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Everything you need to know about gravel bike mudguards: how to stay clean and dry through winter

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Keeping mud and grit under your tyres makes winter gravel riding heaps better

Could there be any greater delight than getting to the end of a wintery gravel ride with a dry derrière? Or taking a sip of your mid-ride coffee without mud crumbling off your face into your flat white?

For the yet-to-be-converted, mudguards – or fenders – can be a real game-changer for winter gravel riding, or any wet-weather conditions for that matter.

But aren’t dirt, gravel and grit all part of off-road riding? And what are the mudguard/fender options out there for gravel bikes?

Here, we look into why you should consider fitting mudguards to your gravel bike, as well as the different options for all types of bike (and budget) and the practical considerations you need to take into account before plunging into foul-weather bliss.

Why should you fit mudguards to a gravel bike?

Mudguards can make all the difference when it comes to enjoying winter gravel rides. Canyon / Clement Hodgkinson

The pros…

We’ve touched on the plus-sides already: just like road bike mudguards, gravel ‘guards essentially limit the amount of water, mud and debris that flicks up off your gravel tyres and onto you or your bike.

How effective that protection is will depend on how much coverage your mudguards offer.

Full-coverage mudguards will go a long way to keeping you dry and comfortable on the bike. 

Options range from minimal strap-on mudguards that offer light relief for your face or backside, to full-length mudguards that give much more protection, helping to keep you dry from head-to-toe, while also maintaining your bike frame and components in better condition.

Keeping water and muck off your body will help you feel comfortable on the bike. If it’s cold and you’re wet, you’re more likely to catch a chill, and no one enjoys sitting on a soggy chamois.

Minimalist gravel mudguards are also available. Ass Savers

Riding off-road is also inherently tougher on bike components, including your drivetrain, where grit, stones and sand can quickly combine to become a component-eating paste. So besides keeping you warm and dry, fitting mudguards can help prolong the lifespan of your bike parts. This surely makes them one of the best gravel bike accessories going.

The cons…

Well, as with anything, there can be downsides to fitting mudguards on your gravel bike.

Firstly, there’s the matter of clearance. Adding an extra layer of metal or plastic around your tyres needs space, especially where potential trail debris is factored into the equation, and not all off-road bikes have the clearance to add mudguards, particularly if you still want to run a chunky tyre.

Mud clearance can be an issue. GripGrab

You may find that you need to run a smaller-volume tyre in order to run mudguards on your gravel bike, or even opt for a smaller wheel size by switching from 700c wheels for 650b to give extra space, if your bike offers compatibility.

Adding mudguards to your bike will also add weight, though exactly how much depends on what type you opt for. Unless you’re racking up serious climbing, the extra protection on offer will likely offset any weight gain.

Finally, fitting mudguards can sometimes be a bit trickier than you’d expect. It’s worth taking your time to get the fit just right, or asking a local mechanic to help out.

Front mudguard, rear mudguard or both?

Front and rear mudguards are integrated into the frame and fork of the YT Szepter. YT Industries

While road riders will typically mount a set of mudguards at both the front and rear of the bike, gravel riders or mountain bikers may opt to run a ‘guard at only one end.

Why? Well, the front and rear mudguards serve slightly different purposes, and how much you value front or rear protection will depend on your personal preferences.

While the front mudguard acts mostly to stop mud flicking up off your front tyre into your face, the rear mudguard functions mostly to stop spray hitting your rear end.

Full-length mudguards with flaps also help to keep this filth off your feet and bike, which can be largely attributed to the front mudguard.

Most riders tend to opt for both front and rear mudguards for greater protection, though there’s no reason why you couldn’t run just one or the other.

Three types of gravel mudguard

Generally speaking, there are three types of gravel mudguard: short-coverage clip-on mudguards (available for either the front or, more commonly, the rear), full-coverage clip-on mudguards and full-coverage mudguards that require eyelets.

Choosing the most suitable option will depend on exactly what you want from your mudguard(s) and what you can fit to your bike.

Short-coverage clip-on mudguards

The rear Mudhugger Gravel Hugger mudguard on a Lauf True Grit gravel bike. Russell Burton / Our Media

Let’s start off with the most minimal mudguards on the market.

Short-coverage, clip-on mudguards are pretty much as you’d expect; they offer relatively limited coverage, compared to full-length guards, but can be fitted to any bike, because you can strap, clip or cable-tie them onto your frame without the need for mudguard eyelets.

You might not get the same full-body protection as a longer set of mudguards, but if you value rear-end protection above all else, and you want tool-free fitment, you’ll be covered here.

Generally, the minimalist design means frame and mud clearance is less of an issue, too.

The Gravel Hugger is also available as a front mudguard. Tom Marvin / Immediate Media

The Mudhugger Gravel Hugger is one such example of a short-coverage clip-on mudguard.

The Gravel Hugger is a gravel-specific set of the brand’s popular mountain bike mudguards, mounting onto the fork and seatstays using cable ties or rubber O-rings.

Latest deals on the Mudhugger Rear Gravel Hugger
The Ass Savers Win Wing is a minimalist rear-only mudguard, with options for road and gravel bikes. Russell Burton / Our Media

As for a rear-only option, we highly rate the Ass Savers Win Wing.

This super-minimalist – and lightweight – mudguard offers rear-tyre protection via a wishbone stay and silicone straps.

Latest deals on the Ass Savers Win Wing

Full-coverage clip-on mudguards

Full-coverage clip-on mudguards are designed to offer comprehensive coverage for bikes without mudguard eyelets. SKS

If you’re looking for more extensive coverage, but your bike is not kitted out with mudguard eyelets, consider a set of clip-on mudguards.

These typically attach directly to the frame using silicone straps, but look more like a traditional set of mudguards.

The SKS Speedrockers are full-coverage clip-on mudguards designed for multi-terrain riding. SKS

An example is the SKS Speedrocker, designed for gravel riding and cyclocross with a wider mudguard to accommodate both 700c and 650b wheels with tyres up to 42mm wide. These attach to the fork and seatstays in two places using rubberised hook and loop fastenings.

Although less secure than mudguards fitted using frame eyelets, some riders prefer clip-on mudguards because they are easier to take on and off.

Latest deals on the SKS Speedrocker mudguards

Full-coverage fixed mudguards

Full coverage courtesy of the Kinesis Fend-Off Wide mudguards. Robert Smith / Our Media

To maximise protection from dirt and puddles, opt for full-coverage mudguards. You’ll need to make sure you have suitable mudguard eyelets on your frame and fork for these.

Often, these can be a little trickier to fit (they aren’t an option you’ll want to fit and remove on a regular basis), but once secured, give the best protection and are the sturdiest option.

One example is the Kinesis Fend-Off Wide, a gravel-friendly (and, as a result, wider) version of the brand’s standard Fend-Off mudguards.

The anodised aluminium guards are secured using metal stays that run to the frame’s eyelets near the axles, as well as to the top of the fork, and seatstay bridge and rear of the seat tube.

The guards also use polypropylene flaps, which attach to the rear of the front and rear guards, reducing the mud spray that ends up on you (mainly your feet), your bike, and your ride pals.

Latest deals on the Kinesis Fend-Off Wide mudguards

What to look for in gravel bike mudguards

Not all mudguards will work for all bikes, but it doesn’t have to be a nightmare to figure out what will work best for you.

Does your gravel bike have mudguard eyelets?

Mudguard eyelets on your frame and fork enable you to run full fixed mudguards. Ribble

Check whether your bike has eyelets for mounting fixed mudguards around the axles, fork crown, seatstay bridge and base of the seat tube. If your bike has these, then you have full choice across the different types of mudguards.

If your gravel bike doesn’t have mudguard eyelets, then you’ll need to opt for clip-on mudguards.

How much protection do you need?

Where you’re planning on riding will have some bearing on what type of mudguards to look for. Portland Design Works

Whether you opt for short-coverage mudguards for low weight and ease-of-use, or long-coverage mudguards for maximum protection, is largely down to personal preference, where you’re riding and who you’re riding with.

Short-coverage clip-on mudguards will be adequate for keeping the worst of the muck off of you. However, if you plan on riding regularly with friends or in groups, then longer-coverage guards – especially those with flaps – will be better (read: more courteous) for keeping anyone riding behind you dry. Many club riders will tell you that longer-coverage mudguards are the sociable choice.

The worse the conditions you ride in, the more you’re likely to benefit from long-coverage mudguards.

Having said that, even clip-on long-coverage mudguards aren’t as easy to fit as many short-coverage options. Also, because they tend to fit closer to the tyre than short-coverage guards, you may need to be more cautious of trail debris.

This leads us neatly to our next important consideration…

Frame, tyre and mud clearance

You’ll need to ensure there’s plenty of clearance between your frame, tyres and mudguards. Warren Rossiter / Our Media

Just like when you’re buying a gravel bike, considering clearance is key.

You’ll need to make sure you have adequate frame clearance to fit your mudguards, as well as ensuring you have enough space between the tyre and mudguard.

Check the maximum tyre clearances recommended by the mudguard brand as well as any clearance and tyre-width recommendations that accompany your bike.

This is especially critical when it comes to riding off-road because your tyres often pick up mud, stones and other trail debris that needs to pass under the mudguards.

If it’s muddy and there’s insufficient clearance, you’re likely to get a build-up of mud at best – or risk damaging your frame at worst.

Similarly, trail debris such as twigs can cause havoc if trapped with insufficient space between the tyre and mudguard.

Bag clearance

Bag supports can help maintain clearance between bags and mudguards. Jack Luke / Immediate Media

While we’re on the topic of clearance, you also need to think about bag clearance if you’re loading up your bike for a bikepacking trip or going touring.

The good news is that seatpost-mounted bikepacking bags essentially act as short-coverage rear mudguards, so might save you fixing one up if you’re planning a longer trip (although, for this reason, make sure your bag is made from a muck-proof material).

If you are running mudguards, check you have a good gap between any bags and your guards to prevent any damage.

Even the weight of a bag on a mudguard can cause it to become mis-shaped, which can get pretty noisy.

Frame protection

Patterned or plain frame protection can help prevent scratches and scrapes from clip-on mudguards. Luke Marshall / Immediate Media

If you’re using any type of clip-on mudguard, it’s wise to think about using frame protection where it attaches to your bike.

It might seem like overkill, but it only takes a tiny bit of grit to work its way under the zip tie, rubber strap or Velcro attachment to wreak havoc with your paintjob.

Before fitting your mudguards, adding frame protection patches such as those offered by Pro or Restrap, or alternatively opting for areas of Helitape, will help keep your bike in good condition.

Are there mudguards designed for your bike?

Some bike brands may offer mudguards designed specifically for their bikes. Kaden Gardener / Our Media

A few of the more mainstream brands offer mudguards designed specifically to fit certain models.

For example, Canyon sells mudguards to complement its Grail gravel bikes, while Scott also offers mudguards made specifically for its bike models.

It’s worth checking to see if there are any mudguards available for your specific gravel bike before browsing alternatives.

The important matter of flaps

DIY mudflap: they don’t need to be fancy to do the job. Jack Luke / Immediate Media

Last but not least, have you considered adding flaps to your long-coverage mudguards?

Some are supplied with them, others may require flaps to be bought separately  – or you can make your own mud flap.

Essentially, the longer the flap is, and the closer it sits to the ground, the more coverage you, and the person riding behind you, will benefit from.

Plastic, rubber or even leather; there are flaps to suit all budgets and styles.

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Rare ‘big fuzzy green ball’ comet visible in B.C. skies, a 50000-year sight

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In the night sky, a comet is flying by Earth for the first time in 50,000 years.

Steve Coleopy, of the South Cariboo Astronomy Club, is offering some tips on how to see it before it disappears.

The green-coloured comet, named C/2022 E3 (ZTF), is not readily visible to the naked eye, although someone with good eyesight in really dark skies might be able to see it, he said. The only problem is it’s getting less visible by the day.

“Right now the comet is the closest to earth and is travelling rapidly away,” Coleopy said, noting it is easily seen through binoculars and small telescopes. “I have not been very successful in taking a picture of it yet, because it’s so faint, but will keep trying, weather permitting.”

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At the moment, the comet is located between the bowl of the Big Dipper and the North Star but will be moving toward the Planet Mars – a steady orange-coloured point of light- in the night sky over the next couple of weeks, according to Coleopy.

“I have found it best to view the comet after 3:30 in the morning, after the moon sets,” he said. “It is still visible in binoculars even with the moon still up, but the view is more washed out because of the moonlight.”

He noted the comet looks like a “big fuzzy green ball,” as opposed to the bright pinpoint light of the stars.

“There’s not much of a tail, but if you can look through the binoculars for a short period of time, enough for your eyes to acclimatize to the image, it’s quite spectacular.”

To know its more precise location on a particular evening, an internet search will produce drawings and pictures of the comet with dates of where and when the comet will be in each daily location.

Coleopy notes the comet will only be visible for a few more weeks, and then it won’t return for about 50,000 years.


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Extreme species deficit of nitrogen-converting microbes in European lakes

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Sampling of Lake Constance water from 85 m depth, in which ammonia-oxidizing archaea make up as much as 40% of all microorganisms

Dr. David Kamanda Ngugi, environmental microbiologist at the Leibniz Institute DSMZ

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Leibniz Institute DSMZ

 

An international team of researchers led by microbiologists from the Leibniz Institute DSMZ-German Collection of Microorganisms and Cell Cultures GmbH in Braunschweig, Germany, shows that in the depths of European lakes, the detoxification of ammonium is ensured by an extremely low biodiversity of archaea. The researchers recently published their findings in the prestigious international journal Science Advances. The team led by environmental microbiologists from the Leibniz Institute DSMZ has now shown that the species diversity of these archaea in lakes around the world ranges from 1 to 15 species. This is of particularly concern in the context of global biodiversity loss and the UN Biodiversity Conference held in Montreal, Canada, in December 2022. Lakes play an important role in providing freshwater for drinking, inland fisheries, and recreation. These ecosystem services would be at danger from ammonium enrichment. Ammonium is an essential component of agricultural fertilizers and contributes to its remarkable increase in environmental concentrations and the overall im-balance of the global nitrogen cycle. Nutrient-poor lakes with large water masses (such as Lake Constance and many other pre-alpine lakes) harbor enormously large populations of archaea, a unique class of microorganisms. In sediments and other low-oxygen environments, these archaea convert ammonium to nitrate, which is then converted to inert dinitrogen gas, an essential component of the air. In this way, they contribute to the detoxification of ammonium in the aquatic environment. In fact, the species predominant in European lakes is even clonal and shows low genetic microdiversity between different lakes. This low species diversity contrasts with marine ecosystems where this group of microorganisms predominates with much greater species richness, making the stability of ecosystem function provided by these nitrogen-converting archaea potentially vulnerable to environmental change.

Maintenance of drinking water quality
Although there is a lot of water on our planet, only 2.5% of it is fresh water. Since much of this fresh water is stored in glaciers and polar ice caps, only about 80% of it is even accessible to us humans. About 36% of drinking water in the European Union is obtained from surface waters. It is therefore crucial to understand how environmental processes such as microbial nitrification maintain this ecosystem service. The rate-determining phase of nitrification is the oxidation of ammonia, which prevents the accumulation of ammonium and converts it to nitrate via nitrite. In this way, ammonium is prevented from contaminating water sources and is necessary for its final conversion to the harmless dinitrogen gas. In this study, deep lakes on five different continents were investigated to assess the richness and evolutionary history of ammonia-oxidizing archaea. Organisms from marine habitats have traditionally colonized freshwater ecosystems. However, these archaea have had to make significant changes in their cell composition, possible only a few times during evolution, when they moved from marine habitats to freshwaters with much lower salt concentrations. The researchers identified this selection pressure as the major barrier to greater diversity of ammonia-oxidizing archaea colonizing freshwaters. The researchers were also able to determine when the few freshwater archaea first appeared. Ac-cording to the study, the dominant archaeal species in European lakes emerged only about 13 million years ago, which is quite consistent with the evolutionary history of the European lakes studied.

Slowed evolution of freshwater archaea
The major freshwater species in Europe changed relatively little over the 13 million years and spread almost clonally across Europe and Asia, which puzzled the researchers. Currently, there are not many examples of such an evolutionary break over such long time periods and over large intercontinental ranges. The authors suggest that the main factor slowing the rapid growth rates and associated evolutionary changes is the low temperatures (4 °C) at the bottom of the lakes studied. As a result, these archaea are restricted to a state of low genetic diversity. It is unclear how the extremely species-poor and evolutionarily static freshwater archaea will respond to changes induced by global climate warming and eutrophication of nearby agricultur-al lands, as the effects of climate change are more pronounced in freshwater than in marine habitats, which is associated with a loss of biodiversity.

Publication: Ngugi DK, Salcher MM, Andre A-S, Ghai R., Klotz F, Chiriac M-C, Ionescu D, Büsing P, Grossart H-S, Xing P, Priscu JC, Alymkulov S, Pester M. 2022. Postglacial adaptations enabled coloniza-tion and quasi-clonal dispersal of ammonia oxidizing archaea in modern European large lakes. Science Advances: https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/sciadv.adc9392

Press contact:
PhDr. Sven-David Müller, Head of Public Relations, Leibniz Institute DSMZ-German Collection of Microorganisms and Cell Cultures GmbH
Phone: ++49 (0)531/2616-300
Mail: press@dsmz.de

About the Leibniz Institute DSMZ
The Leibniz Institute DSMZ-German Collection of Microorganisms and Cell Cultures is the world’s most diverse collection of biological resources (bacteria, archaea, protists, yeasts, fungi, bacteriophages, plant viruses, genomic bacterial DNA as well as human and animal cell lines). Microorganisms and cell cultures are collected, investigated and archived at the DSMZ. As an institution of the Leibniz Association, the DSMZ with its extensive scientific services and biological resources has been a global partner for research, science and industry since 1969. The DSMZ was the first registered collection in Europe (Regulation (EU) No. 511/2014) and is certified according to the quality standard ISO 9001:2015. As a patent depository, it offers the only possibility in Germany to deposit biological material in accordance with the requirements of the Budapest Treaty. In addition to scientific services, research is the second pillar of the DSMZ. The institute, located on the Science Campus Braunschweig-Süd, accommodates more than 82,000 cultures and biomaterials and has around 200 employees. www.dsmz.de

PhDr. Sven David Mueller, M.Sc.
Leibniz-Institut DSMZ
+49 531 2616300
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Scientists are closing in on why the universe exists

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Particle astrophysicist Benjamin Tam hopes his work will help us understand a question. A very big one.

“The big question that we are trying to answer with this research is how the universe was formed,” said Tam, who is finishing his PhD at Queen’s University.

“What is the origin of the universe?”

And to answer that question, he and dozens of fellow scientists and engineers are conducting a multi-million dollar experiment two kilometres below the surface of the Canadian Shield in a repurposed mine near Sudbury, Ontario.

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Ten thousand light-sensitive cameras send data to scientists watching for evidence of a neutrino bumping into another particle. (Tom Howell/CBC)

The Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNOLAB) is already famous for an earlier experiment that revealed how neutrinos ‘oscillate’ between different versions of themselves as they travel here from the sun.

This finding proved a vital point: the mass of a neutrino cannot be zero. The experiment’s lead scientist, Arthur McDonald, shared the Nobel Prize in 2015 for this discovery.

The neutrino is commonly known as the ‘ghost particle.’ Trillions upon trillions of them emanate from the sun every second. To humans, they are imperceptible except through highly specialized detection technology that alerts us to their presence.

Neutrinos were first hypothesized in the early 20th century to explain why certain important physics equations consistently produced what looked like the wrong answers. In 1956, they were proven to exist.

A digital image of a sphere that is blue and transparent with lines all over.
The neutrino detector is at the heart of the SNO+ experiment. An acrylic sphere containing ‘scintillator’ liquid is suspended inside a larger water-filled globe studded with 10,000 light-sensitive cameras. (Submitted by SNOLOAB)

Tam and his fellow researchers are now homing in on the biggest remaining mystery about these tiny particles.

Nobody knows what happens when two neutrinos collide. If it can be shown that they sometimes zap each other out of existence, scientists could conclude that a neutrino acts as its own ‘antiparticle’.

Such a conclusion would explain how an imbalance arose between matter and anti-matter, thus clarifying the current existence of all the matter in the universe.

It would also offer some relief to those hoping to describe the physical world using a model that does not imply none of us should be here.

A screengrab of two scientists wearing white hard hat helmets, clear googles and blue safety suits standing on either side of CBC producer holding a microphone. All three people are laughing.
IDEAS producer Tom Howell (centre) joins research scientist Erica Caden (left) and Benjamin Tam on a video call from their underground lab. (Screengrab: Nicola Luksic)

Guests in this episode (in order of appearance):

Benjamin Tam is a PhD student in Particle Astrophysics at Queen’s University.

Eve Vavagiakis is a National Science Foundation Astronomy and Astrophysics Postdoctoral Fellow in the Physics Department at Cornell University. She’s the author of a children’s book, I’m A Neutrino: Tiny Particles in a Big Universe.

Blaire Flynn is the senior education and outreach officer at SNOLAB.

Erica Caden is a research scientist at SNOLAB. Among her duties she is the detector manager for SNO+, responsible for keeping things running day to day.


*This episode was produced by Nicola Luksic and Tom Howell. It is part of an on-going series, IDEAS from the Trenches, some stories are below.

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