Gear Archives

Purpose for Bike Fenders

It rained last night. Between my house and the store I needed to go to this morning I had to ride down a dirt road and through several low-lying areas. And, I had to do all of this while dressed in a white shirt and khaki pants. Days like today are why I am glad to have a bike with fenders.

Unless a bike is specifically made for touring or commuting they don’t usually have fenders on them. That is unfortunate. Sometimes mountain bikes will have small fenders on them that will keep the majority of the mud out of the rider’s eyes, but other than that they are practically useless for keeping the bike and rider clean.

Bike Fenders Protect the Bike

A bicycle is a machine with moving parts. Water, dirt and general road grime aren’t friendly to a bicycle. That’s not to say that a bike is so delicate that it should never be ridden when there are rain clouds in the sky, but there is no reason to continuously dump dirty water into the bearings, chain and sprockets of your bike. Bicycles have lubrication that can be stripped away with the petroleum products on the road that are mixed in with the water and mud that get slung from the bicycle’s tires when riding on a wet road.

Chains will wear more quickly if they are not kept properly lubricated. Derailleurs operate within fine tolerances on bikes that have many gears. When they don’t move smoothly you may have trouble shifting. The headset of your bike is often exposed to the gritty, sandy water that is tossed up from your front tire. The lubrication on your brake and shifter cables can be washed away too.

By using a set of fenders on your bike you can keep it operating in good condition with less maintenance. Clean rain falling from the sky is not as damaging as the gunk kicked up by your tires from the road.

Bike Fenders Protect the Rider

I was thankful for fenders to keep me clean and dry on my trip to the store. If you have fenders that go far enough down the back of your front wheel you don’t even have to worry about your shoes getting wet. I intentionally rode through puddles for fun to splash in the water, but was not concerned for my shoes or clothes.

Most of the time you probably don’t ride while it is actively raining. But it can take hours for the roads to dry after a rain. Even if you do ride in the rain, you will be getting wet with clean water from the sky. If you have bicycle fenders on your bike you won’t get the gritty road sludge all over your clothes. If you ride in the rain with fenders and get a little wet you don’t need to worry that your clothes have to be changed because they are filthy. Clothes dry.

Bike Fenders Are Not Popular

Many bike manufacturers are mass producing bikes with an interest in profits, not functionality. Most people buy their bicycles from large discount stores which almost never offer a choice to have fenders. However, you can buy after-market bike fenders for just about any bicycle fairly cheaply. Your local bike store will have several models to choose from as well as places like Amazon.

Bike fenders are not “cool,” but they are practical. While you don’t want fenders on your road racing bike because of the weight and drag, getting a good set of fenders for your daily driver is a good idea. They will keep you and your bike clean.

Icebreaker Ultralite Micro Bike Socks Review

Several months ago I won some free Icebreaker gear from the TravellingTwo bike blog. I have been wearing them as much as possible over the last few months and I have really enjoyed them.

They sent me three pairs of socks. The ones that were bike specific were the Icebreaker Ultralite Micro bike socks. They are $17 a pair from Icebreaker. That certainly is not cheap for a pair of socks, but the reputation these socks have should make them worth the cost.

Icebreaker Bike SocksI have not done weeks’ worth of bike touring in them; however, I have done several long distance runs using these socks. They are comfortable and fit well. Because they are left/right specific, they do not slide around on my feet like lower quality socks sometimes do.

One of the greatest features is the moisture wicking ability of the merino wool. I have finished runs where the socks have been so wet that I could wring water out of them, yet my feet did not feel the least bit wet. I did not get any blisters from wrinkled up skin or hot spots when wearing these socks.

Another much-touted feature of these socks is that they don’t hold odors. I typically don’t have odor problems with my socks or shoes, but occasionally there is a thick cloud around my pile of running shoes. These socks don’t retain odors nor do they seem to cause my feet to create odors. I wore a pair of the thicker socks they sent me for a couple of weeks without having any odor problems. They got dirty in other ways and I could not stand the thought of putting them on again without washing them. The Icebreaker socks passed the odor test as far as I am concerned.

These socks are very thin. The Ultralite Micro socks are not for cold-weather use. However, there are plenty of other socks to choose from at the Icebreaker website. Their bike socks are thin socks, but you can get thicker socks as needed. For touring and commuting you can easily get by with a thicker sock, though road racers will probably want the thinnest sock they can find.

It is hard to comment on the longevity and build quality of the socks since they have not started to show any signs of wear yet. I can only assume that they will last a long time based on what I have experienced so far.

Are they worth $17? That is a hard question to answer. Certainly if you were going on a long bike trip and only wanted to take 1 or 2 pair of socks, then they are worth it. If you are interested in having a variety of socks in your sock drawer that you can wear on a whim, then these may not be the socks for you. To get the value out of these socks you would want to know that you will be wearing them often.

If these ever wear out I will probably buy another pair, but until then, I have trouble justifying the price just to have another pair of nice socks in my drawer.

Handlebar Mounted Bike Mirrors

There are many different types of bicycle mirrors. Some prefer mirrors that mount on the rider’s helmet while others prefer bike mirrors that mount on the bike in some way. There are even some riders who despise bike mirrors completely. Whatever camp you are in, here are some advantages and disadvantages to handlebar mounted mirrors.

There are various types of handlebar mounted bike mirrors. They can be mounted on the bar ends, clamp onto the handlebars or even stow into the bar ends when not in use. Depending on whether you have straight bars or drop handlebars as to which type of mirror works best. One of the most interesting types of bike mirrors for drop handlebars is a mirror that is not much bigger than the diameter of the bars which mount on the end of the drops and allows the rider to look straight down to see the traffic behind him.

Advantages:

  • Always on the bike
  • A stationary position in relationship to the handlebars

Disadvantages:

  • Of necessity, they must be larger than mirrors mounted closer to the rider’s eyes
  • Easy to steal
  • Easy to break in a fall
  • Constantly moving in relationship to the rider’s line of sight

Unlike glasses or helmet mounted mirrors, handlebar mounted mirrors are always on the bike. The rider does not have to remember to grab the mirror before heading out the door for a ride. The bike mirrors are connected to the handlebars; therefore, it is easy to temporarily twist the bars to get a different viewing angle.

However, because the mirrors are further away from the rider, they must be larger to get the same field of view that glasses and helmet mounted mirrors offer. The need to move the handlebars to get a better viewing angle can be dangerous or impossible in certain situations.

The most important thing about having a mirror on your bike is actually using it. Being aware of the cars, and other cyclists, around you will help keep you safe on the road.

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