Photo by Jason DeVarennes



Monday, February 24, 2014

New Fender Day

Last year our friend, @the_wilcox (who recently moved out to Portland, possibly in an attempt to get even more use out of his fenders), showed off his beautiful Full Metal Fenders from Portland Design Works and raved about how well they worked. I must admit to admiring their looks, with the simple elegant stays and lovely anodized finish. But more than the aesthetics was the fact that they worked so well and held up to abuse over the long term, unlike many of the lightweight metal fenders we've tried over the years. Fear Rothar has cracked or broken pretty much every type of lightweight metal fender out there (Honjo, Berthoud, Velo Orange), to the extent that I've now bribed the folks at Harris Cyclery to stop ordering new ones for him to break.. the bank!

John claims to have one original set with lots of trouble-free miles, but there is a box full of discarded broken fenders down in the garage, and I remember a few rides where he finished with half a fender strapped to the bike or hanging out of a pocket. I also recall a recent snowy Saturday that he spent hacking up a broken one to use to patch and reinforce a cracked one! [Editor's note: Do not ride trails with metal mudguards. They do not like sticks and branches!]

My belt-drive fixie Seven with SKS longboards and room for 32mm tires!
These days many of our bikes sport non-metal fenders with the SKS longboards being the most effective of the ilk. One advantage to the plastic fenders is they tolerate bumps and bending, that comes from opening brake QRs, removing wheels, loading bikes into or onto cars, bikes falling over, and packing/travelling.

Still I was tempted by the metal fender offerings from PDW, since they are so rock solid and @the_wilcox gave them a thumbs up in the durability department.

Sadly PDW's original full metal fender was designed for 700C X 23mm tires, which may be fine for the perfectly smooth paved roads of the Pacific Northwest, but our New England roads are laced with frost-heaves and are more potholes than pavement these days and I've just grown to appreciate the comfort of wider tires. 

Besides the only bike I have with skinny 23mm wide tires is also my only fender-free bike. Regular readers may recall this same tire size limitation was my main complaint with the SKS raceblade longs.

BTW, I will say that while the raceblade longs won't work for me due to that max 23 mm tire width, many of my friends (who ride with those skinny tires) have found them to be just the ticket for their bikes with tight clearances. And honestly I'm grateful that they have them!

Crud Roadracers with mudflap made from high-tech packing tape!

Readers of my previous blog entries on fenders may also remember that I've been using the super lightweight Roadracer Fenders from Crud on my coupled Seven. They are reasonably effective and come apart nicely for packing. But I, and more importantly my riding companions, longed for something with better coverage. After breaking my back last fall, I also decided I really wanted fatter tires so I had the back end of my coupled and geared Seven modified to take a tire like the Grand Bois Cypres (nominal 700CX30 - but measures closer to 32) with a fender.
My belted/fixie Seven already had this clearance, and sports the wide SKS Longboards with a Cypres tire on the back. I was just about to put those same fenders on the newly rebuilt geared bike, when I noticed that PDW had released a new wider version of their metal fenders, the Full Metal Fenders - City, which at 45 mm wide, are designed to work with 700C tires up to 38mm. I asked our local shops about getting a set, and Harris Cyclery was able to get them for us.

We had to do a slight modification to get the front fender to work with my fork. The original narrower fenders have cut outs on the sides to accommodate a narrow fork crown and to allow for the QR on a caliper brake. The wider model does not have this cut out by default, so we had to do a bit of tweaking. We have found that the Tektro 539 brake has a more fender-friendly shape than the Shimano 57mm reach brake that I had used previously, so we made that swap. 

Both front and rear fender come with safety quick releases for the stays. The stays slide into the QR and are secured with a tiny hex key. The fenders come complete with nice mudflaps, and in relatively short order my new-ish bike was ready for a proper fender test.

We've had plenty of snow in the last few weeks, and the roads are covered in sand and salt. Since mounting them, I'd managed to get out a few times on dry-ish roads, and the fenders felt solid and kept grit off my bike and backside.

Then last weekend, the temperature soared to over 50F. That, combined with thunderstorms the day before, snow clogged storm drains, and the snow-melt canal - 2 foot high snow banks on each side of the road - made riding on the road more like riding in a shallow river at times. Puddles were more like small lakes, hiding craters that could swallow a small car.

This was a day made for fat tires and fenders! And it was time to test them both...

A rare dry section of road and no muddy wet stripe up my backside!

More typical of the road conditions on Saturday!
As my friend Richard Fries put it so eloquently in a recent tweet, fenders prevent the dreaded ice-water enema!

At one point an oncoming cyclist offered a greeting of "It's sure a messy day!" But John and I just shared a private chuckle that we hadn't noticed and how clean we were thanks to our be-fendered machines.

I'll also point out that the front of me is clean too, because my riding companion also had good fenders!

Remember friends don't let friends spray friends! Spring is fender season! Let's be dry out there! 

Another dry bit of pavement

The verdict so far. Awesome. I'll report back in a year about the longevity. In the meantime, I'm hoping they will make a wide 650B model that we can put on the tandem! hint, hint

In closing, I'll leave you with these images...
Photo by Natalia Boltukhova


Photo by Matt Roy
Mo Bruno Roy looks great all the time, but she really carries off the muddy look with style and grace!

I'm quite happy not to have ended up in this state on Saturday!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Cycling in Ireland - shot in the arm

The snow is coming down - yet again! - as I type. We joined the Ride Studio Cafe gang for part of their cafe-to-cafe ride this morning and early afternoon, before heading for home more directly when flakes started floating down. The good news is that leaves me with some free time to finish up a long promised post on my cycling adventures in Ireland at the end of 2013.

We originally had a trip to Ireland pencilled in for October last year, but Pamela's contretemps in September put that plan on hold indefinitely. To make a long story short, she had recovered sufficiently by late November to make air travel viable. And while late November and early December might not be the time that most people plan a trip to Ireland, we both really needed a change of scenery and I needed to use up my time off at work. Thus, carpe diem!

I had only managed to get out cycling occasionally since early September and felt like a complete slug. Despite having more than a little to contend with herself, Pamela could see me unravelling and kindly encouraged me to fit in as much cycling as I reasonably could, around visiting family and friends. Happily, my brother David had the first week in December off, so we were able to take advantage of genial weather conditions and get out for several spins together.

Our first spin together took us on a western slice of the Wicklow Mountains, to Blessington. You have to work a little harder these days to get out of Dublin but, once you do, road bliss awaits!

Climbing up to Red Gap

Near Ballysmuttan Bridge

View from The Ranger's Road

The lower reaches of Sorrel Hill

Descending towards the Blessington Lakes

Our route to Blessington follows:

The next day took us west into County Kildare. The day's route was in complete contrast to that of the day before - flat, but with a warren of roads to choose from to keep things interesting.

The ride looked like:

Next up was a jaunt to Skerries, on the coast, for lunch with our old (longtime, that is) friend Declan. This took in some classic roads in the north county, which I entirely failed to do photographic justice to.

Our route to and from Skerries looked like:

We then travelled down to County Carlow to visit my sister, Daphne. She is located in a simply gorgeous corner of the country and we tried to take full advantage of that fact. We pointed our wheels south towards the Blackstairs Mountains and, in particular, Mt. Leinster.

The climb from Myshall to the Corrabut Gap is an attention getter in more than one way!

Closing in on the top of the Corrabut Gap

Yours truly approaching the Corrabut Gap

The next leg of the climb up to The Nine Stones

We, err, bumped into Pamela and Daphne at The Nine Stones

Then we got to do some descending...

...before climbing again

We just managed to make it back to Duckett's Grove before sunset...

...catching a view in the gloamin'

Our Blackstairs ramble went here:

Dave next took us on a masterpiece of a spin, to Clonegal, centre of worship of the goddess Isis. We left Tullow by the historic Mount Wolseley before diving into labyrinthine lanes, finally emerging hungry in Clonegal. While the closed Sha-Roe Bistro taunted us across the street, we scrounged what we could from the shops in town before continuing with the delights of our day.

A view of Clonegal

Our route to Clonegal looked like:

The next day, on a whim, we decided to see if could find a clear view of Humewood Castle, in nearby Kiltegan. We failed, but certainly had fun trying! For those curious, you can see some pictures of the castle here.

Looking towards the Humewood estate in Kiltegan

Did I mention we had fun looking for views?

Keadeen Mountain had her head in the clouds

We took a side trip to the High Cross in Moone

An octagonal fixer-upper

Mt. Leinster in the distance

If Daphne lived there, we would have been home
Our route to Kiltegan looked like:

Returning to Dublin, I next took a spin up to the Hill of Tara with my friends Colm and Declan. We talked our way up, chatted our way through a very long lunch at the coffee shop there, where we met Pamela, my mom and my sister Suzanne. Leaving lunch just before it got dark (!), we headed to the nearby Skreen Church for sunset. That left us with a fun return through the lanes in the dark, when the craic never went below ninety!

We just made to Skreen before the sun set

That spin looked like:

A storm on our second last day was not enough to deter my nephew, Luke, from wanting to do a spin together. We took to the nearby Royal Canal for something a little different and to avoid traffic.

This picture doesn't capture how slippery the mud was

Christmas-special steam train with canal waves courtesy of the gale force wind