Saturday, January 25, 2014

Gear for Winter Riding Joy part 1: Crud Roadracer Mk2 Road Cycling Mud Guards Review

Two things sing to me about cycling right now, en hiver d'Angleterre. Crud Roadracer Mk2 bike
fenders (mud guards) and the Rapha Pro Team Jacket.

Not quite in lieu of fenders
mark fairhurst, zeitgeist images
At least for me, they seem the perfect response to the prevailing conditions of the past couple months in southern UK: roads after the rain that are either covered in places with water or simply totally mucky, and morning temperatures that can be anywhere from 0-4C, with day temps more like 7-10C.

I'll come back to the jacket. In this piece let me touch on the Mk2 guards, and not just the guards, but a story of awesome customer service delight that just earns customer loyalty.

The Aesthetic of Road Crap?

Some folks will not put mudguards on their wheels even in winter. It's an aesthetic thing apparently and
also some boy rule thing (i wonder if they wash their own kit?)  

ass-thetically pleasing?
I dunno, aesthetic of guards on the bike vs mud stream up the ass and back. The latter is somehow more fetching than innocuous guards that keep said spray off the costly kit - where there's no guarantee the wash will remove those road grease gunk stains? 

If not for you for your riding buddies? When out for a jaunt with your personal Steve  i've learned now from experience, if this person rides in front of you and does not have a guard, and the roads are post rain, the spray arcing up behind that rider's tire will decorate your front attire. Keep well back. Perhaps this is a feature: wheelsuckers will be pushed back or face the consequences?

Enter Crud RoadRacers Mk2

box with bits - all the Mk2 pieces
some assembly required
But, mes amis - for those who are willing, consider mudguards
  1. As signifieds that: you are training in the winter (Merckx used fenders) you are ok with a few extra grams on the bike; this is a gift to your practice; you will fly in the spring
  2. it's actually functionally better for that practice for one's kit to stay as dry and clean as possible, is it not? so we can work as long and hard as possible. Personally,  i prefer my suffering to be in the form of pushing my lactate threshold than from being cold, wet and grimy for no reason, don't you (apparently some others like to be more miserable so take off fenders to increase Suck quotient)
  3. Reduced laundry is reduced laundry - resources spared as well as wear on clothing and gunk in machine.
  4. One's bike will say "thank you" as more of it stays clean - like the underside of the saddle, front mech, (you).
Crud Roadracer Mk2's seem to be designed to be as light and flexible and discrete as possible. They blend. Some folks, while extolling their lightness,  have said they're fiddly to put on. Perhaps a bit the first time. But i will take a few extra minutes of fiddly to put together the blades than having to take on and off and reset brakes to put on heavier fenders with metal stays that usually rattle.

Dean Downing (cyclist on the box from rapha/condor time) - with mk2's

Easy to take on and off 

I've used the Mk2's on two bikes now, and after doing the first bike, moving them to the other bike took less than ten minutes. This is a good thing: when it is nice and dry out and fenders not required - it's super fast to remove them; when it gets rainy or cruddy, it's durn quick to put them back on. I leave the little tabs on the stays for where the stays attach. That speeds up on and off-ness a treat.

Unique Mk2 Attributes: three pieces for custom size/length of guard.

Unlike more standard plastic fenders, the Mk2's come in three pieces, based around the core part of the fender referred to as the blade.

blade bits
nose and tail bits in a bag
On the front, this means that the amount of fender poking out in front of the wheel from the front fork forward, and from the back of the wheel down is up to you. Longer and less spray; shorter more spray/save a few grams.

In use: wrap of rear mk2
covering mech.
It works
On the back, the options are again how much cover beyond main blade: have it as full or partial coverage as you wish. Cover can come down down completely behind the seat tube to wrap around the tire and protect front mech, and the tail can cover as much of the back wheel as you wish, fanning out practically behind the level of the chain stays.

The core blade component attaches in two places: above the brake and on the chain stays. The fender is suspended above the wheel via easy to undo zip ties attached around the brake bolt. 

lug held by o-ring to attach
leave on bike for
fast reattachment
I was surprised to read bikeradar's review that says these ties always have to be cut. Not in my experience: press down the release tab to undo the tie, the tie comes off.   The blade is kept away from the wheel by the adjustable stays that attach to the frame by small plastic tabs wrapped onto the chain stays with o-rings. The entire rig is plastic. 

The nose and tail components of the blades are attached by plastic bolts and washers, and optional double sided tape provided, once you're certain which tail/nose you wish. 

Nice that the bit on the rear fender that comes down by the front mech has a lovely bit of coverage to reduce crud flying up there. If you keep your bike inside your domicile, these features are a plus: they make bike de-cruding before bringing inside an easier process. 

Yes, they blend. And they Work 

The big question of course will be: do they work? Yes. You'll see quite a few reviews on the web in support of these fenders since they were first introduced in 2009. In the rain, or in the muck (my dominant use seems to be the latter).

Customer Delight

Front blade brakes in two
Sometimes things surprise you. Don't you just love a company that delights you? exceeds your expectations? First of course is good product, but it's the follow up support that keeps you coming back, eh?

First Surprise The first time this happened with Crud Products, i'd had a cable tie break after a ride with them on the fixie. I emailed to ask how might i get a replacement and how odd for a nylon tie to break - i got an email asking for my address just to send me one. There it was in the mail. Cool. How very nice. I mean that's time and postage out of someone's day to do that.

Second surprise: There are a number of videos on the Crud site about installing the fenders, and also showing how even with a stick coming up under the fender, the guards are designed to let go, and are made to bend rather than break (shown below).

Given that,  I've recently had two blades actually brake by having a stick (or something) get caught under the fender with the effect of the blade snapping and cracking, once on the front, then a few weeks later, on the back, and on the same durn bit of path, too, where no sticks seem evident.

Rear blade: another break?
Interestingly, both times the blade has broken at the top and behind the zip tie at the brake. The screwed/glued tail/nose bits do not come undone. Once these fenders are built and that sticky tape put in place with the nut and bolt, it stays built.

The first time this break happened, i wrote to Crud Products to say what can i do? and was told this was very unusual and here is the spares page where parts are available below cost. I ordered a replacement blade, and with free shipping, it seemed to arrive in moments. Super. Put it back on with ease, and away i go again. Happy as a dry and clean little clam.

Perhaps i'm just unlucky as what happened in his stick demo video did not happen for me (the chain stays come out, the blade goes free, bends, doesn't crack).

Take a look about 37 secs in 

This second time, with it happening at the rear wheel, i went right to the spares page, ordered a new blade, but also emailed Mr. Crud Tompkins to say, look i've ordered the blade, delighted that i can, but because, alas,  this break thing has happened again.

Here's the Customer Surprise/Delight part: on a sunday (a day of rest??) i received a note that i would be receiving a brand new set of mk2's; spare part cost refunded. On Sunday?

That's someone standing behind the product, saying (as with the above stick under fender video): they're not supposed to break. Bend, yes, come away from stays, yes. Break, no. Wow. Are you impressed? are you saying that's the right thing to do, but who does that? consistently?


But all this discussion of breaks is that Crud has a Spares page. I just like that, don't you? the notion of something being fixable rather than replaceable. It is easy to order spare parts for any component of the fender sold at what according to Mk2 inventor Peter Tompkins is at "less than cost."

My sense is that spares are more often looked at seasonally: after someone has removed the fenders from the bike, wants to put them back on and is looking about for those little bits that of course we know where they are when we so carefully put them away at first, but then can't find them weeks or months later. Thank you Pete Tompkins for the spares page. 
assembled front mk2 

Videos for Fenders: Install, settup, testing

The support and info for this product is pretty amazing. Though it's exactly what most of us seem to want for such do-it-yourself kit.

As other reviewers have noted, the Crud site has a host of videos about how to install these on road bikes with even super tight clearance. There are also a variety of videos on youtube about installs of different bikes. 

A New Functional Aesthetic: Suck it up - get the Guards

Bottom line: for UK winters during or apres rain road cycling, where there is no way to avoid crud, do yourself, your bike, your gear, your buddies (and anyone who supports cleaning up after you) a favour and consider these lovely uk designed, UK MANUFACTURED, highly functional, customisable, unobtrusive, aesthetically pleasing mud guards. You and those with whom you cycle will be so glad you did. 

Fenders? Merckx? ya uh huh. From velominati
Buy Crud / Support b2d: if you're in the UK/EU and you'd like to get a set of Crud's online from amazon and support b2d a bit at the same time, here's an AMAZON UK affiliate link
Otherwise, hope you'll reach out to your local bike shop. 

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