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The SKS Nightblade mudguard is a good choice to keep your bum and back clean, while being easily removed or added as weather dictates. The removable rear light is only for legal compliance, though, and adds a hefty premium over similar non-light versions.
If you're riding in the UK you really need mudguards. You might not want them – you might decide to ride without them and end up splattered in all manner of cack – but you still need them.
As people come to understand the benefits of not soaking their major muscle groups in an ambient-temperature slurry – not to mention the savings realised in not trashing expensive kit – mudguards have become more widely used, but still the allure of a fender-free bike is there.
Maybe it's a proxy for optimism – 'I don't need them because the trails and roads I ride are clean/dry/cack-free'. So if you want to run clean lines in sunshine but still protect your dignity when the weather turns, an easily-removable mudguard could be the thing.
There are various options we've reviewed over the years from SKS, including the Speedrocker, the Raceblade Pro and the Raceblade Long. These are all great mudguards, SKS taking a lot of time to refine its products and then support them with excellent customer service. With a five-year warranty and full parts availability, the Nightblade is no exception.
Fitting is child's play. The clamp head has two swing-out arms – one removes completely, and is what you pass around your seatpost, the other hinges to unclamp the nylon webbing strap to allow adjustment of length. The rubber clamp face is 43mm long, so that's how much seatpost or tube – above or below your seatpost clamp – you'll need free to secure the guard.
There are three 4mm hex adjustment bolts, one that adjusts the Y-shaped yoke that connects the clamp and guard, the other two adjust the guard angle. So regardless of your bike's geometry it's a safe bet you'll be able to get the Nightblade adjusted to sit close to your wheel/free of your suspension travel. You can angle the front tip of the guard down to hug your wheel/clear any suspension gubbins or a close seatpost.
Once in place with a good amount of force, the Nightblade stays solidly put over the roughest ground, even on quite narrow posts.
Plenty of people make removable fenders of this design, but what marks the Nightblade out is the removable LED light. It comes off with a spring-loaded sliding plastic tab which, unfortunately, is prone to sticking when exposed to dirt. This isn't that much of an issue to remove as you can flex the mudguard body to give more clearance for the tab – when replacing it you need to ensure the tab is secure enough to hold the light firmly.
Charging is via a micro USB port underneath into the 500mAh internal battery. SKS doesn't provide any IP rating, but it's well protected from rain and splashes.
While charging, there's an orange flashing LED; after 90 minutes it's full and ready for five hours of running on the highest setting. This is a whopping 4 lumens – only just scraping the UK's legal requirement for 4 Candela emitted rearward – and therefore possibly not legal in low power mode.
SKS claims four hours run-time so is being conservative here – further backed up by the fact that after five hours the light switches to flashing mode (also at 4 lumens) for another three hours. You get the orange LED warning you that the battery is low as well, so you're unlikely to be caught out, and with a short charge time you can be up and riding quickly.
There's a 2-lumen low constant mode as well, good for 8-10 hours, and the 4-lumen flashing mode is more like 12 hours.
Given the tiny power on display here, the Nightblade really is a 'legal-compliance' light that is going to make approximately zero difference to whether or not a driver sees you. It's possibly of more use in a group ride, helping others judge their distance to you. Also, if it stops the cops hassling you when riding home after dark that's a win.
Light and fitting aside, the major benefit of the Nighblade is the coverage it gives your back, and here it's a complete winner. On a four-hour exploration 'ride' – what transpired to be more of a spin through clay/bog/farmyard slop – I was expecting the back of my rather pricey adverse-weather jacket to resemble a cross between abstract art and a well-fed toddler's undergarments. Nothing could be further from the truth: the jacket was completely clean. Not a single speck of muck was evident – and this was off a 700C wheel with a 2.2in tyre.
The narrowest part of the guard is 3in wide and the rubberised tail broadens to 4in, I'm guessing to help account for flex left-right as the guard bounces. Whatever the rationale, it just works.
SKS sells a dedicated 26-27.5in version that's 70mm shorter, for bike frames where the wheel diameter is smaller, or the seatpost attachment point might be more rearward than a more vertical gravel/road frame.
Are integrated-light, removable mudguard combos the future, or a doomed-to-repeat-past-failure solution looking for a problem? The Topeak iGlow met with similar derision for its lighting capability a few years back, though it's a bit cheaper at £39.99.
SKS does a non-LED rear guard called the X-Blade for around £23, which uses exactly the same fittings as the Nightblade – so you're paying £22 for a 4-lumen removable light. For that money you can get any number of much brighter rear lights, so really, the judgement here comes down to how much you value the integrated nature of the Nightblade to keep you out of trouble with the law.
It's a very effective mudguard, but the light is really only meeting legal requirements
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road.cc test report
Make and model: SKS Night Blade mudguard
Size tested: 29in
Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
It's for people wanting to stay dry and clean, whilst being legally-compliant at night on roads.
NIGHTBLADE for Nightriders
Best protection with high luminosity! The NIGHTBLADE MTB mudguard for the rear wheel is an enlightening example of integrated bicycle solutions. It not only provides optimal splash protection the NIGHTBLADE also ensures greater safety in road traffic from the integrated rear light. The rear light with integrated rechargeable battery can be removed and charged with a USB connection.
The rear light with the integrated battery can be removed and can be recharged using a USB connection. The spoilers of softer plastic serve as edge protectors when getting on or off the bike. The simple quick-release mounting system enables the NIGHTBLADE to be mounted on almost all seat posts using powerstraps and the 2-joint technology enables them to be optimally adjusted to mountainbikes. The mudguards are suitable for mounting with 26'', 27.5'' and 29'' tyres.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
weight: 265 g
wheel size: 26", 27,5" (650b) "
tyre width: 3.0"
length rear fender: 550 mm
Typical great SKS quality.
The mudguard is excellent, the light is really compliance only.
The mudguard looks bombproof, the light not so much.
For the inclusion of a light, it's OK.
An additional £22 for such a small light is not great value. It's also a fiver more than Topeak's DeFender iGlow.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
The Nightblade does a perfect job of staying stable while keeping you clean and dry; being legally compliant is a bonus.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The light really should be a lot brighter for the money.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Compared to the non-lighted X-Blade version, the price is quite high. The Topeak DeFender iGlow met with a similarly derisive opinion of its lighting capability, but is slightly cheaper at £39.99.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? I'd choose the non-light version.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Only if they specifically needed to remain legal at night while not wanting to run an actually bright light.
Use this box to explain your overall score
You're paying a hefty premium for a small light, which knocks the score down. I suspect most people will buy the standard X-Blade guard and use a separate light.
About the tester
I usually ride: Sonder Camino Gravelaxe My best bike is: Nah bro that's it
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo cross, general fitness riding, mtb, G-R-A-V-E-L
Living in the Highlands, Mike is constantly finding innovative and usually cold/wet ways to accelerate the degradation of cycling kit. At his happiest in a warm workshop holding an anodised tool of high repute, Mike's been taking bikes apart and (mostly) putting them back together for forty years. With a day job in global IT (he's not completely sure what that means either) and having run a boutique cycle service business on the side for a decade, bikes are his escape into the practical and life-changing for his customers.