Portland Design Works Full Metal Fenders review
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Portland Design Works Full Metal Fenders review

Nov 21, 2023

If a dry backside and bike are priceless, these mudguards are for you

This competition is now closed

By Jack Evans

Published: January 10, 2023 at 9:00 am

The Portland Design Works Full Metal Fenders live up to their name and lofty price tag.

It's hard to stay motivated through winter rides when your road bike wheels are showering your face and backside with mud and spray.

Because the Full Metal Fenders prevent you from getting wet and dirty, they should make it easier to ride more outside and stick to your cycling New Year's resolutions.

Their coverage is as full as the name suggests – the mudguards (or fenders if you’re not from the UK) wrap generously around your front and rear wheels.

As for the metal part, they are made from anodised aluminium.

You’ll need a bike with mounting points on the frame and fork to fit the Full Metal Fenders.

The size on test is 700x45mm, designed for a maximum tyre width of 35mm. Portland Design Works has wider and narrower options available for 700c and 650b wheels.

Before buying a pair of Full Metal Fenders, you need to check your bike has mudguard eyelets on the brake bridge, rear dropouts, fork crown, front fork and chainstay bridge.

In the absence of a chainstay bridge eyelet, Portland Design Works says you can secure the mudguard to that area with one or two zip ties.

The brand suggests you ask a professional bike mechanic to install them if you’re not confident doing so yourself.

If you’re mechanically inept like me (my cycling resolution is to get better), paying for half an hour's labour in your local bike shop will save you an afternoon's sawing and swearing.

Relative to the cost and likely longevity of the mudguards, I’d say that's a modest investment.

Portland Design Works says attaching the mudguards to bikes with disc brakes and/or rear racks can involve some additional fiddling.

The brand says older disc brake calipers can hinder the mudguard stay from attaching to the eyelet on the dropout. Modern, low-profile calipers, such as on my Shimano Ultegra R8020 groupset, should be fine, according to Portland Design Works.

If your bike has only one eyelet on the rear dropout with a rear rack already attached, the mudguard brackets will have to go on the outside of the rack legs.

On my Fairlight Strael 3.0, the chainstay bridge was too low to the ground to accommodate the original length of the mudguard. My mechanic trimmed the mudguard there and drilled an extra hole through the metal to connect to the eyelet.

Since then, the Full Metal Fenders have stayed silently and firmly in position, including during off-road excursions.

The Portland Design Works mudguards are expensive, even for full-length, metal models.

The closest rivals are the Velo Orange mudguards, priced at £65 / $76 when we reviewed them in 2019.

BikeRadar deputy editor Jack Luke awarded them four stars, his only criticisms being their involved installation process and amount of toe overlap.

Velo Orange sells front and rear wheel flaps separately from $20, but these are included with the Portland Design Works mudguards.

The Honjo Koken mudguards are a similar price to the Velo Orange set. They don't come with pre-drilled holes or flaps though.

At £60, the four-star Kinesis Fend Off set are among the cheapest full-length, metal mudguards around. But they only come in two sizes.

The 40mm-wide option, accommodating a maximum tyre width of 34mm, weighs 637g, which is 77g heavier than the Portland Design Works after installation.

A weight difference of give or take 14 per cent probably isn't a huge deal. The likelihood is you’ll be putting mudguards on your winter road bike or the bike you ride all-year round. Comfort in adverse weather will trump uphill speed.

The Full Metal Fenders give superlative protection to you and your bike, largely justifying their premium pricing.

I’d argue spending hundreds of dollars or pounds on winter cycling clothing is fruitless if your uncovered wheels send a murky jetstream up your back.

The Full Metal Fenders’ length, shape, rigidity and secure fit contribute to their effectiveness.

On front and rear wheels, the backs of the mudguards fall nearly to the floor thanks to their flaps, while curving around the wheel.

Despite the mudguards’ length, I didn't have any issues with my toes overlapping. For context, I run 175mm-long cranks, have size EU46 shoes and the front-centre measurement of my 58T Strael is 609mm.

Your results may vary if you run long cranks, have larger feet or if you’re fitting the mudguard to a bike with a shorter front centre.

Provided you stick to the recommended width, the mudguards shouldn't rub your tyres. I tested them with 28mm and 32mm-wide road bike tyres with no problem. A set of 35mm tyres (the maximum recommended width) was a bit of a squeeze, but possible.

The mudguards hug the tyres closely enough to stop water escaping either side. This is a downside of clip-on mudguards, which can often hover uselessly miles above the tyre.

Plastic mudguards are also more prone to wobble in the wind, on rough ground and when you’re giving it some out of the saddle. This can require infuriating mid-ride adjustment.

Perhaps due to their weight and definitely their fantastic fit, the Full Metal Fenders didn't fidget.

In addition, they attach to dedicated mounting points on the frame, so shouldn't scratch the paintwork.

The Full Metal Fenders have made riding in miserable weather – typical of winter road cycling in the northern hemisphere – less miserable.

Last year, I went bikepacking in March without mudguards and in October with them. The length, temperature and volume of rain were similar on both trips.

In October, my bottom half and back, which the mudguards are there to protect, stayed cleaner and dried quicker when the sun came out. I didn't endure those dark, shivery moments on long rides when your fingers fail to function.

Furthermore, the Full Metal Fenders saved my bikepacking bags from a soaking too, in turn protecting their contents further.

When it comes to cleaning your bike, the Full Metal Fenders will save you a lot of elbow grease.

The forward-facing front flap is short, but follows the curve of the wheel. Any muck that does accumulate on the bottom half of the fork is easy to wipe off.

The flap is long enough to minimise the spray hitting the front of the bike. This should reduce the frequency with which you need to service the headset and replace headset bearings.

The rear part of the front mudguard almost entirely encircles the wheel. I marvelled at how well this blocked water from flying backwards: onto my feet and the bike.

After sodden outings, my overshoes required little more than a wipe dry.

If you have a mechanical groupset, this front mudguard section shields externally routed cables on the down tube. This area needed minimal bike cleaner to spruce up.

The chainrings are also out of the line of fire. The front half of the rear mudguard runs right down to the chainstays, protecting the bike cassette and rear derailleur.

We all know a cleaner drivetrain is more efficient, saving watts, and lasts longer, saving money. But if you’re anything like me, cleaning a bike chain is a chore, rather than a hobby.

As with other things, preventing your chain getting dirty is better than the cure of cleaning it. While using the Portland Design Works Full Metal Fenders, I’m confident my chain and jockey wheels accumulated less grime.

Instead, the Full Metal Fenders take the brunt of the winter roads, as removing my bike's wheels revealed. The mudguard undersides get plastered, but water washes the muck off swiftly.

If you’re riding in a group, your pals will be thankful for the Full Metal Fenders’ proper rear-wheel coverage. The flap on the back mudguard extends to eight o’clock.

Unlike ‘cosmetic’ mudguards (there for show rather than protection), this minimises the spray sent backwards from the rear wheel. It shouldn't cause your mates to return from a club ride looking like smallpox patients.

More than £100 / $100 is a sizeable sum to spend on mudguards.

However, the Full Metal Fenders lack the flaws of their cheaper competitors, and two generously sized mud flaps are included in the price.

Since installation, they’ve required no adjustment – only an occasional scrub to remove the filth they’d deflected from my bike.

Having tested the Full Metal Fenders, I would dedicate more of my winter cycling kit budget to quality mudguards than clothing.

I reckon these mudguards will do a better job of keeping you warm and dry than the best winter bib tights at up to half the price. They’re bound to last longer too.

The bulk of the Portland Designs Works mudguards may not appeal to weight-conscious riders, but I’d much rather carry 600g in metal mudguards than water from saturated cycling kit.

Digital Writer

Jack Evans is a digital writer for BikeRadar.com Jack learnt to ride on rough Cotswold trails before switching to tarmac in his teens. Gravel riding and cyclocross racing (badly) has since taken him back to his roots. Most at home scaling south Wales climbs, Jack more commonly escapes his home in Birmingham via the lanes and bridleways of Worcestershire, riding either his Canyon Ultimate road bike or Canyon Grail gravel bike. He wishes he was as good at riding as he is drinking espresso. But he has completed the 296km Dragon Devil sportive in under 10 hours and finished in the top 100 at the 2022 UK National Hill Climb Championships. Jack is an NCTJ-trained journalist and a former press agency hack with bylines in The Times, Daily Telegraph and Daily Mirror. He was once electrocuted for a Sun frontpage exclusive and taste-tested camel milk for The Times.