Introducing the brand new (prototype!) Mudhugger FR mudguard
Interview by Jamie Edwards
It’s a sunny afternoon in Bristol and I’m sat on the terrace of Mud Dock with Mudhugger’s Bruce Gardiner. Bruce’s brother and partner in crime, Jamie went to uni in Bristol and he’s entertaining me with stories of misadventure in my hometown from their past.
Alongside stories of student misadventure, we’re here to talk about something Bruce (and Jamie who is stuck back at HQ) are very excited about; the brand new Mudhugger FR mudguard.
Bruce and Jamie are co-owners of Mudhugger. They make a front mudguard that attaches neatly to your fork. It offers loads of coverage, it’s light, it’s almost invisible and it works. It’s also made right here in the UK.
The original ‘Hugger did well but late in 2014 they listened to feedback from their riders, Madison Saracen’s Matt Simmonds for one. The advice was that it needed to be bigger and to offer more coverage for riders to use it for downhill and enduro racing.
So, with the profits of the original ‘Hugger they set to work in July 14. The first thing they needed was a new name.
“We had a lot of arguments about the name! Jamie wanted to call it the “Gravity Freak” but we needed something a bit more sensible! We settled on “FR” which means ‘Front Race’. The new guard is aimed Downhill and Enduro bikes.”
Next they got stuck in to some testing, listening to riders and working with Simmonds to nail down a design. Bruce explains that whilst they made a bit of money with the original product they didn’t have the cash to create loads of prototypes and test samples. They had to improvise and work with what they had.
“Simmonds wanted more coverage at the front of the Mudhugger so he turned round his original ‘Hugger and rode it back to front to show us. Then we cut up loads of the old Huggers and made prototypes that we could ride and test out”.
After loads of riding, testing and redesigning they found their new shape. The new ‘Hugger is 70mm longer than before at the front, about 25mm longer at the back and has a slightly more mud-friendly profile. The original ‘Hugger comes with a stick on ‘extender’ which makes it about 80mm longer. The new FR is even longer than the ‘extended’ original Hugger and still allows for the bolt on upgrade. The whole thing weights about 100g.
But of course, as Bruce explains, they couldn’t work with cut-and-shut prototypes forever. They needed a proper pre-production sample. The next stop was to get a designer to create a CAD design which Bruce says “took bloody ages!”.
Then it was on to Warwick University and Warwick Manufacturing Group to create the 3D printed rapid prototype Bruce is showing me here in Bristol.
“We couldn’t have done it without Warwick Uni. They were able to help with the cost of prototyping and we made 4 different designs that we could take away and ride.
The hardest part was getting the front end right so it didn’t foul on any tire designs but still sat nice and snug. We also spent ages settling on the radius at the back so it fitted 26″ and 650b wheels”
And then, Bruce explains, it was on to the exciting bit. Making the ‘Hugger. A huge part of Bruce and Jamie’s plan is to source and manufacture 100% in the UK. Their day-job is at their family Powder Coating business which was setup by their old man and two friends in a shed in the Midlands. In the 30 years the Gardiner lads have been running it they’ve seen huge growth. They’re passionate about UK industry and manufacturing everything here in Old Blighty.
“We’ll never make anything outside the UK unless we can’t get in the UK. Our prototypes were done in Warwick, manufacturing is being done in Worcester and the polypropylene and aluminium that the ‘Huggers and their tooling are made from are UK sourced.
All we’re struggling with now are zipties – the company got bought out and we have to get these overseas now!”
As we sit on the deck of Mud Dock eating lunch and chatting bikes there’s a machine in Worcester warming up to create the first production run of the FR. The Gardiners bought a great big aluminium block which is cut in half and the shape of the new ‘Hugger is machined inside. The billet is then put back together and the 90% recycled polypropylene is injected inside … and a new ‘Hugger is born. 5,000 of these are being created as we chat, due to go on sale in late April 2015 for £23.
“Will you get to see the first one roll of the line?” I ask “I don’t know!” Bruce laughs “I reckon they might get the first couple done before they open the doors and let us in! Either way, we can’t wait to see them. I just hope people like them!”.
Look out for more from Mudhugger here on Wideopenmag. We’ll be following the release of the new UK-made FR.
Any questions for Bruce? Talk to us in the comments below!