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Accessories

Review: Planet Bike Cascadia Fenders

It seems like my bike fleet is always undergoing modifications…25 years or so of collecting components and hardware means that sometimes I get a “wild hair” and decide to reconfigure one of my bikes into something new. I got the idea to put together a real “Frankenbike” — a cyclocross/MTB/all-weather commuter, and to pull it off I needed fenders for this project.

Enter our friends at Planet Bike. They were gracious enough to ship over a pair of their Cascadia ATB fenders for this project.

cascadia fenders

Made of a spine of polished aluminum and covered with a soft-yet-unbreakable polycarbonate shell, these fenders promise to be sturdy as well as stylish. Planet Bike really did their homework with these fenders — the details, included hardware and features are all top-notch. Heck, they even come with built-in mudflaps…crucial for keeping you and your bicycle clean when the rain comes down!

mudflaps

The included hardware is all stainless steel, down to the washers. Even the fender stays are stainless — a nice touch. The nuts are “nylock” to eliminate any rattling or loosening of the fenders during use…nothing is more annoying than a rattling fender! One of the great features of this hardware kit are the included cylindrical spacers:

hardware

These spacers allow fender installation on bikes equipped with disc brakes…the cylinders provide enough “stand off” to let the stay pass the brake body without interference. This is a spectacular addition to the kit, as fender mounting on disc-equipped bikes is otherwise somewhat of a nightmare.

Mounting the fenders is pretty simple…a 15 minute process if you’re slow. Adjusting the fenders to follow the contour of the tire and to provide clearance for wide tires takes a little bit of finesse, though. Planet Bike’s sliding stay clips make the process straightforward…simply loosen the nut at the clip, slide the fender up or down on the stay and retighten the nut. A little trial and error is in the works to get the alignment perfect.

Here’s a shot of the sliding stay clip:

stay clip

Just a little bit of tinkering later, I wound up with this:

Front fender mounted:

front mounted

Rear fender mounted:

rear mounted

There is enough adjustment in the stays to allow for all but the widest, most aggressive knobby tires. The SweetskinZ “Nightwing” tires I used for this build have fairly wide side knobs, and they just barely clear the edges of the fender. The tires are well-covered, though, and won’t spray dirty water past the edge. Slightly narrower tires (more typically used on a commuter bike) would fit with no issues whatsoever.

So far, the only nitpick I have about these fenders is getting the “fender line” perfect on the front of my bike. Forks with a generous axle-to-crown measurement may have too much of a gap for the fairly short front fender “crown strap” to accomodate. This is a purely aesthetic concern on my part — it has no bearing whatsoever on the functionality of the fender — but I’d like to see that strap just a few millimeters longer. Here’s what the fender line looks like currently:

fender line

Since we’re undergoing a drought here in west-central Florida, I haven’t had a chance to ride with the fenders in the rain…but the rainy season is coming. I’ll let you know how it all works out when I can actually put these to the torture test.

Check out Planet Bike’s complete line of well-designed bicycle accessories by visiting their site.

An Interesting Bike Storage Idea

Our friends over at Palm Beach Bike Tours posted a review of a very interesting bike storage idea…a device called a “Cycle Tree”:

cycle tree

Check out their full review and additional photos of the Cycle Tree by clicking here.

For those of us who are bike hoarders, this looks to be a great way to free up floor space in your storage area!

Tool Review: Pedro’s Vise Whip

Several weeks ago, Pedro’s USA sent us a couple of tools to review. The first is their “Vise Whip“, an ingenious tool that eliminates the hassle and potential breakage of using a traditional chainwhip.

vise whip

Here’s a little about the tool from the Pedro’s USA website:

–Locking jaws that won’t slip
–Fits cogs from 11T to 23T*
–Compact enough for the toolbox
–Heat-treated steel tough enough for everyday use

Anyone who has used a traditional chainwhip to hold a cassette or freewheel in place while cogs or lockrings are unscrewed knows that such tools can be tough to manage. They’re fiddly and they have a tendency to snap retaining pins just when you’ve got a lot of torque on the tool. The Pedro’s Vise Whip eliminates all of this hassle…it locks solidly onto cassette or singlespeed cogs and will not move if set correctly.

Based on the toolbox staple known as Vise Grips, this Pedro’s tool adjusts with the same style of threaded screw and locking lever. Clamp it onto the cassette and apply lockring remover/wrench to unscrew the lockring. Simple as that!

clamp

The Vise Whip works wonderfully for folks who run singlespeed bikes, too. For singlespeed MTB riders who want to change up their gearing for specific conditions or people who run 3/32″ fixed cogs on the street or track, this tool makes such gearing swaps very simple.

singlespeed

The people who run 1/8″ track cogs are out of luck, though…the Vise Whip’s jaws are listed as not big enough to fit over the larger cog width. I haven’t tried this myself, though, as I had no 1/8″ cogs around. Perhaps if the demand is there, Pedro’s will make a version for 1/8″ cogs?

Overall, the tool is sturdy, easy to use and really ingenious…why didn’t anyone think of this before? I’ve used it about a dozen times since I got it in the mail — everything from replacing 8- and 9-speed MTB cassettes to fine-tuning the gearing on my singlespeed MTB/Road “Frankenbike” (tentatively named Craptain America).

This tool has a permanent home in my toolbox — it’s that useful.

More Product Reviews Coming Soon

We’ve got a slew of new products that we’re in the midst of testing. Here are a few I’m working on:

Pedro’s Tools
Pedro’s sent us a pair of tools to test…the Vice Whip and the Trixie. The Vice Whip is a clever device intended to replace the pesky and cumbersome chain whip used to remove cassettes and some freewheels. According to the packaging, this tool was designed by none other than legendary mechanic and VeloNews technical correspondent Lennard Zinn.

vice whip

The other tool is “Trixie” — a multitool aimed squarely at the fixed-gear/singlespeed rider. Combining a 15mm axle nut wrench, a lockring spanner, a 5mm hex key, a graduated slot for metric nuts and the mandatory bottle opener, this tool is really all one might need for some quick on-the-road repairs or a fast gear change.

trixie

Bike Glow
This lighting device has gotten some traffic on other cycling blogs, and we were lucky enough to score a sample for review. Based on electroluminescent (“EL”) wire, the Bike Glow kit adds much-needed side visibility to the bike (or rider) for nighttime commutes.

bike glow

IT Clips
These clever little devices from the folks at IT Clips let you put your old inner tubes (and who doesn’t have a pile of these laying around?) back into use by converting them into custom-length bungee cords OR tiedown straps. The versatile IT clip’s design serves as both and comes with steel hooks to facilitate this. Folks who ride cargo bikes or who routinely carry a load on their regular bicycles should find these incredibly useful for strapping down some goodies for the trip home.

IT clip
(sorry about the shaky photo…I drank too much coffee that morning!)

Stay tuned for reviews of these items (and a few more) within the next couple of weeks…

WTB SST Saddle Returns for 2009

If you spend a lot of time riding your bike, you may come to value a particular saddle that works for you. Several years ago, I discovered the Wilderness Trail Bikes “SST” saddle (in my case, the SST.X “Flash” model) and I pretty much fell in love with it. Trouble was, WTB no longer made this saddle, and NIB/NOS examples can be hard to find on the auction market.

So, I was GREATLY excited when I heard during Interbike 2008 that WTB was going to be re-releasing the saddle for 2009. No word on when, exactly, they were going to bring it onto the market, and as of today they still don’t have it on their website… BUT, thanks to my pals in California and our friends at KHS Bicycles, I received a lovely Christmas gift of a pair of brand-new 2009 SST saddles to add to my fleet.

Here’s the new saddle:
sst

WTB kept the overall shape and construction of the original SST saddle…the flat back, abrasion-resistant corner panels and the distinctive dropped nose and dipped center area. Here’s a picture showing both saddles together — you can see just how similar the two are in shape:

old and new

What’s new with the saddle are subtle refinements in the construction and shape…the back portion of the saddle is a few millimeters wider and a bit flatter, catering to folks with slightly wide-set “sit bones” or anyone who prefers flat-backed saddles to sloping ones. A new feature, to me at least, is the inclusion of WTB’s “Comfort Zone”, which serves the same purpose as a saddle cutout but without a hole. Basically, it is an oval gap cut into the nylon shell of the saddle’s underside that is filled with a plug of softer material before the saddle’s cover is glued and stapled on. It works in preventing crotch numbness, that’s for sure…but to be honest, the original saddle works just fine at that, too.

comfort zone

Although the saddle is designed for mountain bike cross-country and all-mountain disciplines, it works very well on the road, too. It is narrow enough not to look out of place on a skinny-tired machine and comfortable enough for long miles. The saddle rails have enough fore-aft adjustability in them to suit just about any application, and the saddle appears to be very well constructed.

I neglected to weigh the saddles before installing them on my bikes, but I can say they’re not lightweights. I’d guess they push the scales around 280-290 grams. These particular saddles came with chromoly rails, but I suspect that WTB will also offer a titanium-railed version at some point (this is only conjecture). WTB, if you’re reading this: PLEASE bring back glitter vinyl, even if you do it in limited-editions. I’ll stand in line to buy some more Bootsy Collins bling!

I’ll be riding with these over the next few months and I’ll let you know how they turn out. Since I got them for Christmas, I’ve already put about 150 miles on them — and they feel just like my trusty old saddle!

flatback