Fending For Myself

As I mentioned yesterday, I am engaging the Homer in all its frippery for urban commuting duty. When riding just for riding’s sake, I don’t necessarily require fenders, but when riding to a specific destination in the city in all my finery, getting caught without them simply Will Not Do. So for this reason I finally resolved to correct the Homer’s naked wheel situation.

The medical doctor swears an oath: “First do no harm.” I swear a different one, and it is this: “First spend no money.” So instead of buying new fenders for the Homer I decided to scavenge a kinda-skinny pair I still hoped would fit from the carcass of the Ironic Orange Julius Bike:

I commuted on this bike for many years:

I did a lot more on it, too, including racing the cyclocross:

[I don’t remember who took this photo. If it was you and you’re angry I didn’t credit you I’m sorry. Please remind me and I’d be happy to do so.]

And even trying to turn it into a Rivendell with some swept-back bars:

So in a way you could say it’s the Homer’s direct forebear:

They’re both blue, even.

Alas, today the Ironic Orange Julius bike is showing its age:

You could say this is an argument against steel, but I’d say it’s mostly just an argument against extreme neglect. In fact, I think most of this rust is the direct result of like one post-blizzard ride after which I put the bike away covered in slush and road salt and then left it sitting for like three months. I’d also bet that the rust is mostly just cosmetic, and that if I manage to get that bottom bracket out I could probably keep riding it and it would hold up just fine.

Or it’ll all fall apart and I’ll die, what the hell do I know?

As for the fenders, there’s supposed to be a little plastic bracket for the rear brake bridge, but since this frame didn’t take one I didn’t use it:

In some alternate dimension I live in the suburbs, keep all my bike stuff neatly organized in the garage, and have a drawer that’s clearly labeled “Fender Parts.” Alas, in this dimension I do not. I’m sure I kept the bracket, but it could be absolutely anywhere, including any one of several alternate dimensions, and odds are I’ll find it in five years when I’m unsuccessfully searching for something else I know I kept. In the meantime though I just stole a bracket from an even skinnier pair of fenders in the hope that I could somehow make it work:

Now, you will note that these fenders predate those safety tabs that allow the stays to release if something gets stuck in between the fender and the wheel:

Without them your front wheel can jam and you can go flying over the bars, which I know all too well, because that’s exactly how I broke my thumb several years back. But I figured I’ll see how these fenders fit first, and if they worked then I could just add some release tabs. Until then I’d just stay off the trails.

Of more pressing concern was the condition of the bolts holding on the rear stays:

I hoped I’d be able to remove them, but like the too-skinny bracket I filed that under “I’ll deal with it when I get to it.”

After removing the front fender, I did a quick mock-up to see if it would work on the Homer:

It seemed like it would, and so I got to work:

If you’re wondering why I don’t use a repair stand, well, believe it or not…I don’t have one. I don’t know why I don’t have one–I have pretty much every other tool. Headset press, spoke tensionmeter…I even have a 3.5mm Allen key for the Delta brakes on the Vengeance bike! Maybe it’s because for many years I had so little space a repair stand didn’t seem worth it, and now it’s been so long I’m just used to not having one. In that sense I’m like someone who’s been playing an instrument his whole life but never learned to read music–I may not do it the right way, but I get by. Sorta. I do realize my lack of this simple device that would make my whole life much easier makes anything I say about bike repair seem highly suspect, but seeing first-hand what an incompetent doofus I am should be your main reason for reading this blog.

Anyway, when installing the front fender, there’s always the matter of the bracket/tab/hanger thingy, which can hit the headset once you raise the fender up off of the wheel:

If you’ve got a caliper brake, this means judicious bending as well as repeated removal and replacement of brake to see if it clears once everything’s snug:

Not quite…

Maybe if I move it ahead of that knurled washer….

More bending? Screw it. Maybe if I move it in front of the light bracket…

Okay, good enough.

Once I got that worked out the rest was easy:

Then it was time for the rear fender. As I feared, one of the bolts proved recalcitrant. Screwdriver and wrench failed, so I escalated to the pliers:

Those didn’t work either, so out came the dreaded Vise Grip–trump card of the ham-handed mechanic:

Fortunately that worked, because I was prepared to resort to extreme measures:

By that I mean I was ready to amputate my own leg.

Oh, the bolt didn’t even come out, the head just snapped off:

Good enough for me.

Checking the rear fender, that too seemed like it would work:

However, I was not optimistic about the too-small bracket clearing the tire:

I’d just like to add I got those Schwalbe Marathon Supreme tires in like fall of 2020, have ridden them all over the place, and they still look like new.

I got your boutique supple tires right here. [Indicates crotchal region.]

Anyway, I semi-mounted the fender:

Then I noted where the bracket would need to be:

Then I broke out the Dremel:

In the hands of a good mechanic the Dremel is like a scalpel. In my hands, it’s basically just a Vise Grip with a battery. Eventually though I thinned out and/or melted enough of the fender edge to get the too-small bracket to clip on there:

I didn’t know if it would clear the tire, but I was confident it would at least hold the fender.

Now it was all about getting the fender on in such a way that it wouldn’t rub, and what followed were several more installations and removals, as well as more Dremeling, including lengthening the opening of the bracket so I could set the fender higher:

At several points in this process I nearly gave up. After all, anyone with half a brain would simply buy a new set of fenders with a little more tire clearance and a properly-fitting bracket. However, I had too much sweat equity in this shitshow by now and was determined to see it through no matter how kludgy I had to get. Finally, I got the rear mounted such that there wasn’t any rubbing:

I needed something at the store so figured I’d fetch it on the Homer by way of a test ride. Looking it over, the fender seemed a little too close for comfort around the 2:00 position of the wheel, and while it wasn’t rubbing in the stand I didn’t have I figured it would as soon as I hit a hill. However, this wasn’t the case, and so far at least everything seems to be running smoothly and quietly. Ultimately I do think I’ll need to change them for something with more clearance (there’s no reason to use such tight fenders on such a loosey-goosey frame), but for the time being I’ll keep them on there and see how they do:

Best of all, it started raining on my way home.

So while I wouldn’t necessarily, characterize this installation as a “success,” it was at the very least something slightly better than an abject failure. In that sense at least I exceeded my own expectations.

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