Is it rainin’? Are you wet?

“Is it rainin’? Are you wet?” I don’t know – does every Brit use these circular statements, or just my mother?

As a child growing up in the Midwest, it would not be uncommon for me to reluctantly walk indoors out of a torrential downpour, a swiftly congealing conglomerate of mud and water pooling at my feet on the kitchen floor, only to be greeted in such a way. Tornadoes might be ripping up the county with days of thunder and lightning in the forecast: I’ve always enjoyed thunderstorms, and despite the obvious, yes it is rainin’ and yes I was wet. Very, very wet.

Despite this, I’m averse to cycling in the rain. I feel like I need little windshield wipers and a defrost for eyeglasses that polka dot with rain droplets before immediately fogging up. The looser clothing that I prefer for riding suddenly becomes form fitting when drenched. I don’t like those things, but I accept them. What I cannot abide is the spray of road grime upon my bottom bracket and feet and chain stays.

So thank goodness for fenders.

Properly set up, they keep the bulk of the crud off the bike, off the rider, and out in its natural habitat of “anywhere except me.”

I like full coverage fenders. Of course they lend a look of old world leisurely classiness to the raciest of bikes, but they serve a real purpose. Front fenders that reach nearly to the ground will keep your feet drier than they might otherwise be. The spray of grime projected off of rotating tires winds up on the inside of the fender and not dripping down one’s legs or the down tube of the frame. And the rear fender keeps the same muck off of the saddle and rider’s back, preventing that lovely “skunk stripe” that many non-fendered riders come to know so very well after a ride along a wet road.

The fenders I added to my 1971 Raleigh International are plastic and have great coverage. These are SKS Longboards and I’ve never had cause to regret them. They look right on this bike, and function perfectly.

With mud flaps installed, the VO fenders work well on my Boulder. Originally I hand cut leather mud flaps as illustrated here. Over time I discovered that the leather became too supple and moved around too much to be effective. I’ve since replaced the leather with high-density polyethylene – the stuff milk cartons are made of. The perfect material for this is the cheap three-ring binders one can find at The Dollar Store.

One complaint I have about my Cycles Toussaint Velo-Routier is that the spec fenders are simply too short. Even with mud flaps, this is true. Thus, I find this to be a limitation for riding in crappy weather conditions.

As much as I enjoy the SKS Longboards, I’m a bit disappointed with their brethren, the SKS P35 Chromoplastic fenders. They are flimsy and are not straight: the front edge skews to one side and makes getting a perfect tire alignment impossible. Plus, they simply don’t have sufficient coverage. I’ll go with Longboards next time.

So on a day like today, when the air is damp, the sky overcast, the atomosphere foggy, and the roads clammy with wet grit, I’ll still be out there.

“Is it rainin’? Are you wet?”

Thank you for asking, but I’m doing just fine.

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