Do You Need Mudguards on a Mountain Bike? How to Tell If They’re a Good Addition to Your Bike

Mudguards are an essential accessory for mountain bikes because of the benefits they provide to riders when attached to their bikes. Several riding clubs insist on mudguards as part of their rider etiquette rules. However, some riders question whether you actually need mudguards on a mountain bike. 

While Mountain bikes don’t need mudguards, they are highly recommended because mudguards protect the rider from mud, water, and debris that is propelled upwards by the tires by deflecting the spray down.

The disadvantages of using mudguards are the additional installation costs mountain bike owners will incur when putting mudguards on their bike frames. They could also cause the bike to lose momentum when in contact with mud or water. Poorly positioned fenders could damage suspension forks and disc brakes by getting caught in the system. Finally, they can make it harder to use a chain guide if positioned on the seat tube or at the back of the bike frame. 

Choosing whether or not to install mudguards on your bike is largely determined by the other accessories already on the bike frame, and the rider’s personal riding style. This article will discuss the pros and cons of mudguards to help you decide if they are a good addition to your mountain bike. 

Do you need mudguards on a mountain bike? No, however, you will need mudguards on your mountain bike if you would like to stop mud and water from spraying onto you and your fellow cyclists.
A mudguard will deflect most of the water and muck away from the rider. Image Source: SKS Germany

Similarly, you might be wondering when to replace a mountain bike chain. If so, be sure to read our related article for some tips and tricks on the matter.

Can You Put Mudguards on a Mountain Bike?

Mudguards are especially useful on mountain bikes because the off-road trails that riders often prefer are sandy, muddy, and wet. 

Mudguards can be attached to any mountain bike using clips, bolts, or zip ties. 

 As our article about whether you need mudguards on your mountain bike explains, there are several benefits—for the rider and the bike—to installing mudguards with good coverage.

While you don’t need mudguards on a mountain bike, there are different types of mudguards with different designs, and the design of the mudguard plays a role in determining the kind of tool needed to attach the mudguards to a mountain bike. For example, many mudguards with a long and thin design like these usually have a single mounting point and would require bolts or clips for attachment, while broader-designed mudguards like these would need zip or cable ties like these. Our guide on how to install mudguards on a mountain bike has several tips to help you secure your fenders to the frame and angle them correctly. 

You need broader mudguards like these on your mountain bike if you would like more coverage and protection from mud and debris.
These carbon fiber MTB mudguards can work on any mountain bike and are attached with cable ties. Image source: Amazon.

Do MTB Mudguards Work?

Mudguards will protect you from water, dirt, and mud splashing onto your face and body while riding, which helps keep your vision clear and ensures you get to your destination covered in less moisture. 

MTB mudguards work by protecting the rider from mud or water that is splashed up by the tires and improve the rider’s vision and safety. Use mudguards to stay warmer, dryer, and more comfortable when riding in wet, muddy, or wintery conditions. Mudguards deflect debris down. 

This article from looks a the humanization of bicycle design and how accessories like mudguards were created to improve the overall riding experience.

With mudguards, the rider can travel over long stretches of the trail clearly without dirt on their face and the taste of grit in their mouth, making the ride fun and more enjoyable.

Mudgurdas are needed on a mountain bike to protect the rider from splashing water and mud.
Mudguards protect the rider from splashing water and mud. Image source: siroko.

Are Mudguards Necessary on Bikes?

Mudguards are not strictly necessary on bikes. Not only do they assist with shielding the rider from muddy water sprays, but they also add an extra level of customization that many riders like. 

Mudguards are not necessary on bikes and most bikes do not come with mudguards installed. Mudguards are considered an accessory rather than a necessity and can be added based on the rider’s preference.

Our tips and tricks for choosing mountain bike fender accessories provide several ideas on ways to give your bike a unique look and feel. 

So, do you need mudguards on a mountain bike? Some reasons why mudguards are not strictly necessary on mountain bikes include:

Reason 1. They Don’t Affect Performance

Although the primary function of mudguards is to keep your legs and clothes clean, the more streamlined your body position on the bike, the lower your wind resistance, and fewer drops of water will hit your face while riding.

For this reason, it's best to ride without them in dry weather conditions and on rides where there won't be a lot of mud or puddles for you to splash through or if you're planning on spending some time racing.

Reason 2. They Don’t Diminish Wind Resistance

According to this article from the SAE Mobilus engineering research journal,  the aerodynamics of mudguards don't offer any performance benefits for the most part. If anything, they can cause you to be more aerodynamically inefficient when mounted incorrectly.

Reason 3. They are an Additional Cost 

While mudguards act as a safety measure by preventing your clothes from getting wet, they are just an extra expense if you don't really want them for your bike, especially if you don't ride in rainy or wet conditions frequently.

You don’t really need mudguards on your mountain bike if you ride in dry conditions.
Though MTB mudguards are a useful accessory, they aren’t strictly necessary. Image Source: Amazon

Should I Put a Mudguard on My Mountain Bike?

There is no definitive answer to this question as the answer depends on certain factors such as the type of riding, bike aesthetics, and the personal preferences of the rider. 

Put a mudguard on a mountain bike if the bike will be ridden in wet, muddy conditions during the winter. Don’t put a mudguard on a mountain bike if you’re riding in dry and sunny conditions or during the summer.

If your misgivings about mudguards revolve around cost, then we have a helpful article about how to make a mountain bike mudguard with items you can find around the house.

Below are reasons why you should or shouldn’t put a mudguard on your mountain bike:

Tip 1. Put a Mudguard on Your Mountain Bike If You Frequently Ride in the Rain Or on Muddy Trails

There are different types of riding, and some require a mudguard while others don’t. You should put a mudguard on your bike if you frequently ride in the rain or on muddy trails, wet areas, and winter riding.

Riding through wet and muddy areas without mudguards on your mountain bike means that you will be covered in mud.
Riding without mudguards means that mud and water will be sprayed all over the rider. Image Source: TrailSeeker.

Tip 2. Use a Mudguard If it Will Add to Your Bike’s Aesthetics

In terms of your bike aesthetics, while traditional mudguards are viewed as being ugly and a disadvantage to the aesthetics of bikes, there are newer designs of mudguards like these that are more stylish. If aesthetics matter to you and depending on the styles available, you can either choose to add or remove mudguards from your bike.

Tip 3. Do Not Use Mudguards If Added Weight Will Slow You Down

Typically, mountain bikes are designed to be lightweight and agile, and mudguards, also called fenders, might make them heavier and slower. Though choosing ones made from a carbon fiber compound like these will add minimal weight to the bike frame. 

Summary of When to Use Mudguards

Type of Riding Conditions & Requirements Recommended Mudguard Type Amazon Example Price
Rainy weather or muddy rides Mudguards with wide coverage and elasticity for flexibility  Enlee 2PCS Mountain Bike Mud Guard, MTB Fenders ~$15
To add to the bike’s aesthetics  Mudguards with interesting graphic elements and color Fetesnice Mountain Bike Fenders, 2PCS Front and Rear MTB Mud Guard ~$10
To avoid adding weight to the bike Carbon fiber mudguards Ryders Recreation Bike Fenders Mudguard Front Rear Bicycle Fender Set Adjustable MTB Splash Guard ~$30

Advantages of Adding a Mudguard to a Mountain Bike

While you don’t need mudguards on a mountain bike, riding with mudguards or fenders can be beneficial as long as your riding conditions and preferences require for you to install them.

The advantages of installing mudguards on a mountain bike include improving the safety of other trailing riders, improving the bike’s longevity, maintaining rider comfort, ensuring better control, and reducing encrusted mud on the drivetrain. 

This article by Siroko states that there are many pros to putting mudguards on a bike, which not only help the rider but also benefit other trail users.

Advantage 1. They Improve the Safety Of the Rider and Others Behind

Mudguards like these prevent water and dirt from splashing on your face, improving your visibility and reducing the risk of injury. Also, when the rider with a mudguard installed on their bike is in front of other riders, there is a reduced risk of mud and water getting into their face and eyes, which is just good rider etiquette. Many mountain biking clubs may even insist on mudguards. 

Advantage 2. They Improve the Longevity of Your Mountain Bike

Specific parts of your bike, such as the bearings and drivetrain, do not function well in water or mud and are prone to fault and damage when they get into continuous contact with water and soil and may even need to be replaced with a set like this

However, you can improve the longevity of your bike by reducing the amount of water and mud that gets into the vital parts. You can’t ensure that your bike is always dry, especially if riding in wet and muddy conditions, but you can reduce the amount of mud and water that splashes onto the bike. And by checking out our quick and proper mountain bike chain maintenance tips you can learn how to keep your chain and drivetrain going for longer.

According to this article from the International Journal of Innovative Science, Engineering, and Technology, with the addition of carbon fiber composites to bike mudguards like these, you not only improve the longevity of your bike but also have durable mudguards that have a long life and more tensile strength.

If you need mudguards on your mountain bike go for lightweight and durable carbon fiber mudguards like these.
Carbon fiber MTB mudguards are more durable and lightweight than low-quality plastic guards. Image Source: Pro-CarbonRacing.

Advantage 3. Mudguards Help to Ensure Rider Comfort

Riding is so much fun when you are comfortable, and it’s hard to be comfortable when you are wet and covered in mud. In wet, muddy, and winter conditions, mudguards can deflect most of the water and mud, so you can ride comfortably without being soaked and cold.

Advantage 4. They Help Ensure You Have Fewer Control Issues Due to Wet Brakes, Cable Housing, or Rims

Putting a mudguard on my mountain bike will mean you have fewer control issues caused by wet brakes and cable housing because the mud that comes up over the wheel won't have the chance to cover them. If components like brakes and housing don’t get clogged up, you'll be able to maintain much better control of your steering and braking.

Advantage 5. Mudguards Protect the Bike’s Frame and Reduce Resistance on the Upstroke 

Mudguards protect your bike’s paint job and expensive parts from mud being flung onto them by your tires as they spin out of every puddle you cross, with less resistance on the upstroke than on the downstroke (which creates more wear on the chain).

You can use a piece of black tape over your fork crown and cross plate to experiment to see how much mud is flung up by your tires. You'll be amazed and see it's not worth the risk of having that muck being  flung onto your bike and into the faces of other trail users, especially when it's wet.

You're a biker, and you may want to look tough and cool riding without a mudguard, but if there is another non-biker on the trail you might want to avoid all that mud being sprayed on them.

Using mudguards you won't have to worry about your frame getting scratched and covered in mud because the spray won't hit it as much and will hit the mudguard instead of your frame. That should keep it looking nice for longer than if you didn’t put one on.

You need to install mudguards on your mountain bike if you want to keep it in good condition in spite of riding on muddy trails.
Riding through muddy puddles is fun, and with a mudguard, you can reduce the amount of mud that clings to your bike. Image Source:

Disadvantages of Adding a Mudguard to a Mountain Bike

Despite their benefits, mudguards are not for everyone. 

The disadvantages of installing a mudguard on a mountain bike include the noise it can produce and the friction it can create with the tire when riding. Avoid both these problems by aligning your fender properly and tweaking it where ever necessary. 

Our summary of whether mountain bike fenders work provides both expert and amateur riders’ opinions on their effectiveness and will help you decide if you want to give mudguards or fenders a try.

Disadvantage 1. They Produce a Noise

When riding your bike along a trail, the uneven surface could cause vibration and this can create a clanging or tapping noise (depending on the mudguard’s materials) as you ride, and if you want a quiet ride, the noise might be annoying.

If your mudguards are a little loose they can also rattle as you cover uneven ground. This video from Global Cycling Network has some great tips for eliminating rattling sounds. 

Disadvantage 2. They Can Cause Wear and Tear of Your Tire

One reason you don’t need mudguards on a mountain bike is that ill-fitting mudguards can rub on the tires and wear them down prematurely. We recommend taking a look at our article on how to choose mountain bike fender width properly so that they don’t touch the tires. Ideally, a mudguard should sit at least 3cm above the tire to ensure the clearance is maintained in hops and jumps. You might also find interest in learning how to fix mountain bike mudguards that wiggle, so be sure to read that related article as well.

You need to make sure that your mudguard is at least 3cm above the tire so that it doesn’t rub against it.
A mudguard should be positioned 3cm above the tire to avoid wear on the tire. Image Source: gevshop.

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