to Keep Road Spray Out of Yours and Everyone Else's
Reviewed & Compared
by Daniel Atlas
Poor weather doesn’t mean you have to leave your bike in the garage rather than bike to work. However, bike commuting in the rain does require making a few adjustments to your ride to stay dry.
One of the most important additions you can make to your bike is a set of bike fenders to protect you from water being thrown upward by your wheels.
In this article, we’ll help you find the best bike fenders for commuting.
When it comes to finding the best fenders for your commuter bike, you need to make sure that the fenders you choose will be able to attach to your bike as well as provide enough coverage to prevent you from getting wet.
The first thing you need to consider when choosing a set of bike fenders is what type of fenders you need.
Full fenders provide the greatest level of protection from water and road debris since they are designed to cover your entire front and rear tires. Most sets of full fenders are relatively heavy duty and come with two or more sets of struts to hold the fender in place above your tire. Keep in mind when choosing a set of full fenders that most will need to be attached to both the wheel hub and an attachment point on your bike frame – usually, a set of eyelets drilled into the downtube and rear fork of your bike.
Partial fenders are similar to full fenders but don’t cover the entirety of the front and rear wheels. Partial fenders can be a great option when your commuter bike doesn’t offer enough clearance between the frame and the wheels to fit a set of full fenders.
However, note that most partial fenders still require a set of eyelets in the frame to attach securely to your bike.
Whenever using full or partial fenders, it’s important to remember that your fender will be near your wheel. This means that mud and road debris can build up underneath your fender and cause friction with your wheel if you don’t clean them out occasionally, slowing you down and impeding your bike’s handling.
Clip-on fenders are often the best option for bikes that don’t have pre-drilled eyelets to accept a set of full or partial fenders. Also known as mudguards, these rain shields are designed to clip directly onto your seat post or front fork to prevent water from being thrown up at you.
For many commuters who live in dry climates where fenders are rarely necessary, it is possible to leave a set of clip-on fenders at the office for the rare occasions when you need them and ride without fenders most of the time.
Front guards are another option to protect yourself from rain, to be used in conjunction with a rear mudguard. These guards are smaller than typical front mudguard and sit on your bike’s downtube to prevent water from coming up at your stomach. While front guards will keep you drier than having no fender at all, you’ll want to add a more substantial fender to your bike if you expect a lot of rain during your commute. In especially hard rains, it can be worthwhile to combine a front guard with a partial or full front fender to provide extra protection from water being spun up by your front wheel.
In most cases, a set of fenders will become a near-permanent fixture on your commuter bike – so you want to make sure to invest in a quality set.
The length and width of the fenders or mudguards you add to your commuter bike is a large determinant of how well your fenders will work for you. Longer, wider fenders and mudguards will provide more coverage and keep you drier since they are better at channeling water.
But, they can also interfere with your riding style and may detract from the style of your bike since they are quite conspicuous.
The durability of your fenders is also important. In general, a more rigid fender with more struts between the fender and wheel hub is likely to last longer. Having more struts will also reduce the likelihood that your fender will shake and rattle, which can be irritating every time you ride.
If you want a fender that will last nearly forever, consider upgrading from a standard plastic fender to a synthetic carbon fender.
Mounting fenders isn’t terribly difficult, especially if you’re opting for clip-on mudguards. However, if you don’t have a set of bike tools, they can be difficult to take on and off and to mount onto the wheel hub.
In that case, take your bike and your new fenders to your local bike shop where they will be able to mount the fenders for a small fee.
When it comes to staying as dry as possible in a heavy downpour on your ride to work, there’s no substitute for a set of full fenders. While full fenders are notoriously difficult to attach to a bike and are known to rattle around, the SKS Raceblade Pro fenders have few of these issues and offer a high degree of protection from water and road debris.
These fenders are adaptable to a wide variety of commuter bikes since they don’t depend on eyelets or even connecting to the wheel hubs. Instead, the fenders use a set of rubber straps that are designed to cinch down on the front and rear forks.
This allows them to be taken on and off rather easily and to be used on bikes that have disk brakes as well as caliper brakes. Somewhat surprisingly given this minimal attachment system, the fenders don’t rattle around at all and won’t budge when riding over a bumpy road.
It is worth noting that the fenders are designed specifically for a road bike and hybrid wheels since they are just 25 mm wide, but thankfully they can fit a wide variety of wheel diameters up to 28 inches. The secret behind this versatility is that the diameter of the fenders themselves is adjustable – the unique design allows you to adjust the length of the stays to get the distance between the fender and the wheel perfect.
As for keeping you dry, these fenders have the length to get the job done well. They also include rubberized mud flaps at the rear end of each fender to help prevent water from being kicked up towards your body or towards any bikers behind you.
Another favorite full-wrap fender option is this set from Planet Bike, which is long enough to eliminate water and road debris kick-up during your commute virtually. Beyond the ends of the fenders, there are even a set of mud flaps to further reduce water spray at your belly or cyclists behind you.
Unlike other full fender sets, these fenders are wide enough to work with any tires ranging from skinny road tires to relatively wide mountain bike tires. However, note that these fenders are designed to be attached to your bike’s frame with pre-drilled eyelets. If you do not have eyelets, the pre-installed hardware on the fender can be secured to the bike using a set of zip ties around your caliper brakes.
These fenders are only designed to fit tires up to 26 inches in diameter and can start to rub against your tires even when affixed properly. However, the advantage to this relatively small diameter design is that the fenders can be used beneath a rear rack and will prevent water from being sprayed up at your panniers as well.
One of the downsides to this fender set is that they only have two sets of relatively narrow stays. This allows the fenders to rattle around when riding over a bumpy road, although thanks to being connected to the eyelets on your frame they won’t fall off.
If you’re in the market for a pair of fenders for your commuter bike but don’t want to break the bank, the Cruiser fenders from Sunlite are an affordable option to protect yourself from rain and road debris.
These affordable full-wrap fenders are made of steel, which makes them heavier than many of the other options available but also lends them durability unrivaled by most plastic fenders.
The fenders are also quite long and, though they lack the mud flaps found on other full fenders, are quite effective at channeling water away from your body.
The fenders are a 75 mm wide, making them somewhat overkill for skinny road bike tires but the perfect width to cover wider hybrid and mountain bike tires. However, if you are commuting on a mountain bike beware that the fenders are designed to fit tires smaller than 26 inches in diameter.
One advantage to these fenders is that they don’t require pre-drilled eyelets to attach to your bike, instead of connecting to the axles on the front and rear wheel.
However, be prepared to take the fenders off and put them back on if you have to change a flat tire – which also means you’ll need to carry the extra tools to do so.
The other downside to connecting directly to the axle is that the fenders will rattle when riding on the bumpy road, even if they are firmly attached to the bike.
If you want a simple mudguard rather than a full or partial fender set, there are few options better than this rear mudguard from SKS. The mudguard attaches directly to the seatpost, making it compatible with nearly any commuter bike and rear wheel.
The seatpost attachment also means that taking the mudguard on and off is easy if you don’t want to ride with it when the forecast calls for sunny weather, and it won’t get in the way if you want to ride with a rear rack and panniers.
However, keep in mind that you won’t be able to ride with your flat kit under the bike seat while the mudguard is attached.
At only 140 grams, this mudguard is also a great option for commuters who want to get in their cycling workout on their commuter bike without getting soaked or being slowed down.
The “backscratcher” bent design does an excellent job of keeping water off of both the seat of your pants and your back. Just remember that you’ll want to pair the mudguard with a front guard or front fender to ward off spray from your front wheel, and be aware that any cyclists behind you can still receive spray from your back wheel.
Another advantage to this mudguard is that it is made of shock-resistant plastic, lending it durability as well as quiet – it won’t make any noise even when your bike is bouncing over gravelly roads.
This simple clip-on fender from Blackburn is designed to easily attach and detach to the seatpost of any commuter bike, making it a great choice for riders who don’t want to deal with the hassle of a full fender set.
Like all rear mudguards, it is important to remember that this fender won’t do anything to protect your front side from spray from your front wheel – so you’ll want to pair it with a front guard or front fender.
That said, this mudguard is extremely secure when cinched down on the seatpost and won’t move or rattle when riding through bumpy terrain.
Although the stem of the fender is somewhat narrow, which can allow water to get through to your butt if you have wide mountain bike wheels, the bulk of the mudguard is wide enough to provide adequate coverage for nearly any rear wheel and is quite effective at channeling water.
The fender is constructed from relatively inexpensive plastic as a weight-saving measure, so it is sturdy enough for daily riding but doesn’t expect it to survive a crash. Also, if you commute in a group, keep in mind that this mudguard will not prevent water from your rear wheel from being sprayed up at riders behind you.
If your bike frame does not have pre-drilled eyelets to attach your fenders to the frame, you have a couple of options. First, you can choose a fender set that attaches to the rear and front forks rather than to an eyelet opening. Alternatively, you can opt for a set of mudguards or partial fenders that can be clipped on to the frame of your commuter bike. If you are determined to make a set of full fenders work without having an eyelet, it is typically possible to use zip ties to secure the fenders in place.
It depends. Mudguards work well in light rains or for protecting you from sitting water on the road, but they are not intended to provide the same level of effectiveness at blocking and channeling away water as full or partial fenders. If you live in an area that gets a lot of rain, it’s worth investing in a set of full or partial fenders.
Yes! If you only have a fender or mudguard over one wheel, the other wheel will spray water up at you. Over a long commute or in heavy rain, that can leave you as soaked as if you had no fenders at all. If you are having trouble finding a fender set that will fit both of your wheels, consider using a clip-on mudguard or a front guard instead of full or partial fenders.
If you are opting for a set of full fenders, the size of your wheel matters a lot. If your fender is roughly the same diameter as your wheel, there will not be enough clearance, and you will suffer from friction against the wheel. If the fender is too large, water will spray around it and get you wet.
Some fenders, like the SKS Raceblade Pro fender set, are adjustable to fit wheels of multiple diameters. Otherwise, measure the diameter of your bike’s wheels and choose a set of fenders that are designed to fit that diameter.
Although any of the commuter bike fenders and mudguards we reviewed will help keep you dry during your ride to work, for the ultimate protection from water and road debris, we feel the SKS Raceblade Pro Fender Set is the overall best bike fender for commuting.
This fender set provides full-wrap coverage for both the front and rear wheels and does not require pre-drilled eyelets in your bike’s frame to attach to the bike. Also, the stays are adjustable in length so that these fenders will fit any wheels up to 28 inches in diameter.
However, keep in mind that these fenders are relatively narrow and so will only fit skinny road tires and narrow hybrid tires.
While these fenders are somewhat more expensive than other options, they also promise to last for years of riding thanks to the sturdy plastic construction and rubberized mud flaps and attachment points.
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