I recently built a new e-bike using a Marrin Pioneer Trail MTB & a Direct Drive e-bike kit from E-BikeKit.com. You can read all about that project at “A 2 part story-on-building-or-buying” . Part of my motivation for building this bike was to have a good test platform for evaluating different accessories & battery systems. (Plus I wanted a new bike) Needles to say this became one well equipped e-bike.
One of the most overlooked items on today’s bikes are fenders. In the old days most bicycles came with fenders. Why? Cause in the old days most bikes were used as transportation & people needed transportation regardless of the weather. Today, at least in the USA, bikes are used mostly for recreation, physical fitness or sport. The largest percentage of transportation users comes from the 16 & under group of adolescents needing mobility & they could care less about protecting themselves or their bikes from the elements. Not only do fenders help to keep you dry, they also protect much of the bikes running gear from water & road grime. With a little time spent on choosing the proper fit & style of fenders they can also improve the overall look of your bike. A truly custom fit will usually require a small amount of simple fabrication work & maybe some spray paint & detailing tape.
With literally hundreds of after-market fenders available for practically any style bike in an endless array of shapes, sizes & colors it can be a real challenge to select the best one. Read on to discover a little more about bike fenders & a review of my last 2 purchases.
A proper bicycle fender as found on touring bikes, beach cruisers & road bikes is built for a specific size wheel. This is critical for both appearance & performance. That said, because of the greater distances used between the tire & fender on mountain bikes & the two piece design of many of the fenders, the manufacturers have a lot more flexibility when it comes to fit. When I checked for a wheel size on the front fender I just bought, the advertisement simply stated” Fits most MTB forks.” The wheel guards, splash guards or mud flaps usually marketed to the mountain bike crowd are almost always a one size fits all. Aside from the “shape” of the fender other important consideration is the mounting surface/area on the fender & to a lesser extent the hardware. The mounting surface/area of the fender, just like the shape of the fender itself can’t be changed. Yes, you can drill new holes, but if the flange for the fender support bracket is molded into the top & your only means of support are from one end or the other, well,… you see my point. A good installation requires a good mounting system & the best mounting system is the one you can’t see.
Nowhere is the term “form follows function” more applicable than with bicycle fenders, so right off of the bat you’ll have to determine which one of those “F Words” is more important to you than the other. In my case, I required both. I needed fenders that worked well while improving, OR, at the very least, not detracting from the bikes appearance. The price was not much of an issue.
Even the most expensive fenders are still relatively inexpensive. Starting at a delivered price of $7.04 for a no name fender set coming from a far eastern country like Hong Kong or China up to a delivered price of $35.90 for a brand name set like the “DEFENDER” from TOPEAK in the US. Practically everything I looked at was under $30.
If you do not already have a favorite bike shop you’ll probably start at an on-line retailer like Amazon.com or perhaps Ebay. Many of the companies I purchase from are already Ebay sellers or Amazon vendors so that’s where I start. Like Google adding descriptive words to your search phrase in Ebay & even Amazon is critical to a speedy search. If you looking for a specific “bicycle fender” search for that specific fender. A search for a “26 inch road bike fender” will get you back on your bike a whole lot faster than searching through bike fenders. Finally, if color is critical, a 1/2 hr. of your time & one $8 can of spray paint can get you a show room quality paint job in any color you need. Read my paint prep advice below.
Both fenders I’m reviewing today came through E-Bay. Together, Amazon & Ebay have introduced me to almost all of the high quality on-line bike shops & suppliers that I use today. I’ve never had a “bad experience”, with either, every mistake, mine or theirs was handled in the best possible way & any vendor that didn’t offer outstanding service was simply not used a second time. Although I pay close attention to price it is DEFENANTLY NOT the deciding factor in choosing my vendors.
Although Ebay still promotes itself as the original “On-Line Auction Site” both Ebay & Amazon for the most part work as “Fulfillment Centers” getting someone’s product to someone’s customer. Amazon has been busy the last few years & has grown well beyond the role of mere fulfillment center” into an electronic empire which has tasked itself with building & maintaining a new & complex infrastructure where all transactional data, & perhaps all data period will end up. The “Cloud” (to which Amazon has the master key) will store & distribute this precious cargo. They already store & distribute the hard-goods, why not the soft-goods as well? Ebay on the other hand does an outstanding job working as the diligent electronic flea market manager keeping the riff raff out & streets safe, while building its own infrastructure for financial transactions & data management with PayPal. Between the two of them, if you can’t find it there, then you’re probably not going to find it.
The bike these fenders went on was my most recent e-bike conversion, a 2011 Marrin Pioneer Trail MTB. Please read “Night-Rider” for the full story. Since this mountain bike was going to be a fully equipped commuter bike it needed a couple of items that are not normally included on mountain bikes. First and foremost were the fenders. Unless you live in one of a few South Western states of the US fenders are a requirement on any bike that’s used as transportation. In addition to keeping the rider free of over spray and road grime fenders also help to protect critical bike components. In my case, the component I was most concerned with was the electronic motor controller for the E bike system. Although weather proof by design, the location I chose for this controller (the underside of the rear rack directly above the tire) was less than ideal for anything containing electronics. The fender I chose for the back was actually the back fender from a complete set sold as
“Clip-On” Fenders. These fenders come in an un-finished black plastic sold under the trade names of Avenir, Planet Bike & X- LITE. Planet Bike & X-LITE. Avenir sells theirs Clip-On Fenders, Black in 26″ & 700c, Planet Bike sells theirs as Clip-On Front and Rear Bike Fender Set (Hybrid/Road) OR Clip-On Front and Rear Bike Fender Set MTB. X- Lite sells theirs as clip on mountain bike fenders front and rear. The fenders I purchased were sold as “Mountain Bike MTB Fender Mudguard Front and Rear Quick Release”. The advertisement did not list a size & since this particular set was purchased with no intention of using “as is” I was sure it would OK as a fender for my 26″ wheel. It was, but I I think it would it would have fit a 29 inch wheel even better. Since the dealer “Abaxo” I purchased these from sells every possible combination of these fenders under three different trade names & since the dealer nor the manufacturer listed a wheel size I’ll never know whether or not I actually got the “Mountain Bike MTB Fender Mudguard Front and Rear Quick Release” as I had ordered or perhaps a “Clip-On Front and Rear Bike Fender Set (Hybrid/Road)” by mistake. When ordering a full fender. Try to buy one that lists the wheel size. Mountain Bike or Hybrid/Road Bike tells you nothing about the fit.
As for my fit, the flexibility of this fender allows it to be easily pushed or pulled a few degrees in either direction to get the look you want. As you can see in the picture above, where the plastic semi-circular clip-on bracket is attached to the seat post tube, (It’s now been removed) shows the original angle next to the 26″ MTB tire. With the smaller diameter 26” street tire it was even worse.
And Beyond That, what you see in the pictures is exactly what you get.
It is a very flexible & very strong PVC plastic. The color is a very dull, flat black. Any Armoral type product will give it a nice satin look. It comes with 2 very basic light weight, but strong, L-shaped brackets that slide into slots molded into the fenders at locations where many bikes already have fender support brackets between the seat stays just in front of the rear brake.
The fender material itself is so tough, that were to fall off while riding some fire trails with a few friends & it became mangled & twisted around the rear wheel of the guy behind you. After helping him to un-twist & pry your fender from around his rear wheel, sprocket & chain, you’d probably feel bad about those broken spokes, especially since your fender is still serviceable.
The fender comes as an unfinished mat black piece of molded plastic. Left unfinished with nothing more than a quick buffing with your favorite brand of “Armor-All” it will look great “as it is” on most bikes. At first, I left mine as it came right out of the box. However, my bike was a shiny black high tech looking machine & a flat black unfinished fender stood out like a sore thumb. So something more had to be done. Remember, when making this decision for your bike, my mountain bike is now a street machine on street tires. If you’re riding is more typical to the MTB scenario above then, “LEAVEITALONE”. Once it’s painted, you’ll never be able to just wipe the dirt off & stick it back on that easily again.
Although painting an unfinished virgin plastic fender should be straight forward enough, it can come with a few surprises. Mainly, the paint won’t stick… This un-finished plastic looked and behaved like any other PVC material that may or may not have ever been intended for use as a finished or painted product. In order NOT TO WASTE your time & money, spend 20 to 30 minutes thoroughly prepping it with sand paper & solvents. Starting with 120/150 grit paper & ending with something around 220 or finer, completely & evenly dull the entire finish. Finish up by thoroughly washing the fender down with warm soap & water, dry it, & then thoroughly wipe it down again with a solvent cleaner. Preferably the same type of solvent used in your spray paint. Since most spray paints will be straight enamel, purchase anything labeled as mineral spirits, turpentine or paint thinner & you’ll be fine. Automotive spray paint however is often acrylic enamel & although any of the above will work for this as well, acrylic enamel reducer is better. It is however about 3 times the cost. Once in a while especially with clear finishes you’ll get lacquer based paint. Lacquer paint is great for doing custom paint work but it’s not RECOMMENDED for any type of highly flexible or soft plastic. Lacquer is a hard finish & not nearly as flexible as an enamel finish. Any severe twisting or bending can cause a lacquer finish to crack & flake off.
I prepped my fender exactly as stated above. For paint I used clear acrylic enamel used for refinishing aluminum wheels. (Most polished aluminum wheels are actually painted aluminum that’s been clear coated, not a polished metal.) I applied about 7 light coats of the clear coat to get a deep shiny black finish. Although I used this clear coat primarily because I had it, I may very well use it again as the results where great. In keeping with the “shiny high tech look” after some curing time I finished the fender off with a 1.75″ “carbon fiber” vinyl covering down the middle. The fender width is only 3″ overall. This is perhaps a bit of overkill for a rear fender that is barely visible on the finished bike but perhaps it’s not either. As I said above the unfinished matte black fender stood out like a sore thumb on this otherwise shiny bike. Now that it’s finished to match the rest of the bike it simply disappears. Which is exactly what I had in mind when I purchased it? One more thing to keep in mind, by mounting the fender at a greater distance from the tire, as should be the case in a true MTB application, the observation I made of the fender line not following the wheel contour of my 26″ tire properly would have been much less obvious.
Although I could have used the hardware that came with the fender I choose to make my own for a couple of reasons. First I would be mounting my fender much tighter to a street tire than you would ever want to do with an off road tire. You’d tear your fender loose the first time you picked up anything the size of an acorn or bigger. Bad for you & the guy behind you. I also removed the rather flimsy molded “Clip-On” bracket. About 2 minutes with a hacksaw blade & some sand paper & it was never there. This bracket & the molded slots where the stock brackets go is why this is called a “Clip-On”. Because I would never need to quickly remove this fender & because of the decreased proximity between the tire & fender I wanted a more rigid mount. I used a similar but heavier L bracket than the one that came with it & bolted the bracket tight to the fender using the pre-existing mounting flange. Since the screw heads where almost flush to the top edge of the molded mounting flange, I ground them down even further & made a small lid from a piece of aluminum flashing covered in shiny black vinyl. Very clean & “high tech” looking. (See pictures) Since this is the only bracket that is actually attaching the fender to the bike I also used (2) 9″ H.D. black cable ties. One on either side of the mounting bolt through the existing slots in the mounting flange & pulled it snug around the frame at the seat stays. This eliminates any left to right motion caused by using a single point mounting system. (See pictures) These are so invisible that had I not specifically photographed them they would never be seen. In addition to that attachment point is a rubber spacer block directly on the top of the fender & under the controller box. This spacer is actually H.D. double faced rubber mounting tape folded in two. It helps to keep the fender true to the tire. At the other end where the “clip-on” bracket was removed is a much better looking & sturdier bumper that is physically mounted to the fender & shaped on both ends so it mates perfectly to both the fender & the seat tube. In my opinion, neither my bumper nor the original “clip -on” bracket are well suited for mountain biking in wooded conditions. Many times I have had to stop & remove broken branches from between my wheel spokes, frame & wheels, front forks, teeth, etc. It’s not hard to envision those same scenarios taking place between the rear fender & seat tube which after pushing the flexible fender into the angular knobs of the knobby would have your fender at the least folded in two & at the worst ripped from the bike & taking other things with it in the process.
Recommendation? It’s well worth the $13 investment. I really can’t see any situation where this could not be made to work on a hardtail bike with relative ease. It’s made from an extremely tough material & other than my concerns about it being easily jammed into the tire in real world off road use I think it’s a good choice. As for the performance as a full-fledged fender, during my only wet ride it performed exactly as a fender should. Although I did not use the front fender I did try it. It has the same mounting flange as the rear located right where the fork brace is. This is usually threaded in order to attach a front fender as was mine. However be sure to calculate the movement of the front fork when mounting the fender here. Mount it too high & it will crash into the bottom of your steering tube. It’s shaped the same as the rear fender so I see no reason why it should not perform just as well in the rain. I choose not to use this fender because I already had something else in mind for the front. I’ll talk about that next
This fender was purchased from the Ebay Seller Abaxo. They have a very good 99.4% customer satisfaction rating. They are a new vendor for me as of March 2013 but I have now used them 4 times. Each time I received my products quickly, well packaged & as advertised. They claim to have the best prices on Ebay & although so does everybody else their prices are at worst, extremely competitive. They also have a huge selection of bike stuff. To link to this product click the Abaxo Ebay Store. If you prefer using Amazon.com click on Avenir Clip-On Fenders & select the size you need.
My front fender is a “THE XC Front Mountain Bike Fender” with a Faux Carbon Fiber finish. “THE” is the name of the company.
“THE” is the name of the company. I suppose when you purchase from “THE” company you won’t have a problem remembering their name. It was purchased from a new to me, Ebay vendor sold under the title of ”THE XC Front Mountain Bike Fender Faux Carbon Fiber”. At a cost of $23, delivered it was fairly expensive for as a single front fender. When I discovered it, I was very excited about its shape, look and carbon fiber finish. I later discovered that I had also paid about a $10 premium for this carbon fiber look. That said, had it actually looked a little more like real carbon fiber I would have been ecstatic, as it where, gloss black would have been better. Although the pictures did indicate more silver than black, I still expected (hoped) the appearance to be more like the almost black, color of carbon fiber. I had already purchased detailing vinyl in carbon fiber so make my rear fender could look similar to the front. (It didn’t) Although I am now very pleased with this job, it would have been both simpler and better looking if it had been more of a carbon fiber look. If I were describing the finish of this fender to you, I would say it has the high tech look of a braided or woven stainless steel material. This fender is available in white and black for about $12 delivered. I will be doing another bike similar to this but with a blue and white color scheme. I’ll purchase the white “THE” fender for this one.
The other notable features of this fender are its two piece design and of the very substantial & unique mounting bracket that comes with it. (See pictures) Instead of using the traditional mounting location under the fender this uses a completely independent mounting system that pushes up into the steering tube and tightens with an expansion plug. It comes with two plugs to accommodate different diameters. Although very slick, very strong and most accommodating I did not like the looks of the fender using that method. Once again as a mountain bike fender on a mountain bike with MTB tires it did not look bad. As a road bike fender on a high tech looking commuter bike however, it wasn’t pretty. Unfortunately I did not take any pictures of that installation but I’m sure you can visualize it. The first installation I did was as it came right out of the box. It placed the fender a full 2 inches higher than it is in the pictures below. After extending the bracket by about 2 inches I was able to get the fender about another inch and a half lower. This was still not the factory fender look I was after. After playing around with it a little more, I finally gave up on using the “THE” bracket all together & made my own. Since this was a two section fender I had a fair amount of flexibility in how I could mount it. In a perfect world I would have mounted it on the underside of the fork brace. This looked fantastic but allowed no room for things like bumps and scrapes, road debris etc. and this fender was not built from an indestructible PVC type of material like the rear. It used an almost paper thin semi-rigid plastic. (RC Model building comes to mind) Although it was formed and backed up in such a way that I was not concerned about the flimsy feeling choice of material “THE” used, it was definitely not going to be able to be squished in half and spring back looking like new. Next I temporarily attached the to the fender halves together and laid it on top of the fork brace. Then I bent it in such a way that the two halves followed the curvature of the tire & finally propped it into place on top of the tire using some small chunks of foam. Stepping back for a look I was pleased. All though not a tire hugging aerodynamic racing fender it very much locked as if it belonged on the bike. From its placement and physical size I was quite sure that it would also work quite well as a fender. All I had to do now was attach it. The mounting location so close to the brakes would require some modification to the fender itself. Given the material I was working with, this would be relatively easy providing I could reduce the fender size without reducing the fender quality.
Digging through my assortment of fabrication fittings I was able to duplicate the bottom half of the original bracket in reverse. To make easy on myself I made a 2 piece bracket space apart with nylon bushings. This allowed me to easily add or remove individual bushings to change the spacing between the two fender sections. It also allowed me to easily twist the fenders for a final adjustment even after they had been tightened down. Last, using some caution, I was able to nudge the fenders up or down to perfect their relationship to the tire. The final brackets are fairly simple made from 25 inch long by 3/4 inch wide and 1/16 inch thick pieces of mild steel. Loosely described they are in L bracket. Specifically, however they have multiple bands allowing the bracket to step down over and out on its way from the fender to the Fender mount. Both fender brackets are fastened to the bike using one common 2 inch long s/s bolt, a total of three nylon washers, six s/s washers and two locking nuts fortunately with the wheel off all of this stuff is all pretty easy to get to. The brackets are secured to the fender using the supplied nuts and bolts and using the original pre-drilled mounting holes. The section of fender where these brackets mount are heavy reinforced with a tough plastic glued or molded to the underside of these otherwise very flimsy material. The total weight for the fenders using my hardware weight is 2.2oz’s less than had I used the nicely built factory bracket. (See pictures) Total weight comes in at around 7 Oz’s.
All done? It should be, but this is “Night-Rider” & the name came about at this point in the project. Any commuter bike worth its salt must have good lighting. Lighting and safety are inseparable terms when it comes to biking. From the beginning, this bike was going to use a high quality Cree 1600 Lm headlight & one or more good quality LED taillights backed-up with reflectors and reflective tape as needed. The same day I was finishing up this fender and order I had placed a few days earlier through Amazon arrived. And in it were four sets of the fairly expensive very high output “BLINKY” light sets by “Planet Bike”. As I examined this neat little set of lights, I realized that I could install this right on top of my newly installed front fender in about two minutes with a simple L bracket that I had made earlier. The”BLINKY” was a very small oval clear front marker or running light and it fit down into the fender and matched the appearance as if the two had been built for one another. (See pictures)
Since this installation required the addition of a bracket I decided to proceed with some further fender detailing I had been thinking about earlier. Although I was fairly happy with how this fender looked it was still a little too much silver for my taste. I had decided to tone it down by adding some matte black pin striping around the outer edge of both sections there by reducing the overall appearance of size & making the fender look thinner. (See pictures) In addition I cut two 1.25″ strips of matte black detailing vinyl and using the natural contour of the fender blacked out the center of both sections. Now I was happy & back together it went. I had a well-lit, high tech looking bike done in mostly shiny black, “Night-Rider” just popped into my head.
This fender was purchased from the Ebay Seller koslowcycle. They have a nearly perfect 99.7% customer satisfaction rating. This is my fist purchase from this vendor but I received my fender quickly, well packaged & as advertised. They purchase both bicycle gear & some collectible stuff from close-outs & auctions. I have saved them & will try them again. To link to this product at Ebay click on THE XC Front Mountain Bike Fender Faux Carbon Fiber. For other types of fenders try one of my favorite Amazon “Bike Shops” at Gap30Cycles - www.amazon.com/shops/Gap30Cycles or 616-301-1057. They’re not just an on-line retailer, they are a full fledged bike shop.