Sunday, March 27, 2011

Review: SKS Longboard Fenders

SKS Chromoplastic fenders are great. They're stylish, lightweight, and durable. The only problem was that they are too short and they don't come with mudflaps. If you're riding your bike year round, in any kind of weather, the longer your fenders are the better. A couple of weeks ago, ecovelo pointed out that Rivendell was selling a new model of SKS fenders, the Longboards. The main distinguishing feature is that they are longer and they do have mudflaps in the front and in the back -- perfect! Thus I ordered a pair from Swan Cycles and picked them up today.Of course, I couldn't wait to put them on and I wanted to share some pictures and give an initial review.
Before: front wheel with DIY Fructis mudflap

Before: rear wheel

The fenders come with minimal, functional packaging

Step one was to remove the old fenders. This was largely unproblematic, but requires taking off the rear wheel in order to get to the screw next to the bottom bracket. To give you a direct comparison between old and new fender, I've put them on top of each other. Clearly, they provide much more coverage, especially the front fender. (I bought the old fenders in 2008; I've heard that in the meantime the regular Chromoplastics have become a bit longer, but I'm not sure about this.)
Difference in length is not that significant

Much better coverage

Installing the new fenders took an unexpectedly long time. The main issue was cutting the struts to length. Now the older fenders, in addition to the coverage issue, had the problem that the end caps provided for covering the potentially sharp ends of the struts tended to get lost quite easily. I think I lost three of them within the first week of mounting the fenders. SKS has solved this issue by making the end caps longer and wedging them between the mounting hardware of the struts and the fender. While this may sound like a neat solution it comes at a cost: the struts have to be at exactly the right length for the system to work. Therefore, you first have to mount the fenders without the end caps, mark the struts, unmount the struts, cut the fenders to length, and then reinstall everything with the end caps in place. Cutting the fenders took me a bit, since I don't have the proper tools (read: bolt cutter); and fiddling the struts into the caps also was quite tricky. Well, fortunately you only have to do this once and now the fenders look really nice:

The end result

The coverage looks really good, even though I would have like then to extend a bit further to the front on the front wheel. The mud flap is made of a flexible material and is close enough to the tire that it shouldn't be an issue when riding down a curb. Now I'll just need a good downpour to confirm the Longboards' function.

SKS Longboard Fenders
45mm wide
available in black, silver, and creme
around USD 40.-

Edit 2011-04-02: After using the fenders for a few days, I noticed that the front fender does reach down very far -- maybe a bit too far. Therefore I have moved the fenders from being mounted at the rear of the fork crown to the front. This slightly increases the ground clearance of the fender and also extends them further by maybe 3 cm. I've ridden in light to medium rain a few times by now and the fenders work very well!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The toll of winter

I've said it before and I'll say it again: salt is bad for your bike's health. Don't believe me? Well, then check out the following pictures of Wolfgang.
These brakes no longer move by themselves.


Okay, not directly salt-related, but anyway
Due to my wrist injury, Wolfgang was sitting outside for several weeks and when I tried reactivating him, it was pretty hopeless. The chain was stiff, the front derailleur only moved when being kicked with the foot; and the rear canti brakes didn't reset themselves anymore.

So I switched the chain, which also required me to put on a new Shimano XT 11-34 cassette, replaced the Tektro Oryx cantis with an Avid SD7, and replaced some of the brake and shifter cables. Quite annoying, but that's the price you have to pay for riding all year on well-cleared roads in Upstate NY.

Back on the bike

Okay, my wrist is no longer fractured, the cast came off 3.5 weeks ago, and thus I'm finally back on the bike. Of course, being in a cast and off the bike for over 2 months took its toll, and the wrist isn't fully healed yet. So I started slowly, with a 38 km ride into familiar territory: to Taughannock State Park and back. Spring hasn't arrived in Ithaca yet, and so I had to deal with temperatures of -5°C, cold winds, and at the end of the ride some snow. It felt very good to be back riding, even though my wrist hurt quite a bit when riding in the hoods -- riding on the tops seems to work better. I hope this is going to get better soon, as I need to do some serious riding to get back into shape for the season.