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Fender Up!

The time has come to choose your winter riding weapon – and choose carefully. The first (and best) defense for your face, booty, bike and the guy or gal riding behind you is a good set of fenders.

Here’s a guide to deciding which are the right fit for you and your bike.

Clip-On Fenders

Clip-on fenders strap around the seat post, arc behind the rear wheel and protect your backside. Some come with a front option, but many don’t.

Pros:

  • Easy installation for even the least mechanically inclined.
  • Easily removed if you want a lighter, cleaner bike on dry days.
  • Transferable from one bike to another.
  • Inexpensive.

Cons:

  • Many don’t come with a front fender option.
  • Are easily removed (so easily stolen).
  • Have the least amount of coverage.

Best for:

  • Infrequent/fair weather riders who might get caught in a storm.
  • Full suspension mountain bikes.
 

Clamp-On Fenders

Clamp-on fenders cover more of the circumference of your front and rear wheels, leaving you slightly more protected from the wet and grime.

Pros:

  • Fairly to install or remove (Most strap onto your bike frame with a heavy-duty rubber band enclosure.)
  • Better coverage.
  • Lightweight.

Cons:

  • Are easily removed (so easily stolen).
  • Finicky and shift easily needing regular micro-adjustments to not rub against your wheel.
  • Can leave scratches on your lovely paint job if you don’t use a protective tape where it attaches to the frame.

Best for:

  • Riders with newer road bikes that won’t fit full fenders.
  • Fair weather riders who want better coverage than a clip-on.
 

Full Fenders

Full Fenders are the ultimate option for protecting yourself from soggy underwear and street grit in your eye. They bolt into your bike, making them sturdy and semi-permanent. Available in both plastic (more economic) or metal (classier, but heavier and more expensive).

Pros:

  • The best coverage of any option, will keep you the most clean and dry.
  • Once properly installed, don’t need much adjusting.
  • Are not easily removed, so theft is not a problem.

Cons:

  • Depending on your bike, can be extremely fussy and time consuming to install, so many folks find it’s worth the money to have a professional mechanic handle the job.
  • More expensive than other options.
  • Most modern road bikes do not have enough room to fit full fenders without having to create custom mounting brackets and cutting the fenders to fit, greatly adding to the cost and shortening the life of the fenders.

Best for:

  • Hybrid/commuter/city bikes or road bikes with cantilever, V, or disc brakes.
  • Riders who are regularly riding in the rain.

Lookin’ Good

Take your time to choose wisely. Within each of these categories, there is a wide selection of styles and brands. Maybe bright yellow plastic fenders are right for you, but if that’s not your style you definitely have plenty of other options.

Winter can be a dreary time. If you’re looking to step up your style, you can spend more money for metal, hammered metal, gorgeous wood fenders or some other stylized option. Most of them are handmade, beautiful, long lasting and oh-so-Portland. In a rainy world of gray and grit, these can brighten your day while keeping you dry.


Tori Bortman is a bike mechanic, educator, consultant and the owner of Gracie’s Wrench.

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