More Mudguards for the Tandems…

Regarding Sunday’s decision to skip the Tour de Cure, one of the things that could have swayed my decision towards going ahead and taking to the rain-soaked roads with my sweetie on board the tandem would have been mud guards.  While they wouldn’t have eliminated road spray and a potential dousing from scattered showers, they would have reduced the primary source of excess moisture: the stuff picked up and thrown at us by our very own tires! 

sks_raceblade_xl_black_mudguardsThe sad part is, I have two sets of mud guards for our bikes and had started to install one of the sets – the SKS Race Blades — after we got home from Saturday’s PEACHES rides “just in case” we’d need it for Sunday’s Tour de Cure ride.

Once I had the Race Blades out and began to install them I remembered they were marginal at best: you know, better than nothing.  They keep the front tire from soaking your legs, but your feet still get wet, you get hit in the face with spray off the front wheel since the mud guard stops at the fork and the rear guards stop at the brake bridge before it can direct the water down and away from the back of your (i.e., your stoker’s) legs and feet.

VLUU L310 W  / Samsung L310 W VLUU L310 W  / Samsung L310 W  

I passed on the heavily modified SKS full coverage mud guards as I didn’t want to mess with attaching eyelet zip-ties to the end of the fork blades and rear stays so I could bolt the mud guards on once we arrived at the ride since the tandem wouldn’t fit in the truck with the mud guards attached.

My final solution was to use our 12-year old Blackburn seat-post mounted rack and Headlands trunk bag purchased for our 2002 California Coast tour. That would do as well at keeping water off of Debbie’s back as the Race Blades and it would also easily hold our rain jackets until they were needed or give us a place to ditch our arm warmers and wind vests in the unlikely event the weather became nice.  

This “moderate” level of coverage was predicated on there being just a ‘chance’ of rain on Sunday’s ride as the storms moving through Georgia were all tracking at least 10-20 miles north of the northern-most part of the ride route at the start/finishing point: Boundary Waters Park in southern-most Douglasville, Georgia.

As noted in the Tour de Cure post-event report, we were initially good to go with our set-up for the damp but not rain-soaked roads.  However, once the brief thunder shower rolled through at 8:20am and delayed the start of the ride that rear rack’s level of coverage would be of little to marginal value: we’d be getting wet, more so from the road than the heavens.  That, in effect, when coupled with Debbie having gotten chilled waiting for the first start then getting caught out in the brief rain shower that delayed the start, is what drove the decision to pass on the ride.

So, as we drove home and into an ever-increasing amount of rain I thought about some of our more recent trips on the motorcycle where we also faced the prospect of rain-soaked rides.  While it’s not practical to wear the heavy-duty rain gear that helps to keep us dry on the motorcycles, it was sobering to remember that the one real benefit of riding a touring motorcycle was all of that tire coverage by the ample front & rear fenders.  That led me to think long and hard about mud guards for our tandems and need to see if there wasn’t a better solution to be had since I last visited mud guards a few years back: that was the exercise the brought home the SKS Race Blades & modified SKS full coverage mud guards.

A search of the internet revealed a new SKS Race Blade “Long” design that seemed to do what my modification to the SKS full-coverage fenders did, i.e., replace the fender with some low-profile hardware that attaches to the front & rear caliper brake bolts to bridge front & rear sections of the mud guards into a nearly full-coverage configuration.


The initial installation was pretty straight forward and the coverage looks pretty good. Again, it’s not quite the same as full coverage since water will “spit out” from around the brake calipers.  However, I’m thinking that a strip of black duct tape might bridge those gaps and provide pseudo full-coverage protection.

Here’s a short video from the UK that shows how these things get mounted:

I also picked up a set of the SKS “Longboard” version of their full-coverage mud guards for our triplet.  Regular readers may recall that we also “wimped-out” on the mass start for Saturday’s ride at the Georgia Tandem Rally in Covington due to rain-soaked roads, much to the chagrin of our guest stoker Lisa.  Well, not so this year. 

I figure with the Georgia Tandem Rally coming up in just two weeks and being hosted out of Athens, the chance of having a wet start on Friday, Saturday or Sunday has got to be at least a 50/50 proposition in light of our recent weather patterns.  And, per Murphy’s Law, if we prepare for rain then we won’t need the extra gear!  It’s mostly when you haven’t prepared that you seem to get hammered… or that it no longer matters.  So, either way we’ll be all set.


About TG

I've been around a bit and done a few things, have a couple kids and a few grandkids. I tend to be curmudgeonly, matter-of-fact and not predisposed to self-serving chit-chat. Thankfully, my wife's as nice as can be otherwise we'd have no friends. My interests are somewhat eclectic, but whose aren't?
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5 Responses to More Mudguards for the Tandems…

  1. cbratina says:

    We use the Velo Orange hammered aluminum fenders on our Lynskey tandem which provide excellent rain protection and look fantastic. They go on at the beginning of the season when rain is frequent in New England and for touring.

  2. saltyvelo says:

    That Calfee is definitely not made to take fenders. Another option may be to get some aluminum fenders and cut out what isn’t needed. No chain stay bridge complicates the rear fender as well…..

    • TG says:

      I’ll need to take new photos of the old fender, as I couldn’t find them on my current laptop or blog. However, that said…

      The True Temper Alpha Q fork is definitely not mud guard friendly, hence the previous use of the so-so SKS Race Blade and “heavily customized” SKS full coverage front & rear fenders. The “cut out what isn’t needed” is the approach I used on the full-coverage front fender, where I bridged the “gap” between the front and rear segments of the plastic-encased aluminum fender with a riveted-on, custom-made aluminum bracket with brake bolt tab. The newer SKS Race Blade “Long” is essentially a much more refined version of the exact same approach I used: guess I should have patented the idea back in 2009!! However, I also have a Reynolds Ouzo Pro Tandem fork which easily accepts a stock SKS full-coverage mud guard, which may be true of a few other forks that could be fitted to a Calfee or any other tandem.

      Our Calfee does have a rear brake bridge between the seat stays but the lack of the chain stay bridge isn’t a big deal. My approach was to use the rear disc when mud guards were called for which allowed for easier fitment of the fender at the brake bridge. As for the leading edge that would normally be attached to a bolt in the chain stay bridge, the work around was adding two holes near the leading edge of the mud guard and wraping a zip-tie around the base of the seat tube that was laced through those two holes.

      This ‘custom mud guard set” actually worked pretty well. The tolerances around the tires was tight but never caused any tire rub issues the few times that we used it. The biggest barrier was having to swap out the rear caliper for the rear disc and that’s where the new Race Blade Long “may” offer a solution that I hadn’t perfected in some other attempts at making a rear fender that would work with our rear caliper brake. Time will tell.

      Bottom Line: In retrospect, and if I had to do the Calfee all over again, I would have made sure that it was spec’d to accept at least up to 28mm tires front & rear with full provisions for mud guards instead of falling into the trap of spec’ing like a day-racer as so many of us were apt to do. Live and learn.

  3. Team G says:

    Somehow, I just do not miss those long rain drenched rides! Thank goodness we live and ride in Southern California………..we however are in a drought and need the rain.

  4. Steve Jahr says:

    Yes indeed the balance between go fast cool and practical utility. I spent a bit more on my half bike (a Trek Madone 3.1) because it was a carbon fiber frame *and* had fender/rack mounts.

    I favor an older or lower level of Planet Bike fenders. These use a simple wire U over the fender and do the trim/adjust down by the mounting point. Seem much cleaner than the more common stainless steel pinch bolts out on the fender. Fit great on a Co-Motion Primera (yeah so NOT a race bike 🙂 ).

    I often think about bending up some PVC pipe as a mold and making real carbon fiber fenders for my carbon fiber bike. Could be completely customized to requirements.

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