Great Inventions of Cycling The absence of mudguards, 1985
Mudguards were invented as soon as we moved on from the penny farthing — not least because the new breed of feminist cyclists needed something to attach a skirt guard to, so that they didn’t reel themselves into their back wheels and die in a hideous metaphor.
For 100 years or more, mudguards were almost universal — the only exceptions being serious racing bikes. Even then, serious racers used mudguards when not actually racing.
Then one day, some genius had the idea of training all winter without them.
This has a number of remarkable benefits. You get a free gravel enema. If you go riding with a like-minded friend, you can receive a free facial exfoliation from the spray off his or her rear wheel, something that would cost a fortune at a high-street beauty parlour.
It means that you can spray gunk over components like the brakes and gear mechs, which will need replacing earlier, thus helping you to do your bit for the economies of Italy, Japan and the US.
It will keep your feet nice and wet, which will prevent them from overheating.
It will enable you to go very, very slightly faster. This means you can get your winter training rides over with a little more quickly.
And finally, you look cooler. And you can’t put a price on that.
Fancy a free facial? Ditch the guards