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First Impression: SKS Commuter Full Fenders

by Noah

Photo: My Trek 1200 with SKS Commuter Fenders (click to Zoom)
Trek 1200 SKS Commuter Fenders
Fritz told us about fenders late last year. I’ve always been on the fence when it comes to fenders. It does rain quite a bit out here in the great plains of the United States, but at the same time, I have a few multi-mode commuting options at my disposal when things get grimy. My thoughts were that when it’s actually raining, fenders won’t keep me dry, and if the road is soaked with standing water after a rain storm or simply condensation from a high-humidity night, then I only have to get through a few miles to get to a bus stop.

I am in the middle of reviewing a set of Commuter Fenders from SKS. I’m lucky that my Trek 1200 has all of the desired mounting eyelets for fenders. The rear fender can attach to the chainstay bridge (often used in mounting kickstands) with a bolt (if drilled) or with a rounded clip that can be bolted to the fender. It also attaches to the seatstay bridge, in my case this is shared with the rear brake. Both fenders have arms that attach to eyelets on the fork and rear drop-outs near the axles, with the front fender mounting at the top of the fork, also sharing the mounting point with my brake.

I had to partially remove my cargo rack to install the SKS Commuter Fenders, but they came with various lengths of attachment bolts that allowed me to share the rear eyelets with the rack and fenders without any problems. I was impressed with the amount of thought that went into the attachment hardware included from SKS. The fenders also came with an allen wrench that fits all of the bolts supplied by SKS. The only other tool that I needed for installation was a 5mm allen wrench to remove my brakes in order to install the fenders. Installation was a breeze using the clear, concise multi-lingual instructions and diagrams provided by SKS on the packaging.

The front attachment arms interfere with the quick-release mechanism, so I now have to twist the acorn end of my skewer in order to clear the “lawyer’s lips“. Also, the attachment arms for the front fender were longer than they needed to be to fit my 25mm road tires. I chose to cut the arms back with a cut-off wheel on a rotary tool. These are perhaps the only annoyances that I could find with this kit. I’m told that some fenders have break-away segments on the attachment arms where they can be shortened with nothing more than a pair of pliers and a quick snap. The SKS Commuter fenders don’t seem to have this feature.

I had a dry commute yesterday morning and was pleased to discover that the fenders were rock-solid, didn’t get in the way of pedaling, and didn’t rub on the tires or interfere with the brakes. Without looking, I can’t even tell they’re present, even at the higher speeds afforded by downhill sections of my commute route.

This morning, I was able to give them an honest shakedown. It rained quite a bit last night. Not a drop was falling from the sky but there were plenty of puddles accompanied by an ample layer of standing water on the road. I didn’t have time for a full ride to work, but after two miles to the bus stop, only a few drops of road grime were present on the toes of my shoes. I’ve ridden this route many times with wet or dewy pavement. My shoes and pants are usually soaked after just a few miles. The included rubber mudflaps did a great job keeping me dry by providing a little extra coverage.

I’ll give a full review including installation pictures once I’ve fully tested them. For now, these fenders get two thumbs up in the categories of price, completeness of coverage, and ease of installation.

 
Burley nomad 269

34 Responses to “First Impression: SKS Commuter Full Fenders”

  1. Noah says:

    Before anyone asks, the rack is angled back intentionally to minimize heel strike with my panniers. The setup works very, very well but looks somewhat awkward without panniers on it.

  2. Charlie D. says:

    I absolutely love my fenders. I got lots of “nerd” remarks from friends sometimes, but as you’ve discovered they basically eliminate all splash-up from the road. When it rains or snows, I wear waterproof pants and jacket, and the only thing I usually need to change are my socks and shoes.

  3. CJ says:

    Fenders are great. I have some on my RL MC 29er, and I will soon be buying a set for my new Surly X-Check that I had built up. I can only speak for myself, but I am much more motivated to ride on poor weather days if I have a set of fenders installed. I hate the swamp butt that one gets from riding a fender-less bike in wet weather.

    Fenders make your ride look more utilitarian, that is for sure. But the utilitarian look is cool to me.

    Peace out

  4. Ghost Rider says:

    I used to look askance at bikes with fenders…until I started commuting in the Florida rains. Man, fenders RULE!

    One thing you might want to do on the front is extend the “mudflap” a bit. A couple extra inches of length really makes a huge difference in how clean and dry your BB and feet stay. I used rubber matting, but I’ve seen folks use cut-up pop or waterbottles to make an extension. Check these babies out: http://www.phred.org/~alex/bikes/fendermudflap.html

    It is a perfectly acceptable (and expected) chore to trim the excess strut length on fenders…even those fancy Honjo or Berthoud fenders come with extra-long struts, and trimming IS expected. The Dremel tool is the perfect tool for that task, as well.

  5. Cafn8 says:

    I Recently took the plunge and mounted Planet Bike Freddy Fenders on my commuter. To trim the struts, I used a bolt cutter to nip them down little by little. The ends wind up being sharp and ugly, but when installed they aren’t visible. The bolt cutter made a pretty quick job of it.

  6. Fritz says:

    I was gonna ask about your angled rack :-)

    Any awkward moments from toe strike with the fender yet?

  7. Noah says:

    No toe strike. After I chopped the arms, it’s ALMOST (but not quite) impossible to hit the fender with my bike shoes clipped in. I’d almost have to try, and even then, I don’t think it would actually budge the fender from its proper location.

  8. JRA says:

    I agree that fenders are key on a commuter rig, however the yours seem woefully short, especially in the rear. The rear flap should keep road spray off the rider behind you as well (good karma, not to mention etiquette). It really should come down nearly as far as the front.
    I don’t know if those are really “full” fenders.

  9. Noah says:

    Well, they’re sold as full fenders, and they do definitely keep the spray off of me. I’m pretty slow, so there’s not often anyone behind me. :D

  10. Rick says:

    Fenders are great when traveling through horse country. Those little piles with straw mixed into it are not piles of mud.

  11. Mike Myers says:

    Like GR, I live in Florida. If you want to ride any afternoon during the summer, you have to ride either in rain or the aftermath of such. Fenders are a necessity, unless one enjoys eating road grime. I have SKS P45 fenders and the rear is much longer than the “Commuter”, even with the integral mudflap. The “Commuter” looks much like the fenders on the Raleigh One Way. It seems odd that a fender marketed at commuters would be so short. GR gave excellent suggestions for mudflaps. However, if you want to be kind of fancy, Velo Orange sells a really nice leather mudflap for MUCH less than Berthoud.

  12. Kiwi Don says:

    I find it hard to imagine riding a bike without fenders as they do a great job in the rain and also in weather that looks okay until you check your downtube! Fenders protect your pride and joy at all times and to my mind make most bikes ‘complete’. I race and when I’m doing that then it’s all out on a stripped racer. Anything else is a rack ,fenders and stand job. Trying to do without these things is a major compromise to someone else’s opinion of you. Ignore them and live a happier life!

  13. xylitol says:

    Does anyone know whether you can install these fenders on a 2008 Kona Paddy Wagon?

  14. Noah says:

    xylitol: You’ll be looking for a few things.

    1) 700c wheels. Less than 30mm tires the same fenders I got (35mm) will work. They come in 2 wider widths for wider tires as well.

    2) Chainstay bridge. Either a flat plate a few inches behind the bottom bracket (where the cranks and pedals go through the frame) or a round tube bridging the chainstay. Photos:
    http://images.google.com/images?q=chainstay+bridge

    3) Mounting hole at the top of the fork and seatstays. Many bikes use these holes for brake calipers or as a reflector mount.

    4) Threaded eyelets behind the axle on the front fork and rear dropouts.

    If you have that stuff, then it will work nicely on your Paddy Wagon, or any other bike.

  15. Yuri Lipkov says:

    Full fenders rock for any commuter. Me and my Salsa Las Cruces stay cleaner and drier. And if anyone thinks that looks geeky, I invite them to race me! :-)
    I do have to be careful with my winter Lake MTB shoes on, as they are huge and can strike the front fender at large handlebar turn angles.

  16. Fritz says:

    The Paddy Wagon has fender mounts front and rear, so fenders should work. I don’t know what the tire and brake clearance is on this bike, though, so ask the bike shop for recommendations on specific fenders.

  17. Spencer (Portland, Left Coast) says:

    We have on avg 196 days of rain a year, so fenders are the norm for our “Rain BIkes”. I also run the SKS, but use the fuller version that comes down lower in the back. I also added extensions fore and aft which really minimize the amount of grime on the bike. This minimizes the amount of service and cleaning.

    It may seem silly to go all the way to the ground in the rear, but you would be amazed how high spray can reach from a high fender as pictured. When drafting the rain, the second stays drier by being in the rain shadow. Rearward wheel spray is just bad manners.

  18. Ghost Rider says:

    Don’t forget that if you have a bike that doesn’t have threaded eyelets at the fork tips and dropouts, you can purchase vinyl-covered “P Clamps” to fit fenders. Velo Orange sells them (http://www.velo-orange.com/pforfeat.html), as do many hardware stores. Lacking those, stout zipties work wonders to fit fenders to just about any bike!

  19. Quinn says:

    Another fender to consider other than PB, Thank god its going to be dry for the next 6 or 8 months, giving me time to decide.

  20. sararah says:

    Thanks for the review, I suppose I should just suck it up and put fenders on my old Trek 730….

  21. Matt says:

    Fenders are great. I toured with them in 1980 and have had them on ever since. Nice to see them becoming popular.

    A couple of Honjo notes.

    1) if you plan on having your bicycle painted, get some Honjo smooth aluminum fenders and have them powdercoated at the same time. A matched frame and fenders looks wonderful. If you’re really stylish, you’ll get a chainguard painted at the same time as well (mine’s a Wald steel one, $6 plus $45 to have it de-chromed). The chainguard thing works best on internally-geared hubs (or singlespeeds I guess) with a predictable chainline.

    2) On those Honjo stays, cut them with a pipe cutter. This is the little wheeled thing you roll around and around while tightening it down. Very precise, and the cut end is attractive to those who bother looking at such things.

    The next Big Thing? Two-legged kickstands!

  22. Sarah B. says:

    This is question for Noah.

    I have the exact same bike as in your picture and I have thought about using it to commute. But Im a bit nervous in using this type of racing bike to commute on the bumpy (read: really crappy) roads here in New Orleans. I currently commute on a Schwinn Ranger, which is a freaking tank. It’s so damn heavy as it is, without my panniers on the back.

    I guess my question is, did you put different tires on the Trek for commmuting? I don’t want to use the racing Bontragers that came with it. Im just curious as to what types of thicker, commuter tires can go on racing bikes like this. Thanks!

  23. Fritz says:

    Sarah, I’ve owned a similar bike (the Trek 1000). 700×28 is about the largest you can expect to fit on your bike. I don’t know if the larger tires will fit with fenders mounted, though.

    Another (much more expensive) option is replacing your brakes with long reach calipers and 650B wheels. See here if you’re interested. Note this involves buying two new wheels and a set of brakes, but this will give you enough clearance for fenders and 38mm tires.

    I don’t know how bad the roads are in New Orleans, but I’ve been commuting on 700×23 and 700×25 tires for over 20 years on all kinds of roads. I’m pretty abusive to my bikes and tires — I hop curbs, ride down stairs, ride on railroad tracks and go off road with my road bikes. I broke quite a few spokes on the Trek 1000 before I had the wheels properly built, but otherwise I really haven’t had major issues with my wheels.

    Road bike on dirt Panda

    TO give you an idea of how I ride my bikes, here’s a picture of my Specialized Roubaix with 120 psi 700×25 road tires on a dirt track in Santa Cruz County.

  24. Sarah B. says:

    Hi Fritz – thanks so much for your response and the pic of your Roubaix….I have bike envy :)

    I appreciate the info on changing out the brakes and wheels. I don’t do alot of racing at all, but since I spent a pretty penny on the Trek I want to prevent from thrashing it.

    This is the first time Ive dealt with switching out the tires on my road bike. I put some nice Michelin Transworld City slicks 26 x 1.95 on the Schwinn, along with fenders and a rear rack for my Novara panniers. But the thing is so heavy and I make zero headway with any wind. I’m trying to fight the ever present “I-want-to-buy-another-bike” bug too!

    I go over a few railroad tracks and some gravel on my commute…but its mostly pavenment. So it sounds like those 700 x 28′s might work just fine. Have you put a rear rack/panniers on your Trek or Roubaix?

  25. Fritz says:

    No rack on the Roubaix, nor anyplace to mount any. The Roubaix is my fun go fast bike.

    The Trek had a rear rack. I don’t think I ever put panniers on it but I used it for plenty of hauling, including towing a kid trailer and a trailer bike. There was some winter commuting through snow and ice with this bike as well (which is why I know 32mm tires won’t fit).

  26. Noah says:

    By the way, for all who commented… the rear fender broke in half last month and I patched it up with some epoxy. Today, it had broken in 2 more places, one all the way through (again) and another crack was about to meet a similar fate.

    I abandoned the rear fender. I am on the lookout for something new. If I had cash in hand today I’d probably go for the Planet Bike Cascadia.

    And if you’re keeping track, the rear fender lasted a little more than 6 months. I’d been splitting the miles between this bike and my hybrid (before my hybrid got stolen) but these fenders only had about 2,000 miles on them before breaking the first time last month.

  27. Cafn8 says:

    As I understand it, the Planet Bike fenders are Polycarbonate, which is very tough stuff. During my optical lab days I once took a hammer and vice to a polycarbonate lens for some, uh, product testing. I was not able to crack it by hitting it or bending it.

    Anyway, I’ve been riding with a set of Planet Bike “Freddy Fenders” since this spring and have caught the rear one on door frames, steps and various basement stuff and kicked the front one numerous times due to my size 13 toe overlap and have had no issues.

  28. Noah says:

    Yes, certain kinds of high-durability polycarbonates make up “bulletproof glass”, aircraft windshields, “unbreakable” Nalgene bottles, and the “Will it blend” Blendtec Blender jars… among other things. Lexan is one trademark name used.

    I’m pretty sure I’ll have better luck with a set of high-quality polycarbonate fenders.

  29. Daley says:

    So…are you recommending the Freddy Fenders over the SKS?

  30. Noah says:

    Well, I haven’t used the Freddy Fenders yet, so I can’t recommend them. I can say I probably won’t buy another set of plastic fenders from SKS again, though. Even though these were aluminum-core, they still cracked.

    I have patched them up just enough to get me to Winter commuting season. Then, I’ll switch over to my Mountain Bike. Next year, I’ll probably pick up a new set of fenders for the road bike. I still haven’t got my mind set on a specific model, though.

  31. Cafn8 says:

    I’ll admit that I’m not riding the miles that Noah rides, but I think most fender abuse happens at the beginning and end of a trip, or while parked. After about 6 months of use, about 3 or 4 times per week my Freddy Fenders are doing well. If you’re considering a set, I suggest the style with 2 pairs of struts per fender. Mine have only one, and don’t follow the line of the tire as well as I’d like, but that’s mostly cosmetic, and could probably even be fixed with a little more setup effort on my part.

  32. Doug says:

    Noah,

    Not for this to sound bad but I’m glad I’m not the only one that has a rack that mounted at an angle to the back. I bought a ’08 Scott SUB 20 while I was stationed in South Korea for a year and had a rack from that area on there and it sat level but is heavy. When I got my bike back in my shipment I mounted my rack I had on another bike and it did the angle thing. I’ll have to get a picture of it with the current rack on it and post here. Haven’t put any panniers on there yet but hope it will look better when I do like you mentioned it does for your bike. Have you got the Planet Bike Cascadia fenders yet? I’m thinking of trying them for my bike and just wondering how they do.

  33. Noah says:

    Yeah, I got Cascadias put on my road bike a while ago. The rear brake stay is pretty close to the tire, so the included brake stay bracket was useless. It was forcing the fender to rub on the rear tire. I drilled four small holes in the fender and used zip ties to hold it to the brake stay. I’ve had cascadias on for several months now. They’re definitely the superior option.

  34. Doug says:

    Noah,

    Glad to hear that you’ve been pleased with the Cascadias. Thanks for the info about the brake stay issue, helps out if I run into the same problem. I’ve got a few bike shops in my area so now I just got to find out who has them, preferable anyway over having to wait on them from being ordered!

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