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!
The 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.
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.