Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Matters Mudflapial

Coining new words is something of an American pass-time, and so I couldn't resist titling my post with a nicely absurd and pseudo-serious term like "mudflapial."

But, the fact is I have been thinking about bicycle mud flaps recently. After a decent dry-and-cold spell, it is back to more usual rain-followed-by-showers weather here.

The fenders that came with my Raleigh are quite solid, attractive, and well designed. They are, however, a tad bit short on the front wheel. My shoes are fairly well protected, but the bottom bracket, chain, and chain stays got quite coated with spray and various forms of guck while cycling in the rain.

Year-around utility cycling means thinking about things like this, especially if you are needing to look semi-presentable once you get to your destination. On extremely wet days, I often wear a special biking pair of shoes (waterproof), but on days where it is only drizzly, or where I am dealing with wet pavement alone, I like to cycle in my usual leather street shoes. Having mud flaps makes that much more practical. It also keeps the bike much cleaner, putting less grit in (and water on) the chain.

In looking at commercial options, I have found a wide variety of possibilities. Most of them, however, require drilling through the fender in order to secure the new mud flaps via a bolt of some type. While this is very practical, it also means going to the bike shop (I am not sure I trust myself to do a truly satisfactory job with this). It also means that removing the mud flaps (as I likely would do in the summer) would be a bit of a pain. So, I'm doing some DIY mud flap development.

The Dutch bike I owned had a splendidly effective mud flap on the front fender. It was quite rigid and wrapped around the tire. It mounted on the outside of the fender, using a metal bracket. I very much appreciated the rigidity of the material used, and wanted to try something similar. However, Hugo's fenders are built differently.  I wouldn't be able to wrap the flap around the lower portion of the fender as easily, but the design offered the possibility of an effective means of mounting externally-applied flaps.

Going down to a local building supply store, I located some rubber material that was rigid enough to stay more or less in place. I cut it so that two "tongues" would fit under the fender stays, thus surrounding the attachment point from the stays to the fender. Punching some holes in the tongues, I was able to slide cable ties through them and around the fender stays, creating a 3-point connection to the stay and attachment bolt.

The result is a prototype for what I am thinking of doing in a more finished form in a couple of weeks. I'm giving it some time for trial use before making any final decisions. It is possible the flap could be a bit longer, but first impressions suggest it might be about the right length.

I'm using a white rubber flap to go with my tires...though that may or may not prove feasible in the long run. I wanted something that worked well, looked distinctive (without being too comical), and had a certain antique quality to it. Though crudely executed at this point, it holds the promise of looking rather attractive in final form.

Once I have arrived at the right length for both wheels (I'll probably put a flap on the back fender as well), I plant to cut out a final set rather more carefully, and run them on Hugo through the spring.

It is entirely possible, of course, that I will eventually put more "official" looking flaps on, but I couldn't resist trying to construct something a bit more individual to start with. The outlay for my DIY flaps is delightfully low, so (using a grand phrase not normally part of my life) "cost is no object."

Such a project is just another aspect of what makes utility cycling creative and entertaining (or, as my mother would say: "simple pleasures for simple minds").

Keep cycling -- spring is not far off!


  1. I have to make some of them.

  2. So far, so good. Hope your experience works out well!