Mudguards are only for kids bikes, or so many a battle hardened bike rider might tell you. For years we all heard about training groups in exotic locations like Dublin who wouldn’t let you join them in winter without mudguards. But we wondered if this was just an urban legend. Then some of our group began using mudguards and it was very easy to see why a rule like this could be put in place, in Dublin of course, it could never work in Carrick.
Now I find myself keeping an eye out for a mudguard covered rear wheel when settling into the paceline of the winter training group. I take pleasure in returning from a spin to find my own mudguards having worked their magic to keep my rear end clean and dry. But there is a lot more to a group rider with mudguards than just a dry arse.
Parents of young kids often have a five second rule. In short it means that if an item of food lands on the ground, as long as it is picked up in under five seconds it’s safe to eat. I’m not sure what the Department of Health would have to say about this rule but it seems to work, most of the time.
Now consider the contents of a road cocktail on a cold and wet Irish winters day. Petrol and Diesel washed up from the road combined with a dash of cow shit, a small hint of a dead rat or two and a good dolop of grit, salt and tar getting mixed up together doesn’t really sound that appetising. Certain county councils have even resorted to using crushed bone meal when salt supplies were low during icy spells. This combination would be closer to a five month rule. Would you eat an item of food that had been laying on the side of the road for 5 months ?
Most cyclists can’t wrap up enough when off the bike in order to avoid any form of sickness but isn’t the avoidance of ingesting all forms of road crap just as important for good health. Race conditions are different, and it’s unavoidable but it should be avoidable during the winter months of getting in the long miles.
Breathing through your nose avoids some of the worst effects but how many cyclists can ride up a climb in a group with the pace driving along without having their mouths open sucking in the air and whatever else comes along.
Rain from the sky and grimey water from the road are two totally different animals when it comes to your bike too. Gritty, grimy spray from the road often contains salt too which wreaks havoc on chains, derailleurs, hubs and bottom brackets. A pair of mudguards will pay for itself twice over in just one winter of serious training. It won’t eliminate all spray on the drivetrain but makes a considerable difference.
Nowadays there are mudguards to fit all forms of road bikes so that excuse is out the window. They weigh very little and require just a fraction of extra concentration in crosswinds so there really is no reason to not have mudguards on your winter bike.
Here’s a pic of my winter bike all decked out with full length mudguards