Why mudguards at all?
A short time ago, I purchased a new bike. Well, it has to be done, doesn’t it? Bought with the intention of being primarily a commuter bike, it would need to be able to cope with the adverse weather conditions that a UK winter brings. Not surprisingly, then, the new bike I chose was designed to take mudguards. When I ordered the bike from chainreactioncycles.com, the specified mudguards weren’t in stock. Not a problem, I thought, since the bike was a popular make with accessories stocked by a lot of suppliers. So much for assumptions! The bike arrived and I have to say I am well pleased with it so far. Unfortunately, the mudguards were a bit more of an issue.
I attempted to order the specific mudguards from every website I could think of but, no joy! Every retailer was “out of stock”. By this stage, I was thinking there was some sort of issue going on. I spoke to a local retailer who actually called the company concerned. He was told that there was some form of production/quality control problem with the mudguards I was seeking and that they would not be available for some time to come. What to do now?
Which type should I go for?
The research into suitable after-market mudguards began. I have used “Crud Roadracer” mudguards previously (I think they were the Mk2 version) but, I found them to be extremely fiddly to fit with very tiny tolerances. They worked well whilst they were fitted but, when I removed them for the summer, I lost half the bits!! Ultimately, I couldn’t face the messing around to fit them again and since the new bike had disc brakes, the Mk2 wouldn’t fit anyway. Having continued to look around at the alternatives available, I fancied the look of the SKS Raceblades. I also spoke to a number of other people about them and everyone was positive. SKS are a German company and that probably helped in my decision making. After all, the Germans know a thing or two about quality engineering!
Finally, a decision.
Having looked at various styles and versions of the “Raceblade”, I decided that the Raceblad Pro XL was probably the one that suited my needs and bike the best. Scouring the online purchase options, I actually ended up buying them from a well-known auction website – they were new and just somewhat cheaper than elsewhere (my pockets aren’t too deep at present!). Anyway, the mudguards arrived as specified. They are quite pleasing to the eye. The quality is excellent, manufactured from high standard materials and really quite sturdy without being too “chunky” either. They took around an hour to fit with a fair bit of adjustment required to get them “just right”. There is plenty of advice (including downloadable manuals) on the SKS website as well as Youtube videos.
The “Raceblades” are compatible with disc brakes and can either be secured using the rubber straps as supplied or with cable ties depending on your preference (and probably the type of cycling you do?). The double hinged quick release fitting system also fits aero forks and is also compatible with direct mount brakes and thru axles. Not everybody likes mudguards on their bike (and I am no exception when the weather is fine) but, during the winter it is just more comfortable. I actually feel that the “Raceblades” don’t look that bad when fitted.
Ready to go.
So, what are these mudguards like in use? The answer is, exactly what I expected! They are solid and stable with enough “give” but, no creaking or knocking that I have experienced so far (the rubber straps probably need trimming in most cases to prevent the ends hitting the spokes). The rear guard keeps my backside very dry indeed – something I am very grateful of whilst negotiating wet, muddy Devon lanes. Due to the design, the leading edge of the rear guard does not do much to protect the seat tube but, that doesn’t bother me too much. The front guard is similar in that it only protects as far as the edge of the forks. That wouldn’t really bother me much either apart from the fact that in a head wind, water and muck does have a tendency to spray back at you. For some reason, the spray is low and hits you mainly in the chest rather than the face but, hit you it does. In the absence of head wind, the effect is not the same and far less of a problem. The pictures should show you what I mean.
Ultimately, I have to say that I like the “Raceblade”. The guards do a great job of reducing spray from the back of both front and rear guard, though. SKS do offer a “long” version of the “Raceblade” but, this does not seem to be compatible with disc brakes or thru axles. I am a little dubious as to how long the rubber straps will last but, I guess, only time will tell on that front. Despite the slight short-comings regarding spray off the front guard, this is a quality product that achieves what it sets out to. Once the guards are fitted (I used the rubber straps that came with them), they remove or re-attach in seconds with no more “tweeking”. They also don’t feature small parts that could easily get lost either. Those are big bonuses as far as I am concerned. I would certainly recommend them but, would add that you should do your research as to which style of “Raceblade” you should choose for your bike before purchasing.