As our month of fat-friendly coverage comes to an end, I thought I'd bring up an overlooked, but much-appreciated accessory for cycling, particularly for touring cyclists: fenders. If you’ve ever ridden a fat bike (orany bike) in wet or muddy conditions, then you know how much grime and grit these massive tires can expel. With their rise in popularity for winter riding, summer trail use, touring, and even commuting, it’s surprising how few fender options currently exist to keep the snow, ice, slush, mud, and road nastiness off your bike and your back.
For those looking for some sort of coverage on the cheap, there are two clip-on mud guard/fender options currently available: Dave’s Mud Shovel from Portland Design Works and the Grand DAD and Grand MOM fenders from SKS Fenders. I’ve personally used Dave’s Mud Shovel (available for front and rear coverage), which was designed by Dave Gray, one of the frame designers for Surly. At $50 for a pair, they are reasonably affordable, lightweight, surprisingly sturdy, and easy to install. Though they help to keep some of the spray off you, they offer minimal protection for your bike and components. The only full coverage options I’ve encountered are custom wooden fenders such as those from MK Fenders, which are incredibly elegant, but also much more costly.
For those on a budget and looking for full coverage for their fatty, consider creating a pair of homemade fenders. A quick online search comes up with homemade fat bike fenders of all shapes and sizes, using everything from corrugated plastic election signs and license plates, to drain piping and 50-gallon plastic barrels, and so on. There are some pretty ingenious creations out there, many created from every day detritus, and some lively discussions on forums such as Mtbr, which can provide inspiration and ideas for DIY fenders.
Pictured above is an example of a set of homemade, full-coverage fenders from touring cyclist Nicholas Carman, which he pieced together for his Surly Pugsley before leaving Alaska for an epic tour south to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Using “an $8 piece of aluminum from Lowe’s, some coruplast signage promoting Joe Miller’s Senate bid in 2010, and salvaged stays from a Planet Bike fender and an old chrome balloon tire fender,” Nicholas assembled his homemade fenders in his backyard using a Swiss army knife and a multi-tool. The fenders have withstood over 6000 miles of riding, including “several hundred-mile days on pavement, through mud and beaver ponds on the Dawson Overland Trail in the Yukon, over 12,000 feet on the Colorado Trail, descending the 401 Trail into Crested Butte in muddy conditions, along much of the Great Divide Route, and commuting around town in Albuquerque where it hardly ever rains.”
Representing the other end of the handcrafted fat-fender spectrum, Finnish cyclist Toni Lund designed and had a local metal fabricator create these gorgeous aluminum fenders which he painted cherry red to match his 9:Zero:7 fat bike. To supplement the necessary hardware for installation, Toni created his own mounting brackets and stays. Be sure to take a peek at his blog for more fatbike inspiration and mesmerizing photography from his many overnight adventures in a wintry, forest wonderland.
The possibilities for homemade fenders are endless, and with a little elbow grease, some simple tools and determination, one could create something simple (or complex) for protecting their investment from the nasty elements encountered when riding in winter and wet environments. I hope to take some inspiration from these examples and make a pair of fenders of my own in the future.
What do you use for fenders?
Photo credits: Photo one by Josh Tack. Photo two by Paul Hansbarger. Photo three by Nicholas Carman. Photo four by Toni Lund.
BIKEPACKER is written by Casey Greene and Paul Hansbarger, Adventure Cycling staff, part-time adventure seekers and gear nerds alike.