Sks mudguards review:
SKS (Formally ESGE) mudguards have been the popular choice for the last 20 years. If a bike is capable of taking full length guards, then the chances are that these are what most would chosen. So how did they become the first choice for so many?
Well, the simple reason for their number one status is that most, such as those by Bluemels, were made of a thin, brittle plastic that was prone to break without much encouragement. SKS guards are made of ‘Chromo Plastic‘, a material that when new is highly flexible, to the extent that to break these guards would be something of a challenge. This flexibility does, however, deteriorate as the material ages.
Another feature of the SKS design superior to much of the current competition is the use of much thicker stays and often more of them. Where the competition is often fitted with one pair of flimsy stays on the back and front, SKS have doubled up, thick, high quality, stainless steel stays both front and rear to hold the guards firmly in place. The SKS stays, being stainless, retain their shine, so, if fitted correctly, SKS guards can actually be an attractive addition to the bike, as opposed to a boring, ugly accessory fitted purely as a necessity.
SKS mudguard bridge close up.
So rigid are they that, on my winter commute bikes, I have replaced the rear reflector with a heavier LED light. They also have an electricity-conducting metal strip running through the centre guard to assist with the wiring of a mudguard-mounted rear dynamo lamp. Mind you, with the exception of production bikes I have seldom seen this conductor strip used. Some SKS models even had a rear dynamo lamp instead of a reflector, although seldom have I ever seen these used either as only the top of the light, where the bulb was located, gave any light.
So successful have these guards been that few of the plastic competition are ever chosen as an aftermarket purchase. Even production bikes that have guards fitted as standard will, on all but the cheapest, often use SKS. Indeed, the fact they have been fitted will even be highlighted as a feature when promoting the bike’s specification. Available in black or silver and in a variety of widths to accommodate different tyre sizes, they are quite straightforward, if a little fiddly, to fit providing the bike has sufficient clearances; I would not recommend starting to fit them some ten minutes before you leave just because it looks like rain!
As well as the front and rear double stays, the guards come with several brackets or bridges. The one on the front guard is riveted in place. The two rear brackets are supplied ready for fitting. Normally the rear guard is attached directly to the frame at the bottom bracket and brake bridge, either using the brackets supplied with the guards or screwed on directly if a threaded hole is available for just that job. The stays go to eyes located either near or on the dropouts.
The shorter front guard has only three contact points to the bike, at the fork crown and the two eyes which, like those at the rear, are normally on the drop outs. Some frame builders prefer to locate the guard eyes midway up the fork blade. Where possible, most mechanics fit the front mudguard bracket to the rear of the fork, as it is easier to position the guard so that it follows the line of the wheel for a neater finish. Modern forks with a recessed brake bolt require it on the front for the crown. The front stays slot into a small retaining clip, called the Secu-Clip, which is attached to the dropout eyes. This is designed to release the stays should anything get caught under the guard, in the hope that the blockage falls away before the wheel comes to a sudden stop and catapults the rider over the bars.
In conclusion, SKS mudguards have been the market leaders for a long time; in my opinion they still are.
Written and reviewed by Paul Smith for roadcyclinguk.com