Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Bike Fenders

It rains in Dublin.  No surprises there.  Ireland, of course, is internationally known for its mild temperatures and its number of rainy days per year.  This Summer and Fall here have been the driest in years, we're told, but the driest Fall in years is still pretty wet for us.

When bicycles are the primary form of transportation in a wet climate, fenders to protect from backsplash are essential.  I learned this the very hard way one fine afternoon just after a rain.  The sun was out and the rain was gone, but the puddles all remained.  I felt a constant stream of cold, dirty, street water splashing up on my back through the ride.  Yuck.  What was one to do?

We all know the personal motto of Ron Swanson and myself- Buying things is for suckers.  Why buy a worthless piece of plastic when there are hundreds of worthless pieces of plastic in every garbage dumpster to be collected for free?  I decided to see what I could find in the bins of our apartment complex.

A milk jug and a laundry soap jug ready to be cut into bicycle fenders
Ready for the operation
I found two perfect candidates within easy reach of the top of the dumpster- luckily it was almost collection day so the dumpsters were full enough to easily reach the top few layers.  We had a 1L milk jug for a small front fender and a 1L laundry soap jug to be stretched out into a nice long rear fender.

A milk jug is cut into pieces for a bike fender
Milk Jug
The milk jug was the easiest piece to cut.  The plastic was thin and shaped perfectly for these small segments.  As a bonus, the inside of the jug wasn't too moldy or curdled, so a quick rinse with laundry soap (from the other container!) was all it needed to be bike fresh and road ready.

A laundry soap jug is cut for a bike fender
Laundry Soap Jug
The laundry soap jug turned out to be a bit trickier.  The plastic was much more durable and difficult to cut with our cheap-as-free-scissors.  The soap inside was also much thicker, so rinsing was more of a chore.  I had to be careful not to let the blunt scissors slip on the soap-suds-water mix inside the jug while cutting.  After zero injuries to myself, the jug was cut to the shape above.

A soap jug rear fender attached to the bike
Rear Fender Attached
After shaping, the next step was to get these things attached to the frame of the bike in the correct places.  The attachment also had to be durable and stay in place during the turns and bumps of cycling in the big city.

I poked a series of holes in the fender, and was able to run several layers of cordage to fasten it to the rear rack.  I used bread bag twist-ties, plastic zip ties, and my favorite- maroon wire from a set of smashed earphones I found on the street.

A milk jug is used as a front fender on the bike
Front Fender
The front fender ended up being much easier to attach- despite the problem of steering.  I was able to attach the fender to the handlebars just above the "shocks."  I used a plastic-coated wire saved from some packaging to hold it tightly in place over the tire.

Since I have attached these, they have saved my back from dirty street water countless times.  They have held up for a couple of months already, with no signs of slowing down.  I sometimes make minor adjustments to keep everything lined up correctly, but I would expect to do this with any store-bought fender.  Some of these adjustments can be made without even stopping.

I don't know how much money I have actually saved with this, but once I get an idea to do something like this in my head, I just have to follow through.  These projects usually work out well, and the ones that don't always make a good story.

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