Sunday, January 25, 2009

More about mudguards

Who would have thought it? The posting about mudguards (fenders) generated more comments than another other post I've written. It seems a lot of people feel the same way, road bikes should be more versatile. The recent popularity of cyclo-cross bikes helps, at least there is clearance for fenders on them but very few have eyelets.
Thanks for your comments. It is good to know people are reading this stuff.

Son Michael, who got me going on this in the first place, has written the following:

The Giant Roubaix bike made this past off season much easier. I never rode the indoor trainer, I didn’t have a chaffed, sore butt from riding without mudguards in the wet and I was able to find some new and scenic quiet, routes as I could ride on the gravel roads comfortably.

On a normal road bike without mudguards it is possible to do long rides in the rain but it is pretty uncomfortable. After about two hours in pouring rain with temperatures just above freezing the going gets tough. And, after four days of riding in the rain, it gets really hard to step out the door on the fifth day.

As my Dad mentioned in his last entry, David Millar saw how much more enjoyable a bike ride in the rain could be with mudguards and he now has his bike fixed up for the foul weather. Twenty years ago when bikes were steel, most professional had custom built winter bikes. Now, most simply try to fit clip-on mudguards to the carbon frames so they can endure the wet winter months. A proper winter bike makes more sense as it increases the bike’s versatility.

If I were to own one road bike—and wasn’t racing professionally-- it would be a bike with clearance for larger tires, mudguards and slightly more relaxed angles for comfort. The wheels would be handbuilt with 32 spokes: tough enough for the gravel and easy to fix. And, it is always better to have a heavier tire so I don’t have to worry about cut sidewalls and multiple flats. I do not want to be stranded on a mountain road, hours away from home, with no mobile phone reception.

While riding for Discovery in the Classics we also had special Roubaix bikes with different angles, an elastomer in the rear to absorb the bumps, and more clearance. After riding them most of my teammates commented that they would love to train on them through the winter. Sadly, using them for training didn’t end up being an option.

Julien DeVries, the team’s head mechanic, (he was also Greg Lemond and Eddy Merckx’s mechanic) insisted we all have 32 spoke wheels for training. The wheels, built with Bongtrager rims and hubs, had straight gauge spokes and weren’t light-- for training they don’t need to be—but were resilient and easy to repair. Each season we were given a new set even though the old ones were still in good shape. During the five seasons I rode for the team I never had a broken spoke while training and I rode them for hundreds of kilometers on gravel roads. The wheels are still good and true today.

While living in Boulder (our residence for 10 years), I spent my winters on the dirt mountain roads. Riding on the plains east or north of town irritated me, as the roads were busy with traffic and dead straight. Cycling is so much more than just pedaling to get a work out. So, I built up a cross bike, fitted some mudguards, added higher gears to descend the canyons, and dressed for the weather. The bike was great. I was able to ride for 3 hours uphill, on snow packed gravel roads, and then descend down slushy paved roads without getting wet, or too cold. Amazingly, I was the only guy up there on those roads in the middle of winter: the locals would wave as they drove past, the UPS guy would give a friendly honk, and the odd dog would give chase. Not more than a dozen cars would pass, the training was ideal, and the views were magnificent. Instead of coming home scared, annoyed and, irritable, I felt alive.

---One thing the Giant doesn’t have are mudflaps which I intend to add. With a good mud flap at the bottom of the front mudguard ones feet are kept much drier. A mud flap at the bottom of the rear mudguard makes riding in a group in the wet more pleasant as nobody is getting sprayed in the face. As a teenager I spent the winters training in Victoria, BC. There, where the roads never seem to dry, a rider isn’t allowed to ride with the group unless he has a mudflap on the back.
Basically, with the right bike there is no excuse not to ride in the rain. It is even quite enjoyable.


Matt Surch said...

Love it. It is refreshing, though not surprising, to read Michael's perspective on fenders. I cannot claim to have anywhere near the cycling experience either of the Barry men carry, but I too share the joy of being out on the bike, expending effort in contentment in the wet. RIding in the rain, sleet and snow is part of experiencing the fullness cycling has to offer. When I have a ride planned for a day that promises to be nasty, I reflect on the efforts of pros, past and present, who have, and continue to, take the weather as it is and battle through it. Hampsten's day on Gavia comes to mind. The rides in the wet make us better riders, but they are also good in themselves.

As Michael says, four hours in, fenders are your best friend. I'm such a believer in flaps that I ran them on my bike during a spring Roubaix inspired race near Ottawa last spring. My 'friender' on the back elicited many a thankful comment from other racers. Confusion too, I suspect. Alas, I got dropped and can only blame the fenders and flaps, so I'll have to use my quicker bike sans fenders this spring. Gotta do what ya gotta do.

It'd be great to see Giant make a sensible road bike available to the masses. Push them if you can Michael. And have a great season!

Anonymous said...

Good stuff, Michael. The only thing I would consider adding to your all-around road bike for the non-racer is a small rear or front rack to allow for a trunk bag or strapped down jacket, etc. Oh, and a frame pump too!

Anonymous said...

Michael -- The use of fenders is an outstandingly good idea all year round. On club rides, my fendered wheel was the one that people argued over following. It kept the dirt off me and them. However, fenders are also useful in relatively dry weather, even in summer time as they prevent the build up of grit of both the front and rear derailleurs, thus easing maintenance.

Oh well, its really a question of being fashionable rather than being practical.

Unknown said...

...good to see you back from syncing up with your son in Italy. I have a friend that recounted a group bike ride in the rain on his Bauer bicycle. It was equipped with chiseled out rear fender (imagine a 5" section of fender re-enforced by duct tape). Unbeknownst to him, he was drenching all those that dare ride near and behind some point, the sight of became intolerable. All my friend remembered was someone letting out a aggravated holler of "Bacccckkk!"....It was Mike on his well mannered and fendered bike :)

P.S. The story was recounted to me last summer in Quebec on "La Route Verte" and the state of his fender had probably changed by the addition of more duct tape...he is the product of the economics after the Depression.

Tom said...


if you need some mudflaps, give us a call. I have a couple spares floating around.
Tom Martin

KGS Bikes - Kevin Saunders said...

In San Antonio, I seem to be the only one on damp rides with SKS Raceblade fenders on my custom KGS bicycle While my bike is going to be the most expensive one in the pack, I still have fenders on it and it is amazing how much grief I get before the ride and how much everybody wants to be my wheelsucking friend during! It is a hard cultural thing in a relatively dry environment to accept fenders and before the advent of clip-on fenders it just didn't happen. I have decided that elimination of the "wet ass" is worth it to me. I really wish others would learn from our friends in wetter climates and throw on some fenders (with mud flaps, of course), as it is still irritating to be making my fellow rider's life easier on my wheel while swallowing grit from the person in front.

Andy "What?" M-S said...

Fenders are a necessity for year-round riding in most places, and some of the world's best fenders are made by Planet Bike. The best mudflaps in the world (IMO) are those on their Cadcadia line of fenders.

I run 28mm tires on my Kogswell D, with stainless steel fenders. I'd used PB's Cascadias on another bike, and when I asked, my LBS called Planet Bike about getting some spare mudflaps I could try on my steel fendered main bike. They arrived in a few days, and fit reasonably well. Highly recommended.

fixedwheelrider said...

Your description of your one road bike if you were a non-pro is spot-on. It's no coincidence that it's also an exact description of an Alcyon your dad made for me a decade ago. A wonderful, all-year bike that can handle even Toronto's miserable, snow-filled & salty streets in Jan/Feb.

I still have that bike and it's now my fixed wheel machine. Still going strong after 10 years, and yes, still fendered with flaps. These days it's supplemented in the winter by a Hampsten Strada Bianca, which again, fits your description to a T. Long wheel-base, heavier tires, Honjo fenders, etc.

Sane, sensible, versatile bikes - thanks to you and your dad for this dose of non-hype, anti-marketing and totally practical advice.

Regards, Marco

jim g said...

650B Trek Pilot and 650B Trek 1200c, both with fenders.

If 650B ain't yer thing, there are many fenderable 700C road bikes available, you just need to know where to look (Rivendell, Heron, Surly, SOMA, Kogswell, Gunnar, Waterford, IF, Bicycle Quarterly, etc.). Most of those aren't "race" bikes, but then most people would be better-suited with a more practical bike anyways...

Anonymous said...

In my one brief but very enjoyable visit to the shop of Michael Sr., he was showing me his "mountain bike", when I mentioned--perhaps with some surprise--that it had fenders.

Michael Sr. said, "Yes. A bike doesn't look quite complete without fenders." Living now in rural Ontario and riding in conditions rahter like those that Michael the younger has nicely described, I now agree: "A bike doesn't look quite complete without fenders."

Black plastic oil cans, a pair of scissors and a pop-riveter will have yielded very serviceable and even attractive mud-flaps.

Thanks for this blog on the liberating qualities of the humble mud-flap.

fred said...

Kevin Saunders!

I just realized you also posted at the Globe and Mail's article on fenders/mudflaps.

I had alerted Mike via his Mike@bicyclesport addy to the article, but to any who missed it, it is now closed, but has accumulated quite a collection of good comments.

I posted a heads-up for this blog on the subject for Globe readers, and hopefully it will engender some more readers and comments at this site.

So, was that complete co-incidence to see you at both the Globe and here?


fred said...


Here is the link:
The wheel truth
Why today's bikes have no fenders

Btw, the timing of the Globe article after Mike's is just a tad too co-incidental. I suspect Mike has a lot more readers than comments would indicate.

Anonymous said...

Further to my post in the original thread on mudguards, a rear mudflap certainly is de riguer on the "Wet Coast."

A mudflap can be not only a utiltarian accessory to keep your paceline mates happy, it can serve as a safety feature:

Rodd Heino said...

Here's a pic of mine

Friend friendly indeed
it says welcome, i thought it amusing.

rodd in ottawa
about to go ride in -16 on some snow covered and gravel roads.

Anonymous said...

The goal of the owners is to continue to expand the line of beach cruisers that carries while keeping prices down.