There are two main types of bike fenders. Full-length fenders are secure, stable fenders that surround half your wheel and give little chance for wheel spray to escape. These rely on stays made from wire struts that bolt to a frame’s fender mounts, P-clamps on frames without fender braze-ons. Ask any wet weather commuter, and they’ll say these types of fenders are a must.
The other set, perhaps more relevant to the cyclocrosser and mountain biker, are clip-on fenders, also described as flipper fenders.
Attend any wet cyclocross race and you’ll see savvy pro racers doing their warm-ups with a clip-on rear fender. They keep the bike and your back and fanny cleaner and drier. Good ones snap on in seconds and stay in place.
In a year of record drought in California, we’ve still managed to thoroughly test SKS’ new made-in-Germany X-TRA DRY XL rear fender. Thanks to Mother Nature (and perhaps global warming), it’s taken us a while, but it’s been on three different bikes, and tested through five different storms and the muddiest race we’ve seen in a few years.
The SKS X-TRA DRY XL fender is, as the name describes, quite large. At 600mm long, and 95mm wide, it’s big enough to cover a 29×3.0 tire with some width to spare. Which means even if it rotates a bit, it should be plenty big to shield you from your muddy cyclocross tire.
Set-up isn’t quite a snap, even though installation, once everything is adjusted, is. The seatpost mount has two levers. The left side has to clamp the cloth strap at a precise position that requires a few iterations to get right. You need it to be tight enough to keep the fender in place, while loose enough to allow the right side lever to snap into place. It probably took four attempts to find the sweet spot. But once the left lever is set, the right lever is all you need to install and remove the plastic fender. It literally takes two seconds to throw on any bike if your seatpost diameter and bike size is constant.
There’s a recessed 4mm Allen bolt to adjust the angle of the fender. Keeping the angle lower to the tire is better to catch more spray, but don’t go too low. Bumps will have the fender slapping your rear tire.
In a late season muddy race, and in a handful of rainstorms since, the SKS X-TRA DRY XL fender kept the backside of our bikes and bodies cleaner and drier. Probably the most-appreciated benefit, but least obvious, was that the fender kept the top of our saddles mud free, making remounts a lot less slippery and a whole lot more pleasant.
SKS, a German company, makes its fenders in Germany, but actually calls them mud guards – a nod to their relevance in cyclocross. We think they’re appropriately named, and are well-suited for a cyclocrossers’ race day bag, for warm-ups or even during sloppy races. At just 152g (10g lighter than the 162g list weight), you likely won’t notice the weight, and it’s possible at the end of the race, you and your bike will be more than 152g lighter simply because your back isn’t carrying a pound of mud.
There’s not much to complain about with the X-TRA DRY XL fender, especially when it’s less than 20 bucks, but there were a few nitpicks.
The bolt to adjust the angle, set at the factory, came loose on us once, after a long bumpy ride, but after an adjustment and retightening, it hasn’t come loose since.
It’s worth noting that the fender is better suited on small to medium-sized bikes with a generous amount of seatpost showing. This allows the mount to sit lower, and the angle of the fender to cover more of the wheel. Giants like Ryan Trebon with really tall bikes may find the angle of the fender will protect their backs and butts fine, but leave a good portion of the stays and post exposed.
Even with the strap perfectly adjusted, because the fender is so long, it’s pretty easy to knock the fender and rotate it on your seatpost so that it’s not fully covering your rear wheel, and that’d be an annoyance in a race, but it’s also just as easy to rotate it back.
While the simple strap mount and lack of wheel wrap isn’t sufficient for regular wet weather commuters or riders, the X-TRA DRY XL fender is also perfect for instant wet weather protection for mountain bikers, cyclocrossers and road cyclists, and still a great option for commuters in drier or drought-stricken climates (that’s you California).
Priced at $19.99, it’s hard to find fault with the SKS X-TRA DRY XL fender, especially when it can take turns on all your bikes and wet rides.
SKS offers a companion Shockboard XL front fender designed for suspension forks, but adapters are available for rigid forks (but need an opening at the bottom of the steerer tube, under the fork crown).
Use the slider below to see more details on the SKS X-TRA DRY XL Fender along with the full spec list. More info: sks-germany.com