Friday, April 23, 2010

Planet Bike Cascadia Fenders

The weather forecast is rainy for all next week, so I figure this would be a good time to address the fender question for my new 1981 Fuji America.  I have been working up my 1972 Fuji Finest frame into a sort of rough and ready rider, but it doesn't look like it will be ready for a Saturday ride, when the week of rain commences.

Several things about fenders have been on my mind with respect to the America.  The first is that I'm enjoying riding around on a fenderless, relatively skinny tire light bike.  The second is that my thought has been that the way the America is shaping up, black fenders would look nice.  The third is that I've been drinking the metal fenders/fat tire koolaid for ten years now, and the kicks are getting harder to find.  Finally, the plastic fenders available now address the dissatisfaction I had with them the last time I bought a pair (coverage/looks) - this was around eight years ago.

Newer plastic fenders provide much greater front wheel coverage than the ones of old, which where doing good to get much below the axle.  They are still a little short, but certainly as long on the rear of the front wheel as a Berthoud without a mudflap.  That is fine with me, as I've found on my unpaved road riding that, under certain atmospheric conditions, a really low riding mudflap tends to direct sticky mud drops into the fender, clogging it up fairly quickly.

Similarly, some newer plastic fenders avoid the ungainly angular look and have a smooth curved profile, which I prefer.

So I rode over to Citybikes, conveniently located alongside the Capitol Crescent Trail, and picked up a set of Planet Bike Cascadia Road Fenders in black, 35mm width.  These are very hard, shiny plastic with pretty sleek mudguard extensions.

After purchasing these, it became apparent that the easiest way to get them home was mounted on the bike, so I set to work installing them with my customary ride toolkit.  The America's economy with tire clearance combined with Pasela Panaracer 25c tires that are larger than many 28c tires made for a tight fit.  This, along with some ad hoc blacksmithing on the front fork mount lengthened the installation time, but in 15 minutes I was on my way.

While I was installing these, I had two separate conversations with onlookers who expressed appreciation in my vintage bike.  The first was a fellow on a gorgeous tangerine waterford with a tangerine carbon fork.  The second was a duo of older British chaps who observed that on this bike one had to shift "by feel".

That inspired me to riff about how us friction shifters were the Jedi Knights of cycledom, just letting The Force guide our hands and unconscious minds to the next gear perfectly.  We all had a chuckle about that before we headed out on our respective ways. 

I still need to trim the stays, but here is what the fenders looked like when I arrived home:

This doesn't look too shabby for a tool-challenged parking lot installation.

The front fender was a little rattly, so I put a little scrap of black bar tape on the the front fender where it was contacting the underside of the brake caliper.  This quieted things down nicely.  I did note on the unpaved section of my ride home that they were a lot quieter than metal fenders with the bits of gravel flying off the tire pinging on them.

Overall, I'm quite satisfied with these.  In particular, the mudguard extensions seem quite nicely done.

And wow that I've got the stay adjustments set, I can take install/uninstall these rather quickly, so I'm not locked into full-time fenderdom.  They do look okay, but having fenders on a bike tends to slow me down a bit out of concern for stick and other fender jamming incidents.

In general, the Planet Bike Cascadia fenders do appear to be a quality, attractive product, much improved from the plastic fenders of five or ten years ago.  I paid LBS full freight for these, which made them not a whole lot cheaper than Berthouds or Velo Orange metal fenders, but for what I want for this bike, I believe they are the better choice.

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