Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Deteriorating Dress Guards

Slack Dressguards
I've had my Raleigh Tourist for close to 3 years now and, not counting the brake pads, the only wear on the bike over the course of that time has been to the aftermarket dress guards. These dress guards were acquired new old stock from a connection in Portugal. They are very simple - essentially a bunch of elasticised cords. And I love them: the simplicity of the design does not detract from the elegant form of the iconic loop frame, while being sufficient to do its job. Unfortunately, over time the cords seem to have lost their elasticity and are now kind of saggy. Some have even begun to disintegrate and I've had to cut them off. I am surprised that they've lasted such a short time, and it's a bit of a pain because the number of holes they require in the fender is unique to them. I will have to bother the person who gave them to me for another set, or attempt to make my own. 

Assuming that my experience is not a fluke, it might explain why so many vintage bicycles are found with holes in the fenders but no dress guards: Possibly, this accessory had an inherently short life span due to the elastic degrading. I assume the elastic is natural rubber, which would make it sensitive to heat and humidity - same reason it is so rare to find intact original rubber grips.

Those who are making dress guards today (I know there are a few of you out there now) might want to keep this in mind. I'd be curious to know what types of cords you use and how they have held up. If I make my own dress guards, I would like them to last next time! 

28 comments:

  1. I love the dress guard "bungees" on my Viva Juliett. I've lost a bunch of them too, but it wasn't from aging elastic since the bike is less than two years old. They keep popping out and getting caught in the hub and breaking.

    So why haven't I tried bending the hooks around? Hmm. I didn't think of it until just now. Little project for me tonight.

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  2. I think three years is about the life of modern shock cord shoe laces, but maybe that was cheap cord. I don't make dress guards, but what came to mind was replacing the guards with nylon or cotton and tying one end with a taut-line hitch to tension them. 550 Paracord holds the knot well, but I think it may look too thick in this application.

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  3. Hi there Velouria--inspired by you, and in anticipation of my Bobbin Vintage Deluxe arriving hopefully this week at Harris, I recently purchased elastic dress guards from Germany from eBay, and they took less than a week to get to Boston. Perhaps the # of hooks will match your # drilled holes? A reasonable alternative until make your own--something I want to do too! http://www.ebay.com/itm/Bike-Skirt-Guard-Black-Bicycle-Elastic-Wire-Net-Rock-Dress-Protection-Ladies-Men-/221042978114?pt=Cycling_Parts_Accessories&hash=item3377302d42#ht_1293wt_1029

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    1. i thought those looked familiar!

      http://lovelybike.blogspot.com/2011/01/woven-dress-guards-for-drilled-fenders.html

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    2. I paid a lot more for that for one of those dressguards, that is a great price!

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  4. I have tried making dress guards after reading about them here. Spoiler: It is NOT as easy as it seems!!!

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    1. Oooh! Interesting! Did you make (or try to make) the crochet ones or the elastic ones? You can get wire the is flexible enough to crochet without breaking and I have been wanting to try.

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  5. NOS = New OLD Stock. They didn't last a short time; they were half dead when you got them.

    Whether natural rubber or petroleum-based they're going to be compromised at this point. No need to have unrealistic expectations of them.

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  6. Greetings V! I have spent many hours dreaming of my own Lovely Bicycle (actually still riding a motorcycle, but planning a change)as I read about your journey(s). As a handspinner (yes, I actually make yarn), I can tell you that if you have to make your own replacement dress guard, this is the material to use, rather than elastic:

    http://www.spinnerschoice.com/Spinning%20Accessories/default.html

    It's actually UV exposure more than humidity and heat (thogh those don't help) that breaks down the rubber. Good luck, and let me know if I can help in any way with the fabrication; I have a super-strange skillset. Thanks again! Love Mary

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  7. Oh dear; I fear I was imprecise: Scroll down on the linked page to "spinning wheel bands". It's the stretch poly-cord material I'm suggesting you try. These bands take a surprising amount of abuse/exposure without degredation. Good , Love M

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  8. My wife would kill me if I wore a dress in public. Really, she would.

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    1. coat guards is the gender neutral term!

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  9. Have a look at www.owfinc.com, www.questoutfitters.com and www.seattlefabrics.com. (Or even some outdoor stores like EMS and REI) Shock cord is easy to buy and you can probably just re-use the same hardware with new shock cord, which you can buy in different diameters and sometimes even different colors. If not, the outdoor fabrics places at least will have a selection of hardware suitable for attaching the shock to the hooks that you already have.

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  10. Why not a skirt guard made of metal? I came across an old bike with such a skirt guard in Italy. I wonder it it would make for a noisy ride. Too bad I didn't have time to inspect it more carefully, but here is a photo:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/27089900@N00/7452388450/in/photostream

    -Vélocia

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  11. If you can find a guard with more cords than your current one could you cut the additional cords off to fit?

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  12. I recently crocheted some skirt guards out of wool, which I picked because it has stretch, recovers well, and deals well with water. I also have them laced over the fenders rather than drilling holes in them.
    Two months later they're working great, but I'll be curious to see how they hold up in the long term! Assuming they don't get torn or anything, I'm thinking they'll probably get a little loose eventually, but that a good washing and blocking should bring them back to the right size.

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  13. Everyone in Amsterdam had cheap dress guards from the bike shops. Either clear plastic or like a black vinyl. And they have clips that clip onto the underside of the rear fender. They have holes for the O-lock. I bought a pair. I think it was like 12 euros for my 1968 dutch bike whose dress guards just disintegrated. They were held together by duct tape. Now I really feel like a true Amsterdammer

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  14. As a year-round commuter cyclist, I've needed and found many online resources for sturdy dress guards, made of metal, plastic and even leather.

    http://www.popiel.co.uk/en/gazelle-dress-guards?p=4

    http://classic-cycle.de/en/Fender-Mudguards-Chaincover/Dress-Guard-Dress-Protector/Dress-Skirt-Protector-brown-with-pocket-24-28.html

    http://classic-cycle.de/en/Fender-Mudguards-Chaincover/Dress-Guard-Dress-Protector/Dress-Skirt-Protector-black-plastic-26-28.html

    http://www.hesling.nl/?lang=en#/Products/dress%20guards/

    A search for "dress guard" on www.amazon.co.uk also yields great results.

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  15. I wonder from what material the elastic is made?

    Some elastics seem to last forever while others fail in less than a year. I have an early 1970s Peugeot folding bike with factory front and rear racks with built-in bungee cords (I didn't think they made bungee cords back then!). They're still elastic and haven't even stretched out! By contrast, I bought a cheap pack of bungee cords for my car last year and they stretched out after a couple of months.

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    1. Actually, I have multiple sets of 25 yr. old bungees that are good as new and get regular use but I certainly didn't expect them to last this long!

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  16. Design without elastic. Cords run from fender to the collector bar made from durable hemp. Hemp doesn't much change dimension with temperature and humidity. Replaceable elastic only from collector bar to axle. Without elastic you'll need to do fine tuning to get the slack out.

    Original French bungees were called Sandows and made by Sandow. With a stretchy crocodile logo. The French used them for everything and were very proud of them. I just found a small collection together with a Jack Taylor I'm cleaning up for a friend. Original to 1968. Even the one stretched over the pannier carrier is still in fine shape. They do not make them like that anymore.

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  17. My girlfriends got saggy over time,, oh, wait,
    dressguards,, hmmm,, never mind.

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  18. Really, I made my own using a heavy black string like thread I got at Windsor Button, way back when. In stead of shock cord Raleigh used springs at the dropout to add a little give. It has lasted for over 30 years.

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  19. elastic just seems like an easy way to make a universal fit product, If making a set specifically to fit one bike why bother with elastic? make them from something more durable......stainless steel wire perhaps

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  20. Yeah, this is the unfortunate thing about any kind of elastic. UV will deteriorate most over time. There is UV resistant bungee (http://www.mcmaster.com/#bungee-cords/=i72ahx) available. The best thing is to keep it out of direct sunlight when possible. My 1 year old set of rack bungees just had to be replaced do to UV deterioration (my bike sits in direct sun out in the open all day). As for elastic guards, I haven't had mine on a bike long enough to know (not even a year yet). So far they're holding up.

    I would be interested in trying out wool. Like Anon (9:00) said, it has some natural elasticity and handles water well. But for a commuter bike that lives outside, it would be a moth feast.

    I stopped making cotton guards, even though I was quite happy with my last set. I still have them, they look great and have not weakened. I had treated them with Scotch Guard, which might have helped as far as water goes. I suppose using a synthetic (acrylic, nylon) yarn might be an option too?

    I like the idea of using wire for a one off set for a specific bike. Might make for some sore fingers after making them though! :) I've also thought about fishing line. It's tough stuff. I just wish it came in colors. I suppose there might also be a way to make them from duct tape. Seems like people can make just about anything and everything else out of the stuff! :)

    If you want to try making your own out of some sort of elastic, try some UV resistant bungee. Swim elastic could be a good option. It's made to hold up to chlorine/salt/sun, but it's not like we live swim suits outside year round. Bra elastic is a good option too. It doesn't start out with as much elasticity as a lot of other elastic options. Just enough to make the stretch to the fender, so if it looses some elasticity over time it won't be too floppy. Good luck!

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  21. Make your own, no question. Find a suitable cord, synthetic fibres probable best as they will be a little more elastic and easier to clean, but maybe hemp.

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  22. Just discovered Como Black Wire Net Design Rear Wheel Skirt for Bike Bicycle on Amazon, following a link for the Como cape. Como apparently makes a lot of cheapie bike stuff. http://www.amazon.com/Como-Black-Design-Wheel-Bicycle/dp/B007SVEANM/ref=sr_1_57?s=bikes-scooters&ie=UTF8&qid=1342199287&sr=1-57

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  23. I tried buying a plastic skirt guard from a British bicycle shop online. It ended up costing something ridiculous because of the shipping and everything and I wouldn't recommend it. Plus, it ended up breaking. When I was in Germany last summer, I looked in all the bike shops I came across but found that aftermarket ones were even rare there. I did see a bike that had an all weather fabric looking attachment that looked really useful. I've been researching it and I found what looks like a similar product at this site.

    http://www.theurbanbicycle.com/

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