses one.
It covers a substantial section of the tire, effectively shielding you from what's being flung off the wheel; however, it's a flexy unit and buzzes the tire pretty regularly. At the fork arch there is a deformable nose, which prevents the guard from clogging, but also tends to throw mud onto the stanchions.
While MarshGuard was an early player in the flexible fender game, Mucky Nutz was the first with the Bender Fender. The Full Face is an evolution of the original, starting out flat, with clever folds which give it some contouring that follows the shape of your wheel to provide better protection when it's attached to your bike.
The guard pops out in front of the fork arch, and the fender comes with reusable velcro straps for mounting. Installing the mudguard is a fiddly process, so if this is the fender for you, grab a second set of hands.
SKS are well known for their road bike mudguards but now the German brand has taken to the trails with the new Mudrocker guard.
Made from impact-resistant plastic, the 490mm long fender is a universal design that comes with an adapter so that the fender can be fitted to different forks. If your fork doesn't have bolt-on mounts or you want to be able to quickly remove the guard, there is also the option to fit it using only velcro straps/zip ties. Designed for wheels between 27.5in and 29in, it will clear the best mountain bike tires up to 3in wide. The underside features trim lines if you feel the need to chop a bit off the end for a customized fit.
The Zefal Deflector uses a four-point mounting system with either velcro or zip ties, both are included and it's said to clear a 3in tire of any wheel size. Made from tech polymer resin, the Deflector is uber stiff and provides decent coverage in front of and behind the fork arch.
Mounting is simple, there's no faffing about trying to get it close enough to the tire to block mud, and it comes with customizable decal options to match any frame.
How to choose the best MTB mudguards
Are MTB mudguards worth it?
For the lucky riders who don't need to ride in the rain, fitting mudguards is far from necessary. For the rest of us, adding some protection from mud and spray can make a huge difference to riding in the wet.
While a lot of the guards on this list seem very minimal they actually do an impressive job of protecting the most important area: your face. Riding in the wet becomes far easier if you don't have half the trail spraying all over your face. Even if you are wearing the best mountain bike goggles, having a mudguard should keep your goggles fresh and vision clear to the bottom of the trail.
How are mudguards mounted?
Forks aren't generally designed with mudguards in mind, so it's up to the mudguard brands to decide how best to secure the fender to the fork. In most cases, zip ties or velcro are the fasteners of choice as they are light and easy to install; however, some of the hard plastic fenders feature a bracket to offer a more secure fit.
Will it work with your car rack?
Unfortunately, not all of us live next door to a trail center, and throwing your bike in/on the car is a necessary evil for lots of riders. Some of the best MTB fenders stick out in front of the fork arch and can get in the way of the telescopic arm which grabs the wheel on some hitch racks such as the Yakima HoldUp and Kuat NV.
Hard vs soft?
There are two schools of thought when it comes to fenders: hard or soft. Hard mudguards can usually cover more of the wheel and offer substantial protection from spray. With that said the install process is a bit more involved, they will often need to be removed if you're putting your bike on a car rack and not everyone loves the aesthetic. Even the most rigid hard fender will buzz your tire every so often and over time they may warp and become more prone to flex.
Soft fenders, on the other hand, are usually lighter, more discreet and seem to buzz the tire less, but in most cases don't offer quite the same level of protection as they aren't able to offer the same level of coverage.
How do you fit mudguards on a mountain bike?
The best MTB mudguards and their mounting bits are in the direct firing line of everything that's kicked up off your front wheel, if you leave any of these fenders on your fork for long enough they will rub the paint off your lowers. So before you fasten those zip ties, consider picking up some frame protectors or some electrical tape to insulate your paint job.
Use the frame protectors or electrical tape on all points where the mudguard will touch the fork, not just under the fasteners. Once the fork has been protected follow the manufacturer's instructions. Some guards will feature different mounting options so it's worth trying them out to find the placement that works best for your setup.