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!


  1. I see bikes at the thrift stores with metal fenders, but rarely with plastic.

  2. Perfectly smooth roads? Ha! I guess its true you only remember the
    good parts of your adventures here :) Let me know when you want Pac NW Official mud flap (with a library girl of course)!!!

    1. Dan, you should see the state of our roads these days. I've added a rope and grappling hook to my saddle bag in case I fall into one of the many potholes. But I figured the only reasonable explanation for making fenders that took a 23mm MAX width tire - was perfectly smooth, but wet roads. We are aiming to head out your way this year. Will chat soon.

  3. I just want to say how nice it is to see you writing about bikes more than about healing. Maybe spring and warm weather will return, too!?1? Glad you are feeling better and things are looking up.

    1. Spring and warm weather, you say. I'm thinking that might happen in June. Polar Vortex returned today!

      And I've been wanting to write about the new/modified bike, but I needed some new photos, and it's just been too cold and snowy to get any reasonable shots.

      Hoping to return to more of the regular programming soon.

  4. Glad to see you on a bike: you look fine.
    Two days ago I ordered flat aluminum fenders (Salmon “garde boue eco”), I am not sure it’s going to be as efficient as yours. In fact it depends on the goal: I want both water shield and aerodynamic efficiency.

    1. I used Salmon fenders years ago. I first saw them at PBP in 1987 (back when fenders were mandatory), and thought they looked sexy, and seemed to be designed for tight clearance *racing bikes*. They do indeed look sexy, but the lack of sides make them less effective. They were also rather thick (and surprisingly heavy) which meant they took up precious space under the brakes. I remember having to use a super skinny (18mm) tire on the front on my vitus when using these mudguards. Fortunately French roads were glass smooth.

      In 1993, we got a set of the wide ones for our tandem - had them painted to match. The design of the tandem was such that the rear had a very long unsupported section and the fender broke while we were on tour the next year. This bike had cantilever brakes and we had plenty of clearance, but again the flat profile of the fender meant water would spray out the sides, so it looked good, but not so much when the roads were wet.

      Hope you have better luck.

    2. Thanks! I've read, maybe too late, posts with label "fender".
      My "Cyfac" bike has a close design like your "Seven": sort of light randonneur.

  5. So good to see you back on the bike! How would you rate the PDW metal fenders vs. the SKS Longboards?


    1. Hi Geoff,

      I am enjoying being back on the bike, even though I'm slow and can't go very long distances yet. Despite that, it feels great. Thanks.

      I can compare the ease of installation of the two quite well because I have mounted both sets on the same bike within a few days. At this stage I have the PDWs on my geared Seven, and the SKS's on my fixie. Since they use the same model Seven 5e Medium Reach Carbon Fork and essentially have the same geometry, it's easy to move fenders between them - and I have!


      Obviously it depends on the clearances on your frame, fork and brakes, but for me the SKS has a slight edge in mounting thanks to the give of the plastic versus the *non-give* of metal. The Seven 5e Medium Reach Carbon Fork has excellent clearance, but is a bit narrower and shorter than is ideal for 32 mm tires with fenders. (I'm pushing things - Their spec says 28's and fenders.) The brake blocks sit in the *middle* of the slot in my 57 mm brakes. Ideally for 32's and fenders, the brake blocks would be a the bottom of the slot and I wouldn't have to push the fender so high into the brake itself. This isn't a criticism - it's the most versatile fork in its class, and 95% of users have no need for a longer one :-)

      On my bikes, the plastic fender is squeezed in by the sides of the fork, and gets pushed down a bit when I open the brake QR. The metal fender had to be *cold set* to deal with these two issues - and would actually need a bit more work to get the brake to release fully. Just to be clear, I would have had this issue with any fender wide enough to work with the 32 mm tires and this fork, but I wouldn't have been so cavalier about bending the thinner metal fenders while expecting them not to eventually crack. The PDW's are rock solid sturdy.

      On the road - on the day John took all the photos, I had the PDWs, while John had longboards. We both stayed clean and dry. But at the end of the day, my bike was a little bit cleaner than John's. When we returned, John washed both bikes, while I disappeared upstairs to goof off. He reported that before washing, my bike was cleaner than his.

      Having ridden behind him much of the day, I can say that the longboards do a great job of protecting your riding companions and he will likely say the same about the PDWs. That said, we have added longer even more companion friendly mudflaps (like you see in the top photo) to both.

      I do love the look of the grey anodized fenders with my bare titanium frame, but I also think the black plastic ones look good too. Both can also be painted.

      There is NO comparison to mounting other lightweight metal fenders. It takes John much longer to mount these and involves lots of swearing!


    2. Me? Cursing while mounting metal mudguards? I'm just counting in Irish:

      Aon Focail Eile

    3. Be sure to turn the volume all the way UP before you click Fear Rothar's link ;-)

  6. Thank you Pamela, this is perfect because I'm thinking of swapping out a "short reach" fork for the Seven medium reach you have on your bikes. And I'd want to get 32's with fenders on the bike. As well a rack to carry the grappling hook, chain and winch you mentioned as standard equipment for pothole spelunking.

    As to the slow and short distance claim, I suspect that is a somewhat exaggerated and self-deprecatory analysis. Looking forward to proving my thesis in a couple of weeks.