Sunday, March 20, 2011

SKS Longboard fenders, improved

 The following text lampoons certain bike cults, to one of which the author himself  belongs. The half-dozen people for whom it is written, most of whom belong to one or both of these cults, will get the joke. Others who come across this piece, if they
mark time by the arrival of Bicycle Quarterly, or cannot see a skein of hemp twine without thinking "bicycle," might find these words sanctimonious or preachy - internet speak for "disagrees with me." This is a private conversation amongst friends, conducted on what amounts to a public street, albeit on a very obscure corner. One may not know the speakers or the in-jokes. For those who need a frame around this sort of thing to understand it is a lampoon might go instead here

     Inseparable from the image of classic British lightweights are their graceful Bluemel's mudguards. Since the demise of that firm, it has been many years since a good fender was available in any color but silver or black. I have a few spare Bluemel's to cover breakage on my veteran cycles. However, for a new steel bike built along traditional lines, one in need of suitable fenders in a nice color has found himself out of luck. Now there is a new fender, the SKS Longboard, which comes in a classic off-white hue that complements many frame colors in the same way that white Bluemel's did years ago.


SKS Longboard fenders. For our purposes, they need work.

     SKS calls them beige, but they are cream-colored. Their design partner for this product is Rivendell Bicycle Works. As one would expect from such provenance, there are aesthetic problems, but these can be overcome with a bit of careful Dremeling, a penknife, and fine-grade sandpaper. In short order these fenders can be made to match the classic shape of the standard SKS P45, a profile that functions beautifully and soothes eyes accustomed to the aesthetic ideals of classic British and Italian bicycles. 

     As they come, the Longboard fenders are excessively long. This hardly would be noticeable amongst the clutter of racks, baskets, twine, tweed, and sloping (or extra) frame tubes on Rivendells. Indeed excessively long fenders actually are prized by French bike re-enactors (not that most would go anywhere near plastic fenders). However if rough stuff riding is on the agenda, the long trailing end of the front fender will act as a scoop for brush and leaves. You who ride trails; who do not need to show you spent the maximum possible amount of money for fenders; and who have figured out there are better ways of engaging French culture - for instance reading Flaubert - than trying to make a thirty-year-old UJB look something like like a sixty-year-old Herse... prepare to cut.

     First pry the SKS bling-let from the front fender, and the mudflap from the rear. This corrects SKS's unfortunate fascination with black plastic. Recycle the flap on the front fender of another bike. Next, using standard SKS P45 fenders as your guide, figure out how much length will have to come off the back of the rear fender, the leading edge of the front, and, if you ride off-road, the tailing edge of the front. A straight cut across the tailing edge of the rear Longboard will provide a template for the final cut that matches the length of a P45, and removes the hole left by the departed mud flap. This template is especially useful for tracing your line on the front fender; the brake bolt hanger of a standard front fender prevents it lying flat inside the Longboard to use as a guide to length. Use a Sharpie to mark your cuts. The ink can be removed with rubbing alcohol, or that nasty spiced holiday ale you have not gotten around to throwing out.

     With a cut-off wheel on the Dremel, cut just outside the lines you have traced. Leave a millimeter or so in order to allow for a rough edge and minor melting of the plastic. The aluminum layer inside the fender will present no problem. Carefully trim the edge with a penknife, where needed, and finish off with the sandpaper. You may find it necessary, in order to fit the rear fender to your frame, to reproduce the cut-outs at the bottom bracket end of a P45 rear fender, which the Longboard lacks.

 First ride since knee surgery. What look like rough edges and holes are bits of mud.

     On my bike I left the trailing end of the front fender long, at first. This proved fine for road work, but presented problems in the woods that required further trimming to match exactly the length of the P45. The mudflap can be retained for re-attachment. It is a good mud flap, but may not be flexible enough for rough stuff riding.

     As it stands, this traditional, but fairly new (2008) machine now has classic mudguards appropriate to its era. Bluemel's, right for a veteran cycle, would be all wrong here: an anachronistic affectation, and a misuse of a scarce, irreplaceable part.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Good Reading

V-CC member Tim Dawson maintains a web site featuring his erudite reviews of cycling books new and old. "We aim, in time, to review all books in English about all aspects of cycling." Included here are many of Mr. Dawson's articles on cycling topics written for the Sunday Times and other publications.

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