If you want to ride fast along wet trails you'll need a front mudguard to keep your vision clear. With that in mind, here are the best mountain bike front mudguards on the market.

To keep your vision clear in wet and muddy conditions, a front mudguard is a must-have. They’re not particularly cool, they’re not exactly sexy and rarely do much for the looks of your fancy bike, but they do an essential job in muddy conditions keeping dirt and water out of your vision so you can see where you’re going. It also makes sense to pair a mudguard with a set of the best mountain bike glasses and goggles too. For dynamic riding and advanced trails, we wouldn’t recommend a rear mudguard. These tend to be vulnerable to damage and will often impede your freedom of movement on the bike. Better to get a good pair of waterproof trousers instead.

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RRP Proguard Max

RRP Proguard Max

RRP Proguard Max

Looks good and highly effective

Weight: 145g | Rating: 10/10

Pros: Simply the best Cons: Tad fiddly to set up perfectly

The ProGuard from RRP is a rigid polypropylene guard that comes in two sizes – standard and maximum. The standard is pretty big and offers plenty of protection, but the Max is 21mm longer at the front and 68mm longer at the rear so really ups the ante. It has a three-point fixing via the brace and fork lowers. There are 24 crown holes for zip-ties allowing it to accommodate a wide range of brace sizes and shapes and it’s compatible with 26in, 27.5in and 29in forks and (RRP claims) tyres up to three inches in diameter. The extended side mouldings also help protect the fork seals. To fit the Pro Guard, you do have to punch out some tiny holes, which is okay but there is a bit of trial and error getting it set to the correct angle. The Max size can also move a bit when riding hard and when sending it off a drop there was often a hard crunch as some part of the guard bottomed out on the fork/tyre. That said, if you want to ride 60mph through a peat bog and stay dry, this is the guard we’d recommend – dirt doesn’t get in your eyes, on your clothes, no matter how wet it is or how fast you’re going. Easily the best guard on test.

Read the full review of the RRP Proguard Max mdguard


RRP Proguard Bolt-On

RRP Proguard Bolt-On

RRP Proguard Bolt-On

Does away with wasteful zip-ties

Weight: 124g | Rating: 9/10

Pros: No more zip-tie eco-destruction Cons: Not available for all forks

Being able to bolt the mudguard directly to the fork brace eliminates the most annoying thing about mudguards – the zip-ties. These rub on the lowers, and crown and if you’ve spent a £1k on a top end fork you’re not going to be too happy about that. This guard bolts directly to the back of the fork brace using some small bolts, which are included in the packet for Fox 32, 34, 36, Marzocchi and Ohlins forks. Sadly you’ll have to do some tinkering if you want to try to fit it to a RockShox fork. We tested the Pro Guard Bolt-On on a Fox 36, and while fitting looked straight-forward, it turned out to be a fiddly job because we couldn’t really see what we were doing and the threads also had some dirt in them. Our advice is to actually thread the bolts in first to clean them out and also check them after the first ride because they do work loose. You can  tune the height of the guard by 6mm and the angle via two tilt brackets. Once installed it is reasonably stable, but it’s not quite as solid as the Max. The most noticeable thing is the noise caused by the rubber pads on the lower extensions rubbing on the fork legs. Eliminating the ties means the Pro Guard Bolt-On is incredibly clean looking, it’s also lightweight and offers maximum protection. If it had compatibility with RockShox forks we’d have given it a 10.

Read our full review of the RRP Proguard Bolt-On mudguard


Mucky Nutz MugGuard

Mucky Nutz MugGuard

Mucky Nutz MugGuard

Proper beefy mountain bike guard

Weight: 106g | Rating: 10/10

Pros: Good value Cons: Can buzz tyre on bigger hits

The MugGuard from Mucky Nutz is a front guard that fits beneath the fork brace and attaches using regular zip ties or QR Velcro straps. The latter are supplied on a roll, so you have to cut them yourself, but they do allow you to easily remove the whole guard after a ride. Three central slots let you fine-tune the fore aft position for different wheels sizes, and there’s also a recessed section under the brace to boost tyre clearance and reduce movement. We fitted the Mucky Nutz guard to a 29er using a 2.5inch inch tyre, and although it sat pretty close to the tread, clogging wasn’t a problem. However, the guard did hit the tyre from time to time, especially on harsh landings and bigger impacts. We’d like to see a few rubber/felt patches on the MugGuard, even if there’s nothing stopping you fitting some of these yourself. On the plus side it offers a ton of protection, and even riding on days with biblical conditions we remained spotlessly clean. We like the Mug aesthetic, it does not look like something you’d find on a Boris bike or hybrid. It’s a great value and one of a few that is truly removable.

Read our full review of the Mucky Nutz MugGuard


Crud Products XL Front Fender

Crud Products XL Front Fender

Crud Products XL Front Fender

Pricey but worth it if you need to remove/attach frequently

Weight: 145g | Rating: 9/10

Pros: The only option for car-boot bike-transport Cons: Can rattle and buzz over rough terrain. Not the prettiest design.

The Crud XL Fender is made from injection-moulded plastic and it attaches to the fork lowers via six thin rubber rings that stretch around the fork legs and are held by hooks on the opposite side. The rings a little bit tight to stretch over the hooks, and if you’re not careful they can ping off, but they do allow you to remove the XL Fender easily to stop it getting bent or damaged in your car. Unlike the RRP and Mudhugger, the Crud XL Fender is totally cut away in the centre with just two rubber flaps overlapping the fork brace. This means you can tweak the tyre clearance and adjust it to fit different wheel sizes by sliding the mudguard up and down on the fork. Two foam pads on the inside of the leg supports are designed to stop the plastic scuffing the paintwork, but you need to ensure these are free of dirt and grit when fitting because that can be just as damaging. Compared to the square moto styling of the RRP and Mucky Nutz, the Crud XL Fender is a little bit more tapered at the front, but it’s just as effective at reducing spray and splatter. Since it is fixed to the fork, the XL Fender tracks the wheel, and even riding it really wet conditions the upper part of our body and face remained spotlessly clean. On some forks the XL Fender does hit the underside of the crown at full travel, especially if you’re running it slightly higher to increase tyre clearance. This means it’s noisy and it also flexes on harsh landings, although it’s not alone in this regard. The XL Fender is a big unit, it’s also pricey but the best thing about it is you can remove it quick and easily, which is a godsend when transporting your bike in the back of a car.

Read our full review of the Crud XL Fender


What to look for with mountain bike mudguards:

Early designs mounted to the down tube, but these days all the best models attach to the fork lowers. This is because it’s close to the tyre, so stops much more spray and it also tracks the wheel as you steer, so you’re always protected.

The best guards are the longest and work at all speeds. If you’re riding slowly mud comes off the trailing edge of the tyre and is thrown upwards, but as speed increases it’s thrown further forward and you eventually ride into this spray. Having a mudguard that covers the full arc of mud trajectory is the best option.

Most modern mudguards use zip-ties to stay in place because it’s cheap and easy, but we’re starting to see bolt-on options and a couple of these new designs are represented here. Innovation often brings with it increased cost, and while the top end models can be over £40, there are really simple guards available for less than a tenner.

Mounting is (almost) everything

Mounting is (almost) everything

Mounting

In the past mudguards fitted to the down tube, but now the fork brace is the prime site for mudguard location. The common way to fit a mudguard is to drills hole in it and then thread through some zip-ties, which loop round the fork legs. Some guards use thin Velcro straps, so in theory they can be removed, although most aren’t. Several new designs bolt directly to the back of the fork brace, but only if the fork has mounting holes – some don’t.

Plastic rules when is comes to 'guards

Plastic rules when is comes to ‘guards

Material

Most mudguards are made from polypropylene because it’s cheap, light and easy to form. Some manufacturers use a 100 per cent recycled plastic, but it’s often the post-industrial stuff, not plastic bottles that you put in your wheelie bin.

Bigger or don't bother

Bigger or don’t bother

Coverage

The longer and wider the better. The downside of a bigger guard is it can flap around, and the more mud it collects, the more it weighs. That can have a noticeable effect on unsprung mass and fork sensitivity.

Fork protection

Fork protection

Scuffing

The usual method for attachment is to zip-tie the guard to the brace and fork legs, but they are sharp and can scuff the paint, so some guards come with rubber zip-tie covers. Others ditch these entirely in favour of thin Velcro strips or rubber bands. To stop scuffing and movement you can apply a couple of rubber or felt furniture patches (which you buy from a DIY store) to the contact points.

Wheel size

Most of the guards here fit both 29in and 27.5in wheels, but a lot depends on the size of your tyres. If you use tyres wider than 2.5in you may have to angle the guard slightly using a different mounting point.

Foldable or preformed

We’ve included two basic types of guards here – flat sheet foldable options, like the Ride Guard PF1, and moulded polypropylene guards like RRP Pro Guard Bolt-On and Powa Products Dfender. The former are affordable, don’t weigh much and fit a ton of forks. The latter have greater coverage and are a bit more robust.

Weight

We weighed all the guards, but it’s somewhat irrelevant because sticky mud and clay is quite heavy and the overall weight of your bike can increase by up 12lbs after a muddy ride, so a 50g increase is neither here-nor-there when you’ve got that to deal with.