Friday, January 24, 2014

Changing Notions of the Winter Road Bike

Last week I posted a photo showing a cycling club out for a Sunday morning spin in Northern Ireland. The photo soon received a comment noting the lack of fenders on what looked to be a sloppy winter day. Others have asked about this as well when I've put up similar pictures, expressing surprise that there does not seem to be a switch from summer to winter equipment among cyclists around these parts.

It's funny, because I think there is this idea in the US that roadies in the Green and Pleasant Land and the Emerald Isle possess not only a certain grit and toughness when it comes to riding in bad weather, not only an innate elegance of handling skill, but also an old-school wisdom with regard to equipment. A wisdom that, among other things, manifests itself in the ritualistic and compulsory donning of mudguards once winter sets in. So what's with all these fenderless roadies?

Well, here is one narrative, as related to me by numerous locals: The road cycling culture in Northern Ireland is in a state of flux, with a mushrooming in the numbers of new riders entering the scene over the past several years. Unlike previous generations, these new riders are not initiated into the sport by local mentors in a way that preserves the continuity of local history and traditions. Rather, they enter into it with attitudes that come from magazines, forums, blogs, and the like, which often comes to override long-held local practices. And because the newcomers' numbers are high, an interesting thing happens when they mix with the old guard: They end up influencing them more so than the other way around - until, one by one, even experienced cyclists are starting to drop the old-school trappings.

Nowhere is this trend more apparent than in the demise of what was once known as the winter road bike. In the old days (which I understand to be some time prior to 2005), one did not ride their good road bike year-round. Some time in the end of September, that bike would be put away and out would come the winter bike. Now, while there is no single definition of what that bike should be like, the general idea was two-fold: First, the winter bike should be both crappier and more robust than one's good road bike, due to the greater risk of damage by the elements as well as aggressive road saltings in winter. And second, it should be optimised for poor weather conditions. As far as frame material, this usually meant either heavy steel tubing or aluminum. And as far as components, this translated to either building the bike up as a fixed gear, or using an older, retired component group. Heavier, cheaper wheels with wider tires went on the bike in leu of summer's good wheels with skinny tires. And fenders (aka mudguards) were a must. In fact, up to a few years ago, I am told, a cyclist would be turned away from a club ride were they to show up without them.

Today I still see traditional winter road bikes ridden by friends with old-school habits, and occasionally I will spot an unknown one out and about. But they are more or less extinct from local club rides, as far as I can tell: Most local roadies will now ride the same bike year-round. And my feeling is, this is based on more than a willful ignorance of tradition or a carelessness toward nice equipment. One could argue that typical modern road racing bikes - high in carbon and aluminum content - are inherently more winter-friendly than their predecessors, eliminating the need for a dedicated winter bike. Speaking from limited personal experience, this is now my third winter riding a titanium bike with racing wheels, skinny tires, and lightweight aluminum and carbon components. In the beginning I kept my old roadbike - a 1970s steel frame with older components and wheels - as a bad weather substitute. But I eventually passed it on to another cyclist, as it became clear that in practice I preferred to ride my nice new bike in all weather conditions. Despite the all-season usage, I see very little wear on my road bike today, and none that I can specifically attribute to winter conditions.

But what of the issue of fenders? There are fenders on the market now that can be fitted even on the raciest of bikes with the tightest of clearances, and then removed and fitted again at will, with fairly little commitment. So why do riders shun them, even on group rides - despite mud in their faces and wet behinds? Well, I don't know the answer to that. But I suspect it's largely a matter of disliking unnecessary complexity (the definition of unnecessary being rider-specific, of course). And I suspect there is also a huge stylistic element to it. As fenders go in and out of fashion, this changes individual and group perceptions of how necessary they are. In the US, the fashion for fenders is now on an upswing, and I am sure it will come back around here as well. Me, I'll fit my road bike with fenders sometimes, but prefer not to - and mostly don't when I ride alone - for the simple reason that I am not sufficiently bothered by the consequences of being without them.

And so, befitting of my newcomer status, overall my winter road bike looks exactly the same as my summer road bike - save for an extra caking of crud, which, on occasion, I will wash off with a hose. The idea of a dedicated winter bike does have a romantic appeal to it - if for no other reason than as a ritualistic marking of the changing seasons. But in practice I don't feel the need for it. If my "good" bike is durable enough to ride year-round and if I enjoy it, then why not do exactly that …assuming, of course, that the roads are not covered in snow.

Do you have a dedicated winter road bike? How does it differ from the one you ride in warmer months?

70 comments:

  1. A cynic might add that as there's not much difference between an Irish summer and winter - certainly as far as the amount of rain goes - then why change your bike?

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    1. Good point, although actually I would disagree. While the amount of rain is not drastically different now than it was in summer, the roads dry much slower (or seemingly never!) because of the lower temps, so even on days when it's not actively raining the roads are covered in mud and standing water mixed with farmy stuff and salt and god know what else!

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    2. Agree! In the winter, it's the cr*p that ends up -- and stays on -- the roads that is the issue.

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  2. Here in DC, I ride my single speed/fixed commuter in all seasons with fenders. In the winter I ride fixed with a smaller chainring than the rest of the year. I also use lightly studded tires in the winter.

    I have a winter group ride bike with lower gearing/compact components and fenders.

    I do not ride my Rawland Nordavinden with its high end parts in the winter but will ride it in all other seasons for endurance events.

    I do wish more people on group rides used some kind of fender/mud guard in the winter on the rear wheel so as not to spray people behind them.

    Brook

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  3. Winter bike? Now that I live in Sunriver, Oregon I do have a winter bike: A Fat Bike. :o)

    Long ago I decided to keep a front fender on my "regular" bike, simply because in wet conditions the fender keeps the bike and me "more cleanerer".

    Having a rear rack full time does enough water off the back duty.

    My cycling has become more "toodling" exploring than group riding.

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  4. I suspect it's not a major issue, but the widespread use of well sealed bearings on modern bikes really does make a difference in how well they can handle poor weather. Salty water inside your bearings will quickly destroy them or at least mean much more regular servicing. Salt water on the outside of the multi-layered powder coat on your frame means you need to wipe it off once in a while.

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    1. Most sealed bearings are not so sealed as people think they are. You find out the seals have failed when the bearing is suddenly full of salt and grit and rubbished. If it's a well-designed product the cartridge is available and easy to replace. Ordinary top-end parts like Chris King or Phil Wood are very very good but when pushed hard they can get crunchy with little notice. It may seem for a long time that the threshold at which the seal gives up is very high, then in one sloppy ride the grit is in there. Lower level sealed bearings are just standard modern manufacturing, they are no improvement over well made cup-and-cone.

      I've let a Campagnolo NR bottom bracket go for 50,000 miles, abused it in all weather, and opened it to find clean white grease and clean polished ball tracks. The old Campy pedals wear out or rust out and never need fresh grease. Cup and cone works fine if you do it right.

      If you should ever see an old MaxiCar hub that's a bearing that is really sealed. And the hub is heavy.

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    2. Agreed.

      Liquid salt is insidious. It will work its way through most barriers.

      Fenderless riders are the component sellers' best friend.

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  5. This really surprises me!

    Here in the (rest of) the UK, there has been a noticeable trend in the past two years -- indeed I'd call it active peer pressure -- towards using a weather-appropriate bike in the winter. The mainstream magazines (both print and digital, and including those aimed at a road racing/wannabe audience) carry a steady stream of advice and how-to articles on winterizing your bike by, in particular, fitting mudguards and (comparatively) more robust tyres. There had been a certain assumption that your winter bike would be a second bike, not your "best bike", but now even at the upper end of the market the industry is saying, in effect, don't compromise - your best bike can BE your winter bike (or, your winter bike can be your best bike - no need to "make do" in the off season!).

    For example: http://cyclefit.co.uk/dawn-of-the-super-hack seems to capture the current view/trend at the upper end of the market. And I'm sure you've seen all the winterizing tips being pushed on the Total Womens Cycling website...

    Our cycling club's "Dear Leader" is still anti-mudguards but increasingly our members are fitting them. The general view seems to be, it's nicer to not have a wet bum, as well as only polite to not be spraying your friends in the face!

    Best
    Rebecca aka velovoice

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  6. The climate here in Denmark is not that different than Ireland; temperate summers and mild winters with temperatures fluctuating between freeze and thaw on a daily basis. This means salt on the roads - and quite a lot of it! Bikes with no fenders and derailleur gears have a tendency to wear out the drivetrain pretty fast, and as an unwanted bonus the grit gets into every bolt and hole all over the bike.

    During the winter I use a Dawes Super Galaxy (ca. 1994) which has been updated with brifters, 35mm tires and full mudguards/fenders with a flap on the front. LOVE IT! It's so much more comfortable and warm(!) than my 2010 Trek road bike which has a neat tendency to spray both front and back of my upper body and feet with some nice cool water if the roads are wet.

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  7. Modern roadbikes just don't take fenders. Club riders want to ride their 'fast' bike so they can keep up/work the front. And if they wanted modern plus fenders it would not be easy.

    I've had two full custom bespoke frames built with specific, could not be missed, well discussed instructions to clear the frame for 28s and fenders. Builders just cannot wrap their head around "racy bike" and "fenders". So those frames can sorta ride 23s and fenders with some modification. I won't ride with 23s so those bikes ain't fendered.

    Fender advocates the past 5 years or so had this mantra about "perfect fender line". The fenders we were supposed to mount were cantankerous troublesome and fragile. Simple practical rugged inexpensive fenders like Esge or PlanetBike were sneered at. Advocates didn't convert many.

    I'm not buying any more customs. I'm not waiting 5 or 10 years for the handful of builders who really know fenders to complete an order. I'm not begging someone to accept an order or swallowing hard when the bike is delivered. I'm just riding old bikes. Good handbuilt ones by master craftsmen. They're cheap, readily available and they take fenders.

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    1. I got a custom lightweight steel bike built by a local builder here in Australia 2 years back.
      My brief was modern (semi-compact) road geometry that could take a 28mm tyre with fenders and mid-reach (57mm) brakes.
      He nailed it, and I leave the SKS fenders on year-round now. Sure, there's a slight weight penalty over a carbon bike, but I've hung with the fast boys on group rides without problem (apart from my legs of course).
      It must've been horrible to get your bike back the builder just hasn't understood what you want. I would've been gutted.

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    2. Both of those frames were built by nice guys with decades of building experience. Unquestioned integrity. Both offered adjustments, which I declined because I was not convinced it would be any better the second time. And they were good frames. The builders knew I was a little fast, knew I would build the bike Campy, knew I had older bikes with fenders, simply could not imagine I would really ride a fast bike fendered.

      Try this thread: http://www.bikeforums.net/archive/index.php/t-880319.html
      Engineering and advertising invested and still they think only extreme outliers will actually install the fenders. And the outliers will be happy enough with kludges and limitations.

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    3. I got my first custom frame built last year, and while they built in the correct clearance for the 28s and fenders, they built it with the wrong steerer(1" threaded instead of 1 1/8" un) and purple instead of dark blue. Then refused to answer any E-mails or letters about the problems. It's a great bike but I can just about look at it now without wanting to get on a plane and wrap it around somebodies neck. GRrrrrr... I'm feelin' your pain.

      Spindizzy

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    4. GeeWhiz Spin, the first three customs I ordered just never appeared at all. So when #4 actually arrived I was willing to look on the bright side. If you even know what a 1" threaded headset is you are as crusty as me. Do what I do and buy antiques. When you buy a bike that's had paint on it for 30 or 50 years you know what color it is. Old frames by The Masters are no longer thousands of dollars, it's a couple hundred and make me an offer, please.

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    5. HAH! The reason I had one built is I already have a houseful of antiques. I thought it would be nice to have a nice fresh one with clean threads, undinged chainstays and a headtube you have to actually press the cups into instead of just dropping them in. The unthreaded steerer was going to let me put a rotary switch in the top for lights. Now I'm going to silver solder a 7/8" tube in it, use a smaller switch and make a sexy brazed up stem to fit. It's going to end up just fine but it wasn't supposed to need all that.

      The old racebike I rode for the last 25 or so years was 7 or 8 years old when I got it and if I was still bendy enough to assume the position I'd still be on it. I should have taken the 70' Paramount off the studio wall and thrown some nice parts on it. Next time...

      Old headsets look so much nicer anyway, why am I complaining?

      Spindizzy

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  8. The increase in Sportives here in the UK has dramatically increased the number of sports cyclists. Most of them wouldn't be seen dead with mudguards, saddlebags or even a pump! Its just not cool.

    I am glad they are out on thier bikes but that stripe of road crud and cow slurry up their backs is really not cool especially if they stop at a cafe.

    I ride bikes all year round with 'guards etc and hate riding behind cyclists without them. In Autumn I'll add more lights and another pair of gloves in the bag and an extra layer just in case.

    Steve

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  9. I once went on a really wet ride and got so much dirt on my jacket that it didn’t come off completely after two washes. Also some dirt got *inside* my Knog light which sat below the seat. So I think I’ll get one of those flimsy rear mudguards after all.

    What really surprised me though was that when I walked into RSC thinking, ‘surely I’m the dirtiest one here’, there was a young woman who was dirty all over - I guess that happens when you follow an un-fendered wheel. Her face, helmet and eyeglasses were thoroughly muddy - and she didn’t seem the least bit bothered. In fact she didn’t even clean the glasses before continuing on her way.

    Fenders may be becoming popular but I see a definite proclivity amongst white middle-class women to get (literally) dirty. I’m sure if Sigmund Freud came to spectate a cyclocross race he would have a lot to say!

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    1. That could explain the popularity of the Tough Mudder/Color Run/GoRuck Challenges that are springing up all over. People these days want a reason to get dirty.

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  10. Could also be you're not adept enough to easily change the fenders out. Could be the fenderless guys are manning up. Could be some are too lazy. Could be a (perceived or not) efficiency hit with them.

    Could be your bike is way, way, way better than those of yore.

    It doesn't rain here anymore - why fenders?

    When it did the mtb was the road bike. That had clip-ons.

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  11. Just saw a woman in smart attire riding a mountain bike (?) - there was a mud (idiot) stripe decorating her nice coat. All I can do is wonder.

    Sch.

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  12. I can't imagine being on a group ride with a bunch of bikes without fenders. Following on someone's wheel with all that mud and spray flying up into your face? Blah! Even riding on my own, if it's cool and damp, I feel a lot worse if I've got a constant spray up my backside -- I love fenders. They're worth every ounce.

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  13. Heh. That guy.

    It surprises me that folks there are leaving off the fenders during cold rain/salt/muck season. As you say, there are a lot of easier-mounting designs available now for nearly every bike type. Fashion and current trends do make sense as a cause, though. For me, the rad salt and muck would be a convincing argument.

    I removed the guards from my vintage road bike this last summer; as soon as it threatens rain, they are going back on. It's easier than finding replacements for Campagnolo GS BB and cranks!
    It has seen very little rain since it came here, anyhow.

    There there will be fenders for the soon-arriving CX/Utility bike, which will see rougher year-round usage than the vintage Raleigh.

    Say, V, how is your Seven drivetrain and spokes holding up to the salt and muck?
    Are the braking surfaces of the rims showing any effects from the road salt and grime?

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  14. No winter road bike here. I use the same one year 'round, and wash it off occasionally (titanium frame w/lots of clearance). I replace the chain and cassette in spring, and generally try to make component choices that will stand up to salt and the wet. I also keep up with lubrication pretty well. And when it gets frozen I replace my regular tires with snow tires.
    No fenders either, I hate them. Though my rear rack does block road spray on my back pretty well.

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  15. I do have a winter bike which also pulls double duty as my cyclocross bike during the race season. The conversion consists of putting full fenders on with "buddy" flaps and more durable tires that don't puncture as easily.

    I don't do this conversion so much for myself. Although I must admit I do enjoy my feet stay substantially dryer when I have a full front fender on. No, I do it as a courtesy to the other riders around me in the group. It's no fun to have road spray splashed up in your face for hours on a long group ride.

    The tires are much the same. I don't want people to have to stand around getting cold and wet while I change a flat because I was ill prepared.

    However, if I go out on a ride by myself I don't worry about it so much. I may put a clip on fender on the back of my nice bike just to keep the road spray off my posterior. But other than that I don't mind.

    I live in the Pacific Northwest and while my group doesn't require fenders to ride with us I do know of several groups that do.

    My uneducated guess on the reason that you are seeing it less over there with the new riders is that they are trying to emulate the professionals that they read about and see. But, again, that's just a guess.

    Thank you for the lovely blog,

    Earl

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  16. Yes! I live in the W Midlands in the UK and my 'best' bike (mostly alu) would suffer from the crazy amount of salt and grit put down for the first expected ground frost, and which lasts until the heavier spring rains. Even with extensive post-ride washing, some salt remains and does its evil.
    I bought a bargain alu framed 'cross' spec'd bike some years ago which has track ends and I run it as a single speed with 42-section tyres and appropriate mudguards. It has old 1960's-style handlebars for comfort and does a good job along rutted, muddy lanes and gritty, salty roads in the dark months.
    I consider myself fortunate in having more than one bike to choose from, and I appreciate some riders have one bike which has to serve all-year 'round. This should not be a problem: you can protect points of egress of crud with tape or bungs, you can wash the thing carefully after a ride or once a week or whatever the useage allows. There are temporary mudguards that can be put on in minutes if its likely to be wet and horrible or, at the very least, there are small protective 'tail-like' devices (like the 'ass-saver') which do a reasonable job of preventing the over-wet backside.
    Even an old all-steel bike can be prevented from suffering rust and decay if kept protected/clean/serviced, the latter at perhaps more regular intervals during the winter.
    I'm sure some like having a 'stable' of bikes, any one of which can be put into use to cover a particular ride in certain conditions, but I'm not going to get into gravel bikes and 'cross' bikes here.....

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  17. My commuter bikes are fendered up rear round since I have to get off of them in a decent state. Dry feet and clothing are a must. I use the same commuter bike year round.

    My fast bikes - on road and off (a cyclocross bike with slicks and a real mtn bike) are not fendered and won't be. I don't go on club rides and most of the time don't ride with other people so soaking others is not an issue for me personally.

    I also don't winter ride my faster bikes and don't take the studded tire commuter bikes out of the city in the winter - I don't like getting run over you see. So I don't have a winter road bike per say. Our rural roads are often snow swept, wind blown affairs and people in cars often don't bother slowing much on them. I am not so in need of a road ride that riding in a rural setting with high winds and blowing snow at 15 below zero seems like a good idea... I have spin classes for that and do a fair bit of riding in the city throughout the snow season.

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  18. This is funny. I no longer have a dedicated winter bike, but I have gone in the opposite direction. Last year I sold my racing bike and now ride my steel fixed gear conversion with fenders year round! It's like you say, ride what you enjoy.

    Andy

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  19. The cause? Freakin' stupid bike designers and marketers.
    I'm a working bike mechanic, a utility and touring cyclist in Washington State, US, and winter road bikes were killed off by parasites with marketing degrees infesting the bike industry. Racer-replica-ism is now a higher priority than a versatile, usable product. Being a NW bike mechanic, I can get fenders in ANYTHING; Trek Madones, Crackstrels, and Colnago C50;s included.
    I think your Ulster homies have lazy bike mechanics, too.

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    1. Ahem (Ulster homie w fenders on Trek Domane)

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    2. That thing has fender mounts and made w/clearances.

      NOT the same thing as a Madone, c50 etc. You should know that.

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    3. Oh that's a good one V - love it.
      The sooner the bike wears out, the sooner i can build another one.
      Watch out for the farmy stuff!

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    4. Normal standard fenders have been with us over 120 years. Lots of detail work, lots of refinement. Standard fenders still have failure modes and it can be dramatic. Cobbling together a bunch of small flimsy parts right next to a spinning basket of spokes scares me. If it buzzes, if it vibrates, if it makes noise, if it depends on looped o-rings I won't ride near it. Some jury-rigged fenders are really slick, some are clever, some are impressive. None are home free until there's a lot more water under the bridge.

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    5. I have two bikes that I ride on a daily basis to work in Haines, Alaska (north of Juneau in Southeast Alaska) and both have fenders. I have a TREK 1000 road bike with rear luggage rack and saddle bags for hauling mail, in nice weather and I have a TREK 6700 mtb with hydraulic disc brakes, studded snow tires (400 studs per tire) for riding over ice, snow, slush and slop and a headlight. It's dark when I leave for work and return home so I wear a lot of reflective gear so I show up like a beacon in the headlights. The main road I live on is plowed early in the morning so I almost always have a clear shot through the snow in the morning on my 1.2 mile trip one way. On the way home. To carry the mail home on my mtb, which has no racks, I use a backpack. Very hilly here, so my bikes all have triple cranks.

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    6. and since the pros ride 25s and even 28s madones. colnagos, kestrels, tarmacs, and super6s have increased clearance,

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  20. Being on the cheap side, all of my bikes are older and steel. Therefor qualify for "winter bikes' and summer rides. Too cheap for fenders. Washing clothes is cheap,also. Just ride for fun.

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  21. I put fenders on in summer -- we get most of our annual city-average 9 inches during the "monsoon" between early July and early September, and much of that comes down in southwestern (US; Albuquerque) gullywashers. As for snow, we are lucky if we get a couple of good deposits (>= 2") a season, and luckier still if it sticks around more than a day.

    But my fenders go onto my "errand" bike, a custom Rivendell that matches pretty much exactly in frame design and build my "gofast" which is strictly unfendered. I decided that life is too short, and that my miles are too few, to run errands on anything short of the best. (My errand Riv also has dyno lighting, custom rack, and, like the gofast, a fixed drivetrain, but a two-speed with 17/19 Dingle.)

    I guess that the latter-day Irishmen (sorry, "people" -- "persons"!) ride sans fenders because the American-style sports model for cycling is now worldwide. (Do you get Buycicling in No Ireland?) Or perhaps in early 2014 most riders are too far from the old days when, at least in the UK, as I read, many club riders also used their bikes for transportation and knew of the futility of failing to winterize their transportation bikes.

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  22. 10 speed cassettes and their chains are far more delicate than their 8 speed equivalents

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  23. Ooops, I was commenting earlier today and your site went down, then I just did it in the wrong section, so sigh, here goes again. Please ignore my new comment in the mountain bike section, it's repeated here. oops.
    I do think these roadies will see the value of the illustrious winter road bike once they see the damage done to their fine road bikes, maybe not right away, but they will. Magnesium chloride is being used more and more as a de icer as it is cheap but it is destructive. It eats steel, stainless steel, aluminium, titanium, rubber, plastic, perhaps even carbon fibre though I have no experience with it.
    I do understand the idea of riding the bike you love, but that requires a suspension of reality that you do not have winter. Having cheap winter bikes trashed is bad enough. I am frustrated that I do not have a winter road bike, but I would not dare take my audax rebuild out right now. The road crews have been just pouring the salt everywhere despite no ice. My husband's winter road bike is getting rust and icky bits.
    You can find oldies but goodies out there, fine old road bikes that have seen better days, maybe could use a good powder coating, framesaver treatment and wax.
    Find a bike that is light, responsive, fits you well and a joy to ride. It should either have eyelits for fenders or can have the road ones clipped on. Wider tires are only really necessary in areas with snow and ice.
    I do not think anyone in the Rapha adverts has fenders on their bikes. It's all about being epic, intense and in black and white... No sign of wet bums there. Their marketing is very strong and successful, we respond to memes, want to fit in, have the same gear as those in our tribe. I think it's a certain look that may not be too practical.
    I rode for years without fenders because I did not know any better and thought they were dorky. Well until I put them on a bike that is. No more wet back/ bum, no more mud on face, hurray! It's also courteous to fellow riders to have fenders. Who wants to go home all wet after a ride and have to wash and scrub their entire bike on top of it?
    One aspect is that some roadies never ride for transportation, and cycling is only a weekend warrior activity. They may have no experience with riding in rain or having to arrive at work or party dry and presentable, that you might stop at a cafe, pub or restaurant and not want to make a mess, or run errands. They may only do group rides in fair weather and see no need for fenders.
    An unspoken issue is wealth. If you have lots of expendable income, you may think nothing of buying a very expensive bike you use occasionally, and will ride it in vile weather without a care. You will simply replace the bike in a few years. Another person may only ever be able to buy a super expensive bike once in their life
    and treat it more with care and fear. They are more likely to have the winter road bike.

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  24. My main bikes all have mudguards. I have an old steel race bike that I use on dry days. Round here mudguards are really what the name suggests. Coming back from the pub last night I couldn't have got wetter, but I was relatively clean.

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  25. Re new riders, since I started cycling in the mid-'70's. There is this trend where the saddle is pointed downwards instead of level or slightly tilted up, whether road or mountain bike.

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  26. As a roadie in a Northern Ireland club, I'm really surprised to see folks without mudguards/fenders in the winter. There is nothing as bad as being stuck behind somebody without them. It's regarded as being inconsiderate to other riders if you don't have at least a rear mudguard/fender when the road is wet/dirty. I remember at one club meeting, we even talked about this and it received support from everyone present except one person. It's a difficult rule to enforce, but a few kind words to new folks and repeat offenders often works well.

    Personally, I use full length mudguards to keep me as dry as possible and to minimize cleaning of the bike afterwards. They do a great job of keeping most of the winter road salt off the bike too. My personal preference are the SKS Longboards - they do the job really well, even if they did take a lot of patience to fit correctly. The only downside though is that you can have a bit of toe overlap, but that is probably more impacted by the overall frame geometry.

    I ride a dedicated winter bike - I got it as an end of line model a few years ago really cheap. Yes it is heavy, but it is remarkably strong. Mechanically it's got a bit of everything on it. Eventually, it will be converted from 8 speed to 10speed Shimano 105 when parts need to be replaced (hopefully one at a time!). The one thing I am extremely picky about on the winter bike is brakes .... the stock Tektro units were bottom of the range. Braking in the wet was mostly a matter of praying instead of relying on precision engineering. New calipers and a set of Swiss Stop pads have helped quite a bit.

    The 'good' bike is kept locked away in the garage for the so-called 'better days'. I really like the feeling of jumping back onto it for the first time after the winter .... it feels so light in comparison. Likewise, when the summer is over, I like getting back on to my winter bike for a number of reasons. Firstly, it marks a change to the season and that in itself leads to a different type of riding for me that I look forward to. Secondly, in the unfortunate event of falling off the bike, while my first concern is for my health and safety, at least I won't be damaging an expensive bike. Thankfully it doesn't happen that often!

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  27. for Switzerland I guess I have a good solution:
    winterbike wet condition: Serotta stellframe and Fenders, Campagnolo Centaur
    winterbike dry condition: Columbus steel frame, no fenders, but small front rack, Campagnolo Record

    summerbike: new Touring bike, steel frame, fenders and racks, Dura Ace, (will use this in 4-5 years as a winterbike too, but actually it is too new....

    other summerbikes: BMC and Kuota, both Carbon, I only use this for some fast riding with friends, dont like them anymore...

    Best regards and thanks once more for you blog, which I love to read!

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  28. I once heard a rider of a group ride say she'd prefer to get sun burned rather than be different by wearing a visor with her helmet. No group cyclist wants to be ridiculed or "noticed" for being different. Also a fender would add a miniscule of weight and wind resistance. This is just one reason I don't group ride. I asked one older roadie what they did when caught out in rain and they said they just ride without fenders and get wet.

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  29. Proper winter bike here, old Peugeot Optimum from 92 with full guards. I embrace winter, it's just another phase in the cycling year. Those who ride without them obviously have little respect for their fellow riders, can't say I'd enjoy cow cr*p in my face when riding through the lanes because some don't want to spoil the look of their £3k+ carbon thingy. I also think some can't bear losing 1-2 mph from their average speed and may not have the miles in to keep up with seasoned riders, they may see the light one day;)

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  30. Normal human behavior is we follow leaders. Join groups. Conform to group norms. Defend the group and rationalize group decisions. We all do this.

    It's nice V has found a group she likes to ride with in her new home. Looks to be a good size group for out in the country. Those fellows look quite comfortable on their mounts.

    I think they should wear fenders. I think they should ride fixed wheel for winter, steel frames, and definitely they should be wearing sturdy Irish tweeds. Doesn't matter what I think. If I were there I would wear fenders and keep my yap shut about it. Since this is only the intertubes the we all yap quite a lot.

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    1. That's not my cycling club, just a club I snapped passing by. I don't ride with a club here.

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    2. I would join the club in the photo in a heartbeat. Seven riders show pretty clearly and they all have decent posture on the bike. They look comfortable and in control. That's the good old days right there. It's been ten years or more since I had a local ride without constant fear of the next crash.

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  31. My one road bike is a cross' machine that sports full coverage fenders year road (heck, the bike even sporting fenders while locked into the stationary trainer as I rehab my knee from yet another trip to the ortho). It is used for commuting, spins down gravel roads that catch my eye, fast Sunday group rides with the local shop and the randonneuring events I'm slowly getting into. I tend to ride regardless of the weather and have been know to blast thru puddles that are left over from rain storms. Most of the roadies I ride with don't sport fenders and the wet rides usually leave em filthy while i'm nice and dry.

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  32. Here in New Zealand we have a different challenge: the ferry bike. Going to town on the ferry, salt spray rusts everything. Aluminium bikes still have a lot of steel on them. We find the old bikes, like a 1951 Raleigh DL1 seems to be more resistant, so that is the ferry bike. Besides in town, with its original paint and decals, it's unlikely to be stolen.

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  33. Fenders on the commuter, none on the all-year sport bike. Messy weather (snow and ice) is sufficiently short-lived here that I can bridge it with just the commuter.

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  34. If the UCI made fenders mandatory, you would see a wholesale, overnight shift in manufacturer's offerings, as Freds scrambled to match the pros.

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  35. I use fenders with a mud flap in front, because there's no future in throwing grit, water, and salt on my drivetrain. I'd rather not have flaps in the rear, because I like to roll my bikes around "standing up" on the rear wheel in tight spaces. That said, I put rear flaps on a few bikes as a courtesy to others group rides. It's just plain rude to throw crap in the face of the person behind you.

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  36. A herd of riders with fenderless bicycles in sloppy winter season, following the head, IMO it's not a cup of tea.
    I prefer by far having time to take a photo, looking to landscape or exploring cross lanes: my randonneur for instance is suitable.
    Possibly, it's easy to appreciate wet wild journey because at the end, reward is at home with all modern conveniences like warm shower and washing machine?
    L.

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  37. I used to… but I'm finding that this year I use my so called road bike as my everything bike. It was supposed to be my nice days, out for long fun rides, group rides, club rides etc. bike. I don't know if it's just that I have developed such a crush on my Bianchi or what, but it really has become my all the time bike. And at the beginning of this fall I did put fenders on it thinking that come spring I would take them back off, but you know, I probably won't. Why bother? I don't notice them, and lord knows I couldn't care less what the other cyclists around here think (actually they seem to enjoy my anachronistic ways…) Since it's a steel frame the addition of fenders help it in the nasty weather. Maybe one day if I ever buy a new road bike made of something not steel then I might leave it fender less. *Shrug* I could go either way then.

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  38. On a foul day like today on the lanes of Cheshire the old school 'winter road bike brigade' were the only people out.

    I did a 50 miler around Knutsford, Congleton and Alderley Edge this afternoon and I only saw about 20 other cyclists. Mudguards are definitely in.



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  39. This is a most distressing post for me. I'm not sure if I was a little wee anglophile before I first learned to ride a bike, but if not, it wasn't long after. All those bits of Brit cycling lore and tradition that I came across growing up helped shape the whole romantic ideal of what cycling is about for me. That picture you posted could be one of our group rides, AND WER'E IDIOTS!

    This just can't be. Over there it's all sposed' to be steel bikes brazed up under a railway arch by rail-thin, chainsmoking ex-RAF mechs. or alcoholic Vegetarian Communists, and everybody's supposed to be wearing jerseys made by their Mothers out of woolen underwear and riding fixedgears with mudguards.

    Why should we Americans continue to ride half centuries on our $7,000 plastic bikes, concealed weapons under our lycra, vomiting Gatorade and Powerbars at the top every climb if they're not going to hold up their end of the bargain? Have the Italians given up white leather hairnets and action hero 5 O'clock shadow? Have the French forsaken stripey jerseys and dangling cigarettes in the peloton? Of course not.

    What the hell is going on over there?

    Spindizzy



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  40. No mater what the frame material, good components get ruined with bad road conditions. Parts freeze up with rust and sometimestake hours to remove. Everyone I ride with has ruined at least one good bike with bad road conditions. This will be my 40th year of riding through the winter. I dont ride anything when the salt hits the road that I cant afford to throw away. That being said, the road salt here in New England is worse then it was at any other time of my cycling life. When it finally rains, its looks like rivers of milk flowing down the edge of the road.

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  41. I would not ride in a group ride that had that many people riding without fenders in the rain. Just too much water being sprayed everywhere. Uncomfortable, messy, and annoying

    I guess that is why I bought a Rivendell Roadeo.

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  42. Rain Bike / Winta Bike, NYC

    As I have been feeling my mortality here and there, I have left NYC icy roads for the train and 'Spress Bus til it gets "easier".

    I was using a hard tail Cannondale MTB for bad weather. Small downtube attached 'guard and a rear rack wih the cut up remains of a black protein powder container as a rear (hey, I do recycle!). Was ok for the stripe up the back but I still wanted the road bike too.

    I came across a pair of red metallic Bluemel All Rounders. I haven't seen the coloUr before or since. Got the first thing I thought they'd fit, a Peugeot PA10 or PR 10 in ... red metallic. Ahh the French sizing! It ended up being a total Frankenbike as I wanted a 9 speed. No Ultegra BB in French (actually Swiss thread).

    The bike should be in the U.N. - Peugeot 531 main tubes frame, Stronglight 105 48-38 double crank, Campag NR Front Derailleur, Shimano 9 sp chain, cassette, rear derailleur, Campag 9 speed brifters, NR long reach nutted brakes, Belleri Stem and Bars, Stronglight headset, Mavic CXP 21 rims (red), MKS BM-7 pedals (red), SR 26.6 seatpost and of course the Bluemels.

    The drillium chainrings come in handy as I could put little screws in there to keep the chain from falling between the chainrings and I can't use the 12 tooth cog due to chain interference. Just because I should maybe didn't mean I should but it's uber comfy and great in the rain ... and it's RED!

    vsk

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  43. I'm known as the "Fender Nazi". In our group rides the fender-less and those without mud flaps are relegated to the back of the line.

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  44. Here in Minnesota a winter bike with mud guards, studded tires, aluminum frame, hub generator lighting... is a necessity. The plows can't get all the snow and ice abounds. At -20 the only bike in our fleet that would shift was the NuVinci on the winter bike.

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    1. I have yet to try a NuVinci hub, hoping to when I'm back in Boston this spring

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  45. Dear Velouria,

    I've no "rain bike". The machine that sees the majority of my time and mileage has integrated fenders, lights, and a front rack, and certainly isn't a performance limiter for my purposes (club rides to grand randonnées, commuting, and nontechnical offroad riding). Fenders sure make pacelining in the rain a whole lot more fun.

    I do have a summer day-ride bike that doubles as my road-racing and CX machine. It doesn't have fenders.

    Cheers,

    Will
    William M. deRosset
    Fort Collins, CO

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  46. Given either anticipation of planned obsolescence or just an understanding that you're going to be buying a new bike in a year or two anyway, it's easy to understand riding your "good" bike all the time. If it's so good, then enjoy it and maximize your saddle time on it.

    As for fenders, I guess some sacrifices need to be made if it's your good bike. Components possibly being one of the sacrifices.

    Regarding fenders and brake clearance, why am I reminded of Grand Petersen and his bike sensibilities?

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    1. It makes me sad to think that anyone has this mindset, either due to personal experience or cultural influence. A bicycle should be one of the few things we can count on to last for decades; being upgraded, maybe, but certainly not replaced every "year or two". And the day that bicycle manufacturers *actually* incorporate planned obsolescence is the day that I hope to never see.

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    2. Considering the state of my roadbike after 2 years of all-weather cycling, I don't see how regular wear and tear could possibly lead to its demise any time soon. And while my bike is a custom Ti machine, in fairness I think the same can be said of most decent off-the-shelf modern road-race bikes. Certainly there are those who enjoy the latest thing and will replace their bike every 2 years with a new model. But I think this mindset is independent of what style of bike it is and of whether it gets ridden year-round.

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  47. Meanwhile, in the US more and more people (but still not a lot) are buying bikes that can accommodate permanent fenders.

    Ti resists corrosion but aluminum components don't. Wash liberally.

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  48. Here in northwest Germany the traditional "Winterschlampe" bike (difficult to translate, "winter slut" doesn't quite nail it) is still in fashion as far as I can tell.

    And here is mine. High visibility rules.

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