When you start cycling with a bike that has fenders, it’s very easy to take them for granted until you have to go pedal in the rain astride a bike without one. That was exactly what happened to me with Hyro, my TCX.
Not too long after I bought him, the rains came. I soon experienced first-hand the joy…er, ignominy of growing a cold brown or black stripe on the back of my shirt and on my buttocks while riding through wet Makati streets. When I switched to slick tires, it became much worse. Apparently, more water rides up a slick tire’s tread compared to a knobby cyclocross tire’s, so the accompanying “skunk stripe” is a lot longer. And have I mentioned how hard this is to launder out of clothing?
This was not what I envisioned for a bike I wanted to become an all-weather commuter. I set out searching for full-length road bike fenders…only to be disappointed by the lack of options available locally.
In the Philippines, the illusion persists that road bikes are only for those who want to race – and nobody else. This explains why there are so many commute-specific parts and accessories that are not available. While I may ride at a higher average speed than most bike commuters, I definitely do not want the TCX to be a one-trick pony.
In the end, I resorted to ordering my SKS P45 Longboard fenders online, via a US-based bike shop with a presence on eBay.
They are a variation of the veteran Chromoplastic fenders which sandwich an aluminum strip inside plastic. The “P45” designation refers to the 45 mm width of the fenders themselves. SKS say that these are good for tire widths from 28 to 38 mm.
The Longboards kit is comprised of the fenders themselves, steel fender stays, plastic end-caps, a bracket for the seatstay bridge, and all the nuts and small hardware required to install them. The front pair of stays has plastic “Secu-Clips,” which are supposed to release when debris gets between the front tire and fender. This prevents front wheel lock-up and avoids the rider flying over the handlebars.
One challenge with the TCX is mounting the rear fender. While it has eyelets on the dropout area, it does not have bridges on the chainstays and seatstays. On a proper touring bike meant to accept fenders, these two points are essential for affixing the rear fender in a solid position.
To emulate a seatstay bridge, I disassembled the TCX’s rear reflector mount. Left over was a piece that could pinch the sliding bracket in place while wrapped around one seatstay. The whole thing is then held together by a bolt, a nut, and an optional zip tie on the other seatstay.
For the chainstays, I decided to simply fasten zip ties around them, going over the forward edge loop on the rear fender. It does mean that dismounting and then remounting the fender is an involved job, and led to me running the fenders as a permanent part of the bike. The only times I removed them were for races and riding on trails.
The front fender required only that I bend one of the fender stays around the brake caliper on the non-drive side. Later on, a bike mechanic gave me a 3 mm spacer and a longer bolt to push the fender stay more outboard, and to prevent the stay from affecting the front brake actuation.
You adjust the fender line over the tires via these special eye bolts that slide over the fender stays. Once the height is set, the 8 mm nuts are tightened to keep them in place, and any excess stay metal cut off and sealed with the plastic end caps.
Setting these properly is a process of trial and error. Set too far away from the tire, the fenders become air brakes; set too close, the tire tread will rub on the inside and on any protrusions there. They also have to be as centered as possible laterally.
When SKS calls these “Longboards” they really do mean it. The rubber mud flap on the front fender extends almost all the way to the floor, ensuring your feet stay dry as you pedal.
It’s a similar story on the rear. On a group ride, wheelsuckers will want to follow you instead of other riders with shorter fenders, or rooster tails shooting out of bare rear tires.
Post-install, I’ve had a very good experience with these. Coverage is excellent. However, they’re susceptible to vibrations from the road and will crack over time – under the fork crown on the front fender, and around the sliding bracket on the rear. I’m told that’s just how it is with full-length fenders. After numerous failures with super glue, I found that a layup of duct tape is an excellent fix as it mitigates the effect of the vibrations but doesn’t allow the fender to totally separate at the cracks.
They’re also a better fit for the 28 mm slicks I run. When I run my 35 mm mud tires with these fenders, their knobs rub on the inside.
Adding the fenders has transformed the TCX into an all-conditions bike, and cracking issues aside, it was some of the best money I’d ever spent on bike parts.