Do Mountain Bike Fenders Work? Summary from Experts and Amateurs

Mountain Bike Fenders are essential accessories for riders. They may not be the most aesthetically pleasing bike accessory, but there is no doubting their practical importance. Whether riding solo or with a group and in all conditions, fenders provide several benefits at very little extra cost so mountain bike fenders do work. So, if you're wondering whether mountain bike fenders work, we’ll help you discover what the experts say in this article.

Mountain bike fenders, also called mudguards, protect a rider and their bike by reducing the spray of water, mud, and grime that is lifted by the bike’s wheels. This keeps the rider clean and comfortable while shielding bike components from wear and tear. 

Using fenders keeps a bike cleaner and lighter. Fenders reduce the amount of wear on your fork stanchions, fork seals, and other bike components. In addition, they help to deflect tiny gravel chips and pebbles and keep your drivetrain from getting caked with mud. Fenders can also help to increase visibility, as we outline in our article that provides tips & tricks to choose mountain bike fender accessories. Furthermore, you can find out if you need to add a mountain bike mudguard extension to your bike by reading up on our related article.

This article delves into all that you need to know about mountain bike fenders, from the benefits of using them to discussing different types and the conditions they are best suited for.

Should I Put Fenders on My Mountain Bike? What Are the Common Benefits of Fenders?

Mountain bike fenders are curved strips of plastic or metal attached above tires to protect the bike and rider from road spray. 

Put fenders on a mountain bike in order to make biking more comfortable by protecting the rider from mud and water spray, shielding bike components from wear and tear, and improving vision for the rider and people behind him.

Here are some benefits of running a quality set of fenders:

Benefit 1. Fenders Make Biking More Comfortable.

This book published by MIT Press explains that mountain bike fenders work by catching and redirecting water and dirt thrown up by your tires, keeping you cleaner, warmer, and more comfortable. They help protect your buttocks, lower back, legs, and feet from getting wet and dirty while riding through rain or winter snow.

Fenders make riding through harsh weather much more pleasant, making it easier to keep training even in adverse conditions. Conveniently they also reduce the chances of getting streaks of mud on your shorts and jersey, which can be a pain, especially with light-colored clothing.

Benefit 2. Fenders Protect Your Bike Components

Another major benefit of fenders is that they improve the longevity and lifespan of your bike and its components. Fenders keep your bike low maintenance by redirecting wheel spray from sandy, grimy, greasy, and muddy water which wears down moving components like the bearings, drivetrain, and brakes. Fenders also protect your bike frame from getting chipped by stony particles.

Using fenders like these will reduce the amount of mud and dirt your bike picks up and consequently the amount of cleaning, drying, and greasing you have to do for maintenance. If you are interested in working on your mountain bike yourself then you should check out our ultimate list of tools needed for mountain bike maintenance.

Benefit 3. Fenders Protect You and Your Fellow Riders

Fenders are a must-have for wet weather riding in a group as they keep your tires from spraying dirty water on other riders behind you. Your riding buddies or club-mates will definitely appreciate not getting soaked.

Your’s and the other riders’ vision will also be better using fenders as they reduce the amount of water and grit that is flicked up by your bike. 

When testing bikes that don’t have fenders it is easy to see that mountain bike fenders work and that they make a difference.
GCN tested fenders with morph suits to show the difference between having them and not having them. The conclusion: mountain bike fenders work really well! Image from Youtube.

For more reference, take a look at our related article explaining more about why you should put fenders on a mountain bike. You might also be interested in learning how to choose mountain bike fender width properly or what the five key mountain bike fender parts are along with their functions. Be sure to look at our related articles to find out more.

Do Bike Fenders Slow You Down?

Whether you frequently ride in the rain or not, you should definitely consider equipping your bike with fenders. 

Bike fenders do not slow down a rider because they are lightweight, increase aerodynamics, and maintain a rider's visual focus on the trail ahead. In most cases, riders can go faster using fenders than without.

As shown in this article from Rene Herse Cycles, most fenders are designed to be lightweight and help improve the aerodynamics of your bike. Additionally, fenders keep mud or water from flying into your eyes or onto your goggles and blocking your vision. Lastly, fenders ensure that you do not lose speed by preventing mud and grime from sticking to your bike’s moving parts.

What MTB Riders Say About Fenders

In general, Mountain bikers are positive about fenders and believe that they are definitely beneficial, as shown by comments on various forums and online threads. 

MTB riders feel that fenders are definitely beneficial for riding and add to their general safety. 

User “White7” on this thread from Mountain Bike Reviews Forum asserts that fenders, “look super badass” and that the user is, “at least twice as fast just because of the fenders alone.” “Bim6180,” says in this thread that he uses fenders, “mainly to keep my fork stanchions cleaner, especially near the seals.” User “Bjeast” writes in this thread that “on a wet trail earlier this year, I was getting dirt in my face! Added a front fender and no more dirt!”

Criticism is mainly outed in the context of their looks, “Mike Aswell” in this thread says that his “only complaint is aesthetic… but form should follow function… so I’ve left them on.” 

Literature on Mountain Bike Fenders 

This research article from IOP Science lists the requirements customers have for fenders, such as being lightweight, durable, safe, reliable, temperature-resistant, easy to operate and maintain, quick to disassemble, and easy to adjust. 

Overall the literature on fenders agrees on their utility. The book City Cycling from MIT even goes so far as to claim that fenders improved cycling as a mode of transport by making it possible to ride in normal day-to-day clothing. It concludes that fenders are the defining features of a utilitarian bike.

The Urban Biking Handbook by Charles Haine discusses how mountain bike fenders work and are common for urban riding on mountain bikes. According to the book, fenders are a priceless addition for riders living in a city with rain and snow, helping to block rainwater from splashing onto clothes and panniers.

Types of Fenders

Finding the right fenders can be quite challenging, but having suitable fenders is important to ensure that you get the most out of your fenders and that they protect you fully.

Fender types include snap-on fenders, full-coverage fenders, mountain bike fenders, and micro fenders. Full-coverage fenders aren’t normally used on mountain bikes except for commuting because they rattle, and they make it difficult to change tires.

This YouTube video walks you through the process. You can also check this video out if you’re interested in making your own fender which is discussed in greater detail in our article about how to make a DIY mountain bike rear fender. 

We will now take a look at the different types of fenders. 

Snap-On Fenders

Snap-on fenders like these, also called clamp-on or clip-on fenders, are the best choice for bikes without fender eyelets or ample tire clearance as discussed in our article about how to choose clip-on bike fenders for mountain bikes. They are versatile and can easily be attached to any mountain bike with rubber straps, Velcro ties, or cable ties. As a result, they are easier to switch between bikes than traditional full-cover fenders.

Snap-on fenders are great for riding on dry and slightly wet roads. However, they are not the best option for riding in heavy rain or on muddy roads since they do not protect from the spray as well as full-length fenders do.

Snap-on fenders do work but they don’t work as well as full-length fenders do.
Snap-On fenders protect you and the rider behind you from spray and grime. Source: Amazon.

Full Coverage Fenders

Commonly seen on touring bikes due to their sturdiness, full-coverage fenders are ideal for rough terrains, long one-day rides, and multi-day adventuring. They also make a tremendous difference when riding in the winter months. However, they are not the best option for muddy conditions as this type restricts tire clearance.

Full-coverage fenders are harder to attach to a bike than other options, however, they offer the highest protection on account of their length. Some options like these fenders even have a sturdy yet flexible mud flap at the end for added protection. Full-coverage fenders are most effective at keeping all the water and mud from your bike’s components as well as from any bags attached to your saddle. If you would like to know about saddle bags check out our article that looks at how to choose a mountain bike tool kit bag that locks.

Full-coverage fenders attach to your bike frame at the eyelets or mounting points. Before purchasing a full fender it would be wise to make sure that your bike can accommodate them. You should also take into account your bike’s tire width and clearance. Another handy resource to help you with this is our article that provides the steps on how to adjust mountain bike fender off-set.

Full-coverage mountain bike fenders work well because they offer the most protection from mud spray.
Full-coverage fenders are durable and can withstand a lot of action. Source: Amazon.

Mountain Bike Style Fenders

Mountain bikers favor these fenders because they fit high up onto the wheel, and onto the seat tube and down tube. This design is perfect for mountain bikes on account of their suspension and huge tires. While not as effective as full-coverage fenders, they still do a good job keeping water and dirt off you.

These fenders are particularly useful for riding over muddy terrains as they do not limit the tire clearance. They’re also easy to fit and detach, as shown in the video tutorials on the Mudhugger site. It should be noted that most MTB-style fenders do not protect riders riding behind you from wheel-spray.

Mountain bike fenders work well but do they not offer the riders behind you much protection from the mud, water, and dirt lifted by your rear wheel.
Mountain bike-style fenders fit high up onto the wheel. Source: Amazon.

Micro Fenders

Micro fenders such as these are a minimalist option for bikes without fender mounts or eyelets. This type can easily be installed without tools and can be whipped off in a few seconds. Most models, like these, are made of plastic so that they are simple to use, lightweight, and cheap.

Micro fenders are best suited for riders who mostly ride on level surfaces and in dry weather.  They are not the best model to use in heavy rain or when riding over rough muddy terrains, and gravel trails.

Micro fenders don’t work well on mountain bikes that are ridden over muddy and rough terrain.
 Micro fenders are a minimalist option for bikes that don’t have fender mounts. Source: Amazon.

 Summary of When and Where Mountain Bike Fenders Work

Here we provide a list of various mountain bike fenders and what conditions and trails they would be good for:

Riding Terrain Weather Which Mountain Bike Fender Works Best For This Weather? Example Product
Downhill with Mud During or After Rain or Snow Mountain Bike Style Fenders Rockshox MTB Front Fender
Cross Country in Summer, no Mud Sunny Micro Fenders or No Fenders at All Zefal Unisex's Shield S10 Mudguard
Muddy trails Rainy Mountain Bike Style Fenders Mudrocker Bike Rear Fender, MTB Mudguard, Glass Fiber Reinforced Plastic,
Rough terrains Rainy or snowy Full Coverage Fenders SKS-Germany Blumel Commuter II B65 Black Bicycle Fender Set for 700c or 29" Wheels
Wet roads During or After Rain Snap-On Fenders 700C Road Bicycle Fender Set
Gravel Roads Rainy or snowy Snap-On Fenders SKS-Germany 11311 Raceblade Long II Bicycle Fender Set
Snowy trails Winter Full Coverage Fenders SKS Bluemels Shiny Mudguard Set
Clear roads, pavements Cloudy Micro Fenders Zefal Unisex's Shield S10 Mudguard

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