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Cycling in the Rain: Fend off Rooster Tails

By Sheila Ascroft

Quick to install Freddy Fender

Quick to install Freddy Fender

Some rooster tails have nothing to do with chickens and everything to do with cycling in the rain. If you’ve ever felt one, then you know how disgusting it can be to have an arc of cold, wet and usually dirty water spraying off your rear wheel and up your backside. Ugh. And there’s nothing so uncomfortable was cold, clammy cycling shorts clinging to a bare butt! Nasty. Well, maybe it’s worse when the rooster tail drenches the cyclist behind from face to foot!

We’re not talking about all-weather cycling. Even in summer, getting caught in a warm rain can produce the same gritty unpleasant wetness as a late autumn rainy ride. And your bike doesn’t like the rooster tail effect either: it can throw sandy, muddy, scummy water, often mixed with gasoline residue, into your brakes, derailleurs and chain, making them work less efficiently and wearing them out sooner.

Fenders may look dorky but they are worth their weight in riding comfort when it rains. Planet Bike, for example, offers quick-to-attach, lightweight Freddy Fenders. No tools required! Small rubber straps attach the fenders to the front forks or rear seat stays. This means you can quickly clip on a set when the forecast is possible rain and remove them for those “beauty days” of cycling.

If you don’t mind the clunky look of fenders (and their extra weight), you can always go with permanently installed fenders, which come in sizes for road bikes and hybrids and mountain bikes. These are designed for full coverage in all-weather situations. Most modern fenders are made from unbreakable polycarbonate.

Civia flat fenders

However, if you want to be truly stylish, the latest is Civia flat aluminum fenders, which come in various anodized colours. They look streamlined and are suppose to be durable and provide excellent coverage. They come in a variety of wheel sizes and mount at traditional attachments points listed below.

To use permanent fenders, you need to check that your bike has the following:

  • eyelets at the rear dropouts
  • a chain stay bridge (that’s a short tube connecting the two chain stays about 2.5 to 5 cm [1” to  2”] behind the bottom bracket
  • eyelets at the fork dropouts at the front.

Other than attachment points, look to make sure there is space between the tire and the fender; the two should not touch!

Don’t forget the mud flaps

Mud flaps on the bottom of both fenders are a God-send! They provide extra coverage so you won’t rooster tail someone else off the back, and the front one will keep your feet much drier. You can also make your own mud flaps by cutting plastic containers to the size and shape you need and duct taping them to the fenders. Rubber ones would be even better. Some bike shops sell mud flaps separately.

Duct tape also comes in handy if you have a rack on the rear of your bike and can’t fit a fender. Tape over the gaps on your rack and make your own little mud flap for the end. This will stop a lot of the rooster tail on you.

Rear deflector shields or rear rat tails are fender compromises that work somewhat, but your bike components will still be exposed to the wet grit. They are better than nothing at the back though. Just be prepared to get wet from the splash off the front wheel….

1 comment to Cycling in the Rain: Fend off Rooster Tails

  • Two other reasons to use fenders:
    – water from the back of trucks that are on road (think smelly garbage wetness)
    – protect your bike and you from road debris

    I never leave home without fenders. Or a mirror.

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