This Space for Rent

A thousand-or-so word treatise on the importance of bicycle fenders


I crunched my front fender last week (Trek 1000s have a bit of a toe overlap problem even with their recommended supernarrow tires; now that I’m riding on nice fat 28mm tires, the toe overlap is substantial. Last week my front wheel wobbled when I was accelerating away from a stop and the fender attempted to mate with my foot, resulting in a crashed bicycle, a bruised hip, and a fender twisted on itself like a pretzel) and have not replaced it yet (I suspect that the only safe replacement scheme would involve replacing the bicycle frame, but the combination of “short bicycle” (the wheelbase of the current Trek+Free Radical is a hair shy of 54 inches, while some of the modern bobtail touring frames start out at 42 inches without xtracycley additions) and “longtail™-style” puts me firmly into the cu$tom frame$et category. And I don’t have US$3000 lying around to buy a frame right now, what with the whole business of living in a house with a defective roof and defective plumbing, but without any income other than scavenging our retirement money and selling stuff online.) So that means that when it rains, water ends up sitting on parts of the Springwater Trail that haven’t been paved, so when I ride past the end of the paved road to get to Boring, I ride through those watery parts, which my front wheel cheerfully picks up (along with a healthy portion of the mud that the water is sitting on/in) and hurls at my bicycle and me.

If I had US$3000 lying around, I’d probably not commission a bespoke frame anyway; I’d try to get signed up for a framebuilding class at UBI and learn how to make the thing myself – the world of commercial longtail™ framesets seems to be catering more towards the “poke around in the city with your kids and cargo” crowd than the “ride a couple of hundred kilometers out in the country then stop at the Big Big Store on the way home” sort of riding I want to do. Plus they’re not lugged frames, and I’ve become fond of the old truss bridge look of bike lugs in my old age (plus the “anyone can weld it” aspect of a steel frame is more appealing than the “chisel the shattered tube free of the lug, then epoxy new tubes in” repair regime I’d have to do if my Trek ever had a frame element fail. But, to be perfectly honest, the cosmetics of lugs is what does it for me.)

It’s too bad all of the 650B tires out there are so fat. Buying a slightly longer fork and putting a 650B wheel on the front would give me ¾ths of an inch of additional clearance, which may not be enough to completely get around the toe overlap, but would at least reduce it down to the state it was in when the bicycle was running un-fendered 25mm tires.