I consider full fenders an essential accessory for cycling and especially commuting. Without fenders, a commuter is at a great disadvantage because the tires are throwing water and mud on the bike and the cyclist. The result is a highly unpleasant ride.
A while back I bought a steel road bike and faced a major problem – the bike had limited tire clearance and no mudguard eyelets. To fix the issues, I had to use an unconventional strategy.
The Fork/Front Fender
Since my bike was bought second-hand, it came with non-original tires that were 32mm wide. The rear tire was spinning fine, but the front was rubbing against the fork.
I wanted to run full fenders and had no choice but to downsize and bought 700×25 tires.
Going down in tire size gave me extra clearance, but it wasn’t enough to install a full front fender while maintaining a safe distance between the tire and the fender. (If the clearance is too small, a small stone can get caught between the tire and the fork and jam the wheel.)
To bypass this issue, I decided to split the front fender into two parts – one short and one long. The short section goes at the front. Its purpose is to prevent water, debris, and dirt from being thrown into the rider’s face. The second protects the rider’s torso and legs as well as the downtube.
The idea behind cutting the fender was to make a slim connection bridge for the section of the fender passing under the fork’s crown.
At first, I connected the two parts with a small furniture bracket mounted to each of the elements with a short bolt and nut. While this method got the job done, it “ate” too much clearance.
Then, I had a “genius” revelation to use a piece of steel spoke to connect both parts of the fenders. I cut the spoke with a set of gear/brake cable cutters, but you could also use a hacksaw, a rotary tool…etc.
Tip: If you’re using pliers/cutters, cover the spoke in a piece of clothing when cutting it so that the cut end doesn’t fly away.
How long should the spoke be?
The cut piece should be long enough to position the front part of the fender in front of the brake and the rear section right behind the fork.
The purpose of this “high-tech” engineering is to narrow the profile of the fender under the brake and fork.
Once the spoke is cut, use a set of pliers to close the ends as shown in the pictures above. Then, attach the spoke piece to the cut fender parts via bolts, washers, and nuts.
Use a bolt with a short flat head and position the head towards the tire. This method maximally increases the tire clearance and allows the use of longer bolts. Also, the user can easily see if the nut is untightened.
It’s recommended to use nylon nuts because fenders bounce around a lot and a regular set of nuts may get loose fairly quickly.
The spoke piece dramatically reduces the clearance needed to install a fender while simultaneously increasing the length of the fender. Thus, if you have a fairly short front fender, this method will provide an opportunity to extend it.
Tip: If you want to, you can wrap the spoke connector in insulation or duct tape to prevent corrosion and reduce vibration noise.
Connecting The Fender To The Fork
Unfortunately, my fork didn’t have a single set of eyelets. To battle this issue, I used the clamps оf a cheap set of bike mirrors to mount the fender struts to the fork.
You could also use a clamp from a reflector. If you have neither, there’s a third option that I will explain in greater detail when presenting the mounting process for the rear fender.
I chose the mid-section of the fork primarily for aesthetic purposes and to avoid conflict with the quick-release lever when removing the front wheel.
To secure the upper part of the fender to the fork, I used two zip-ties. One zip-tie goes behind the brake, the other is at the front. I recommend using a very tick zip-tie for the main connection because a small one could easily tear when carrying the bike. The second one is more of a stabilizer so that the front part of the fender doesn’t bounce and hit the tire.
The Rear Fender
The rear part of my frame had just enough clearance for the fender in question when using 25mm tires. However, I still had to do some tricks to fit the fender properly.
- Seat Stay Bridge Connection
Most fenders for road bikes are secured in the middle by sliding a bracket between the brake bolt and the brake or frame. My fenders came with such a bracket, but it “ate” too much clearance. Also, the brake bolt of this particular bike was a bit too short for this mounting method.
Thus, I decided to make an improvised mounting system for the mid-connection.
In the first version, I made 4 holes. 2 on each side of the fender. Then I slid two zip ties through the holes and used a third zip tie to connect the fender to the brake bolt.
Check out the images below for clarification.
However, eventually, I decided to use electrical wire instead of the two zip-ties. The electrical wire is not affected by the sun and will simply be deformed rather than torn during impact.
I also had to make a new set of holes because the original ones didn’t position the fender where I wanted it.
To achieve the above effect, you have to shape the wire as a “U”, insert the ends through holes and then bend them upward.
This method gives more clearance than the standard bracket or the zip-tie approach.
- Connecting The Struts to Seat Stays
My frame didn’t have seat stay mounts either, and I had to improvise. I couldn’t use the clamps from the mirrors because they were way too big to wrap securely around the seat stays. I guess I could have used them by wrapping thick rubber around the seat stays first, but the solution didn’t appear aesthetic. So, I decided to make a bracket.
I used strips cut from a bike water bottle. I am not joking. At first, I made the strips a lot longer than necessary, then wrapped them around the bike seat stays and made a hole via an awl.
I wrapped isolation tape around the mounting zone and used two water bottle strips for each mount. Truth be told, one strip would suffice, but I wanted extra security. The next step is to secure the struts to the bolts via a set of nuts and washers.
At first, this approach may appear silly, but if you try it, you will see that it’s pretty secure. The water bottle strips are pretty tough and do not corrode. Also, the fender is light and doesn’t need a ton of support.
I did this installation over a year ago, and I’d never had to adjust or re-tighten those connection points.
Note: Do not skip the isolation tape around the seat stays, because the bolt will come in contact with the frame and will more than likely scratch it.
The Chainstay Bridge Connection
To rear fender has three attachment points. The third one is at the chainstay bridge. I had one problem with that attachment point – my fender was too wide to fit between the chainstays and was hitting the front derailleur too.
The solution was simple. I tapered the end of the fender and made a cutout specifically for the front derailleur. Then I used a zip-tie to secure the fender to the chainstay bridge. If the chainstay bridge has a hole in it, you can also use a bolt. It’s a more secure way of mounting the fender.
To cut the fender, I used a pair of fairly tough scissors, but you can also use a rotary tool.
Observations and Conclusions
This is a fairly solid set-up. Apart from a couple of zip-ties failing here and there, I’ve had no issues with it. To reduce the chance of zip-tie failure, it’s recommended to use thick, UV-resistant models. (The zip-ties that failed were a bit too slim.)
If you’re going on a big tour, replace all zip-ties with new ones beforehand.
Alternatively, you could also use some sort of metal hoses or a ring. However, I found the zip-ties, adequate for my needs and haven’t bothered to look for an alternative solution.
FAQ: The front fender is rubbing, what can I do?
The front part of my fender was rubbing too when I initially put it on the bike. The solution was simple. I just bent the front part upward. The spoke piece is very flexible and yet holds its shape well after bending it (it’s a spoke after all.) Thus, it allows you to do some customization as needed for your setup.
Disclaimer: The clamps presented here cannot be used on a carbon fork and frame because carbon doesn’t like being squeezed. If you have a carbon bike, you will have to look for another solution as far as the eyelets go. Otherwise, you risk damages to the bike and a lost warranty.