Everything About The Best Touring Bike Fenders & Mudguards

Have you ever had a brown backside after a ride? Have you tried fenders/mudguards?

Every time I ride a bike without mudguards I remember exactly why I love them. Fenders/mudguards keep me and my bike both cleaner and dryer than without.

Mudguards and fenders are easy to dislike, I get that. They can be fragile, they can bend. Some will bounce and rattle around making lots of noise, while others have the tendency to rub on the side of your tyres. Even after lots of adjustment they somehow always continue their rubbing ways…

I am here to tell you that good quality guards will NOT rattle, they will NOT rub, they will NOT be fragile and they will NOT bend. You will have to invest some time customising them to your bike properly (this is a great job to palm off to a pro mechanic) but the rewards will be plentiful, I promise.

And just to clear up the terminology: fenders, mudguards and guards refer to the same thing. Most people from the North American continent tend to use ‘fender’ while the rest of the world seems to have settled on ‘mudguard’.

Why Use Mudguards And Fenders?

Horse Cycle randonneur bike with colour-matching fenders
Horse Cycle randonneur bike with colour-matching fenders

They keep you dry and clean
Fenders stop water, grime and mud spraying into your face and all over your clothes. Even if you never plan to ride in the rain, a fenders job will continue long after the clouds leave as water loves to sit on the road. On bike trips, fenders make walking into shops, pubs and hotels a much more pleasurable experience for everyone involved. Oh, and if you wear glasses, you can expect far less scratches on your lenses.

They save you money
Fenders reduce the amount of grit that sprays onto your chains, cogs, bearings, rims, pads, brake calipers and cables – prematurely wearing them out. By keeping your components cleaner, they will simply last longer. Another bonus; you can now clean your bike less frequently!

They keep others dry and clean
If you’re riding in a group, fenders will put the water back on the ground rather than all over your friends.

What To Look Out For In A Good Fender Set?

Travelling in wet weather conditions in NE Thailand
Travelling in wet weather conditions in NE Thailand

Please note that more than 50% of what makes a good fender is simply how it is set up…

Coverage – The longer the fender, the more effective it is at keeping water and grit off you and your bike.
Rigid –
Rigid fenders are quiet and will not rub on your tyres. Metal fenders are often stiffer and more rigid than their plastic friends, but some plastic fenders use a metal core, double-struts and good-quality mounting hardware to keep them in place.
Deep –
A fender with a deeper profile will direct water flow out the bottom rather than the sides.
Adjustable –
To get the most out of your fenders, you need them as close to your wheel as possible. Adjustable length struts and fittings are essential.
Stainless steel hard wear –
You don’t want rusty struts and bolts. Make sure the mounting kit is 100% stainless.
Double struts on plastic guards –
 More struts equals less movement with plastic fenders.
Nothing sharp – Good quality fenders will have covers for any exposed sharp surfaces which will stop you scratching your skin and tearing your clothes.
Quick-release clips – ‘Securi-clips’ are a good idea for a touring bicycle as they allow the mudguard to open up if debris gets caught in them.


Image Source: http://danmitch.typepad.com/
Image: DanMitch

Fenders don’t always come with mudflaps, but they’re easy to fit. These flexible flaps at the end of your fenders will give you and your bike extra protection from water and grime; they shoot the water back down to the ground where it belongs.

Will Full-Length Fenders Fit Your Bike?

Bicycle Touring Fender Compatibility
Chainstay bridge, seatstay bridge, fork crown, eyelets.

You will need to consider the following:

Clearance – Do you have more than 15mm between your tyres and the fork crown, chainstay bridge and seatstay bridge
Chainstay bridge – Is there a small tube attaching your two chain stays? (Not essential)
Seatstay bridge – Is there a small tube attaching your two seatstays?
Drilled fork crown – Can you run a bolt through your fork crown?
Frame eyelets – Do you have eyelets on the bottom of your fork and at the frame dropouts? (Both not essential)

Touring bikes and many cyclocross bikes will have all of these things, and will fit full-length fenders rather easily. Road bikes very rarely have eyelets, but the biggest issue they face is too little clearance, making ‘clip-on’ guards almost always required. There’s one exception though: the excellent SKS Raceblade Longs. Again, modern mountain bikes won’t have any provision for guards, so clip-on guards (seatpost and fork crown) are a popular option.

How do you fit mudguards and fenders to your bike?

Correct setup
Fender setup is absolutely paramount for both the effectiveness and durability of your guards. The longer they are, and closer they are fitted, the better they will perform. Try and get an even space between the tyre and fender (fender line).

Reduce stress
Some riders have their fenders break after 1000km, and others have the same fender last 100,000km. Fenders must be fitted with minimal stresses to their structure. If you can, use spacers to make up gaps rather than bending them to fit.

26 and 650b wheels can often share the same fenders given their similar size. 700c wheels are significantly larger in radius and will likely require their own size. This is especially important for metal fenders, plastic fenders tend to tolerate a bit more.

Tyre clearance
You will need a 20mm gap between the top of your tyre and fender, and 5mm either side. Fenders are measured on the outside (not the inside), so subtract 10mm off the fender width to determine the maximum tyre clearance. Eg. A 45mm wide fender will fit a 35mm wide tyre.

Brake clearance
If you’re using road or v-brakes (rather than canti or disc), you’ll need to measure your brake clearance. Standard road calipers often clear 35mm wide fenders, long-reach calipers 45mm and XL-reach calipers 50mm wide fenders. V-brakes can have trouble with widths 50mm and up, that is one of the reasons why touring bikes still use cantilever brakes.

Axiom Axle Runner, P Clamps, Frame Using P Clamps, Velo Orange Fender Stay Mount
Axiom Axle Runner, P Clamps, Frame Using P Clamps, Velo Orange Fender Stay Mount

Don’t have eyelets on your frame and fork?
Have no fear, you have options to connect fender struts to your bike. Quick release axle runners by Axiom, Soma or Velo Orange are perhaps the most elegant option for creating eyelets. A more common option for those who have thru-axles or would prefer to use their frame as a support: universal p-clamps.

Mounting to the seatstay bridge
Sometimes seatstay bridges can have vertical or horizontal mounting holes. To use a vertical hole you will need to drill your fender. You can adapt a vertical hole to horizontal using an ‘L’ bracket. Axiom fenders use a seatstay bridge mount which is designed to be zip-tied if you don’t have a bridge at all!

L-Bracket, Single Shifter Mount, BB Shell Bracket, Presta Valve Solution
L Bracket, Single Shifter Mount, BB Shell Bracket, Presta Valve Solution

Connecting to the chainstay bridge
You will likely need to space out the bolt on the chainstay bridge to get a good ‘fender line’. If you don’t have a chainstay bridge you can connect your fender to your seat tube. The best way is often to drill a hole in the fender and attach it to a ‘single shifter clamp’. You can also make a bracket that connects from the BB shell. Or an even simpler way again is with a presta valve adapter, some rubber and tape.

Clearing and mounting to your fork crown
You fork crown may not be deep enough under the headset, so that’s where Sheldon Fender Nuts, Peter White Bolts or Gilles Berthoud Brake Nuts can come in handy by spacing your fender mount back a few millimetres. Metal fenders will often be designed to use ‘fork crown eye bolts’ so that they can connect vertically underneath the crown.

Sheldon Fender Nut, Peter White Bolt, Fork Crown Eye Bolt, Fender Flute
Sheldon Fender Nut, Peter White Bolt, Fork Crown Eye Bolt, Problem Solvers Fender Flute

Getting the front fender closer to your tyre
Problem Solvers Fender Flutes allow you to optimise your fender line if you need to, most commonly required on 29er adventure touring bikes.

Bending the struts around the disc caliper, using a fender spacer, mounting to the front rack eyelet
Bending the struts around the disc caliper, using a fender bolt and spacer, mounting to the front rack eyelet.

Clearing the disc brake calipers on the front
You can bend your struts around your brake caliper. The neatest way for single strut fenders is often under the caliper, and with double struts it’s out and around. Long bolts and spacers are available to clear brake calipers too. Another option is to mount directly to your front rack eyelets.

Clearing the disc brake caliper on the rear
If you have a rear rack that will allow it, connect the fender directly to your rack to overcome this problem. Option B is would be to use Axiom Disc Runners (or long bolts and spacers) which space your struts out and around your caliper.

Axiom Disc Runner, Fender Mount on Rack, Velo Orange Spring Thing, Suspension Fork P-Clamp
Axiom Disc Runner, Fender Direct Mount on Rack, Velo Orange Spring Thing, Suspension Fork P-Clamp.

Using horizontal dropouts
You may need a Velo Orange Spring Thing to get your wheel in and out easily with your well-fitted fenders.

Suspension forks
You will likely require p-clamps at the fork legs (especially for thru-axle forks) and zip ties at the crown if there is no bolt hole.

Metal or Plastic Fenders?

Metal vs Plastic FendersSettled Metal
Metal fenders look amazing and are often more effective than plastic options. Their effectiveness can be attributed to their longer and deeper design than most plastic options. If set up correctly, aluminium and stainless fenders should last a lifetime, but keep in mind that setting up a metal fender is not a simple task; it’s laborious and will almost always require lots of measuring and drilling. I’ve found that if you force metal fenders into place at setup, they will stress and eventually fail. Make sure you take your time, get the washers right and space them out nicely. In terms of weight, aluminium guards are often around 450g, while stainless steel is closer to 600g for a set.

Plastic Fantastic
Plastic fenders are easy to fit (30mins max) and you won’t need much more than wire cutters, spanners and Allen keys to complete the job. The most durable plastic fenders have a metal core which helps them maintain stiffness and durability. You can increase the effectiveness of plastic fenders by attaching long mud flaps. I’ve found that plastic fenders travel far better than any other option because they tolerate more flex; I simply undo the lower mounting bolts and leave the fenders attached to my bike when I fly. Plastic fenders often tip the scales at around 500g including hardware.

Fender and Mudguard Recommendations

The SKS Bluemels are a very reliable bicycle touring fender
The SKS Bluemels are a very reliable bicycle touring fender.

My preferred manufacturer: SKS. Why? They travel extremely well. They’re durable, easy to fit and quiet. I have four sets: one of them has done over 40,000km of touring around the world including 10+ flights, lots of trains, buses and cars, and it’s still going strong. My other sets have been on other touring/city bikes for close to 10 years, without failure.

SKS Bluemels – Stiff metal core, double strut arms, securi-clips, quiet, stainless hardwear, neat mounting kit.
SKS Longboard – Stiff metal core, the longest plastic guards available, suitable for tyres narrower than 35c only.
Bontrager NCS – No cutting required which makes them the easiest to fit full-length guards.
Planet Bike Cascadia – Longer than SKS, these all-plastic guards are another popular touring option.

Gilles Berthoud Stainless Steel – Very well made and with excellent fittings.
Honjo Aluminium – These are some of the lightest and best quality full-length guards around.
Velo Orange – Lower price than GB and Honjo, but still very neat.

Plastic Fender and Mudguard Manufacturers

Planet Bike Cascadia fenders are popular due to their longish coverage
Planet Bike Cascadia fenders are popular due to their longish coverage.

***Tyre sizes listed are the maximum width that will fit into each fender model.

Rainrunner 360 Reflex (700×40, 26×2.0)
Roadrunner LX Reflex (700×28, 700×45, 26×2.2, 29×2.2)

Central Full Fender (700×35, 700×45, 26×2.35, 29×2.35)
Cloudburst Full Cover (700×28, 700×37, 26×1.75)

NCS (700×25, 700×35, 26×2.25)

Plastic (700×35, 700×42, 700×45, 700×48, 700×54)

C-Lite Composite (700×30, 700×35, 700×40, 700×45, 700×55, 26×2.2, 26×2.35)

Stadtmeister (700×35)

Primoplastic (700×35, 700×45, 700×55, 26×2.35)

Planet Bike
Cascadia (700×28, 700×35, 700×2.0)

Bluemels Chromoplastic (25c, 32c, 35c, 42c, 2.0″, 2.2”)
Bluemels Chromoplastic Primus (700×28)
Raceblade Long (700×25)
Longboard (700×25, 700×35)

Rain Dog 26/650b/700c (28c, 35c, 2.00”)

Plastic (700×25, 700×32, 700×38, 700×44, 26×1.7, 26×2.0)

Tor Tec
Reflective (26×1.5, 26×2.1, 700×26, 700×35, 700×44)

Plastic 26/650b/700c (28c, 38c, 1.5”)

Paragon (700×32, 700×40)

Metal Fender and Mudguard Manufacturers

Velo Orange Facette aluminium fenders have a nice retro shape
Velo Orange Facette aluminium fenders have a nice retro shape.

***Tyre sizes listed are the maximum width that will fit into each fender model.

Classic Aluminium (700×32, 700×42)

Aluminium (700×32, 700×42)

Dia Compe
ENE Aluminium (700×28, 700×35)

Aluminium (700×38, 26×2.0, 26×2.35)

Gilles Berthoud
Stainless Steel (26×1.6, 26×2.0, 650×40, 650×50, 700×2.0, 700×2.35)

Fixed Guard (700×26, 700×39)

Aluminium (700×25, 700×32, 700×35, 700×40, 650×34, 650×36, 650×38, 650×42, 650×52, 26×1.6)

Full Metal Fenders (700×23, 700×35)

Planet Bike
Cascadia ALX (700×35)

Aluminium Fender (26×2.0, 26×2.35, 700×2.0, 700×2.35)

Plug n Play (700×30)
Globe Alloy (700×38)
Roll (650×2.3)

Guade Boule (700×32, 26×1.25)

Stainless Steel (700×40, 700×45)
Alloy (26×45, 26×60, 700×40, 700×45, 650×40, 650×45)
Hammered (700×36, 700×45)

Velo Orange
Smooth Aluminium (700×27, 700×35, 26×2.0)
Hammered Aluminium (650×35, 700×25, 700×35)
Facette Aluminium (700×35)
Snakeskin Aluminium (650×42, 700×42)
Smooth Stainless Steel (700×35, 26×2.0)
Zeppelin Aluminium (650×42, 700×42)
Fluted Aluminium (700×2.1)

Wooden Fender and Mudguard Manufacturers

Woody's Fenders are a work of art!
Woody’s Fenders are a work of art!

***Tyre sizes listed are the maximum width that will fit into each fender model.

Classic Wooden (700×42)

Bamboo (700×32, 700×42)

Planet Bike
Grasshopper Bamboo (700×35)

Made to order

Woody’s Fenders
Made to order

Carbon Fender and Mudguard Manufacturers

Latt Carbon Fenders are super lightweight and will add a bit of bling to your ride
Latt Carbon Fenders are super lightweight and will add a bit of bling to your ride

***Tyre sizes listed are the maximum width that will fit into each fender model.

Carbon (700×32, 700×38)

Clip-On Fender and Mudguard Manufacturers

SKS Raceblade Long Fenders are the best option for road bikes
SKS Raceblade Long Fenders are the best option for road bikes (Image MTBR)

Clip-on guards that mount 10 or more centimetres from the wheel don’t protect your bike, but will certainly keep you cleaner.


What Good and Bad Experiences Have You Had With Fenders?

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