Gear Guide: 10 Fenders for Sloppy Winter Mountain Biking


About This Review

Living in the Pacific Northwest, riding with a front mud fender year round is pretty common. Fall through Spring is fairly wet and muddy, and summer conditions are unpredictable. Not only do fenders reduce the amount of spray flying off the wheel and up towards your face, but they protect your fork stanchions and seals from abrasive contaminants, and help keep your bridge from getting caked with mud. A fender can benefit both the "I never wash my bike" to the "I wipe down after every puddle" ends of the spectrum. Most of us non-millennials started using some type of DIY front fender years ago. I clearly remember friends using bike tubes or ghetto cut-out plastic folders to mimic the first couple of front fenders designed to fit suspension forks. Luckily, we now have a plethora of affordable options from a dozen plus companies with distributions throughout the world. Below you will find information on 10 different front fork mounted fenders designed to keep trail debris to a minimum while you rip down your favorite trails. It's important to note that all fenders tested are based on tried and true designs and work well to keep grit and goop out of the eyes as well as the vulnerable parts of your fork. So for this review, we focused on cost, approximate weight (each fender was weighed without the zip-ties or velcro-straps), ease of installation and overall design. And since there are multiple options available from most manufacturers, rather than bury readers in a mountain of fender geekery, we opted to zero in on what we feel is the best fender from each manufacturer in the review. Take a look at their websites for additional options and to find where you can get your grubby mitts on them.
MarshGuard was arguably the first in the game when it came to a simple, basic front fender that easily fits almost any fork or wheel size. As such it's often been knocked off. But where'd it come from? Simple: back in 2012-ish, Jason Marsh, an OG wrench with the Santa Cruz Syndicate World Cup Team, unveiled his MarshGuard to meet the demands of World Cup DH racers (light, flexible, durable, unobtrusive, and aerodynamic). As a stand-alone front fender, the MarshGuard 275 is one of the lightest options available, but also still one of the smallest. And you can now purchase it with the optional "Stash" front guard, which hugs the contours of the tire to help prevent excess mud and debris from getting thrown up into a rider's face, a definite benefit on excessively soggy days. The Marshguard 275 is only available in recycled black plastic but has multiple color options for the logo, as well as a few "message" guards (50 to 1; drop and roll, etc). You can purchase it with or without zip-ties. One nice thing about this set up is that when installed, the fender with the "Stash" still fits on most bike racks that have a front wheel retention bar (Yakima Hold Up, Kuat NV 2.0, Thule T2 Pro, etc) as it extends only a wee bit past the front of the fork. - PM
MarshGuard 275 with "the Stash" mounted to a Fox 34 with 29" wheel (Minion DHR II 2.4 WT).

Syncros made its name back in the heyday of mountain biking with innovative and quality products. This isn't the Syncros of old - they changed hands a few times until SCOTT Sports bought them in 2012 - but they are still churning out quality products that the original founders would be proud of. Case in point, the Syncros Trail Fender: this is a sleek, lightweight fender made of high impact resistant Polypropylene. It's designed to work specifically with Fox 34 & 36 Boost forks only (there is a separate model available for Fox 34 Step Cast forks). Their Trail Fender features a seamless direct mount to the Fox fork arch via a couple included torx bolts (ever notice those two threaded holes on the back of a Fox Fork arch? The included bolts thread right into them). Installation is ridiculously easy: there's no fumbling with zip ties; rather it's just screwing in two simple bolts with the included torx tool and voila! you've securely attached the fender to the arch. Along with the MarshGuard 275, this was the lightest manufactured front fender we reviewed as well as the smallest. It may not offer as much coverage as some other fenders reviewed here but for ease of installation, the Syncros Fender is awesome. As long as you have a Fox Fork. - NR
Syncros Trail Fender mounted to a Fox 34 with 29" wheel (Minion DHR II 2.4 WT).

The One Ball Large Colored Fender is one of four different fenders available from One Ball. The Large Colored fender is a heavier but flexible fender that offers a bit more coverage than their basic fenders and is identical to their large black fender. It's made from recycled snowboard base materials which means the designs available are all unique and different. It comes with black zip ties included and mounts pretty much like a Marshguard: two zip ties on the fork lowers and two zip ties on the arch. Although it is one of the heavier flexible front fenders reviewed (along with the Blackburn Barrier Mud Guard), this fender was super easy to install with the included zip ties and is compatible with most forks and tires (up to 3"). Clearance under the fender looked ample enough to keep all but the heaviest clay from gumming up the wheel. -NR
One Ball Large Colored Mountain Bike Mud Fork Fender mounted to a Fox 34 with 29" wheel (Minion DHR II 2.4 WT).

MuckyNutz makes a wide variety of mudguards ranging from a very basic front guard (the Face Fender), all the way up to their XL fat bike guards. The Full Face Fender is a clear step above Face Fender and should be considered as their most comprehensive front mudguard. This guard ships flat (2D) but when folded, it offers a contoured 3D profile that works to follow the shape of the tire. How's that again? Simple: partially folding the guard so that the holes on the front and rear portions of the guard overlap and then securing them with the included velcro straps to the fork lowers creates an arched guard that extends some 4-5 inches ahead of the arch. Basically, the Full Face offers good wheel coverage in a fairly lightweight package. Compared to other guards, however, the installation was a bit trickier; i.e. getting the fold correct and lining up the holes with the supplied velcro straps is a bit of a dance. As a bonus, this guard had three strap mounts for the fork arch vs. some that only have two, making a bomber connection. Extra bonus, re-usable included velcro mounting straps (although zip ties will work just fine). -PM
Muckynutz Full Face Fender mounted to a Fox 34 with 29" wheel (Minion DHR II 2.4 WT).

The Ground Keeper front fender is similar in shape and weight to many of the other basic fenders in this review. But what makes them unique is that their flexible fender is available with twenty-one unique graphic designs, allowing one to add a bit of personality to their bike. The company is making these "Fancy Fenders for your Bike" right here in the USA (Bellingham, WA to be exact). Along with their stock designs, buyers can also submit custom artwork via an online template and order a truly custom fender (price depends on quantity ordered). Like most basic fenders, the Ground Keeper is super easy to install with four included zip ties. The slots are designed to be able to use either zip ties or re-usable velcro straps (available for an extra $3 USD). This fender extends slightly beyond the arch towards the front of the tire, which provides a little extra spray protection while still allowing the bike to fit on most bike racks with a front wheel retention bar. While this is not a particularly inexpensive option as compared to some other similarly shaped fenders, the palette of available designs adds value as does the cachet of "made in the USA". I received lots of compliments on the trail for the "Mud Rug" fender I tested as well as a decent amount of mud-spray protection. Note that these may only be available for purchase in the USA. -NR
Ground Keeper Cascadia Flag front fender mounted to a Fox 34 with 29" wheel (Minion DHR II 2.4 WT).

This particular DIY front fender style has likely been around since before I was born, or more precisely around the time when RC founded Mantis. Nowadays thanks to the internet, you can google just about any DIY project and get step-by-step directions on how best to accomplish a task. Since you can almost always go to a local bike shop and find some used tubes, and maybe beg for zip ties, this is the closest to free front fender option on the market. We didn't measure anything with a tape measure, just eyed in the length and width, cut the tube with scissors, poked a couple holes in it and ta-da, we were ready to hit the trails. -NR
The Blackburn Barrier Mud Guard is another contoured style front fender that bends along the tire for extra coverage off the front and back of the tire. This fender comes stock with a roll of velcro at a super reasonable price and is also available in an XL size for fat bikes. It is available in 6 different topo color patterns. This was one of the heaviest but flexible fenders we received. Possibly due to the thickness (0.8mm), bending the fender correctly took more effort and I had a slightly difficult time installing it without an extra set of hands. The two middle sections that are supposed to velcro together against the fork leg kept popping out. Once we got the fender properly mounted, everything was smooth sailing. One nice thing about this fender is that along the underside there are multiple trim lines where you can cut down the size and as a result the weight of the fender depending on how much coverage you think you need. Blackburn products have a good reputation and a wide distribution network, so it should be fairly easy to get your hands on this fender if weight is not your number one priority. -NR
Blackburn Barrier Mud Guard mounted to a Fox 34 with 29" wheel (Minion DHR II 2.4 WT).

The ProGuard Standard front fender is the only "hard" shell style fender we have included in this review. It came highly recommended fender from multiple sources, so of course, I had to check it out. ProGuard fenders are available in two sizes, the "standard" and the "max protection" (which offers 21 mm more coverage in front of the fork arch, and 68 mm more coverage in the rear). The "Standard" comes in a polished black and eleven different decal sets can be ordered separately to lend a bit of personality. This fender has some unique design features including indents to create additional clearance, 24 crown holes to accommodate a wide variety of fit options, and a longer front to keep spray to a minimum, even at high speeds where almost nothing keeps spray off your face. The ProGuard is designed and manufactured in the UK and has a worldwide distribution network - you can look up where to purchase on their website. This fender has a nice "factory" look when mounted and once the snow melts I look forward to putting it through its paces to see how well it holds up on our sticky clay trails. -NR
ProGurad Standard Front Fender mounted to a Fox 34 with 29" wheel (Minion DHR II 2.4 WT).

Mudhugger SL Fender

Mudhugger SL Fender installed

Polisport Mud-Slim

Polisport Mud-Slim Two in One Mudguard

If you are in the market for a rear fender, here are two options:

About the testers: Pierce Martin and Nikki Rohan live in Hood River, Oregon. Nikki has been reviewing gear for Pinkbike for the past 5 years with her partner Colin Meagher. She recently brought Pierce on board, and they will be working together on a variety of gear reviews for Pinkbike this season.