Mudguards (or fenders if you’re from North America) are great. If you don’t agree, that’s because you’re wrong. They make riding in horrible conditions a whole lot more bearable, and done right, they can be a tasteful complement to your bike rather than a necessary evil.
Small accessory ‘guards like Ass Savers are certainly useful, but when I see a roadie fully fendered I know they mean business: it’s the mark of a serious cyclist who’s committed fully to taking on the elements.
The weight penalty is minuscule in most cases and with smart design, as in the Trek example above, there’s no need for unused mounts to interfere aesthetically.
Frustratingly, while the move to discs has spawned an abundance of fun, capable bikes with huge clearances that should be perfect for mudguards, those above a certain price level almost invariably omit mounts.
A cynical person might think the bike industry is conspiring to limit versatility; why sell a single bike ready for rain or shine, tarmac or gravel, when you can sell four different bikes, each satisfying its own tiny niche?
We all love to fantasise about n+1 bikes, but the reality is that most of us have limited space and limited funds to support our habit. If I’m spending a month’s income on a single bicycle, I want to get as much out of it as possible.
The fact that mudguard-lovers are so poorly served by current offerings might reflect that the demand simply isn’t there, or that if it is, it’s confined to markets too small to have a global impact.
The UK is plenty wet however, and the bike industry here isn’t exactly tiny (most estimates seem to value it in the £1bn/$1.4bn range), so I suspect there’s an issue of chicken and egg. We can’t vote with our wallets for something that doesn’t exist, so we take what we can get.
In other respects, we arguably live in a golden age of bike equipment, with mid-level componentry that’s astonishingly good and fierce competition between big brands driving incredible value. Little details like mudguards get lost in the mix – they’re just not enough of a priority.
It’s perfectly true that with aftermarket accessories or some ingenuity, you can fit fenders to many road bikes that aren’t designed for them, but that’s not the point. The point is, I shouldn’t have to. I don’t want half measures and clumsy lash-ups on my otherwise lovely machines.
I want fancy, high performance bikes that I can ride every day, in all weathers, with a dry arse and a smile on my face.