- 4.5 / 5 Bee's Knees -
Any cyclist who commits to more than fair-weather riding can attest to the value – and in often cases necessity – of a quality set of fenders. The drawbacks of slapping a set of fenders on your Parlee Z5 KOM crusher are lengthy but primarily include the burdens of extra weight, audible rubbing over rough roads, inconvenience while transporting and reduced options for tire sizes and brakes. For hardcore enthusiasts or cyclists with deep pockets, the solution to this problem is typically as simple as owning several bikes including a dedicated poor-weather setup. For others this isn’t an option. While I’m not inferring there is a fender on the market which feels at home on an all-out race bike, there is a set of fenders (geared toward fender-capable frames) which can satisfy every functional benefit while exhibiting few if any of the nuisances that many fenders do.
With an extensive catalog of vintage styled bike components manufactured to modern performance standards, Velo Orange has cornered this growing niche market in the bike industry. This Maryland based company offers anything from brakes to bottle cages, shifters to saddles and frames to – you guessed it – fenders. Available in a multitude of sizes, each of the VO fender models seeks to satisfy a vast range of bike applications and esthetic tastes with different finish options. Possibly the most popular of these finishes (and the style up for review) is the hammered/polished aluminum. Without question, these fenders are downright gorgeous, but what is form without function?
Thankfully, the VO hammered fenders have shown great success in terms of practical usage. As with any fender set, the more coverage the better. The fender set tested is a “full fender” 700 x 35mm and is claimed to accommodate nothing larger than a 700x25c tire – which is precisely my setup. As you can likely see from the photographs, the clearance between the fenders and tires is minimal but applications will vary from bike to bike. In my case, both the seat stay bridge and fork aren’t well suited for fenders but nonetheless installation was successful with a couple minor modifications. Aside from odd or custom applications, installation should be rather self-explanatory for riders of all mechanical aptitudes. With fenders installed, it’s time to go play in the mud.
Again focusing on function, riders should be nothing but pleased with the security and element protection provided by these fenders. A primary concern of mine, due to living in Duluth, is the stiffness or security of the fenders. With man-eating potholes, 24/7 road construction and Dr. Suess inspired curbs, the cyclist playground that is Duluth certainly tests the tenacity of components and patience of riders. While there were some audible bumps and pings on my test rides which ranged from post torrential downpours to loose gravel trails, ultimately the fenders performed better than expected, especially considering the limited tire clearance. In the wet, water spray-up was completely nonexistent from the rear wheel and only minor spray was noticed from the front. To step up to the greatest protection and cool-factor, you may op for the leather fender mud flaps also sold by VO.
Fenders have long been a necessary evil for cyclists who find themselves in inclement conditions while needing to stay somewhat presentable (most often commuters). However, the trade-offs encountered while running fenders can be enough to hamper the experience of a great ride. However, by creating a set of fenders that are not only photo-worthy but also highly functional and stable, Velo Orange has designed a product that fulfills all the necessities cyclists require in a fender-set while retaining the superior experience of running without them. In all actuality, it is fair to go a step further and claim that the VO hammered fenders enhance a riders experience simply because of the attention they draw and the intangible joy you get from riding with them mounted to your vintage charmer. Much like the Brooks C17 saddle I reviewed, these fenders inherently coax you to ride with both eyes and ears open to soak in the simple pleasure of a great two wheeled ride.