Nothing in this world is certain but death, taxes and wet UK winters.
If you plan on riding regularly through the months ahead, then you need to accept that you’re likely to get wet. In fact, you will get wet. Even the best laid plans – checking the weather forecast closely to time your ride to ‘avoid’ rain – can quickly be washed down the road with an unexpected downpour.
Rain and low temperatures are a bad combination and once you’re wet it can be difficult to stay warm. A previously enjoyable ride can quickly become a damp squib.
Mudguards will go a long way to helping you stay (relatively) warm and (reasonably) dry on the bike this winter – but if you still need convincing, here are five steadfast reasons why you should fit ‘guards to your bike.
1) You'll stay dryer
First things first, we may be stating the obvious but only once you’ve ridden with mudguards do you realise just how much water and spray is kicked up from the road, and its contribution to how wet you are on the bike.
In fact, unless it’s really raining cats and dogs, you’re likely to get wetter from road spray than the actual wet stuff that is falling from the sky. No-one likes the feeling of soaking wet feet from water cascading off the front wheel or a soggy chamois from the spray kicked up from the back tyre. No-one.
And if you’re worried about mudguards ruining the clean lines of your bike, then consider the streak of brown sludge running up your back of your bib tights and jersey if you don’t have them. In fact, while it's no match for proper mudguards, something as simple as an Ass Saver will at least stop your rear end getting wet.
What’s more, the cold temperatures of winter also mean that roads stay wet long after rain has stopped falling, so even if it’s chucked it down overnight and the sky is now blue, you’ll feel the benefit of mudguards right through until you arrive home again.
2) Your club mates will be grateful
Mudguards aren’t only for your benefit, but your club-mates or riding buddies, too.
If you ride on your own and are happy to forgo mudguards then that’s all very well, but if no-one likes a soggy chamois then even fewer like being hit in the face by a jet of cold, dirty water when following a wheel.
It’s a sure-fire way to lose friends in the bunch, especially if you’re the only one on the club run who hasn’t got mudguards. In fact, some clubs and training groups insist that riders have ‘guards.
However, mudguards offer varying levels of protection for the following rider and the most effective way to contribute to the comfort of others is to have a full-length mudguards with a rear mud flap (some ‘guards, like the SKS Longboard and Bluemels, have mud flaps, while you can also make one yourself. A front mud flap will also provide additional protection for your feet.
But it’s not just you and your club mates who will feel the benefit…
3) Your bike will be grateful, too
Winter is a tough time for both you and your bike and if you place importance on a clean machine it will sometimes feel like you’re spending as many hours cleaning your bike as actually riding it.
However, mudguards will also make a contribution to keeping your bike clean, as well as you.
All that water kicked up by the road has to go somewhere and if you don’t have mudguards then invariably it makes a beeline for your drivetrain, resulting in a thick, stubborn sludge and corrosive road salt caked all over the chain, cassette, chainrings, derailleurs and brake calipers.
Of course, mudguards can only offer so much protection and your bike will still need plenty of attention through winter, but the investment you make in a set of 'guards is worthwhile.
4) You'll ride more
Staying warm and dry – and having the bike and clothing to help you do so – is a sure-fire way to boost you motivation through winter. More motivation = more miles.
That’s something of a sweeping statement, of course, and a hardy cyclist will ride whatever the weather, but if it’s raining when you wake up in the morning and peek behind the curtains, then we reckon you’re more likely to get out of the door if you’re not faced with the prospect of being soaked from head to toe within minutes.
For many riders, winter is the time of year to embark on what will likely be the longest uninterrupted period of training of the year, with the months from November to February or March reserved to rack up steady miles, ahead of next year's sportives and races - so you might as well do it in comfort, right?
Mudguards can also help improve your performance on the bike, too. If you’re wet and cold then your body has to spend valuable energy warming you up, thus diverting it away from what matters – pressing on the pedals. And if you’re concerned about weight, just think of the training benefit.
5) You can get them on (almost) any bike
Gone are the days when mudguards could only be mounted to bikes with the clearance and fittings for traditional ‘guards.
Full-length mudguards still offer the best protection and, if you plan on logging serious miles over winter and have the budget, then a dedicated winter bike with proper 'guards, wide tyres (25c, 28c or above), and affordable but hardwearing components, is a sound investment, particularly as it can double as a four-seasons commuter or light tourer.
However, if you ride your ‘race’ bike (that is to say a machine which doesn’t have the clearance or eyelets for full mudguards), then you can still fit clip-on mudguards, and while they may not offer as comprehensive coverage, they’ll still do a good job. The SKS Raceblades and Crud Roadracer Mk3 mudguards are the most popular options. In fact, there are plenty of ways you can prepare your ‘best bike’ for winter duty – check out our eight-step guide.
Clip-on mudguards are also lighter than full-length ‘guards and can be removed quicker if need be but, on the flip side, they can be fiddly and take some perseverance to fit, and, while most will be ok, not all clip-on mudguards will fit all bikes, so check if you can.
So, are you convinced? Yes, there is time and expense involved in adding mudguards to your bike, but we're sure you’ll be glad you did.