For many of us in the bent state on the left coast known as California, this month has brought some of the first significant rain of the season. And for the cycling crowd, that means its time to bring out the fenders. For those of us that like to ride skinny-tired, pretend-to-be-a-racer road bikes, fenders can be a bit of a challenge. The narrow clearances between the tires and frame/forks of most sport-centric road bikes make common commuter fenders impossible to install. That generally reduces your options to one of two categories – ultra-thin (and expensive) full size fenders that fit the tight frame tolerances, or reduced coverage fenders that avoid the clearance problem by not going between the wheel and the frame.
Another challenge for road bike fenders is that – generally speaking – road bikes have no eyelets on either the fork or rear dropouts. This means you will be restricted to fenders using straps to attach the fenders rather than screws. While they may not look aesthetically as clean as bolt-on fenders, they have the advantage of requiring no tools to install or remove.
For almost all applications, I believe that partial, snap-on fenders that cover the front wheel from the fork back and down, and the back wheel from the brake/seat stays back and down provide a reasonable amount of protection. RaceBlade have been around for a long time, and are a quality product. The more mass-market focused Planet Bike line of fenders perform nearly as well. The different between the two sets is a general increase in stability – or lack of wiggling around while riding – for the RaceBlades.
If you demand full coverage, take a look for the RaceBlade XL – which avoid the clearance problems bu including an adjustable “gap” in the fender that you would place in the tight area around the brake calipers.
Any of these solutions can be had for well under $100 (us), and many of them for under $30. If you are unable to keep dry clothes at the office, or your travels in the rain done allow for you to be soggy by your destination, a good set of fenders can be the difference between riding and driving for some. In addition, once you have the fenders on, I’d recommend leaving them on for the weekend group rides on wet pavement too. The guy drafting you will thank you.