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It’s fender fun time, because not all of us are Belgian

SKS S-Board & S-Blade | Words/images: Tim Schamber

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It’s no secret that we get a lot of rain in Portland, Oregon. While at times it’s a hard-driving “frogs are falling from the sky” variety, mostly it’s just consistent, all-day sputters from late October to April-ish, but not every day. It is enough to throw streets into turmoil and question your desire for a ride. And word is that this winter we could get more than normal given that it’s an La Niña (that’s what we hear at least). Great. But don’t despair, because some genius invented fenders! The oft-overused phrase, “It’s fender season,” makes me shrug and sigh because I know it means things get sloppy—combine rain and fallen leaves and you make road oatmeal that is slippery and messy.

Of course, fenders come in all shapes and sizes and while the full-coverage models give you the best results, this time around I pulled out a set of SKS’s from the bottom of a storage bin to mount on a Specialized Diverge. The SKS brand has a deep catalog of fenders and I have used various models over the years on a traditional road bike with good results. Although, because they rely on a thin rubber strap, over time with stretching, swapping and weather they may tear—which will leave you in a pickle unless you keep a set of zip-ties in your back pocket! Just saying. It’s happened to me.

Out back is the S-Blade. It takes a bit of “jigging” to get the cinching just right and tight. Once it’s tight, it won’t go anywhere.

What goes on

This go-round I’m using the S-Board on the front—which uses the rubber straps that wrap around the fork blade. The front is tricky because the Diverge fork is big and the shape is varied like a lot of forks on the market. Once you get it mounted you may have to play with the position a bit and force the plastic structure to widen to get the desired clearance and tweak the angle by adjusting the Allen bolts. S-Board accepts up to a 38mm tire and that’s what I am running, and the actual fender coverage reflects that. The awkward fit is more about the fork than anything. A traditional round tube will give no problems.

Up front is the S-Board. Also tricky if you have “odd” sized fork blades. You can tweak the small bolts to refine the fit, and the rubber straps are nice and pliable. I maxed out the rubber straps to fit the Diverge fork. A traditional, round fork will not max out the straps.

The S-Blade is a different format. It’s not a fender of course but more of a deflector! We’ve seen different varieties from the basic “butt flap” that mounts to saddles to ones that strap around seatstays and then this one that fits snuggly around the seat post by way of a quick-release. The first fitting is tricky because you are cinching down the nylon strap and then rigging the cam over a lip to get the tightest fit possible. It will take a few tries to get the length of the strap that feeds through some teeth just right to properly secure the S-Blade. Initially, I wasn’t convinced the nylon strap would stay in place because the quick release doesn’t lock down like we are used to with wheels, but despite it having a bit of play it doesn’t slip, which I am surprised at. Angling the S-Blade is simple and only requires a turn of an Allen bolt, force the body into position, then tighten the bolt.

The coverage on the rear was good. I had plenty of room for adjustment, too. You can get close to the tire with the turn of a bolt or sit higher. It’s your world.

On the road

Through the slop and road oatmeal of Portland, the protection is good but not complete. A full-coverage fender will always beat a partial any day of the week. You still get blips of road mess shooting up from the non-covered area but not enough to cause dismay. The S-Board sits closer to the tire so most mess deflects off the fender, but the S-Blade sits higher (in most cases but depends on how you position it) and does not cover the section of tire that spins near the seat tube. So, plan on getting some grunge shot up and on to your shoes, socks and legs.

The front sat tight to the tire and gave great coverage.

The reality is

Look, the full fender with full coverage is the ideal setup if you are looking to stay clean and dry. If you are a commuter, I would stick with a full setup. If you are looking for something that’s quick to install and gives enough coverage to stay fairly clean and dry, the S-Blade and S-Board are perfect. The ability, too, to swap from one bike to another quickly and easily is a bonus and likely the biggest selling point for both. They are also extremely lightweight, with the S-Blade at 117 and the S-Board at 89 grams. Based on my experience so far, I see the S-Blade holding up for a long time while the S-Board will have issues with the rubber straps. I would suggest you buy some spare rubber straps or follow my advice and keep a few small zip ties in your bag or pocket. You’ll thank me for it. $45 (as the set), $24 (S-Board only), $22 (S-Blade only);