The rain season is right around the corner and a good set of fenders turns the off season from a bleak lackluster time into a no problem season of palatable and sometimes fun base rides. Fenders, like a good rain jacket are essential to keeping motivation high, extending the ride time and ensure you are on the bike regularly even when the skies open and it pours down.
Since I just got a new single speed to be used mainly as a commuter, I’m going to be spending many hours in the rain. I decided to outfit it with some top end full fenders. I believe in buying good quality gear as it’s often designed better and lasts longer. Fenders with good hardware last many years, and since they are well designed they are often easier to install and service and have replaceable parts. these fenders tend to be on the more expensive side.
WHY FULL FENDERS?
Full meaning they cover more of your wheels, in comparison to the shorter clip on fender type, full generally that means the fenders cover the area behind your seat tube / back of calves and also the rear of the front wheel towards your legs. Full fenders also extend towards the ground a lot more. The main advantage is increased coverage, less water on you and importantly less water on your feet, meaning less road dirt and stuff stays drier longer. Since they cover more it also has the benefit of shielding your bike a bit more from that gritty wearing road dirt so your bike components will also benefit.
DO MATERIALS MATTER?
A long standing debate. There are a few material choices on the market, Polycarbonate (almost unbreakable plastic), Layered Metal (plastic and metal) and Metal (often Aluminium). All have different appearances, all are rust proof and all function very well, but by far the most ecological and sustainable is Metal.
BRAND: PDW – Portland Design Works
MODEL: PDW Full Metal Fenders, City.
COST : $120
PDW fenders come in two sizes, Road or City. The difference is attachments and types of bikes. For a racing style road bike the “Road” model is for you but due to small clearances can only be used with 23c Tyres, these will not work with popular 25c tyres. For Cyclocross, Commuter or Hybrid bicycles the “City” model is for you and fits up to a 35c tyre. (Smaller tyres can be used no problem but larger than 35 will not fit). The two types are found here
Made of anodized 6000 series extruded and rolled aluminum and adorned with laser graphics and an embossed alloy head badge, the Full Metal Fenders are a beautiful compliment to any bike. They provide full-wrap coverage, even shielding riders behind you from tire spray thanks to the sturdy rubber mudflaps. Safety release tabs ensure your wheels will keep turning even if debris gets lodged between the fender and tire.
I purchased the City gunmetal gray ones, they have a bead blasted metallic quality. The are colourized with a slightly bronze green tinge due to the anodization process and limitations of aluminium porosity . They have a PDW badge on top of the front fender and a nice etched logo on the rear fender, drive side. Slightly chamfered at the sides for a modern fitting look, the stays and hardware are clean and don’t have any fussy bits, making for a sleek appearance.
Great appearance has a lot has to do with the carefulness of the install and the bicycle, but when installed on my bike with 35c tyres the fit was fantastic. The tyre fender gap was tight and professional looking and the width of the PDW fenders was spot on.
Part of the improved appearance here is due to a cleanliness of the top lines and the how the hardware interacts. It’s important to note that the PDW fenders use only one fender stay, some other brands use two. (see performance section below for details on how that affects things) Shown below you can see the cleaner look on the left of the PDW fenders.
These fenders look great on bikes with dark paint. Heck they probably even look good on white bikes, mainly due to the non plastic, slightly satin look and generally a classier appearance than plastic.
- Break away plastic strut attachments – in case anything gets caught up in the wheel while riding. This is a safety feature to stop your wheel getting locked up.
- Anodized Aluminium construction – this is for durability and appearance as mentioned above.
- Rust Proof Hardware – all the parts are well designed and durable. Not a lot of use of plastic and the attachments are rust proof.
- Full coverage – we talked about that at the top, more tire coverage, wider for city bikes and special road version for race / roadie bikes. Complete with fairly long rubber flaps.
A few things that made the PDW fenders stand out, the method in which the stays are attached to the actual mudguards, attaching on the outside, a unique look and also very functional that there is less to interfere with your tyre. (stays are the wire that runs from the arc of the fender to an attachment point on the frame)
Nice design touch on the stay length adjustment, a single grub screw holds a simple sliding adjuster, this is much better and easier to adjust than many competitors on the market. Cleaner and more effective.
The lazer etched graphics are also a nice added point that would otherwise be a tacky sticker, so nice option on the the lazer etc.
INSTALL & ADJUST
One of the under estimated things with fenders is installing them. After having worked in a bike shop and knowing that all bikes are slightly different, you have to expect it takes a bit of time and a good bit of fussing. I will add a ton of captioned pictures, but generally the process was very smooth with the PDW fenders. All fenders take longer than one might expect to install, and inevitably there is always some mechanical modification that is needed, whether it be buying a slightly longer bolt or figuring how to work around a front disc brake. I had to do both of these things, but the rest was a breeze. A nice touch of the hardware ,was that key parts and bolts came with thread lock pre applied, so in the future they don’t rattle loose.
The Raleigh Furley 2015 bike I was installing these fenders on was very well designed with many attachment points and threaded bosses on the frame and fork, it might be one of the easiest to install fenders on.
I will say the PDW instructions are great, with a nicely designed mini book with good graphics and step by step instructions. The install took about an hour start to finish, not rushing and being very particular about things. They also have some online videos which are unfortunately a little generic and not very well done, but the printed book is cool.
One thing to note is that if you have Disc Brakes, you will need to purchase some parts in addition to the PDW Full Metal Fenders, you will need a standoff / spacer for your front wheel where the fender attaches. This is not a very elegant solution, and I am working on a bespoke new design to take care of this (more to come). A regular spacer / standoff kit is something like this here. This is not uncommon and all major manufacturers of bike fix the issue this way. The downside here is for the price this hardware should have come in the bag, not extra. An upside, many of the hardware items are easily available for replacement, should you need them via PDW on their website here
I cannot fault PDW for ease of install. Great quality and good experience. The only thing that could have made it better would have been adding a few more lengths of 5mm bolts to the bag and the above comment on including the disc brake spacer kit as standard.
- High-Quality bolts and hardware supplied with threadlock applied where needed, so parts don’t shake loose.
- Nice stay adjustment – controlled with a sliding attachment and grub screw, very easy to install and adjust to get fender gaps and clearance correct.
- Platic anti-rattle guards – strips of self-adhesive clear plastic that get applied to the main fenders before hardware is attached. This is a nice touch and well designed.
I have been using the Full Metal’s for just about a month which means about 400miles. So far the coverage has been great, the front fender keeps a lot of water off your feet and the back fender is just long enough with the rubber guard that someone can ride behind you pretty close and not get a face full.
No rattles have been apparent and I re-tightened the allen bolts to the stays only once, mainly just out of precaution. In fact this has been one of the best fender experiences I have had, they have stayed aligned and only had to make one small tweak. An initial out of the box concern of mine was that the fenders only had one stay compared with other fender designs which have two, this turned out to be not an issue. I put this down to the high tortional rigidity of the PDW fenders due to the physical width and aluminium materials so the fender stays stiff and doesn’t flop around.
Overall I also give a lot of credit due to the frame design having good clearance and attachment points along with the larger city fender which is wider and seems to have a that good torsional stiffness that allows for good alignment and little flexing.
Now my longer term goal is to fix that messy (applies to all fender brands) disc brake spacer kit with a more elegant solution (see my instagram feed for a preview) that balances the tension of the front fender stay and also looks cleaner and more integrated.
Overall : Performance – Excellent.
Nore: I will be updating this performance section over time, so you will be reading the latest info.
INSTALL & PRODUCT PHOTOS
At $120 these are not inexpensive. They cost a good $50 more than other plastic fenders, but durability and appearance are the key benefits. If you ride a lot in the rain and get annoyed by rubbing and misaligned fenders, then these are certainly worth considering and have high value.
Quality & Fit
Relatively easy install
Readily available Spare Parts here
Cardboard minimal packaging for the Eco in us.
Disc brake spacers should have come in the bag, not extra $.
A few extra 5mm bolt sizes should also have been supplied.
Due to the higher pricepoint, I expected more of the components to be made in the USA.