Saturday, February 23, 2008

Review: SKS Race Blades

I've always used full fenders, because my bike had plenty of tire clearance. But the Ti bike, because of a geometry that was designed to maximize handling feel rather than fender clearance or toe clip overlap, could not take a full fender without interference with the downtube, so I ordered a set of Race Blades XLs from BikeTiresDirect, which ironically doesn't actually sell tires I like.

Since my rear could handle a full fender, I only tried the front. The mounting scheme is very easy, with rubber grommets that wrap around your fork. The fenders stays are designed to be bent, and the instructions say to bend them gently, but it turns out that you can't bend them gently and expect them to stay --- you have to bend them pretty hard! When I was finished, I had just a little bit of clearance for my down tube mounted pump, and quite a bit of a gap between the fender and the fork. This made me quite skeptical of how effective they would be, since I use a rain cape, and spray thrown up from the wheels would be like spraying water from under a tent.

These work surprisingly well, however --- I commuted in the rain all this week, and while my feet got wet (easily solved by a mud flap), my knees stayed dry, indicating that the gap is not an issue at all. I did notice quite a bit of dirt and other gunk sprayed onto the crown and fork below headset, so one of the big benefits of a fender (protecting the bearings from the elements) isn't a feature, but on the other hand, that's why I run Chris King stuff (and to be honest, in all my years of touring, I've never had a headset failure --- they're one of those perpetually working items on the bike, like caliper brakes).

Since I usually tour without fenders anyway (fenders are no good if you do even a little bit of off-roading, and I've had a number of fender failures over the years just from commuting), these are a good compromise, and the easy-on/easy-off nature makes them quite practical as my primary ride. Recommended with the above caveats.
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