Topeak D-Flash Splash Guards: Quick Review – by Guitar Ted
There are a lot of bikes that do not support fenders, and a lot more people that think fenders are not cool. They maybe think that they look dorky, or that they maybe cause issues for muddy riding, or that they are not aero, so they do not want them on their bicycles. I used to be counted amongst these folk. Then my friend Ben Witt, of Whiskey Parts (at the time, a proprietor of his own bike shop), convinced me of the powers of the fender. I became a convert. Since then I have run numerous fender options including the clip on sort. It’s a fuzzy line, but I think there is a point where these clip on/strapped on deals become ‘deflectors’ more than fenders, in the proper sense, at any rate.
What It Is: So, getting back to these Topeak sheilds…..deflectors? They aren’t really “fenders”. I’m going with “splash guards” here. Okay, so what are they? Well, they reminded me of a certain Pacific Northwest company’s splash guards for fat bikes which I have on a few of my own fat bikes. The ‘origami’ style ones which you punch out of a point of purchase hang card and bend along pre-described lines which then gives the splash guard its shape and structural stability. Those type of things are what we have here. Effective at helping to keep you ‘mostly’ dry and therefore warmer. That’s the basic idea. You do not buy these if you are thinking about keeping the muck and mire off you 100% nor if you want to keep your steed clean and the drive train free from a soaking on dirt, mud, and water. Nope! These are not for that.
This is the sort of product you buy to get around the situation where a bicycle was designed without fenders in mind. Now to be fair, most “gravel bikes” have fender mounts, or at least those hidden ones, so you can put on proper fenders, or as the Europeans call them- mudguards. Typically these strap or clip onto parts of your bicycle like the seat post, down tube, or fork crown. even seat rails can be utilized for this sort of solution and Topeak covers all of of these points in their D-Flash Series of splash guards.
Riding Gravel received the seat tube mounted “ST” model and the down tube “DT” model to try out. They were easy to punch out and form into their three dimensional states. I noted lots of odd vents, I suppose that’s what they were. Little openings in the plastic which may have been there as a relief to aid in bending the D-Flash into a shape. I’m not entirely sure on that, but it didn’t affect the way the D-Flash performed that I could tell. These products are obviously light. Not even hardly worth mentioning that, really. That said, once they were bent into their shapes they retained them and seemed to be durable enough without being flimsy or too stiff.
The hook and loop fabric straps meant to attach the D-Flash to your bike was of the ultra-aggressive sort, so once you got the D-Flash into the desired position, it was easily locked into place and they stayed put. One nice touch I noted was that the graphics are reflective, so in the darker times of Spring, or during evenings/mornings, perhaps on commutes, these splash guards will help make you more visible to people operating motor vehicles.
I chose the Noble Bikes GX5 carbon fiber bike as the test subject for the D-Flash products. I feel it best represents the sort of gravel bike that may not support fenders. The GX5 actually does have hidden fender mounts, but many racy looking carbon fiber frames like this do not. This was also going to be a representative example in that the GX5 features a ‘mono-stay’ design, which means that the seat stays combine into a single structure above the rear tire, unlike most metal frames which usually feature two separate seat stays which typically terminate at the seat tube. This presented a bit of a mounting challenge when using the D-Flash rear splash guard.
The clearances between the underside of the mono-stay and the top of the 40+ mm Vittoria Terreno Dry tire didn’t leave a lot of room for a thin piece of plastic, but I managed to shoe-horn the D-Flash in there without any interference issues. The hook and loop straps were then easily attached to the outer seat stays alongside the tire and at the front, to the seat tube as the design is intended to be used. Again, I had some clearance, not much, and the splash guard was solidly in place with no rubbing or vibrations noted.
The down tube D-Flash DT was easily mounted, although I would caution anyone with a really big down tube that you might need to source your own hook and loop straps. The Noble GX5 presented a bit of a challenge, but the straps were juuuuuust long enough. Again, I found no reason to worry about this splash guard moving around as the hook and loop closure was really secure. I had to mount the D-Flash DT a bit higher than I might have otherwise on the downtube since I am running an underside of the down tube water bottle cage for a tool caddy on this bike. That said, I think I had the D-Flash DT mounted within the ball park of what I would say was an ideal place on the bike for best results.
Ride Performance: I was quite pleased by how robust and strong the straps holding the D-Flash on to my bike were. I splashed with abandon, ran them through mud, and while I did hear some gritty scraping from the rear D-Flash, due to its being so close to the rear tire, that was not unexpected, given the clearance was minimal. Still, it stayed put throughout the test period. That said, there was a critical flaw in the design of the rear D-Flash ST. Since you really need to attach the D-Flash ST to the seat tube to give it stability, and due to the complication of the mono-stay design of the GX5, the extension of the D-Flash ST was just not far enough back over the rear tire to be effective. I fact, it was pretty much ineffective at doing what it was intended to do. I ended up getting a soaked bum within ten minutes of the test. Not good!
The front mounted D-Flash DT was excellent in comparison. The width of the guard, its placement on the down tube, and the rigidity of the guard all worked to keep the muck and mire off my legs, out of my eyes, and nearly kept my riding boots clean as well. Impressive!
At The Finish: A case of good and bad here. The D-Flash ST is just not up to the task. Its too-short extension may have been a bit longer on a traditional seat stay arrangement, but compared to some seat tube/seat post mounted splash guards I have in my stash, even then it is just not long enough to do as good a job as other competitor’s products for a rear mount solution. It is really a disappointing thing since the design is rigid, the attachment system is well executed, and the reflective graphics are really a nice touch. But until Topeak redesigns the D-Flash ST, I cannot recommend it.
On the other hand, the D-Flash DT is an excellent choice for those with a fork that does not support fenders. I would recommend it highly to those running a Lauf fork, or the Fox AX. Coupled with the D-Flash FS for the fork crown, and you’d have a robust, effective front solution for nasty weather. I might suggest that Topeak give us an extra half an inch or so of hook and loop strapping for those bikes with massive down tubes. The straps provided were just barely enough to get the product mounted on the Noble Bikes GX5, but beyond that, I can find no fault in the design and purpose of the D-Flash DT.
Topeak makes the aforementioned D-Flash FS for the fork crown and the D-Flash S for seat rails. While we didn’t test these products I have no reason to believe that they would not do their intended job well. You can find out more about the D-Flash series of splash guards on Topeak’s website here: https://www.topeak.com/global/en/products/d-flash-series/
Note: Topeak sent over the D-Flash ST and DT model splash guards at no charge to Riding Gravel for test and review. We were not paid nor bribed for this review and we always strive to give our honest thoughts and views throughout.