Stop us if this has happened to you before; you get home after an excellent day out, but wet trails have left you and your bike looking a bit like a swamp monster, and your significant other won't let you in the house until you clean up, resulting in a frigid spray down with the hose — just us?
If the trails are muddy where you live, a fender or mudguard will catch some of the water and dirt thrown off your wheels, keeping you and your bike cleaner and lighter after a ride.
While you could take an old tube, chop it up and zip tie one end to your fork crown and the other to the fork arch; viola, you have a homemade mudguard. However, the purpose-built models available for only a few bucks are considerably more effective, and some are even pretty snazzy-looking in appearance.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A FENDER OR MUD GUARD
While there are purpose-built front and rear fenders, in our opinion, a front fender provides the most benefit, so we've honed in on this and looked for the best options.
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; however, some of the hard plastic fenders feature a bracket.
2. With it work with your car rack?
Unfortunately, not all of us live next door to a trail centre, and throwing your bike in/on the car is a necessary evil for lots of riders. Some fenders which stick out in front of the fork arch also get in the way of the telescopic arm which grabs the wheel on some hitch racks such as the Yakima HoldUp and Kuat NV.
3. Hard or 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 and 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 tyre every so often and over time they may warp and will become more prone to flex.
Soft fenders, on the other hand, are usually lighter, more discreet and seem to buzz the tyre less, but in most cases don't offer quite the same level of protection.
4. Don't forget about your paint
Given these fenders 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.
BEST FENDERS AND MUD GUARDS
Ever wondered what those little bolt holes on the back of the fork arch on your Fox 34/36 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.
Unfortunately for RockShox, Marzzoci, and MRP fork folks, the Trail Fender is only designed for Fox 34 and 36 forks with Boost spacing — there is a separate version for the 34 Step-Cast.
The hard plastic Mudhugger FRX is made from 100 per cent recycled polypropylene and is designed to fit everything from 26-inch wheels and tyres all the way up to a 29 x 3.0in. The side braces attached to the fork legs with zip ties or velcro should you want to remove it when you get back to the car.
The FRX version comes forward a bit further to stymie spray at higher speeds, the faster you ride the further forward on the wheel mud sprays. Weighing 80g the fender measures 450mm, and there are three mounting positions. It clears mud pretty well too but can sit a bit close to the tyre on some forks.
MarshGuard was one of the first to offer a simple, flexible fender that slots in just below the fork brace. Designed and used by mechanics and riders on the World Cup circuit, the brand claims it has more race wins than any other mug guard.
It's light weight, easy to install and does well to protect stanchions and seals from gunk being flicked up off the front wheel, though at high speed it might not be quite big enough to keep your face mud-free.
For ultimate coverage, the Crud Fender XL is tough to beat. Made from injection-moulded plastic, the fender attaches to the fork lowers with rubber bands and can be fitted and removed in seconds.
It covers a substantial section of the tyre effectively shielding you from what's being flung off the wheel; however, it's a flexy unit and buzzes the tyre 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.
Blackburn's Barrier Mud Guard is another flexible mudguard that takes advantage of folds and contouring for added protection.
Made from recycled polypropylene, the fender comes with reusable velcro straps and will work with up to a 3in tyre. The underside features trim lines if you feel the need to chop a bit off the end.
Available in both standard (494mm) and a 21mm longer Max protection version, the hard plastic ProGuard comes in polished black with ten coloured decal options. With 24 mounting holes, the ProGuard allows for a metric ton of mounting options to accommodate different fork and tyre combos, all while keeping your sunnies free of mud.
As the inside of the fender is liable to pick up a bit of mud, there is an indent running down the centre of the mudguard to allow for max tyre clearance and features what the brand calls 'the seal shield' down the sides to prevent errant mud from finding its way onto your uppers.
The Zefal Deflector uses a four-point mounting system with either velcro or zip ties, both are included and its said to clear a 2.8in tyre of any wheel size. Made from tech polymer resin, the Deflector is uber stiff and provides decent coverage in front and behind the fork arch.
Mounting is simple, there's no faffing about trying to get it close enough to the tyre to block mud, and it comes with customisable decal options to match any frame.