SKS Raceblade XL mudguards long term review
My thoughts on mudguards have been stated before. If you’re new here, they are as follows: Use them. Your life will be better.
While I think everyone should use mudguards, I don’t always want them on my bike all the time… like when it’s dry out, if you need an example.
That’s where mudguards that require no tools and only a few seconds to put on become the life of the party. Besides, not all bikes have eyelets for attaching such things as proper mudguards, so in many instances, like the majority of road bikes, a set of strap-on mudguards is the only option (not strictly speaking, but lets ignore that for today).
So if you don’t have a bike that you can bolt on a set of guards, or you just want to slap them on only when you really need them, then a strap-on is for you, and who knows strap-ons better than the Germans? Go on, don’t be shy.
SKS goes back to 1921, their pumps first emerged in 1932, and mudguards in 1983. I had one of their new Shockboard mudguards a couple of years after they were introduced in 1999, which worked a treat for many years. I have been using their Raceblade XL mudguards for… well, quite some time now. Long enough that I questions whether or not they are too old to even review…
Not at all. Firstly, they are still almost exactly the same. From what I can tell, the only thing they changed are the superficial aesthetics of the flaps at the end of the guard. Secondly, this review will have approximately… 7 years of experience behind it?
Simples. You don’t want to get filthy and wet (maybe you do, but I don’t want to hear about it). Ass Savers? OK, if that’s all you’ve got, but you can’t beat proper mudguards. Think they’re just for commuters? Well, you’re not going to race with them on, but even if you’re a hard-core roadie, with a slick set of full mudguards the rest of your bunch will be envious of your dry posterior and feet, not to mention that the person sucking your wheel (because you’re hard as nails, of course) will be able to gasp for breath without also sucking in the oily and gritty spray from the road.
What you get is a not-quite-full-length-but-long-enough plastic (Chromoplastic, if you prefer) guard that is permanently attached to the stainless steel stays, which are in turn firmly set into the plastic… pads… I’m going to call them pads… which are then fixed to the bike via rubber straps. On the end of the guards are rubber flaps that further reduce spray escaping onto your feet and back.
The XL is a slightly wider fender than the standard Raceblade, at 42mm wide vs. 35mm. They cover up to a 32c tyre. It also doesn’t come with the aero adapters, assuming that your larger-tyred bike is more pedestrian, which is increasingly not the case these days.
Not so much how – I’m fairly confident you can figure out how mudguards work. More the how well?
Quite well. But, see, almost any mudguard will do the job of keeping road-spray from getting you wet, in truth. So why not just get the cheap ones? To be honest, for normal applications you would be fine to go for the cheap ones, as long as you are ok with them not fitting as well, being fiddly to fit, lacking any style, and potentially breaking sooner. That’s up to you.
The SKS Raceblade XL’s excel in all the above categories, as it happens.
Firstly, are they really that easy to fit? Yes. And no.
Oh, they’re super easy to fit, as in, getting them attached to your bike. It hardly needs explaining – place the pads on the forks and seat-stays, hook one end of the rubber strap around one side of the pad, then loop it around the frame and hook it tightly onto the other side of the pad. Done. Could not be easier.
Here’s what I have found to be the case, though – once you have adjusted them properly, which can only be done by moving one or the other pad up or down so as to adjust the angle at which they sit over the tyre, and/or pushing the pads to one side or the other a bit, they can travel around a bit.
This isn’t a fatal problem, however it does cause the guard to rub on one side of the tyre, which mostly just generates a bit of noise, but it is a bit annoying. What it requires is a quick shove to move it back closer to centre, or if stationary, grabbing the pads themselves and shoving them around the forks/seat-stays a bit.
I’m not sure why this is the case – if one side of the stays is a fraction shorter, or at a slight angle, or something else, but it’s something that I’ve had to do with some regularity ever since first putting them on. Now that I’m thinking about it, maybe all I need to do is bend the stays around a bit, which may very well solve the problem… I’ll give that a go next time and update this afterwards.
Now that I’m thinking about it even more, it’s more a case of this happening on the front than the rear, where the seat-stays are round, and the forks are more “aero”. I wouldn’t have thought this could be a factor, the trailing edge of the forks not being particularly sharp, but who knows. I’ll try the bending.
Clearly this hasn’t been a significant issue, if I’m only just thinking about this now…
Anyway, aside from that, the only other issue has been toe-overlap on the front mudguard. I use them on a cyclocross bike with 32C tyres on it and my cranks are a pretty standard length, but I get a pretty good amount of overlap. What I’ve done to partially alleviate the situation is remove the rubber flap from the front guard, which, while sacrificing some degree of protection for my feet, has at least made the overlap less severe. Even without the flap, it’s still there. While this could get you into trouble if you were a little less confident on the bike, it’s not a real problem for me, though it does get in the way now and then. Maybe more bending of the stays could work here too…
Oh, and aside from that, something you have to watch out for with anything that is strapped to your frame is your paint getting damaged. Mudguards being something that you use specifically in the wet, what will definitely happen is that you will have little bits of grit work their way between the pads and the frame while you ride, causing the paint to be rubbed away more rapidly than you’d expect. It appears that SKS supply some foil stickers to place under the pads to help with this, but you could always just use tape of some description, checking it’s integrity now and then and replacing as necessary. Or if you care about your commuter bike as little as I do, then you can just let this happen:
Do they keep you dry? They sure do. Have they broken? Not at all. Not even the rubber straps. Are they easy to use? Most definitely. Do they look alright? That’s a matter of opinion, of course, but compared to cheap ones, they look pretty good indeed. Are they good value? Well, especially considering that they’ve seen me through as many years as they have, I’d have to say absolutely.