After having spent a couple of hours cleaning the tandem up after a wonderful, but wet, ride a couple weeks ago, my wife and I talked about picking up mud guards, or fenders, for the Co-Motion. They were my Christmas present (when you’re an avid cyclist, every day is Christmas, so the actual day only requires a token gift).
I started the necessary research… and I read a few reviews of SKS mud guards and, as such, was more than a little apprehensive about buying them when the owner of our local shop said he preferred them. Most of the online reviews I’d read were brutal. Savage.
The issue is, the SKS fenders aren’t an easy install. They require some thought, understanding, planning, and some decent tools (a hacksaw, vice, grinder…). It also doesn’t hurt to have the needed bolt holes in the frame and fork for the installation which the Co-Motion does.
I bought a set of SKS Longboard P35’s from the shop. They’re 35mm fenders, good for 28mm tires, which is what we roll on the tandem.
With a much needed warm up on the horizon, I took the tandem to the shop Friday evening to have the new fenders installed so we could ride the tandem Saturday morning. The shop owner had offered to help with the installation when he recommended them.
I’m telling you right now, without competent leadership, the project would have taken three times longer than the hour it took Shawn and I to get it done – and to be clear, I took the role of “helper”. A man should know his place, and I know mine. Also, I think this might be the reason SKS fenders get a bad wrap.
So, the rear wheel is always harder, right? Wrong. Front wheel is tougher, by a long shot. We started with the front. We started with the frame that bolts to the fork. First, Shawn shimmed out the brake side and bent the legs back toward the tire. The non-disc side was straightforward.
Once the legs were bent, we attached them to the fender, marked the legs, took everything apart and cut the legs to the marks. Everything went back together after the sharp edges were ground down. He centered the fender and tightened everything down.
The back was much faster. No shimming, no bending. We took the rear wheel off, bolted the fender to the frame where the chain stays come together. Normally the rear fender has to be trimmed at the stays, but not in this case. Shawn put the wheel back on and bolted the fender arms to the frame. We bolted the arms to the fender, centered the fender, tightened everything down, marked the arms, cut them to length, ground down the rough edges, and installed everything.
SKS fenders require patience. They’re not a bolt on and go product. Often, you’ll have to trim them to fit around the frame. The support arms take a lot of work, and then there’s trimming the support arms to length, just so you can bolt everything back together again. If, however, you have patience and work at them, SKS mud guards are not your old, heavy, clunky fenders. They are truly a beautiful, light addition to a bike – they certainly don’t look like the fenders that came on the first bike I owned as a five-year-old… they’re racy even.
After our first ride Saturday morning, I couldn’t believe how wet it was out and how clean the bike was when we got back. My mind was blown – fenders are the best thing EVAH! I didn’t even have to wipe the bike down after the ride. Unbelievable.
I don’t know how we’ve gone so long without fenders. I do know why, though; ignorance and a little pompous grandiosity. If I’d known mud guards were that nice, the Co-Motion would have come home with fenders. They’re that good.