A round-up of the best crud catchers

If you want to ride fast along wet trails you’ll need a front mudguard to keep your vision clear. Here are the top five very best mountain bike mudguards

>>> The best mountain bike mud tyres

Best mountain bike mudguards

  • Rapid Racer Products ProGuard Max, £26.99 – TEST WINNER
  • Zefal Deflector FM30, £16.00 – BEST VALUE
  • Crud Products XL Fender, £35.00
  • Mojo Defender, £49.00
  • Mudhugger FRX, £25.00
  • Mucky Nutz MugGuard, £24.99
  • Rapid Racer Products ProGuard Bolt-On, £35.99

If you want to ride fast in the winter you’ll need a front mudguard. 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.

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.

‘Buy Now’ links

You will notice that beneath each product summary is a ‘Buy Now’ link. If you click on one of these links then mbr may receive a small amount of money from the retailer should you go to purchase the product from them. Don’t worry, this does not affect the amount you pay.

Rapid Racer Products Pro Guard Max, £26.99

Rating: 10

The ProGuard from RRP is a rigid polypropylene guard that comes in two sizes – standard and maximum. As a standalone, the standard is pretty big and offers plenty of protection from trail splatter, but the Max is 21mm longer at the front and 68mm longer at the rear so really ups the ante – you could ride through a swamp with this thing and you’d stay clean.

Like most of the formed guards, the Pro Guard 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 (although not reverse arch) and it also gets a fork brace indent to increase tyre clearance. It’s compatible with 26in, 27.5in and 29in forks and (RRP claims) tyres up to three inch in diameter. The Pro Guard also features seal protection, which simply means the side of the guard is a little bit wider and lower to stop dirt and crud contaminating the seal area, and ultimately ending up inside the lowers.

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. It’s effective and reliable and works on any bike – easily the best guard on test.

Rapid Racer Products Pro Guard Bolt-On, £35.99

Rating: 9

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 Fox 36 fork, you’re not going to be too happy about that. To keep your fork pristine you have two options – ride without a guard or get Rapid Racer Product’s new Pro Guard Bolt-On. 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. Rapid Racer Products also does a hop up kit for Fox 40 and 49 and SR Suntour forks, but this will cost you extra dosh.

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.

The Pro Guard Bolt-On is available in two length and fits various wheels sizes. You can also tune the height of the guard by 6mm and the angle via two tilt brackets. Once installed correctly the Pro Guard Bolt-On is reasonably stable, but it’s not quite as solid as the Max and does wobble a little more. 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.

Crud Products XL Fender, £35.00

Rating: 9

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.

Mojo Dfender, £49.00

Rating: 8

It’s fair to say the Powa Products Dfender was the first brace-mounted mudguard that actually worked; everything previously was either down-tube mounted (like a Crud Catcher) or it was so poorly mounted or flimsy it would eventually rattle loose, break or fall off. The Dfender uses a machined aluminium clamp with a rubber shim that clamps over the brace and is secured with a thumb screw. Once installed it’s pretty solid and doesn’t rattle, and the best thing is you can take it off again when laying the bike flat in the back of car. An we’d recommend you do this too, because the plastic used for the Dfender can twist if you put a bit of weight through it. Powa Products says you can re-shape the guard using a bit of heat, but we’ve had no luck with that.

The flaw in this design is you need different shims and aluminium clamps depending on your fork. This makes the Dfender the most expensive guard on test, and £20 for a spare clamp/shim assembly is almost as much as some of the other guards.

Fitting is straight-forward and relatively speedy, but you have to keep an eye on the nut that sits in a recess underneath the guard, because it can fall out – do this in a field before a race and the chances of finding it are slim.

It’s not the longest guard here, but the Dfender covers quite a large segment of the front tyre, providing excellent splatter protection at multiple speeds. It also stops spray getting onto the seals, which can prolong fork life. It is very expensive, but it is the most polished and one of the easier guards to install and remove.

Mudhugger FRX, £25.00

Rating: 8

The Mudhugger FRX is a one-piece injection moulded mudguard made in the UK from 100 per cent recycled black polypropylene. Like the Rapid Racer Product Pro Guard Max tested here, it attaches to the fork brace and lower legs using standard zip ties – four are provided in the box. Several sets of holes are cut into the guard allowing various mounting options. Mudhugger says the FRX is compatible with 26in, 27.5in, 27.5 Plus and 29in wheels as well as tyres up to three inches wide, but we had to angle it slightly when mounting it to our 29er test mule, and you may have to do the same for bigger tyres.

Previous Mudhuggers we’ve tested have run a bit close to the tyre, and some have rubbed on the edge knobs, but we had no such issues this time out. It’s slightly shorter at the front the Pro Guard Max and Mucky Nutz MugGuard, but it’s just as effective at warding off mud splatter and wheel spray. You can also extend the back of the guard using Mudhugger’s (£6) MAX extender – an extra three-inch piece of plastic that you bolt to the end of the guard.

The plastic construction is a little bit more flexible that the two above, so this guard should bend rather than break if you happen whack it in a crash. It’s also lighter, which won’t matter when it’s clean, but you often gave a pound of mud sticking to a front mudguard, so every little helps.

The FRX is a sleek guard that looks even better with Vorova custom decals – available through the Mudhugger site. There’s not quite the mounting options or coverage of the Pro Guard Max but it’s great value, lightweight and dead easy to fit.

Mucky Nutz MugGuard, £24.99

Rating: 10

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 slot 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. That’s not a unique issue with the MugGuard – most guards mounted using zip-ties rattle and move, simply because you can’t get them super tight on the fork lowers. However, we’d still like to see a few rubber/felt patches on the MugGuard, even if there’s nothing stopping you fitting some of these yourself.

This one of the longest guards here and it’s also one of the most flexible, so does move a bit when hitting chatter or super technical sections. 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 looks like a proper beefy mountain bike guard, not something you’d find on a Boris bike or hybrid. It’s a great value and one of a few that is truly removable.

Zefal Deflector FM30, £16.00

Rating: 8

We tested Zefal’s Deflector FM20 previously, but the FM30 is slightly longer in the tail and crucially has a recessed section that sits under the fork brace and creates a bit more space between the guard and the tyre. Like the RRP tested here, the FM30 is a rigid Polypropylene fender with a three-point fixing and attaches the brace and legs with either six zip-ties or three thin Velcro straps — both are included in the box. The Velcro straps are useful if you want to remove the guard regularly for storage or portage, and the ties offer a more permanent fixing. To stop the sharp edge scuffing the fork, the zip-ties come with soft compound Rislan covers.

The back section of the FM30 is as long as any here, so offers good coverage at slow to medium speeds where mud is peeling off from the rear of the tyre. It’s only 120mm long at the font, which doesn’t quite match the RRP Pro Guard Max or Crud XL Fender but we only really noticed a bit of spray when absolutely blitzing it down a wet fire road. If you’re riding soggy bridleways or slippery singletrack, the FM30 offers more than enough coverage and splatter protection.

The FM30 has a bit of Euro styling, which means it’s not as moto as the RRP and Mucky Nutz, but it comes with three coloured sticker kits so you can do a degree of customisation. It’s fantastic value, and we really like the Velcro mounting options – it’s not totally quick-release but you can remove the guard relatively quickly if you have to transport your bike in the back of a vehicle.

Best mountain bike mudguards: the winners

Test winner: Rapid Racer Products ProGuard Max

Best value: Zefal Deflector FM30

Developed in conjunction with the Zefal-sponsored Polygon Hutchinson UR enduro race team, the Deflector FM20 is a rigid resin fender with a three-point fixing. Velcro straps and zip-ties are included for attachment — the Velcro is useful if you want to remove the guard regularly, the latter offers a more permanent fixing. Soft Rilsan covers stop the sharp edges of the zip-ties scuffing the paint on your fork legs, and a nice sticker kit is included to make the guard look pretty. The Deflector FM20 is compatible with all three wheels sizes and most forks. It has an extended front section, but we found it sits pretty low to the tyre on a 29er wheel, although the front section is quite flexible, so we never had any issues with clogging or it catching on the rotating tyre. Overall the Deflector FM20 is affordable, lightweight and offers good all-round coverage.

Mudguards are made from black polypropylene — they don’t look pretty or sleek but if they stop crap flicking into your face then job done. The guards that do this the best are the biggest, so why bother then with a smaller one? There are a couple of reasons — a smaller guard is lighter, more compact and, we suspect people fit them because they have a cleaner aesthetic. One of the best-looking guards here is the RideGuard and it’s available in some really cool designs and colourways.

The RideGuard is a plastic plate-style design that fits under the brace and it works well but it’s a little short. The same is true of the Marsh Guard and SKS Flapguard, but they’re cheap and the sort of thing you can just throw on in a hurry or leave attached because they don’t rattle or get in the way.

If you really want to be protected from wheel spray then one of the bigger mudguards is a must. There are several in this test — the Mucky Nutz MugGuard, both RRP Pro Guards, the Zefal Zelector FM30, Crud Products XL Fender and Mojo Defender. All are similar in length, so offer excellent protection against the elements, but what differentiates them is the fitting and price, so in reverse order we’ve rated them as follows.

With its metal parts the Powa Products Dfender is an excellent guard. It fits easily round the fork brace and can be removed quickly after a ride but the reason we’ve only rated it eight is the price — it’s almost twice as much of anything else — and if you want to get a second fitting kit for a different fork that’s expensive too.

Both the Mudhugger FRX and Zefal Deflector FM30 are great lightweight options that are easy to fit. The Deflector FM30 is easily the best value and the Mudhugger is one of the lightest but they’re the runners-up because they’re just a little shorter and don’t quite offer the same splash protection as our test winners.

Like the Dfender, Crud Products’s XL Fender can be removed easily following a ride, which is great if you have to transport your bike in the back of a vehicle and want to fold it flat. It’s not the prettiest guard here but it’s one of only two guards that’s height adjustable. It doesn’t get the win, though, because it’s noisy and a little pricey.

Rapid Racer Products ProGuard Bolt-on is the other guard that you can adjust to boost tyre clearance. We reckon bolt-on guards like this and the Syncros Trail Fender are definitely the way forward but not all fork brands offer mounting options, so you’re a bit limited in choice. In fact we’d like to see fork manufacturers get together and set a standard for mounting guards with a common fixing point. Will it happen? Unlikely.

The third QR option is to use Velcro straps like on the Mucky Nutz MugGuard. We like the MugGuard’s vast acreage — it just offers tons of protection — and it’s good value.

The ProGuard has a few more mounting options than the MugGuard and it feels a little bit more solid and has a slightly nicer gloss.
But that’s it — both are excellent mudguards and easily deserve top marks.

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.

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.

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.

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.