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  1. #1
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    Fenders: Polycarbonate, Aluminum, or Steel?

    Looking for a new set of fenders. Can anyone discuss the pros/cons of polycarbonate vs aluminum vs steel?

    For background I'm looking for a set for my city commuting bike (10-20 mile rides) that has 32mm tires with cantis. Unfortunately Honjos are out of my price range.

  2. #2
    dazed and confused newkie's Avatar
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    I really don't think it matters. These choices are aethetic so choose the ones you like best.

    You might go one up the cheap mtb plastic mudguards and get fenders which cover as much of the wheel as possible. SKS fenders are a good choice.

  3. #3
    Lover of Old Chrome Moly Myosmith's Avatar
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    Polycarbonate are tough and have enough flex to resist dings. They don't rust or corrode and are fairly light weight.
    Lead, follow or get out of the way

  4. #4
    Senior Member a1penguin's Avatar
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    I think the popular fenders mentioned often here are ones that are polycarbonate with a thin aluminum core. I think the SKS Chromoplastic have the alu core. Planetbike is another popular brand, but I don't remember if they have all plastic. These come in several models but you want full fenders for maximum protection. There are a number of fender threads; search is your friend.
    2012 Cannondale Synapse 3, 2012 Trek 7.5 FX Disc, 2003 Trek 2200 WSD, 1997 Specialized Rockhopper Al Comp

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    I have palstic ones & I like them quite a bit. They don't corrode and they are flexible. They do rattle a bit if I hit a lot of bumps. I don't think metal ones would do that, but I'm not sure. I'm quite happy with the plastic ones, but would probably try aluminum next time.

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    I have all-plastic Planet Bike fenders on one bike, SKS chromoplastic on another, and aluminum on a 3rd.
    In my case, I prefer the simple plastic for utility use and the bike that most often gets jammed into public bike racks, locked to random poles and fences, etc. They hold up to abuse well and don't really show it.
    The SKS fenders are probably just as tough, but are a bit nicer looking so I have them on a nicer bike that I don't beat up so much. The aluminum are probably just as "durable" as plastic but do not resist dents well, so I use them on the bike I'm least likely to ever park anywhere.
    Properly installed fenders should not rattle, except maybe during serious off road use. If they rattle, it means something is moving enough to hit something else. Fenders that move that much will quickly fatigue and break, somewhere.

  7. #7
    www.ocrebels.com Rick@OCRR's Avatar
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    I use plastic fenders by Planet Bike. Not as good looking as some of the alternatives, for sure, but they work well and that's what's important to me. Reasonable price too.

    Rick / OCRR

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    Senior Member Seattle Forrest's Avatar
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    Steel has the most pliant, comfortable ride, and is best, because I say so. Aluminum is harsh. Polycarbonate, well, it's plastic, so let's not even go there.

    ^ That's a joke. It doesn't matter. Get what you can afford, or what you like the looks of, or what's on hand at the shop when you get there.
    Don't believe everything you think.

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    Senior Member mechBgon's Avatar
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    The chromoplastic laminated SKS are preferable to polycarbonate, which cracks (I've gone through two sets of polycarbonate fenders that fractured).

  10. #10
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    I like the planet bike cascadia's. Plastic will break if sucked into wheel/spokes.

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    Some tougher plastic fenders are almost unbreakable so in the event of a trapped branch, they fold up and jam in the fork crown. SKS fit a safety quick release on all their models which works well. Mine has activated twice.
    Steel and aluminium fenders dont fold up like this and more brittle plastic just cracks.

    I used stainless steel for many years and SKS chromoplastic and they are both good.

  12. #12
    ride for a change modernjess's Avatar
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    I can't compare only give you my rec on the Planet Bike Cascadia's. (plastic) They've been through a hell of a lot miles and weather in the past 6+ years. Still going strong, still look good, and still perform just as they did on day one. I'd replace them with the same ones if I had to.

    With that said, I understand the allure of the metal fenders, or wood, or carbon fiber, or unicorn feathers or whatever. They look amazing on the right bike and I love pretty bikes. But my commuter bike is about function and reliability and keeping the weight, the maintenance, and the superfluous things to a minimum and IMHO the PB fenders fit into that aesthetic perfectly.

  13. #13
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Have 25 year old Chromoplast mudguards, they are a thermoplastic, with an aluminum core.
    my Koga WTR came with a set that had grommets in them to use the strips of aluminum
    as an electrical contact, because the strip is separated by a stripe which is an insulator
    another use of the plastic that encases the aluminum strips.

    I got a couple of Planet bike ones made for a 20" wheel on my bike Friday,
    they are injection molded in that shape. strong , being smaller probably helps that
    those sold as an each, a F and a R,
    in the anticipation of common use on recumbents with 2 wheel sizes..

    BF has 2 holes in their forks, so a strip of .125x.75"aluminum flat bar
    pop-riveted to the front one doesn't need any struts, simplifying trip packing

    rear is about 180 degree coverage , It needs rear struts.
    Last edited by fietsbob; 03-01-12 at 09:47 AM.

  14. #14
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    Thanks for all the advise. I've heard a lot of good things about the SKS Chromoplast and they're near the top of my list. Anyone have any experience/opinion of the Civia Calhoun fenders?

  15. #15
    Senior Member snowman40's Avatar
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    I have a set of SKS Race Blade XL Fender and they are great for what I want them to do (keep my pants/legs dry). The only problem I have is the front is warped near the bottom but it is still functionally fine. I got them at REI, so I could probably exchange them, but it not a big deal. I only have them for the winter.
    Quote Originally Posted by snowman40
    If you must speed up to pass me, you don't deserve to pass me
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    farts are greatly appreciated as long as the other riders are talented and experienced. at the precise moment of release, a vacuum is formed. this is the optimal time for the rider behind you to get as aero as possible and "ride the brown rhino". his face should be within 2-3mm of the anus to receive maximum benefit (reduced drag...duh, its in a vacuum). i have hit speeds of over 53mph in such conditions.

  16. #16
    born again cyclist Steely Dan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by modernjess View Post
    I can't compare only give you my rec on the Planet Bike Cascadia's. (plastic) They've been through a hell of a lot miles and weather in the past 6+ years. Still going strong, still look good, and still perform just as they did on day one. I'd replace them with the same ones if I had to.
    i've got some PB cascadia's on my winter beast, but they're only on their first season. good to know that you've had such a good experience with them in terms of longevity. i'll hope for the same.
    Last edited by Steely Dan; 03-01-12 at 01:33 PM.
    The first rule: if you're riding a bike and not having fun, then you're doing it wrong.

  17. #17
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    The Civia fenders are most certainly just a re-branded version of PB's or SKS's, which are both good, so they are probably fine.
    I'll also +1 the PB Cascadia fenders - good coverage, and tough.

    Quote Originally Posted by roburrito View Post
    Thanks for all the advise. I've heard a lot of good things about the SKS Chromoplast and they're near the top of my list. Anyone have any experience/opinion of the Civia Calhoun fenders?

  18. #18
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    I've broken both plastic (SKS) and aluminum fenders, but both through sort of unusual circumstances. They're plenty durable for ordinary use.

    I now have a set of stainless steel fenders on my commuter bike and they're basically indestructible. They won't dent, bend, or corrode even riding through a New England winter. But they're pretty heavy.

  19. #19
    Senior Member SweetLou's Avatar
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    I like plastic fenders for the reasons mentioned above, but even more so, I don't care for the look of metal fenders, especially after they have dented and abused. But even worse is the noise they make when a rock gets thrown into one. It's kind of like hearing the "ping" of aluminum bats instead of the "crack" of wood bats. I can't stand aluminum bats, can't even watch a game it is so annoying to me.
    Learn what's a platform pedal.

  20. #20
    Senior Member tarwheel's Avatar
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    I have PB Cascadias on 2 bikes, one silver and the other black. They were easy to install and don't rattle if installed properly. I've had the silver ones about 3 years with no problems. One of the black ones started rattling a lot during a ride one day and broke in half. I emailed Planet Bike with a photo, and they shipped me a replacement at no charge. I am satisfied with that. One feature I really like with the Cascadias is the built in mudflap. The standard SKS fenders do not have that, but their Longboard models do. It's worth seeking out.

  21. #21
    Certified Bike Brat Burton's Avatar
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    I've noted issues with different full coverage fenders coming into the shop. Steel ones are chromed or painted and have rust issues because the edge is usually rolled. Usually heavier guage and takes a good whack to ding one.

    Aluminum is lighter in weight, is usually painted, and can be dinged VERY easily! They will corrode if driven in winter on salted roads, particularly fast if used with stainless hardware.

    Plastic comes in a variety of quality grades and some are metal sandwiches for greater stiffness. The better grades are practically indestructable, can be twisted without effect and will resist dings to an unbelievable extent, and normally outlive the rubber mudguards attached. The color goes all the way through so cannot be scratched or scraped off.

    I'm currently running some discontinued 3 year old Axiom BladeRunners that have a reflective strip built on. They've been replaced by a couple different models, run around $50 complete with stainless hardware, and will probably last a lifetime.
    Last edited by Burton; 03-02-12 at 01:18 PM.

  22. #22
    Probably Injured beebe's Avatar
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    Metal's nice. Personally I prefer plastic. They're lighter, easier to install, and I don't feel bad about my wheels kicking all manner of pointy, hard, or gross things into them. I have SKS Chromoplastic fenders on one bike and Axiom Rainrunners on the other. The hardware on the SKS is nicer and the build quality seems better overall, but the Axioms look sweet and have reflective stripes, which is worth a lot to me.

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