MUD HUGGER GRAVEL HUGGER MUDGUARDS
300g £48 pr
The Mud Hugger Gravel Hugger Mudguards are aimed at gravel riders looking to protect themselves and to a lesser extent, their machines from the lion’s share of gloopy, wet stuff. I rate them for general riding, too - say on a cyclo-cross bike earning its keep as a winter/commuter. Effective and solidly made, styling divides opinion. I quickly warmed to their slightly industrial lines. Those of a more conservative taste pulled faces.
Pros: Solid materials, great coverage, comprehensive fitting kit.
Cons: Styling may divide opinion.
The guards are made from a recycled Polypropylene mix, designed to bend and contort without losing shape, or fracturing. Chemical and UV resistant, they measure 46cm front 56cm rear, come in any colour you like so long as it’s satin black, and promise to accommodate 700x50c. Both feel reassuringly sturdy and flex free. The rear is drilled to entertain beefy cables ties, the front features lugs and attaches to the fork legs via rubber “doughnuts” for an almost universal fit.
This is equally comprehensive and of similar quality. Thoughtfully, Mud Hugger include generous helpings of “helicopter” tape to protect paint - just prune to shape, ensure the surfaces are surgically clean and smooth down. The front’s choice of ‘o’rings is similarly comprehensive and the quality’s top-notch, too. The rear tethers to the seat stays by a series of cable ties, continuing that universal fit ‘em when they arrive narrative. Those supplied are of decent quality, but I exchanged ours for a slightly broader diameter (a) since I could (b) I wanted to check aftermarkets would play nicely, later down the line - if you’ve removed the guards say for a major service, or re-spray.
Test Bike & Minor Considerations
My fixed gear winter/trainer is essentially a cyclo-cross frameset with track ends and (120mm) spacing. Rubber wise, 35mm, 50mm up front. Over the years, I’ve run it with traditional, full-length chrome plastics but this also limits tyre size, especially at the rear triangle. Wheel removal, say tackling a roadside flat also meant loosening the stay hardware - inconvenient at the best of times, let alone on a cold January night in the arse end of nowhere.
The bike in question runs a single brake - disc up front, so no clearance hassles. A moot point with more contemporary cyclo-cross, adventure and gravel bikes, the frames’ wishbone rear triangle can also require lateral thought and a smattering of ingenuity when fitting guards.
The absence of a rear stopper mean I could mount the Gravel Hugger just proud. However, might be worth checking clearance on a geared, old-school crosser. Again, though hardly pencil thin, the 4130 seat stays are also slightly leaner than some. Hence, I opted for slightly stockier 3.5mm aftermarket ties. More involved than some clip-ons in the time stakes but those 15 minutes are a small price to pay.
I’ve gone up to 42mm up front and 35mm at the rear. No clearance or clogging issues whatsoever, and protection has been impressive, even on some torrentially wet rides. I could hear the tyres swoosh through the standing water but, aside from getting soggy feet, after a couple of hours, I wasn’t conscious of spray hitting my legs, buttocks, or lower back. I’m also pleased to report that, while some stray flecks have settled atop the front section, I’m yet to sport the “crosser’s face pack”.
Talking of which, this genre of mudguard is geared to protect the rider first, bike second. I’d expected the seat tube to be blasted with organic and bovine deposit, chain stays, bottom bracket shell, seat stays, and inner fork legs streaked with silty tidemarks. True, there were traces but I was astonished to find the seat tube largely unscathed.
Knobblies, even subtle patterns, such as these Soma Fabrications Shokiro were a little more conducive to this fling but nothing outlandish. They also accumulated a thicker layering of clingy clay soil but no fouling issues.
The lion’s share was restricted to the gravel hugger’s undersides. Switching to narrower (35 and 32mm sections) improved matters further. They will discourage wheel sucking, but might not be the most conducive to sociable, group outings but given their length and low profile, protection is noticeably better than post mounted models.
The same goes for wind resistance. On blustery 5am blasts, I’ve not been aware of annoying buffeting. Ditto chatter, or sway. The polypropylene will contort slightly, deflecting sticks, twigs and other potential random fouling matter that can cause a spill, or at best warp the guards over time.
That’s no cue for complacency, mind. Helicopter tape offers good insurance but don’t get complacent, rinse that crunchy peanut butter that collects around the fork legs. Otherwise, it’ll still gnaw through 2k and even acrylic powder coat lacquers, withy ninja-like stealth.
Five weeks and 500 autumn miles is a little early to say anything conclusive about their durability. Extremes of temperature, changing seasons, exposure to derv, salt and similar witches’ brews will reveal more. However, thus far they feel reassuringly solid and clean up nicely, with no hint of discolouration or patina.
At £47.99 SKS Speed Rocker Mudguard Set are arguably the gravel hugger’s closest rival. The front guard is much closer in profile and length to a traditional road design, and both employ stays. Claimed weight is 408g for the set but 44mm tyres are your lot.
Ass Savers Fendor Bendor Detour Big Mudguard is a bit of a mouthful but has a similar profile to the rear Mudhugger Gravel Hugger, attaches to the frame via Velcro and reckoned to cope with 55mm.
Zefal No Mud are a universal design, aimed at MTB and gravel audiences. At one end they are designed to accommodate tyres up to 2.4 inches and suspension forks. Zefal says they will also fit 700c and entertain 47mm sections. £16.99 apiece, £32 per pair, which is a good bit cheaper than the Gravel Hugger. However, fitting is more involved and their distinctly MTB heritage may alienate some.
Gravel is a growing market and genre specific mudguards are coming on stream. Those seeking something less “industrial” may find the SKS Speed Rocker a better fit. Riders on a tighter budget may find the Ass Savers Fendor Bendor Detour Big Mudguard offer better bang for buck. Nonetheless, while the Mud Hugger Gravel Hugger are at the upper end pricewise, materials and performance reflect this.