When it comes to winter mountain biking, using a mudguard is an easy and affordable way to make it much more pleasant.
A good mudguard will keep water spray and dirt thrown up by your wheels off you and your bike, meaning you get to see where you’re going and get less wet, cold and mucky. It also means less mud sticking to your bike; so it’ll be lighter after a long ride and can also help reduce wear on bike components as well as your washing machine.
- Best mudguards: a buyer's guide
- Buyer's guide to winter MTB tyres
- 50 ways to be a better mountain biker this winter
Though there are many rear mudguards out there for mountain bikers, we think the front is much more crucial when it comes to keeping the worst of the muck off you and your bike, which is why we’ve focused in on those, rounding up five and rating them back-to-back.
Mudhugger Front Race
- £25 (£35 as pictured) / €34.00 (€40 as pictured) / $35
Like the name suggests, the Mudhugger hugs the contour of your front tyre, and thanks to a generously large overhang to the front and the rear of the guard it manages to effectively contain mud and water spray at both high and low speeds.
Thanks to the smooth inner surface it clears mud very effectively too, though the rounded profile means that with some fork braces — the Fox 36 in particular — it can sit rather low, limiting maximum tyre volume and reducing mud clearance. With most other forks it's perfectly fine; we even tested it with a Plus tyre underneath it.
The plastic is decently rigid too and when tightened down with the supplied zip ties it's very secure. At the top of the guard there are multiple mounting holes for the narrow diameter ties, so it's possible to get it running without any rubbing on a good variety of forks and tyres.
Using zip ties does mean that it's not possible to quickly remove it if you need to put your bike in the car and it's then that it's at most risk of being knocked out of place or the ties causing damage to paint work, though it was pretty tough even when we deliberately mistreated it in that way.
While the plain guard costs £25, if you'd like one with the stripey decals as pictured then you'll have to cough up £35, though you do get your pick of seven colour schemes as well as a reduction in cost to £30 if you stick it on yourself. At 83g it's a very respectable weight for a guard that offers this much coverage too.
Powa Products DFender
- £49 / approx $61
Sitting close to the tyre and mounting via a clamp on your fork’s arch, the DFender offers great protection, almost eliminating spray from the front tyre. It’s also very secure with very little wobble, even when riding in heavy mud. It clears well too, though at first the sound of the odd stone getting dragged through the guard can be off-putting and in really claggy mud it can start to fill up, though by that point most other designs will be struggling too.
The clamp has a rubber insert, meaning it won’t scuff up your paint unlike other designs that are secured with zip ties and the fact it secures with a thumbwheel also means you can whip it off in moments, especially if you need to put your bikes in the car. It’s a little fiddly to assemble at first and you need to make sure the small nut the clamp threads into doesn’t fall out, but once assembled and tightened down it stays put perfectly.
The clamp design is both the strength and the weakness of the DFender, as it requires a clamp specific to the fork you’ll be fitting it on. Powa Products currently offers mounts to fit all of the Fox Shox fork range and there’s also one that will fit to a RockShox Boxxer, Sektor or Revelation fork as well as another that will work with a Pike, Yari or a Lyrik.
If you do need another mount, they’re sold separately for £20, but if your fork isn’t on that list then you’re out of luck unless you can bodge something together.
Even if you can fit it to your fork, the DFender isn’t cheap thanks to being made entirely in the UK, though it has proved extremely durable and at 130g it’s not overly heavy either.
Muckynutz Face Fender XL guard
- £11 / $13.89
The Muckynutz XL guard takes the flexible mudguard concept to an extreme, offering coverage that extends a good way both in front and behind the wheel. That means you get much improved spray containment at higher speeds, though compared to more contained and rigid units it does let a little more through as it doesn’t follow the contour of the wheel quite as well.
In common with all flexible fenders, it works with pretty much all fork designs and there’s plenty of clearance, with it being highly resistant to clogging up. At just 37g it’s lightweight and the asking price is very reasonable too.
A plus point of the Face Fender is that it comes with Velcro straps to secure it, meaning it’s much easier to switch it between bikes than one that uses zip ties. The fuzzy straps are also much friendlier to paint and hold the guard securely enough to prevent any undue movement, though you can use zip ties if you really want to cinch it down tight. It’s made of robust plastic too and bends back to shape easily.
The Muckynutz XL guard is light and affordable, and with this XL model it offers better coverage than most flexible guards too.
RRP EnduroGuard V3 Large
- £9 / approx $12
There are quite a few of these flexible mini guards on the market and they’ve got a lot going for them, esepcially cost and weight. At under a tenner and only weighing 35g, the Enduroguard certainly scores there and it also does a respectable job of keeping muck from spraying up, though it doesn’t work as well as guards that offer greater wheel coverage.
While the guard offers plenty of coverage to the rear of the wheel and also has a dropped section to help prevent muck getting near your fork seals, at the front it doesn’t extend particularly far, meaning spray can be fired past it at high speeds. On the flip side, it takes up hardly any space, improving clearance, while it’s also resistant to being mistreated.
Thanks to the flexible design, it can be fitted to virtually any fork on the market and works well with tyres of all widths. The EnduroGuard also scores points for being available in two different sizes, depending on how much travel your fork has.
It’s secured with the included zip ties, so it’s not that easy to switch between bikes but then again it’s so cheap you won’t break the bank having one for each bike. The EnduroGuard can also be used as a rear mudguard with a different set of mounting holes.
We also tested
Topeak DeFender M1
- £16.99 / approx $23
This guard from Topeak is very much out of the old-skool moto inspired mould, with a large fender that mounts via an expanding plug into your steerer tube. It’ll cope with all sizes of steerer and this means it will also work with a Cannondale Lefty or any other upside down fork that has an exposed lower steerer tube.
The DeFender is made from hard plastic with a softer rubberised edge — which will prove more gentle to rider and frame should you contact it in a crash, though being mounted high up means it’s much more exposed to damage than a guard that follows the contour of the wheel.
The DeFender also flaps about rather alarmingly in use and because it’s so high up it also obscures your view of the front wheel, which is really rather unnerving when you’re trying to place it accurately on technical terrain. Some of the play in the fender is down to the fact that either blade can be removed via a small clip to allow you to transport it with your wheels out without damaging the guard.
Despite the flex and distance from the wheel, it does do a surprisingly good job of keeping water spray off you at all speeds, though claggy mud tends to get thrown about a bit more and also adds to the flapping about issue once the guard is weighted down. It's also nowhere near as good as the full coverage guides that sit close to the tyre. Being high up means there’s no way it’ll get jammed however. At 202g it’s no lightweight either, though the price isn’t extortionate.