Fenders are a must for city cycling in wet or slushy weather. They protect your shoes, clothing and bicycle components. Moreover, they help you get where you’re going without a back-stripe from dirty rain water or, in colder weather, a bottom saturated with slush.
Shields for Your Wheels
Here’s the situation with the spritz: As your bicycle wheels spin through damp streets, you’re seated in the middle of a no-win proposition. The front tire sprays your ankles and shins, while the rear tire spits moisture up the backside of your clothing. Your frame and components suffer, too. Compared with clear water that may be falling from the sky, the gritty, oily spray thrown up by pavement and puddles can damage components like chains, brakes and bearings.
Before You Shop
Fenders tend to come as standard equipment on upright, European-style and vintage (read: beater) city bicycles. However, with most road bicycles, hybrids and fixed-gear rides, you’re on your own.
The staff at your local bike shop will best be able to help you choose fenders if you’ve 1) thought about the conditions that you anticipate riding in (light or heavy rain, sleet, slush), and 2) if you bring your bike along so they can check your tire size and clearance, availability of mounts, and whether or not you have a back rack. Note that bikes with disc brakes require compatible fenders. Also, installing full fenders limits your ability to easily remove your wheels for storage or travel. Here’s an overview of fender choices:
This is a set of two, front and back, that wraps most of the way around top and sides of tires. Quality fenders have two sets of struts for stability and almost always require mounts near the hubs. The full fenders also require clearance between the tire and the fork and seat stay.
(Top photo) Planet Bike, Cascadia ATB fenders, $54.99
These are similar to the full fenders, but they don’t cover the entire wheel. This is a good option for a bike without sufficient clearance between the fork or seat stay and the tire. The partial fender covers the back of each tire.
CRUD, Roadracer MK2 Road Fenders, $56
A clip-on fender attaches to the seatpost and extends over the rear tire. Good for keeping a stripe off the backside, this is a great just-in-case accessory. For sudden summer rain storms, or the all out-dump in winter, keep a spare at the office for a wet ride home. The clip-on rear fender has plenty of skeptics because it really only serves one purpose––you won’t keep your front, shoes or frame protected. There are, however, a few clip-ons for the front as well as the back tires that offer a little more practical coverage.
(Photo above right): Bontrager, Mudflap MTB Rear Fender, $20
Front and Rear Clip-On Set:
Planet Bike, Freddy Fender Set, $20
Courtesy tip: If your short back fender is horizontal to the road surface, you are likely to be spraying water up from the rear of your bicycle as you ride. Be aware of cyclists behind you.
These mount to the bottom (down tube) of the bike frame close to the front tire. Front guards are a perfect accessory to accompany clip-on or rear-fenders; they protect the rider from mud and spray picked up from the front tire.
Planet Bike, Grunge Board, $11.99
Mud flaps can be added to the base of your fenders (the back) to insure ultimate water protection for you and the cyclist friends behind you. This accessory gets added on to fenders; those that can take mud flaps will have pre-drilled holes.
Brooks, Heritage Saddles Leather Mud Flap, $24.47 (sale)
Of course, there’s never a guarantee of perfect composure after a foul-weather ride, but fenders go a long way toward shielding you from tire spray as well as dirt and water picked up from the road.