Fairly uninteresting. Not at all sexy. They’re not going to get admiring glances on a club run. You’re not going to brag about them on Facebook or Twitter. In the world of carbon fibre and anodized alloy cycling accessories, mudguards do not rank highly on people’s Christmas wish lists.
Until recently, I was one of the anti-mudguard brigade. In my head, mudguards add weight, are noisy and rattly, look unsightly, are a pain to fit and maintain, make you look old fashioned, and don’t really do much in the way of protecting you – at the end of the day if it’s raining, you’re going to get wet. Whilst some of those points of view remain valid, since riding with mudguards, I’ve seen the light (well, mainly the rain actually).
The Tortec Reflectors are Bicycle Repair Man and Cycle Art’s mudguard of choice when building winter bikes for customers. Countless Sabbath Septembers and Ridley Crossobows go out the door with these fitted. For bikes without eyelets, we do spec the SKS Raceblades but in general, when we talk ‘guards, we mean Tortec Reflectors.
Firstly, at £35, they’re not expensive. For a Yorkshire man, that’s always a good start. Secondly, they are made from what Tortec call Chromo-Tec, which they claim is virtually unbreakable. Thirdly, all the fixtures and fittings are stainless steel to prevent corrosion – which up here is a very good thing. Chuck in a rear Cateye reflector, a front mud flap, Nyloc nuts (they don’t work their way loose with time), a choice of black or silver, and reflective stripes down the sides for night time visibility and you’ve got a serious piece of kit for the money.
Fitting them is relatively straight forward (even more simple if the workshop do it for you), although disc brakes can make the fitment slightly more time consuming. Note – Reflector ‘guards don’t work with suspension forks.
Size wise, Tortec have 5 sizes available:
26 x 1.0 – 1.5
26 x 1.6 – 2.1
700 x 20 – 26
700 x 27 – 35
700 x 36 – 44
Once fitted, my initial preconceptions of looking unsightly changed. I actually quite liked the look of them. They made the bike look fit for purpose, if a little utilitarian. Weight wise, the Reflectors weigh some 500g, so a fair chunk of weight is being added to the bike. However, if I was to see an advantage to the weight, I was willing to forgive this (especially considering my own additional weight)! The quality of build, materials used, and the extensive use of Nyloc bolts meant the rattling was also a preconception proved wrong. In reality, the mudguards looked pretty good, were quiet in operation, and in the couple of months I have had them they haven’t worked their way loose over the considerably rough terrain they are used on almost daily.
On the road, I instantly discovered the benefits. I had become so used to returning from a rainy ride absolutely soaked, with wet and mud up my back and the bike absolutely caked in mud, grit and road traffic film. Don’t get me wrong, you will still get wet from being out in the rain, but you are protected from water from the road, so puddles and mud do not affect you as they would without ‘guards. The people you ride with will also thank you, as they will not be receiving a face full of salty spray when they ride behind you.
At night time these guards add a much needed element of visibility, with the sides lighting up in car headlights. The reflector on the rear is also very useful.
A couple of things to note – firstly watch out for toe overlap – if you already have toe overlap on your bike, the Reflectors increase this overlap. Secondly, whilst the front ‘guard has a mudflap, the rear one doesn’t – although it is relatively easy to create your own using an old pop bottle. Finally, if you ride in the mud a lot, remember to clear the guards out once in a while with a hose – the mud build up will eventually clog up.
In conclusion, I am a mudguard convert. Mudguards just make sense in the winter. Your bike stays cleaner (and therefore lasts longer), you stay dryer, your friends stay dryer, and you’re more visible to motorists. There’s nothing really bad to say about the Tortec Reflectors, they do what they are supposed to do with very little fuss and are relatively inexpensive. If you ride with a club, there’s no excuse – think about the people you ride with.