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Review: SKS Raceblade Long fenders

Surely you know that we’re big fans of fenders around here…they keep you and your bike happy and dry and clean, even in the worst weather. And, most commuters see them as a “must-have” accessory for a commuter bike. We couldn’t agree more.

Mir’s recent article about her quest for fenders got me to thinking about more fenders for my own fleet. I happen to have a few road bikes I sometimes use for commuting, and on rainy, yucky days I do NOT like to bring them out of the garage. Cleaning my shiny, sparkly road bikes is a chore I do not like. What if I could find full-coverage fenders for one of these skinny-tired roadsters?

First problem: the bike I wanted to add fenders to does not have eyelets on the fork or rear dropouts. Second, there’s not a lot of clearance to work with. Third, some of the other fenders suited for these kinds of situations aren’t full-coverage, and can be fiddly to install/maintain/stay in place while riding. I wasn’t about to have to deal with that, so off I went to the Intertubes to search out a solution.

Enter the SKS Raceblade Long. Full-coverage, easily removeable if needed, good reputation from a company that knows a thing or two about fenders. I took a trip to my friendly neighborhood Performance Bike to spend some holiday gift card money, and they gladly ordered me a set to add to my bike. About $60 and a couple days later, I was ready to install them.

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The SKS Raceblade Longs are made of chromoplastic, with stainless steel stays and hardware. They clip to small metal bridges that are mounted under the brake bolts and to metal tabs that are held in place by the wheels’ quick-release skewers. The concept is very similar to the legendary “River City Reacharound”, but there is no cutting of fenders required. Here are a couple shots of the clips and the way they mount to the brakes:

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Each fender is in two pieces; a longer rear section and a shorter front section. Each fender is supported by a double, adjustable stay set in stainless steel. SKS thoughtfully supplied soft plastic mudguards to screw onto the ends of the fenders:

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Installation is pretty simple: loosen the brake mounting bolts, slip the bridges in and tighten the bolts down. The bridges come in three lengths to fit most bikes. At the wheel, remove the conical springs from the QR skewers, and fit the mounting tabs underneath the skewers:

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The fenders clip directly to those bridges and tabs, and feature quick release buttons to remove them rapidly if desired:

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I installed the Raceblade Longs yesterday, and took them out for a test ride today. The ground is still damp from snowmelt and rain, so I could really see how clean they kept me and my bike. What’s the verdict? They work! No muddy stripe up my back or in my face, and my bottom bracket area is pretty clean.

The Raceblade Longs are not perfect, of course. Right at the brake bridge area, there’s a pretty sizeable gap in coverage (necessitated by the design and lack of clearance on modern road bikes). I found a lot of road spray and goop covering the brakes that will need to be hosed off periodically.

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The rear fender stops short behind the seat tube (again because of the design), so the back side of the bottom bracket shell gets a layer of road “deposits” on it:

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Also, the front stub of the front fender rattles like crazy on rough roads. It’s pretty annoying, and I will try to figure out some way to quiet it down, perhaps with a shim where the bridge enters the back of that stub.

Obligatory Mir.I.Am-style crappy cameraphone pic:
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Dings notwithstanding, I think these are a pretty good solution for people who want to ride their roadies in all weather conditions. They cover enough that maintenance and cleaning are reduced, and mount solidly enough for year-round use.

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.

Guest Review: Bontrager Interchange Nebula Fenders

Editor’s note: We got the following product review from longtime reader/commenter Raiyn Storm. He has graciously allowed us to post his thoughts and photos here for you. As he purchased the fenders for his own use, we’re going to forgo that pesky FTC disclaimer that normally appears at the end of our reviews here on Bikecommuters.com. And, as far as we can tell, the following is the first online review of this particular fender set…so enjoy!

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I recently purchased a set of Bontrager Interchange Nebula fenders to use on my Town bike. I chose these fenders specifically because I wanted the protection that only full coverage fenders can provide with the ability to remove or re-attach them at a moment’s notice. While there are other “quick release fenders on the market I found their coverage to be insufficient for my needs. I tend to use my bike as a jack of all trades so being able to remove the fenders quickly and without tools is a plus in my book.

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Below is the description of the fenders from Bontrager’s website:

Features

* After initial installation, the Interchange system allows subsequent removal and application in seconds
without tools
* Lightweight polycarbonate fenders are weather and impact resistant
* Adjustable, oversized aluminum stays ensure a custom and secure fit
* Rear frame mounted fenders fit under racks, out of the way of trunk bags and panniers
* Includes integrated mudflaps designed for maximum water dispersion
* Can be fully disassembled for easy recycling

Basic installation is fairly straightforward and requires a 4mm Allen wrench, 8 mm open end wrench and a #2 Phillips screwdriver.

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The Interchange Nebulas are attached by means of a quick release bracket in the front and tensioned chain and seatstay bridge mounts and clips. In addition, the fender stays are attached to a corresponding bolt-on “mushroom” (bolted to the fender eyelet) by means of a snap-on socket. Installation is a little more involved than regular fenders because the socket mount is threaded to adjust in and out of the fender stay and will need to be adjusted for your setup. Once adjusted, the socket is secured by a jam nut.

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Even though the included directions seemed less helpful than something you’d get from IKEA, I have confidence that most people will be able to pull off the basic installation with minimal problems. I, on the other hand, had a few minor changes to make.
Knowing that I had a suspension corrected fork, I needed a way to get the fender close enough to the tire to function properly and still look right. I had initially planned an elaborate kludge involving P-clamps and plenty of extra hardware, but it proved to be overkill due to the relatively short axle to crown measurement of my Surly 1×1 fork. I ended up following what I feel to be a cliché by adding a (thankfully) small piece of metal to drop it to the correct height for my fork / tire combination. Another modification to the basic install was forced due to the seat stay bolt hole pointing down instead of being a horizontal hole. Because of this I decided to bolt it to my brake booster instead which still allowed it to follow the correct arc while potentially adding support due to it’s more centralized location on the fender arc.

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I was able to try the fenders out recently in some mildly rainy conditions in the area and I’d say that the coverage provided by the front fender is better than one would expect from a typical set of detachable fenders, rivaling that of some of the best names in the business. Perhaps aesthetically I wasn’t as happy with the projection ahead of the front fork as I could have been but the coverage from the business end of the front fender and mudflap drops well below the bottom bracket making up for what I feel is a fairly stubby front projection when compared to more traditional fenders. I felt that the rear behaved as a normal bolt-on fender would in that you wouldn’t notice any real difference between it and the easily removed Nebula.

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The Interchange Nebula’s are priced around $50 – $55 depending on the shop. The price is fairly in line with the better bolt-on fenders on the planet but offers the versatility of super quick removal for sunny days or for just putting your bike in the trunk after a late night at work.

Interbike 2010: Planet Bike’s New Products!

We were lucky enough to spend a bit of time with our friend Chris Follmer from Planet Bike. He was gracious enough to give us a rundown on some new products for 2010/2011. Check them out in the video below:

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!

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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:

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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:

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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.