Confession: I have not ridden end to end with mudguards. Consequence: I have become thoroughly soaked and muddy on several occasions whilst riding end to end.
So, on the positive side, mudguards keep you drier in the wet, especially you lower half. It is amazing how much water is thrown up my your tyres onto your legs, backside and back. They also protect your bike and your clothing from grit and grime cutting down on cleaning time and making your equipment last longer.
On the negative side mudguards are additional weight (although with modern materials very little) and they can become clogged with mud if you are riding in very muddy conditions. If not fitted properly they can also rub and/or rattle, which is annoying.
There are various types available offering different degrees of protection.
Full mudguards offer the maximum protection from mud and water from the road but are heavier than other varieties and may not fit on some types of bicycle, such as some mountain bikes and racing bikes.
Full length mudguards curve around both wheels. The rear mudguard is semi circular in shape, extending from the bottom of the seat tube, around the top of the tyre and down to nearly level with the axle. The front mudguard is a quarter circle wrapping from in front of the fork to about the level of your feet when the pedals are horizontal. An additional mud flap at the bottom of the front mudguard can help to keep your feet drier.
These are a compromise. Shorter than full mudguards, they are lighter but offer less protection. Some brands will fit bikes that do not accommodate full mudguards.
The shortest of mudguards that, perhaps, looks the best and are the lightest but with a corresponding drop in performance when it comes to keeping you and your bike dry and clean.
If your bike’s frame does not have the necessary attachment point for mudguards clip on versions are available. These attach either to your seat stay or seat post at the rear and your forks at the front, either direct of via a quick release attachment. Seat post attached rear mudguards have a tendency to swing away from the wheel when cornering if not attached firmly, which somewhat mitigates their usefulness.
Clip ons are light and easily removable but can be difficult to adjust to provide significant protection from water and dirt off the road. Also make sure that for clip on rear mudguards that attach to the seat post that you have sufficient seat post clear between the frame and the saddle to make the attachment.
Originally produced by the company Ass Saver but now much copied, these are perhaps the ultimate in convenience and light weight. These are strips of flexible plastic that insert into the back of your saddle. They are surprisingly effective at keeping your backside dry (or at least much drier than it would have been). They are also cheap, just a few £s.
If you watch videos for the Ass Saver product they show it being fitted in seconds and bent to store under the saddle without having to remove it so that it is always there. The reality is that it depends on your saddle and, more importantly, your seat post attachment. Also, most of us do not have a team car following behind and need to carry spare inner tubes etc with us. Many do so in a saddle bag, which immediately restricts fitting and storing. I have used ass savers on four different bikes and each one had its own fitting issues but I could ultimately fit it (just not in a few seconds) and it worked well.
Where to next?
The most popular pages on the site concern planning your End to End, training for long distance cycling, thinking about the cycling equipment you will need, what you should be eating and drinking whilst cycling and how to create a route for Lands End to John O Groats. Or you can read my own account of cycling End to End to get some idea of what to expect.