Vintage Bicycles Done Proper :: Corvallis, Oregon
With fall comes change and with fall comes fenders.
For those of us lucky enough to live in an area of the country where season change means the awe of the changing landscape, with it also comes the residue. Although I take nothing but pleasure in riding among the golden fall leaves that litter the streets, sidewalks and lawns, they also signify that Portland is now in its rainy season. A season that lasts from October/November until roughly July 4th. By the time seven months roll around, the Portland residents have earned their summer sun and at that point, in July, the fenders can then safely come off.
This season has also brought other personal changes for me. The Simplicity of Vintage Cycles has woefully and regretfully taken a back seat to a new shift in my life. This fall, I resigned from my job of over four years to embark on a graduate program at Portland State University. I will be pursuing a graduate certificate in transportation while focusing on cycling, mass transit and pedestrian related issues. But mainly, I am focused on bikes. It is at the core of my being and what I believe in. It’s what can save us…in many ways.
So, for those of you reading, I apologize for the lack of regular posts. They will be scaled back for the time, but the program is quick. I should be back to full force and regularly posting around the end of the summer.
But, I digress, what I mainly want to write about, and why you clicked, is because of the fenders. Fenders that will save our backs from the sad “skunk stripe” other unfortunate cyclists are forced to wear because of inevitable road spray. The bicycles that became the test subject are my 1985 Raleigh Kodiak and my wife’s 1983 Univega Specialissima.
The fenders that were purchased, for both bicycles, are crafted by Velo Orange. Both fender sets are smooth models with the only difference being the material. The Univega received aluminum while the Raleigh sports a beefier, stainless steel version because it will be commuting more often.
As Velo Orange promises, the fenders are of high quality and are reminiscent of the beautiful alloy French fenders of the past. The rolled materials are well done on all areas of possible contention and all pre-drilled holes were fairly accurate for both bikes. Mounting hardware for different styles came with the bike. The directions describe many different methods for setup, which was helpful because both bikes were set up just a touch differently.
Setup was straightforward but it was tricky to tweak, adjust and bend the materials (which is encouraged in the directions) to get them just right. The process wasn’t perfect the first time, however, but after multiple test rides and adjustments, I massaged them into place to what I would consider dialed in.
The fit and finish are good, not perfect, but very good. Some areas could use just a touch more adjustment but it’s challenging because when you push one area in, another buckles upward. It is a delicate dance, but, with patience, satisfaction is achievable and for fenders of such quality, time should be taken to get them on properly.
I have had my fenders installed now for several weeks and after many rides, with exception of my first commute to school/work, they have been functioning flawlessly. I was told that this type of fender is one that takes extra effort to set up accurately, but once it is locked down tight, they stay properly fit without rattling lose. So far, I would agree with that statement.
With metal fenders, however, you cannot expect them to be silent. There are little noises here and there. Mainly, it is the sound of thin metal resonating. Perhaps it’s the steel chainstay bridge and fender connection flexing while I power up a hill or maybe the reverberation from accidentally riding through an extra large pothole. Another common one is the clang of a rock that shoots up and bounces around inside, between the tire and the metal. Either way, to me, these are simply nuances of having this type of fender and nothing to be alarmed at.
One item I feel would be worth altering is the addition of a Velo Orange leather mud flap. Luckily, I haven’t felt I needed the flap, although I still haven’t been in a real downpour yet. Even if I don’t need it, I do like the aesthetics of the leather. I feel like a black flap would mate especially well with the Univega and its black leather Brooks saddle.
So, even with all this change in the air, I still wouldn’t have it any other way and I certainly would not go with any other style of fender.
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It is tough to beat the classic style and pure functionality of a set of fenders. I’ve fitted them onto a great many of the bikes I’ve built up – especially those that get lots of use.
I agree, Mark. The utilitarianism is of course the main part of the fenders but with the right selection for a classic bicycle (ie. metal fenders), it does bring an aesthetic that adds so much more to a build.
The VO fenders are really nice, indeed. Have a “hammered” set on my LHT. But unlike you, I don’t know what a “fender season” is, as I leave ’em on all year ’round! 😉
Congrats on the new developments. Keep us posted when you can.
I considered hammered VO fenders for both bicycles, however, I felt like they just didn’t fit either build. I really love the dimpled look and wanted them to work but I didn’t want to force it. I am certain I’ll find a bike in the future that wears them perfectly. Lucky you for having them!
As for ‘fender season’, it really is nearly pointless to remove them as we only get about 3-4 months of dry weather. Plus, it’s not like the weight of the fenders is something that is dragging me down. We’ll see how motivated I am come the traditional fender removal time in July now that I have tightened up them just so.
I appreciate the recognition regarding school. Lucky for me, winter break begins soon and I already have a commissioned restoration lined up. However, after that, I’ll be back to a full load of class with my head down and back in the books, no matter how much I want to build up bicycles, research them, post on the site, etc. As a good friend said, “bikes will always be”, so I have to keep that as my mantra until graduation.
Yeah, taking off fenders for maybe four months isn’t worth the fuss. Anyways, I like the way they look, and all of my fendered bikes have rear lights mounted to fender (two dynamo, one battery), so it would be a pain in the ass to redo all that.
I’m of the same mind myself, Josh. Getting a proper fender line can be a real challenge sometimes and after I’ve gone to the length of dimpling and positioning I’m very hesitant to remove them. I don’t plan to ever remove fenders from my Boulder, and as you probably recall a great many of my past builds have been fitted as well. I’m currently working on a ’71 International and have been “mock positioning” several different fenders for a later fitting. Dunno if I’ll actually use them for this or not, but I just came into an NOS pair of blue Bluemel mudguards.
I agree, a removal probably isn’t going to happen unless I plan to alter the frame of the bike, meaning, have the B-Style shifter bosses removed/replaced with standard bosses. Which is actually a possibility but I’m not jumping to make that one happen.
Your Bluemel’s are keep in your back pocket. Those are gems and if/when the right build comes along, you’ll know it for certain.
Great pictures: fenders, fall leaves and lovely bicycles. Makes me want to jump on my bike, coast around Boulder and look for piles of leaves.
Thanks for the comments, Jennifer! As you are aware, Boulder is a great place to cycle around town. Back in 2003, I spent a little over a year as a resident of the city. I’ll never forget riding my bicycle to work in the mornings, just hours after storms had passed through leaving FEET of snow all over, yet the sun was bright enough for me to wear sunglasses and warm enough to melt all the bike path snow. Now those were some winters that I could handle!
Minnesota; With fall comes studded tires.
That should be the state motto! Winter cycling is not for the weak in Minnesota.
Lovely post, pix, and layout. And fenders.
Much obliged, Stephen. Stop by anytime!
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I am thinking about putting a set of VO fenders on my Rawland Nordavinden and am happy to see a positive review of them here. I have had good experience with VO products. A good set of fenders can extend your riding season substantially!
I am just finishing a re-build of a 1958 Motobecane Randonneur (no pics to share yet). It is interesting in that its fenders are fully integrated with front and rear racks and lighting. The fenders and racks are mutually supporting and are as rigid as hell. The wiring for the lights is tucked into the fender roll and the lights are mounted directly on the fender. Very well thought out and quite sturdy. I think that fenders get a bad rep mainly from the plastic models that are out there. They can work well but are usually floppy and a little fragile.
This bike is 100% complete and original and will keep its original patina but will be mechanically sound and a rider for special occasions, maybe a tweed ride or vintage event. Pics to come soon!
Over a year has gone by and I have used the VO fenders extensively. Although they have their small quirks, I would still give them a thumbs up. One curiosity I’ve discovered is the occasional random creak (typically heard most often on an uphill) that seems to come out of nowhere. Once discovered, I’ll take time to make sure all bolts/nuts are snugged down and usually that takes care of the noise. Or sometimes, a fender may come out of alignment for whatever reason (it may have been bumped, etc.) but with a firm twist of the fender, they are pliable enough to bend slightly back into place and all is well again. Easy peasy.
I mentioned above the addition of the mudflap. I do still think that is a worthwhile purchase although I still have not purchased one. I originally thought excess rain would be the linchpin for having the added protection but I have noticed that the most noticeable gunk (road tar, sloppy mud, etc.) seems to find itself up and over the rear area of the front fender. Having the mudflap would most certainly squelch this and keep the area clean. Again, something I really should consider for the future.
So, if you are considering purchasing them for a classic build, I believe them to be a solid, aesthetically pleasing and useful investment.
As for your Tobec (as I hear they call them in France), I have noticed that fenders from that era seem to have have a common thread. Typically, they are built extremely well, have solid, substantial weight (in a good way) and shaped to accentuate the graceful curves of the bicycle for that particular model. I envy your new acquisition and the standard equipment that came with it. Please do send shots when you feel comfortable doing so!
Thanks for your post.
I doubt any one will get a notification for this thread but I have an 85 Raleigh Alyeska. According to the catalogue both my bike and your wife’s Kodiak both have 27 tires. What size Velo Orange fenders did you get? I am having a very hard time finding metal fenders for 27 tires (everything is 700) and I honestly don’t know much about them so I am scared I will purchase fenders that don’t fit. Were you able to use 700 on your 27 tires or did you do the 700 tire conversion?
I can confirm that the Alyeska and Kodiak both have 27″ tires and were not converted to 700c. The reason so is that the cantilever bosses on mid-80s touring bikes were set to be incredibly narrow thus making it extremely challenging to find any kind of replacement brake calipers other than what came standard with the Raleigh line (typically Dia-Compe canti calipers). Rather than deal with the hunt, I stuck with 27″, which although your selection is limited, there still are a number of high quality tire options available such as lines from Continental and Panaracer.
Regarding the fenders, I purchased Velo Orange, 45mm smooth fenders for 700c wheels and they fit wonderfully.