It’s that time of year again, the days are getting shorter, the temperatures are dropping and the rain is coming back. At least, for those of us in the northern hemisphere. While some of us might be putting our bikes away in favor of snow sports this winter, many of us will be soldiering on through the cold months putting up with damp trails because we love riding, of course.
One thing that can make things a little more pleasant during these months is the humble mountain bike fender. Coming in many different shapes and sizes and with a few different ways of mounting them, I’ll be rounding up a few different options, from cheap to less cheap, big to small, and a few in between.
I’ll put the mtb front fenders into two main categories: bendy fenders, and rigid fenders. Bendy mountain bike fenders are typically a lot cheaper and are almost disposable, though a good one should last a while. Coverage is typically not as good with bendy fenders, but they’re a lot better than nothing. Rigid mountain bike fenders are usually moulded, so they tend to hold up a lot better and can have much better coverage, but often come with a higher price tag.
Bendy Mountain Bike Fenders
1. Mud Guard Fender
- Pros: Cheap. Comes with zip ties. Two in a pack.
- Cons: Cheap construction and brittle material. Weird carbon texture (unless that’s your thing)
- Price: $10
- Buy from Amazon.
Starting at the cheaper end of the spectrum is the “Mud Guard” from Amazon. Coming as a pack of 2 mtb fenders with zip ties for around $10, they certainly are cheap. With a carbon weave type texture, they appear to be made from some sort of polypropylene material, but more brittle than other fenders. While they offer similar coverage to the tried and true Marsh Guard, mine broke on the first ride. My conclusion is that the cheap plastic was too brittle.
2. Fifty-Fifty fender
- Pros: Cheap. Comes with zip ties. Decent coverage.
- Cons: Holes in fender allow dirt/water through. Pretty thin/flimsy. Not the prettiest.
- Price: $9.
- Buy from Amazon.
This is another cheap one, we paid $8.99 on Amazon for the Fifty-Fifty mountain bike fender. These fenders seem to be made from a higher quality, more flexible material but it’s still pretty thin so I don’t expect it to last long. There’s decent coverage however and it has some guides printed on it so the user can cut it down if they wish. There are some etched lines in the fender so it can be folded into a square sort of shape, for reasons that I guess are mostly aesthetic, though I’m not really a fan. There are lots of holes in the fender for different mounting options, but this means that there are just more opportunities for water/dirt to make their way through since they’re visible when mounted.
3. All Mountain Style AMS Front Mudguard
- Pros: Comes from a reputable brand. No plastic packaging. Feels very sturdy.
- Cons: Not the best coverage. Style may not be for everyone. Didn’t come with zip ties.
- Price: $17. Many graphics and colors to choose from.
- Buy from Amazon.
All Mountain Style makes some pretty burly bike and frame protection products and the AMS Front Mudguard is no exception. While it’s about the same size as a Marsh Guard, providing similar protection, it’s made of a much thicker polypropylene and gives a sense of sturdiness. Available in a few different styles and using their own template it may not provide the best protection but it feels better than using some no-name knockoff fenders, and seems like it should last a while. Bonus points for the packaging being cardboard rather than plastic.
4. SKS Flap Guard
- Pros: Good coverage. Reinforced eyelets. Relatively inexpensive.
- Cons: More expensive than other options. Thinner than the AMS fender.
- Price: $16.99
- Buy from Amazon.
SKS is a German company that knows a thing or two about fenders. They make hundreds of different fenders, and most of them pretty damn good. The Flap Guard is their bendy fender and is made of a soft plastic, it feels softer than some of the other fenders on test but not brittle. The coverage is better than most and it has etched lines in it to fold it into a more square shape, which I chose not to do.
The zip tie eyelets on the Flap Guard are reinforced for strength. This is the usual point of failure on this type of fender, which gives me confidence that this one will last. The Flap Guard also gets bonus points for no plastic packaging, coming with zip ties, and being made in Germany by a proper brand. Good stuff.
Rigid Mountain Bike Fenders
5. Front Mudhugger Shorty Evo
- Pros: Incredibly tough. Bolt-on and velcro options. Excellent mud clearance.
- Cons: Not cheap. Not as much coverage as a bigger fender. Can’t convert zip tie version to bolt-on.
- Price: $28
- Buy from Wiggle.
Based in the UK, the folks at Mudhugger know a thing or two about mud. The Evo is a little different than their older style fenders because it has the shaping in the middle for the arch, which means it moves the whole fender up and out of the way a little so there’s a ton more clearance for mud, a bonus if you’re already pretty tight with wide tires. The Shorty is the shorter option, good for damp rides where it’s maybe not quite monsoon level yet, or for racers looking for minimal coverage.
The Shorty Evo is made from recycled polypropylene and molded to shape meaning it’s incredibly robust. Coverage is much better than a bendy fender and is a great option if you want decent coverage without the length of the full Mudhugger (see below). On test was the zip-tie version, and there is another option that uses velcro straps. There is also a bolt-on version available for those with forks that are compatible. Retailing at about $28 this fender is not cheap, but it has the strength to last multiple seasons.
6. Front Mudhugger Evo Long
- Pros: Incredibly tough. Bolt-on and velcro options. Excellent mud clearance AND huge coverage.
- Cons: Not pretty (but who cares). Can’t convert zip tie version to bolt-on. Not cheap.
- Price: $40
- Buy from Wiggle.
The Mudhugger Evo Long is of course the longer version of the Shorty and has the same great features: made from molded recycled polypropylene, available bolt-on or zip-tie-on, has bags of mud clearance, and is made tough. With the extra length, the Evo Long does look a little more awkward which may be enough to put some people off, however for miserable wet winter rides it does an incredible job of keeping the rider’s face dry and clean. A long front fender like this is a game changer when compared to a shorter, bendy fender and is in my opinion essential for proper winter riding. Retailing at $40 and $42 for the bolt-on version, it costs a bit more than the Shorty, but you do get more for your money.
7. SKS Mudrocker Front Fender
- Pros: Big Coverage. Fastens with velcro straps. Can bolt to arch of Fox/Rockshox.
- Cons: The most expensive fender on test. Divisive styling.
- Price: $44
- Buy from REI.
The Mudrocker is the premium rigid mtb front fender option from German brand SKS. Similar in design to the Mudhugger fenders it’s constructed from molded plastic. The Mudrocker is about as big as they get and again provides impressive coverage with very little making its way past on even the wettest days. The styling is not quite to everyone’s taste, and that’s really my only complaint — it looks a little too Robocop for me. Otherwise it does a great job, is sturdy, and feels like it should last a long time.
At $44, it costs $2 more than the Mudhugger options but it comes with rubberized velcro straps to fasten it to the lower legs that make less of a mess of the paintwork than zip ties, and on the arch it can be strapped again or it can be bolted to the arch of the fork with a flippable and removable plastic piece that works with both Fox forks and Rockshox. These pieces are included with the fender rather than having to be purchased separately.