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John, also known as Moveitfred By Bike sent in the following question:

“Do you have any recommendations for fenders? I’m looking for something that’s easy on and off for a steel frame cyclocross bike with cantilever brakes. “

My initial response to him was that unfortunately, you can’t have it both ways: you can either have GOOD fenders, or you can have “easy on/easy off” fenders.

For example, the SKS Race Blade – they go on and off very quickly, but they don’t provide enough coverage to really keep you and your bike clean and dry. Same goes with the seatpost-clamping rear fenders. Same with the clip-on front mini-fender that goes on the downtube.

I’ve tried a couple modern brands of fenders, notably the Zefal Cafe models and the Planet Bike full-coverage fenders with integral mudguards. The Planet Bike ones are substantially better (better hardware, more versatile).

The more I thought about it, though, I realized you CAN “have your cake and eat it too.” One trick some folks use to make the fenders go on and off easier is to thread longer mounting bolts “inside out” (from the inside of the fork/dropout bosses toward the outside of the frame) and using metric wingnuts to attach the stays and struts. Still, it’s not a 30 second removal process!

I had stumbled across a photographic tutorial of this setup on the Web several months back, and rediscovered it while I spoke to John via email. Here are the particulars:

Alex Wetmore (an amazing tinkerer… on his blog, check out the “to die for” workshop in his basement!!!) wrote a tutorial on this method on his website…and has allowed me to share a couple pictures of the setup with you. The first is the fender attachment at the fork crown:

attachment at fork crown

The second photo is one where the fender stays attach to the braze-ons of the fork:

Attachment at fork braze-ons

As mentioned earlier, you might have to find longer mounting bolts for the fenders to make this work, but that isn’t too difficult.

If you go for really blingy, indestructible fenders, I heartily recommend either Honjo or Giles Berthoud fenders. Honjos come in fluted, smooth or hammered-finish aluminum, while the Berthoud ones come in stainless steel. The mounting hardware and struts are without peer, and either brand is so gorgeous that you won’t want to take them off!

Either Peter White Cycles of New Hampshire or Velo Orange in Annapolis, MD carry these kinds of fenders…might be worth checking out!

Setting up your fenders this way makes the bike more versatile. On days you don’t need the protection and don’t want to push the extra weight around, just slip the fenders off and ride. Bad weather in the forecast? Pop the fenders right back on. It’s a great tip, and we’d like to thank John for sending in the question and Alex Wetmore for letting us use his photographs of the process.

Have a cycling-related question? Just Ask Jack! Click on the link in the right-hand column to send me your questions.