I’m continually bemused by the slack-jawed horror with which US cyclists of almost all varieties behold fenders. Though this is changing, it seems that the dictates of hipness still require one to pretend to competitive aspirations and the attendant need for a stripped-down bicycle.
Just last Sunday I rode through a light rain to a party for longtime bike advocate Joe Linton and his fiancée at the LA EcoVillage (birthplace of the Bicycle Kitchen, by the way). Of course my bike, whose photo (taken a few years ago when I was shopping for my afflicted mother) you see above, has fenders, and I had a delightful ride. The rain stopped shortly after I arrived. About forty minutes later, a good friend of mine showed up after having ridden from Venice, about fourteen miles. Though it had not been raining during his ride, he was soaked! Why? No fenders.
Fenders also let you get away with wearing only a rain cape, instead of a full-on rainsuit, when it is raining. In Los Angeles, where winters are not often actually cold, this is a great advantage. Capes are also easier to get out of when you arrive at your destination. I made the switch over a decade ago.
Really, fenders are not confined to the realsm of touring bikes, cruisers, and roadsters. Again, look at my bike in the photo: it is a full-on racing bike of the ‘Sixties…with rack and fender braze-ons. Because in those days you’d use your racing bike for travel six days a week, with fenders, and take the fenders off for racing on Sunday. With fenders (though without full bags), my ride weighs but twenty pounds.
Which leaves me more wattage to allocate to stuff I’m carrying, after all.
Harder to do nowadays than when my Bottechia was made, with the fad being meaninglessly tight clearances for racy velos, but then…how many of you reading this are actual racers, anyway? And there are plenty of sporty, though not racing, bikes that include fender mounts, now that practical riding is becoming normal.
Sportster, roadster, cruiser—it’s a matter of style (and the Pigeon can take care of you no matter what style you favor). But fenders are a matter of comfort.
So don’t cower in a car when it rains. After all, wet days are when LA is at its most appealing to the eye (and nose).
Whether you ride a sporty bike or a city cruiser, make sure that it (or at least one of your bikes, if you tend to velocipedal harems) has fenders, or can fit them. They’re a simple little bit of real freedom.