Mudhugger come out of the winter blocks hot with their second generation of their ever-popular Rear Hugger designed to keep your ass dry.
Pete sat down for a chat with the Gardiners for a chat about how the second generation Mudhugger Rear Hugger came from concept to fruition.
What was the impetus behind launching updating the Rear Hugger?
When we first designed the ‘original’ rear Mudhugger (26 inch) back in 2012 we’d tried everything we could think of to create a quick release fitting system. However, back then all of our ideas were far too complex, which made them too expensive and worst of all too weak. Over the last couple of years we’d tried various Velcro fitting ideas, but when we came across the 20mm wide silicon backed straps the next step was easy.
This project also gave us the chance to address the much-asked for BB extender. Although simple in concept, getting 2 parts of soft plastic to easily fit together without using nuts and bolts was a stiff challenge.
Once you’ve made that decision, what happens next?
After trail testing modified existing Huggers during late 2020 and the first half of 2021 we knew the theory was good and start to consider R&D costs and production tooling costs.
How many people are involved, and what do they do?
We’re the ideas guys (J & B) but we aren’t proficient in CAD, which is what you need to be able to create a massive injection moulding tool. Working closely with our manufacturing team and a CAD engineer we turn our basic ideas into a working design.
How did you know what you did, and didn’t, want to do with the new Rear Hugger?
Apart from fitting the Hugger to the seat stays with quick release reusable Velcro straps we wanted to start from scratch on the mudguard design. This cost us plenty of lost time during early 2021 as every option we tried was compromised in some way; too complex, too weak, too short etc.
Did you have materials in mind before you started?
We’ve always used recycled PP for all of our injection moulded Mudhuggers since day one. With our tried and tested design, we knew this would work for the MK2 rear Huggers.
How important is it to you to use recycled materials?
When we started Mudhugger back in 2012 we had 3 main goals. 1. Make Mudhugger in the UK. 2 Use recycled materials. 3. Create designs that actually work and are robust with excellent product longevity.
How many prototypes did you go through before getting to the production model(s)?
These days, with 3D printing, R&D is so much quicker and cheaper than in 2012 (if I remember correctly the first rapid prototype rear Mudhugger cost us over £5000) and we can pick and choose which parts of the product to print for testing purposes, so you aren’t having to pay £100s of for a whole prototype when you just want test a certain part.
Can you talk us through that prototype stage?
For us we make our own prototypes from old mudguards, cut them up, fix them back together with duct tape, zipties, rivets and bolts etc so that we have a working mule that we can test on the trails for months before we commit to time with the CAD engineers. By the time we get the CAD engineers involved we already have an estimate of tooling costs and a very good idea of how the end product with look.
3D printing the parts of the design we are unsure of makes the trial and error much quicker and cheaper, subtle changes can be tested and proved or discounted easily. Once all of those small design issues have been resolved we always make a full-size prototype so that we can fit test on as many different bikes as possible at our long-suffering LBS.
How important are your athletes to product development and at what stage do they become involved?
Most of our athletes are DH or Enduro racers, so for the rear mudguards they are useless. Luckily, over the years we have befriended plenty of XC/endurance or 24hour champions who favour comfort over looks. They ride 100+ miles per week which we could never achieve even if we wanted to. So, it’s fair to say our mule test prototypes have covered 1000s of miles in total.
Cracking the BB extender push fitting.
When your CAD engineer waits 2 months before telling you they don’t have time to finish the project. Luckily we only lost another month before we found our current CAD engineer who understood our vibe really quickly and completed the project in just a few weeks.
Where next for Mudhugger?
So, we need to sell plenty of the new MK2 Rear Huggers to cover the costs of the R&D and tooling, so that will be our main focus in the short term. Long term we’d really like to diversify a bit into more engineering parts for bikes, but so far, we’re yet to spot an opportunity that we’re taken with. Any ideas?
You can check out the new Mudhugger Rear Hugger MkII on their website here.