SKS Bluemels Reflective mudguards review: Splash-free, flash-free
A full length reflective fender with clearance for gravel tyres from the German mudguard magnate.
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SKS is a veteran of the cycling industry, celebrating its centenary this year.
The German company branched out into mudguards/fenders (select as regionally appropriate) in 1983, with the acquisition of the British brand Bluemels, a mudguard specialist from which this product line took its name.
[ct_story_highlights]What it is: A full-length, fixed mudguard from the German market-leader.||Features: Reflective strips on the side, stainless steel hardware, clearance for tyres up to 700×38 mm. ||Weight: 602 grams (claimed) although if you’ve got an eye on the scales this is probably not the product genre for you anyway. ||Price: AU$76.99 / €42.99 (but available cheaper online) ||Highs: Robust, rattle-free, reasonably easy to install, and uncompromisingly functional. ||Lows: Clearance with mini-V brakes, some bits mounted slightly off-centre, won’t fit everything (although there’s probably an alternative model from SKS that will).[/ct_story_highlights]
SKS now has a deep catalogue of mudguards to encompass most bikes, tyre sizes and styles of riding, and is widely-regarded as one of the market leaders.
That preamble out of the way, let’s zoom in on some specifics of the Bluemels Reflective mudguards.
In Essex somewhere, there is a man who owns these very mudguards and reviewed them on Wiggle by saying that they “stop me getting to work looking like iv had an accident”. Melbourne’s climate is less inhospitable than Essex’s, but looking like you’ve soiled yourself is a universal faux pas. A few weeks ago, a wet commute left me with a swamp chamois for the ride home, and tipped me over the edge from being mudguard-curious to an actual mudguard user again.
As part of a broader campaign to convert my shredly serious 2011 Cannondale CAADX into a super-commuter, I took the plunge on these SKS Bluemels Reflective mudguards in a 45 mm width, spent a meditative hour or so in the garage with a Coopers Best Extra getting them to fit, and have been riding with them since.
Fitting and function
My prior experience with mudguards – which has included removable models of various brands as well as fixed offerings like these – has been mixed at best. They’ve often rattled about, or become clogged with mud or twigs. They’ve generally fallen into two camps: a total pain in the arse to fit, or so simplistic that their function was inevitably impaired.
Happily, the SKS Bluemels weren’t all that difficult to install, but are also extremely functional.
At the front, this mudguard mounts to the fork crown and base of the fork with two stays. At the rear, it is designed to install through the seatstay bridge – which required some ingenuity and a drill to orient it to the vertical boss on the CAADX. There’s another fixing point between the chainstay bridge, down near the bottom bracket, and two stays join down at the dropouts.
These are proper full-length mudguards rather than basic clip-ons and provide very good coverage, although there are even longer models in SKS’s line-up for those that are trying to prevent any possible road spray, especially for following riders.
According to SKS, the body of the guards “feature a sandwich design with superfine aluminium strips embedded in plastic sheathing”, which is promising for durability, although they mostly just look like plastic rather than lovely artisanal metal things. The various hardware is stainless steel, with stays supplied long and needing to be cut to length when installed into the correct position. To install everything, you’ll probably only need an 8 mm spanner, a 4 mm hex key, a flat screwdriver and a pair of wire cutters.
There are 48 models in SKS’s Bluemels range, in various colours and widths. This particular variant comes with reflective strips on both sides to improve visibility, in either black or silver bodies. I would have preferred black, but was too impatient to wait for it to come back into stock, and Project Super-Commuter waits for no one. The silver looks fine, I guess, in a utilitarian and retro kind of a way. They don’t put the ‘fun’ in ‘functional’, but they certainly get the job done.
A few other things to be aware of:
- There’s not a heap of clearance for mini v-brakes like I use on this bike, so there’s a little rubbing of the noodle on the top of the guard. Disc brakes would not present this problem; nor would cantilevers (… but, cantilevers).
- This particular model comes in 35 or 45 mm widths. Note that this refers to the guard – not the tyre width. There’s healthy clearance for a 38 mm tyre in the 45 mm width with my specific setup, although that obviously varies wildly depending on frame spacing, tyre tread pattern, and rim width.
- The front stays are designed to disconnect if the wheel locks up with a stick or whatever. For obvious reasons, I hope never to test this feature.
- They have a claimed weight of 602 grams. I didn’t weigh them, but it seems plausible, and if you’re installing full length mudguards you’re probably not full weight-weenie anyway.
- The front mudguard obviously increases toe overlap, so take care with your track-standing at traffic lights lest you look like a bit of a dickhead.
I’ve been quite impressed with these, and intend to leave them on throughout the fast-approaching winter and most likely beyond. They are sturdy, don’t rub, and are almost completely rattle-free. They don’t bother me too much with their appearance – although perhaps my standards have just taken a nosedive – and they improve the functionality of the bike they’re mounted on.
Perhaps most importantly, they stop me getting to work looking like I’ve had an accident, and keep my feet and bib knicks drier for the return journey. Good job, SKS.
For more on SKS’s vast mudguard range, visit SKS-Germany.com.